Movie Talk

Daniel Radcliffe’s Career Takes a Scary Turn in ‘The Woman in Black’

Movie Talk

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Daniel Radcliffe

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After an actor has a hit movie, there's always a level of anticipation and speculation about what role they'll pick next.  Will they try to repeat their success in a similar genre, or go against expectations to avoid typecasting?

But it's one thing to follow a hit, and it's another to restart your career after playing the title character in the most successful film franchise of all time.  After ten years, eight films, and $7.5 billion dollars at the worldwide box office, that's just what "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe is trying to do.  The 22-year-old has put away his round glasses and magic wand to embrace his new life as a leading man in the Gothic horror tale, "The Woman in Black."

Watch the exclusive trailer for 'The Woman in Black' >>

I spoke to Radcliffe from New York where he's appearing on Broadway in the musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," and I asked him what it was about this role that made it the right choice for his first post-"Potter" film.  Radcliffe said, "It was certainly not a part that people can really compare to Harry… But [the] main attraction, to be honest, was simply the story, and how compelling it was, and being a part of a really, really good horror film."

In "The Woman in Black," Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a lawyer whose wife has died leaving him with a young son.  He is sent to a small village to sort out the affairs of a deceased client, but as he delves into local secrets he encounters a ghostly presence that foretells a deadly curse.  Radcliffe called the film's script "a character-driven, well-written horror film that had the capability of being just as scary as any 'Paranormal Activity,' or any of those films that have recently come out,  while also having a depth of character that you don't often find there."

That's not to say, however, that Radcliffe considers himself to be a real fan of horror movies.  He said, "To be honest, if I wasn't in it myself I'd probably be too scared to see it."  Though he did clarify that the scares in "The Woman in Black" are not the type that would usually have him covering his eyes.  "What I was always scared of as a child and as a teenager was gore and blood and things like that," Radcliffe said.  "When it got too gory that's when I would get freaked out."  He explained that this film is more of a classically suspenseful ghost story: "There are moments when people do jump out of their seats, but there [are] also the the subtler moments when you just find a chill running up your spine and you're not quite sure why."

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"The Woman in Black" is based on a 1983 horror novel that was previously adapted into a play that's been running continuously in London for 23 years.  It was also made into a television movie in 1989, and that version has an odd connection to Radcliffe's earlier career.  Adrian Rawlins, the actor who starred in the lead role in that adaptation, went on play Harry Potter's father.  Radcliffe recalled that he had finished work on the final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and was preparing for this when he learned this fact.  He said, "I went online and, saw, suddenly, yes, Adrian Rawlins's name came up who was one of loveliest actors we've ever had on 'Potter,' and he played my dad."  Radcliffe said the link was entirely coincidental, but that "it was another bit of kinship we had there."

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Daniel Radcliffe

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Radcliffe said that he read the original book, but that this new film diverges significantly from how the story is told in the novel.  But he said that Susan Hill, the book's author, "has been with us every step of the way… I know she's seen the film, and [she] is delighted with the finished product."  The film is directed by James Watkins, who previously made the violent British thriller "Eden Lake," which Radcliffe said he watched "and [I] thought, oh Jesus Christ, I know I'll be now working with a psychopath… If he wrote this film he must be an absolutely insane man."  Radcliffe expressed his relief, though, when he met the director and discovered, "he's this very, very smart, very funny, very classy guy."  Radcliffe was so impressed by Watkins work that he said the filmmaker is capable of becoming one of "the leading lights in British cinema for some time."

After playing the same character on screen for a decade — nearly half his life — Radcliffe seems eager to stretch himself with each new role.  But he said, "I don't have a long-term plan whatsoever." While some actors would feel the pressure to follow up a massive franchise like "Potter" with another huge project, Radcliffe doesn't see it that way.  He said, "[In] a way what's quite nice is that I will never have, in my career, a film that it has financially successful as 'Harry Potter.'  Ever. That is beyond question. But what's nice about that is that I don't have to aim for that anymore."  Because he already worked on the sort of big blockbusters that other actors dream of doing, he feels a degree of freedom to pick smaller projects that speak to him personally.  Radcliffe said, "If I dedicate myself to… each film as they come, then the long-term thing should take care of itself."

"The Woman in Black" is scheduled to open on February 3, 2012.  Watch the exclusive trailer premiere for the thriller below.

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