Film

We Talk Post-Potter Reinvention And Rap Over Tea With Daniel Radcliffe

“I know I’m never going to be a fucking rapper.”

Daniel Radcliffe makes a great cup of tea. Like, sure, you don’t get to be a British national treasure without being able to make one helluva cuppa but, as I take my first sip of the beverage Radcliffe absentmindedly made me while talking about his latest film Victor Frankenstein, I can’t help thinking about how bloody good it is.

The 26-year-old is a refreshing interview subject: intelligent and friendly, he asks questions as often as he answers them, firing back answers in a way that doesn’t feel rehearsed or at all PR-friendly. Perpetually polite — did I mention the making of tea? — he drops expletives without reserve and often veers off the topic of what he’s supposed to be promoting.

Fantastical Beasts And Where To Find Hats

“You always get given crew hats, but I never like them from my own movies — I always like getting them from other peoples jobs,” he says, removing the hat he arrived in and running his hands over a freshly shaven head. “My friend just worked on Captain America and I got a cap from that — which is great because I can actually wear it out of the house without feeling like a fucking dweeb in a Harry Potter hat.”

Hogwarts may be behind him, but Radcliffe still has a taste for the fantastical when it comes to picking film projects — from a tortured soul with horns Alexandre Aja’s Horns to playing a farting corpse in recent Sundance hit Swiss Army Man. His most recent offering, Victor Frankenstein, is no different with him taking on the role of iconic horror henchman Igor opposite James McAvoy’s dapper Dr Frankenstein.

Beginning the film with a crippling hunchback — which required him to work with a physical therapist to master the movements — the core of Victor Frankenstein is less about the monsters and more about the two men at the centre of the story. It was a bromance that blossomed both on- and off-screen, right up until the point McAvoy had to suck pus from Radcliffe’s hump. Yep. Go on. Read that sentence again.

“That was James’ first day on set,” he says, grinning. “That’s the thing, the sucking out was not in the script — it was syringed out in the script. But when it got to that point James only has two hands and he’s got a lot of props in the scene with the back brace and the syringe and the rope and bucket… He just went ‘well, I would do this — my hands are full — I would just use my fucking mouth’. I was like: ‘right, great idea, awesome’.

“We were all on board with it as it was completely gross and hilarious and then we went outside after we did the scene and saw the faces of the Fox producers who were genuinely looking like, ‘what have we got ourselves in for, do we need to separate these two already?’”

Radcliffe adds that the role of the title character was less interesting to him, with the “untold potential” of Igor’s story holding more promise. “It’s fun to bring a truth behind the image everyone has of Igor in their mind. Where would somebody with that inherent, subservient quality come from?”

… But What Ever Came Of That Rap Career?

Radcliffe seems to have gone through a couple of public transformations off-screen as well as on on- recently. Most notably, two videos of him rapping went viral last year.

The first saw him nailing Blackalicious’ ‘Alphabet Aerobics’ on The Tonight Show, and the second was grainy footage shot at a Californian bar on karaoke night as he rolled through Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’. Headlines flooded the internet like ‘Daniel Radcliffe’s back-up career could be a rapper’ and ‘Harry Potter considering releasing rap album’ while the man in question cringed and watched from a distance.

I couldn’t help but ask.

“Whenever I do rap I realise there’s something inherently embarrassing about watching white people rap or — particularly — a middle-class white boy from England,” he says with a smirk. “I know it doesn’t make sense.”

“We all know how it goes when actors try to have singing careers — it doesn’t go very well. Jack Black is the only one I can kind of think of where you go ‘yes, do music whenever you like — you’re awesome, that’s a great band’. The rest … I dunno, I’ve never really seen a convincing crossover. Musicians tend to do better turning into actors.”

A rap fan who cites Plan B, Blackilious and Eminem as some of his favourite performers — “Plan B is fucking amazing” — Radcliffe is quick to squash any serious talk of him pursuing a musical career, adding both cases were just a moment of perfect timing.

“I love it and I love really good lyrics, particularly stuff that’s really wordy and fast I’ve always had an obsession with. Eminem’s lyrics have always been an obsession of mine to the point where I anaylse lines: I just think he is so fucking clever. It’s sometimes hard to listen to and rough — but just the word play and how he can do several things in a line and make you laugh.

“With the Blackalicious song, that moment was like, honestly — I know I’m never going to be a fucking rapper, I’m never gonna be a musician — but I’ve been offered the chance to perform this with The Roots.” Radcliffe adds a shrug at the end of the sentence, as if saying the very name of The Roots is enough of an explanation. (It absolutely is).

Different as all these things may seem from our perception of The Boy Who Lived, they’re a new breed of something that’s becoming Classic Radcliffe. He raps and rants expletives over tea and occasionally impersonates dead bodies for art; he’s never quite doing what you may expect.

Victor Frankenstein is released on DVD and digital April 27.

Maria Lewis is a journalist and author from Sydney. She’s the co-host of the Eff Yeah Film & Feminism podcast and her debut novel Who’s Afraid? is out now.