Anyone who meets Daniel Radcliffe will vouch for his affability and how incredibly down-to-earth he is. Despite his level of fame, he is gracious, warm, and welcoming — which is pretty impressive for someone who has been in the public eye since he was 10 years old, when he made his mark as the beloved Harry Potter. Everyone who works with him has said that he has this unique ability to separate being an actor from being a celebrity, and is always approachable when it comes to his fans. It’s a rarity in the industry and the same can’t be said for most actors who share his level of stardom.
After achieving success through Harry Potter and some of his other major projects, Radcliffe began starring in films he personally enjoys. His recent films were mostly Indies like the comedy Swiss Army Man, Guns Akimbo, Escape from Pretoria, and Jungle. But now, he’s returning to the big screen with a massive studio film, The Lost City. He stars in the hilarious comedy — as an eccentric billionaire donning a range of savvy three-piece suits — alongside Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum (with a special cameo from Brad Pitt). It’s a comedy right up his alley as he nails the idiosyncrasies of a bratty villain — proving yet again that he has superb comic timing.
The film follows author Loretta Sage (Bullock) who has spent her career writing about exotic places in her popular romance-adventure novels featuring handsome cover model Alan (Tatum), who plays the hero character, “Dash.” While on tour promoting her new book with Alan, Loretta is kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Radcliffe) who hopes that she can lead him to the ancient lost city’s treasure from her latest story.
Even on the virtual press day over Zoom, Radcliffe lights up the screen with his piercing blue eyes and warm smile, dressed in a simple T-shirt which he says is his “go-to” casual look, and a sharp left turn from his dapper-dressed character in The Lost City. We discussed the film and his comedic chops, how he approaches his fame and career, who among the three leads has the best survival skills, and his future goals — which includes having children even if it makes him nervous.
Congratulations on the new film. This is really the popcorn movie that the world needs right now.
The entire time we were making it that was literally the goal. We were like, ‘People need this movie in their lives!’ So that’s great, thank you.
You have such incredible comic timing. The entirety of your character (Abigail Fairfax), and the fact that he doesn’t like this name but keeps defending it. It’s so funny.
Well, thank you. I just like the fact that his name was merely mentioned and he’s just immediately defensive about it. (Laughs) He’s obviously a villain but he was very funny to me. There’s something funny about the fact that he’s kidnapping Sandra’s character, but also really wants her to think that he’s cool and that actually, if she really thinks about the situation, she’ll see how “awesome” the kidnapping is. So much of what he’s motivated by is a desire to impress his dad, who clearly prefers his other brothers. So yeah, there was a lot of fun stuff to latch on to with this villain.
You’ve played the eccentric tech guru before and now the eccentric bratty billionaire — I imagine it must be tremendous fun to play the bad guy in a comedy like this?
Oh, yeah, but it definitely has its challenges. It’s not the same thing as being the emotional centre of the story of course, where you’re kind of being relied upon to be the eyes of the audience. As a villain, you are freed from the responsibility of being sympathetic, or likeable, or any of those things, which is a nice thing to not have to worry about. So yeah, it’s very fun.
The last time we spoke you mentioned that you constantly try to push boundaries and you have the luxury to choose roles because you like them, whether it’s an indie or a studio film. What drew you to this project?
It was honestly how good and genuinely funny the script was. First of all, I got the script, and they were like Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum are the leads, so I knew it was going to be good, but then the fact that the script was so funny was a bonus. I was reading Channing and Sandra’s scenes and just going like, ‘I want to see them do this!’ Knowing I would be so excited to watch this movie — so the chance to work with them and the chance to play this role in this movie was very exciting.
Most of your scenes are with Sandra, and she’s also known for her comic timing. What is something that surprised you about working with her that you weren’t aware of before, especially as she takes on actor and producer roles?
There was nothing surprising to me about the fact that Sandra is an amazing actor in general and amazing actor to work with. I was like, ‘Yeah, of course. This is why you’ve been brilliant for so long.’ And the stuff that really did surprise me was as a producer because a lot of actors take vanity credit as a producer, but I cannot emphasize enough how much that is not the case with Sandra. They made this movie happen. Sandra was getting pulled out of the water from doing stunt scenes, and she was getting pulled out of the ocean and getting onto the boat and scheduling marketing meetings and stuff [on the side]. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, you’re really doing this!’ I didn’t necessarily expect that but it was very cool to see.
And you guys filmed in the Dominican Republic! It sounds like a fun vacation, but did it feel like one while filming?
I mean, for me a little bit (laughs), because I had a lot of downtime. Sandra, Channing, and the crew were in the thick of it the whole time. It was a very fun shoot but it was also a tough one particularly for the crew and both Sandra and Channing. It was very hot and there were a lot of bugs. There was also some bacterial infection that tore through the crew at one point. But it’s all a testament to the people that were working on this project and to how much fun the film itself is that we still had such a good time shooting it because under different circumstances, it could have just been very intense.
And you were wearing suits the whole time! Do you think the suits were perhaps a tool to becoming Abigail?
Oh, 100 per cent. I walk around in jeans and a T-shirt basically my entire life. You walk differently in a suit and you sort of hold yourself differently. Marlene Stewart, our costume designer, is incredible. I was put in such beautiful, fitted suits. I also got I think the best haircut I’ve probably ever had in a movie. So yeah, it was definitely nice. But thank God I’m in a movie with Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt. They’ve got to make me look somewhat presentable! (Laughs)
You’ve done musical comedy with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and weirder comedy with Swiss Army Man, TV comedy with Miracle Workers, and now this action comedy. Is comedy a genre you’re passionate about?
I have to work to make myself do things that are not comedy. It is so much fun. I feel like I did a few films for a few years that I would just end up getting covered in blood or mud or having to break down and weep. There’s a place for all those things and I’m sure I’ll do more of them again in my life but it’s nice to go to work and be like, ‘I just have to try and make people laugh today.’ That’s my one mission is to try and make people happy.
About 10 years ago, you were asked what makes you nervous, and you said it was the fear of failure and mediocrity, the fear of not meeting the goals that you set for yourself. You have had an incredible career in the last 10 years doing what you genuinely enjoy and it shows, so what makes you nervous now?
There’s life stuff, but also still career stuff. I really want to direct and I get nervous about that not happening. If it’s been another 10 years, and you’re interviewing me and I have not directed yet, I’ll be annoyed. I’m nervous about that. And then nervous about whatever I write and direct being bad. I’m nervous about trying this thing that I really want to do and being not good at it but doing it you know, you never know if you don’t try so I’ve got to do that at some point.
So what are the goals you’ve set for yourself now, aside from directing?
[Besides] writing and directing, having children — there’s not an immediate rush but I would like to do that at some point. That is also a source of nervousness, because the idea of caring about something that much seems insane! It seems very stressful, but also great. Other than that, I don’t know, I just want to keep going, keep acting, and keep being able to do the job that I love. If that’s happening, then hopefully everything else will fall into place.
What I love hearing about you from anyone who works with you is your ability to separate being an actor and being a celebrity, and that you’re the nicest actor in the business. In fact, you always honour the fans who’ve loved seeing you onscreen. Being able to balance all these different facets, is that something you were always conscious of, or you had to learn over time?
I think it’s something you learn over time, but you don’t ever consciously learn it. But the acting and being on set is always the main thing for me. That’s the thing that I love. Because being famous is weird. Like, there are some nice elements to it, absolutely. But it’s also very strange. I think the thing that has always kept my feet on the ground has just been the fact that I love my job, and the job just happens to be on [movie] set[s]. That always remains the focus. Hopefully, no matter what else is going on, I have that solidity as the thing that I’m returning to.
You’ve done that quite well! Now that you’ve been in the public eye for a long time and have done a range of diverse roles, what’s another role or genre you haven’t yet played but would love to do?
That’s a good question. I would say a Western, but I probably have to ride horses loads, and I did a bit of that on Miracle Workers last season and it’s not in my comfort zone. So I don’t know. I’m always interested in sci-fi and stuff like that. It’s hard to pick a genre because it could genuinely be any genre and if the script is good then I’m interested. I also enjoy being in stunt-heavy movies, because that’s something we did a lot in Harry Potter and I loved hanging out with the stunt team. But I don’t get to do it on Indie stuff as much so it’s very fun when it does come up.
Between you, Sandra and Channing, who do you think has the best survival skills to navigate being lost in the jungle?
Oh, Channing! It’s not even close. That’s the easiest question you’ve asked. Sandra and I would be in real trouble very quickly. I think Channing has actually done survival courses with like Bear Grylls and stuff. So I definitely think he’d be the one to follow.
It’s funny, I realized you’ve done a few jungle-themed movies, like Jungle, Swiss Army Man which was in the wilderness and this is the Dominican jungle. I thought you’d say you kind of have some survival skills by now…
I didn’t pick up anything useful! (Laughs) I mean, stay near the river. But other than that, if you don’t have a river, I really don’t have any good advice.
The Lost City has already impressed critics with the adventure comedy romp that it is, earning an 83 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes (as of publication). Radcliffe is already keeping busy, having recently wrapped production on another highly anticipated title, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, where he plays five-time Grammy winner Weird Al.
The Lost City premieres in theatres on March 25.