By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Daniel Radcliffe stars in a new film where he can communicate with snakes and obtains some unexpected magic powers. “Horns,” however, isn’t a surprise installment of “Harry Potter.” It’s a new dark fantasy drama based on Joe Hill’s bestselling novel.
Directed by French filmmaker Alexandre Aja and co-starring actress Juno Temple (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Atonement”), Radcliffe, 25, plays a young man in love with a beautiful woman (Temple), who wakes up one morning to discover he is suspected of killing her. If that news weren’t bad enough, he also discovers two horns protruding from his forehead, and they’re growing. Of course, there is an upside to his strange new demonic appearance: he has the power to make people tell the truth.
While avoiding the hateful appraisals of the townsfolk and trying to elude the media in this Pacific Northwest town, Radcliffe’s Ig sets forth to find out what really happened to his true love Merrin.
The British actor recently spoke about playing yet another literary character on film and working with his lovely co-star. He also made a few revelations that might surprise fans and spoke about his now famous “Tonight Show” rap.
Q: There is a scene where you set TV news reporters on each other to get an exclusive interview with you and they start fighting. Given your disdain for some in the press, would you like to have that power at some point?
Radcliffe: Absolutely! I won’t lie. I took no small pleasure in it. There was a moment of catharsis. It’s one of the fun parts of the film, as well. It’s great that you have all those fun moments in the film because it also takes some dark and heavy turns as well. I promise you I don’t think of you all in that way. But if I could hand pick five or six journalists from the U.K. and arrange a cage fight, I would.
Q: How was it wearing the horns?
Radcliffe: They looked really normal and like really quickly. The first time I saw them on it was a combination of relief because they looked fantastic and excitement, because when you have something stuck to your head that can go either way. It has the potential to look silly, and it really doesn’t. The word “organic” is one of my most hated, sort of overused words. “Just make it organic, at least it will look that.” But they do in that they look like they’re made out of organic material and actually coming from my head. They only took like 20 minutes to put on. They were really fast and really light. They’re a very functional piece of headwear as well.
Q: Ig is the less-favored child of his parents. He’s isolated. So being a movie star, I’d imagine you don’t experience feelings of isolation.
Radcliffe: Everyone thinks of actors as having relentlessly glamorous social lives, and I don’t. I’ve spent very little time in (L.A.). I never want to sit here and be the actor sitting here whining about being famous, but there are elements of it that are isolating. As many opportunities and fantastic things come into your life, there are also things that you have to struggle against. There is a perception that actors are kind of at just one long party all the time, which is not quite the case.
Q: Did anything in this character scare you or make you wonder, “How am I going to pull this off?”
Radcliffe: Most of it. (He chuckles.) Actors are lucky that we have a job that becomes more fun as it becomes more challenging. We could do a day of inserts on me opening and shutting drawers and doing close-ups and stuff, and that would be the easiest day of my life, but it wouldn’t be any fun, so I think there are a lot of moments like that, particularly the break up scene was one of those. It’s not so much that you go, “Oh, I won’t be able to do that,” but for me, at least, I go, “We can’t not do that right.” That’s when it’s great to have a director like Alex and a great scene partner like Juno, where you can just rely on those other people and work off each other.
Q: What was your experience like working with all the snakes?
Radcliffe: They were fantastic. I didn’t know before doing the movie if I was comfortable with snakes. It turns out I’m extremely comfortable with snakes. I may have been completely projecting human emotions onto this creature, but I became completely convinced that she is very affectionate by the end, and was, in fact … They get cold. Snakes aren’t cold-blooded. This is my favorite word I learned on the shoot: they’re poikilothermic, which means they can’t control their body temperature so whatever temperature it is outside, they will be. They’re freezing and you’re already warm so they just love you and hug you, but in a constricting kind of way. We had one scene with 100 live snakes, which was awesome.
Q: In this movie, your character is played by another actor at a younger age. What was that experience like?
Radcliffe: Mitchell (Kummen) is like I was when I was like 13. He’s a kid. He’s from Winnipeg, and he’s incredibly sweet. Mitch is blonde naturally so they dyed his hair (brown) on the first day. When he went back to his hotel in Vancouver, one of the girls at reception said, “Oh you look like Harry Potter” and that made his day.
Q: Is there a direct through line from learning your lines as an actor and being a good and efficient rapper, as you did on “The Tonight Show” the other night?
Radcliffe: (He laughs.) I don’t think so. I don’t know if the two are connected. Maybe the fact that I have to learn lines a lot helped me learn that song. But I don’t know. Because I do take things in aurally very well so it wasn’t initially just by listening to it. Someone asked me in an interview ages ago, “Tell us something that we don’t know about you.” I’ve done a million interviews so I’m really struggling at this point to find something you don’t know about me. So I thought well, I know all the words to “Alphabet Aerobics” by Blackalicious. Then the producer on Fallon called me up when we were doing press for “What If” and said, “Can you do on the show?” And I was like, “I don’t know.” I might now have been as bold to suggest it had I known that. But I’m amazingly glad that I did it. I was like shaking with adrenaline for a couple of minutes afterwards. It was awesome.
Q: Since you and your co-star Juno Temple are British, was there ever any discussion of having you two speak with your own accents in this film?
Radcliffe: No, but what was interesting was the kids who were playing our counterparts in the scenes where we are younger were American. Alex wanted one shot of us, because he had this shot he filmed before we all got there of the three kids—Sabrina, Dylan, and Mitch—all riding bikes through the forest, and he was like, “I want to recreate that with all of you riding bikes in the forest 10 years later,” and neither me, Juno, or Max Minghella can ride a bike, although we are getting close. Ready yourselves America! We’re going to be on the road soon.
Q: What was it like to drive around in an old AMC Gremlin and is it your car of choice now?
Radcliffe: It kind of would be. I loved that car. To me, that’s a really cool car. I’m not going to be one of these people that when I do pass my test gets a crazy fast elaborate car just because it was a good piece of advice I was given once: When you buy a car, you should buy a car you feel comfortable sitting in traffic in. And if you’re in a Ferrari in traffic, you’re not going to look cool. But I really did enjoy it. It was also really cool seeing it go into a river. That was also awesome. But my main focus through all the driving scenes was just “don’t break the car, don’t crash into anything.” We had to drive in this woman’s driveway and she had loads of lawn ornaments and stuff. It was no good. Hitting a mark in a car is a horrible thing, especially if you’re not good at it, especially because you know that all the other men on set drive so literally everyone on set is just going, “Can I just do this? Can you just let me do this please? Because he is screwing it up.” So it was not my favorite but I’m taking my test at the end of the month.
Q: At one point you had to drive with a live snake around his neck. What was that like?
Radcliffe: That was actually one of my favorite moments from any film that I’ve ever done. We had this one shot in the movie where I’m driving along, the snake is around my neck, I pull up, get out of the car, walk over to the cop car and do a scene with them. But I couldn’t drive with the snake around my neck because the snake latches onto the gearstick and the steering wheel and stuff so that’s annoying. So we had to have somebody in the back of the car who would put the snake around my neck before I got out.
A (production assistant) had to hide down in the back of the car with a python. I remember him getting into the back of the car with the snake and us getting into our first position and I just turned around to him and was like, “I should probably tell him.” I was like, “Corey. Just so you know. I don’t have a license. I don’t drive.” And he was like, “Oh that’s fine. I’ve never handled snakes before.” It was one of those moments that if it was in any other industry, it probably wouldn’t have happened but because there is money being thrown at it and it’s film, it’s like “Go! Go! Go! This is all that we have to do!” I love it. It’s moments like that that make the film industry the best thing to work in the world.