I'm sure most of us thought that we'd never see an actor portray an "Igor"-like character in a new "Frankenstein" movie adaptation without thinking of Marty Feldman in "Young Frankenstein." Or perhaps Feldman's guffaw-worthy personification of Igor has slipped from some cinematic memories. The fact is that Igor (or the sometimes nameless hunchback assistant to Dr. Frankenstein) has gone to the satiric dogs based squarely on the character becoming as much of a caricature as the classic Universal monsters have.
It has to take an actor of unique creativity to reinvent a character that now somehow makes us rudely laugh at the sight of his back hump. Now it appears that Daniel Radcliffe is taking on such a challenge in a reported movie update of the Mary Shelley "Frankenstein" story from director Paul McGuigan. This one, though, will have more of a sci-fi angle, plus a bizarre makeover of the hunchback character.
Yes, based on those descriptions, Radcliffe could have a field day reinventing the hunchback assistant persona. We only have to question whether Radcliffe has the acting tenacity to pull off something so transformative. So far, it's fairly clear he can play beyond Harry Potter, though no evidence yet he can literally change himself physically.
Even in "The Woman in Black", we saw Radcliffe in his recognizable form, except stretching his countenance to look dour and depressed from his character facing abject tragedy. In his upcoming "Kill Your Darlings", he'll be playing beat poet Allen Ginsberg where the only physical change is a different haircut and glasses. And when he worked on the stage in "Equus" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", there wasn't any effort to change physically, other than showing physical parts in the former play that nobody wanted to see.
The reason for all of the above is because Radcliffe does have a uniquely recognizable face that's a challenge to hide behind even a different pair of glasses. We've had certain actors in decades past that had such unique faces, it was impossible to see them other than their physical selves and no matter any accouterments they wore. Sometimes even prosthetic makeup couldn't disguise them enough to think you were watching someone else.
Where you draw the line on that has to be based on the personal philosophy of the actor. Would Radcliffe still want to be recognized when playing the hunchback, or does he plan to completely disguise himself? Having him stooped over with that hump is a good step forward, namely because Radcliffe's stage-learned posture is always perfect in his past roles.
Prior actors who played the hunchbacked assistant arguably couldn't be scoped out, other than above-mentioned Feldman. Nobody likely recognized 1930s character actor Dwight Frye when he played Fritz, the first hunchback in the original 1931 "Frankenstein." The same might be said of Bela Lugosi when he played "Ygor" in two sequels. Also, most people didn't recognize actor Kevin J. Connor as Igor in "Van Helsing."
If Radcliffe can do what the actors above did and convince us we're watching someone else, he'll have advanced tenfold as an actor. The only problem in Radcliffe playing a character that disguises his persona is the chance of Internet urban legends developing that someone other than Radcliffe played the part.