RT Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The 19 year-old star talks.

by | July 15, 2009 | Comments

RT Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

19 year-old Daniel Radcliffe wants the world to know he’s a grown-up now. It’s tough to walk past a magazine stand on the eve of the release of the sixth Harry Potter film without seeing him trying to look as different as possible from the wide-eyed boy wizard who brought him fame. It’s no surprise, as with only two of the blockbusting fantasy films left to release, he’s more determined than ever to keep on acting when they finally call “cut” at Leavesden Studios. His turns on stage with Equus and TV with My Boy Jack send the message that he wants to be taken seriously beyond Potter, but most feature pieces seem to miss just how seriously he takes the franchise itself.

RT had the chance to ask Radcliffe about playing Harry this time round, how he’s preparing for Deathly Hallows, and a whole lot more, when we sat down with the star on the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is released today.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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In the last movie Harry seemed to face psychological and physical challenges, whereas in this movie the problems he faces are more intellectual, as he tries to piece the puzzle together. Does anything change in your approach to the character?

Daniel Radcliffe: I don’t think a huge amount does change in terms of how you approach it. You come to every scene with the same basic tools. You come to it with knowledge of your character and knowledge of what their fundamental wants and needs are and how they would go about getting them. And you would just apply them to whatever situation they’re in. The real challenge of acting for me, I suppose, is just getting to know a character very, very well and just applying what I know about them to every single scene. That’s what it can be broken down to.

In the case of Harry in this film, his want – or his need – is basically to kill Voldemort and he realises that the way in which he’ll do this is to become Dumbledore’s favourite foot soldier. That’s the role you see him gradually moving toward in this film.

He’s preparing for the battle to come.

DR: Yeah, absolutely, he’s preparing for the seventh [and eighth] film.

Has anything changed, for you, between the way David Yates has approached Order of the Phoenix and the way he’s approaching Half-Blood Prince?

DR: I think David’s a lot more confident this time around. He was brilliant on Order of the Phoenix, I think he did an amazing job, but the way he is on set now, I think he feels a lot more comfortable here. And that’s understandable because it is quite an intimidating environment to come into when a lot of us have been here for seven years. I think he’s been a lot more confident this time around.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Radcliffe with David Yates on Order of the Phoenix.

Harry doesn’t really suffer Slughorn too gladly and yet I can imagine working with someone like Jim Broadbent is nothing but a pleasure – how has that been?

DR: Working with Jim is amazing just because he’s such a brilliant actor and he’s so immersed in the character which is always a treat to see. But, in a way, because he is so in character it kind-of makes it easier to act the way Harry does around him.

But I think Harry ultimately does like Slughorn. I think he thinks he’s a very good person and his heart is in the right place but he’s just very opportunistic and totally self-obsessed. I think Harry, in a strange way, finds that endearing and in an even stranger way perhaps actually likes the fact that Slughorn is fascinated by the aura of fame and glory that he sees surrounding Harry. And Harry also finds it, obviously, very useful in the film, because he has to exploit it.

How did you enjoy shooting the cave scenes with Michael Gambon?

DR: The brilliant thing about [that sequence] was that we did it at the end of a three to four month period where Michael and I had been working together almost exclusively. For about the first two or three months of this film we were almost the only two actors in. We did a few scenes with Rupert and a few scenes with Jim but other than that it was few and far between that you’d ever see any other cast members on set. The relationship between me and Michael really built up over that time and got to the point where after three or four months we were absolutely ready to do the cave stuff.

It’s almost like a play to be working so constantly with so few other actors.

DR: Totally. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but there was that kind of dynamic where you get to know someone very, very well in a short space of time and your relationship becomes based on certain things. I think mine and Michael’s relationship is very much based on our senses of humour. We’ve got very similar senses of humour and I think when you know that you’re both going to have to work together very closely doing very difficult stuff over the next few months you really need to very, very quickly find something that you can sort-of bond over. I’ve worked with Michael a lot over the last few films but more so in this one – by a long, long way – than I ever had before. It was great stuff.

Continue on to page 2 as Radcliffe talks Dumbledore’s outing, getting up-close and personal with Ginny and what Rowling told him about the series’ end.

RT Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Has it changed the relationship you have with him?

DR: I think so; I think we’ve got a lot closer. I didn’t really know him very well before. And I wouldn’t say I know him well now, but I certainly know him a lot better and I think I now understand the way he works more. I certainly think we’ve become much closer through it.

What was your reaction to hearing that Dumbledore had been outed?

DR: I thought it was hilarious, but what was even funnier about it was the reaction from people who were up in arms about it. I don’t think it really matters. He’s [J.K. Rowling‘s] character and she can do what she likes with him.

I think Michael thought it was really funny. He was really camping it up around set for a couple of weeks after that! I thought it was great.

How would you compare the romantic scenes you have with Ginny to shooting the stuff with Cho on the last movie?

DR: The thing is that when Katie [Leung, who plays Cho] came into the cast we knew she was playing the love interest whereas with Bonnie [Wright, who plays Ginny] was just brought in to play Ginny. It’s very odd because I’ve known Bonnie since she was about nine. It’s quite strange, really.

Did it take you by surprise that they’d hook up when you read Half-Blood Prince?

DR: No, I thought it was quite fitting, really. I was quite glad of it, I suppose. It seems right.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ginny and Harry kiss.

Had you been privy to information from J.K. Rowling about the course the series would take?

DR: Not that much. Only to the extent that I had dinner with her one night almost a year ago and I said to her that I’d love to know what happens to Harry. Or, at least, what he state he ended up in. I think my exact words were probably as tactless and unsubtle as, “Do I die?” She said, “You have a death scene.” So it was very obvious that it didn’t mean, “Yes, you die.”

And you had to keep that to yourself?

DR: Yes I did.

Was that difficult?

DR: No, it was really great fun! I’d say, “I know something,” and everyone would go, “What, what?!” I’d just go, “I’m not going to tell you!” I quite enjoyed that to be honest. For months and months in interviews before – because we did the press junket for the fifth film just before the seventh book came out – to endless television journalists I was just lying and saying, “No, no, I know nothing…” [laughs] Then when I did the interviews for My Boy Jack, which I did after the book came out, they were saying, “So, did you know anything?” I could say, “Yes, I knew all along, HA HA HA!” I enjoyed that, definitely, but it wasn’t as hard to keep it quiet as people might think.

Did your theory change before that? For the longest time you’d said you thought he was going to die and then you changed your mind and said you thought he wasn’t…

DR: It was partly because suddenly it seemed too obvious that he was going to die. That came before I spoke to her because I was having a conversation with David Heyman [one of the film’s producers] and I was saying I thought he’d die. David actually talked me around and said he thought that it’d be too obvious for Harry to get killed. That’s when I came to the conclusion that I could speculate as much as I liked but in the end she was going to come up with something much cleverer than I could even dream of.

Continue on to page 3 as Radcliffe talks about his experience with Potter’s directors, and what he’s excited about in Deathly Hallows.

RT Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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Did anyone know about Dumbledore’s death before the book came out?

DR: Not that I know of. No-one had any knowledge of Sirius’ death either. I, in fact, told Gary Oldman, I believe. No-one had any knowledge of Dumbledore’s I think. The only person who was privy to any amount of information before was Alan Rickman. I don’t know what, exactly, he knew, but I’m sure he knew something.

I’m sure I remember Robbie Coltrane boasting about knowing something before the book for Order of the Phoenix came out.

DR: I’m fairly certain he was just throwing you a red herring; that’d be a very Robbie thing to do!

You’ve mentioned in the past that you want to direct. Did you ever have a desire to direct a Harry Potter film?

DR: Oh God no, not at all. Never, never, never; absolutely not. I don’t want to direct until I’ve learnt a lot more than I know now and if I ever do I think I’d like to start with something less ambitious. Short films rather than this big $280m – or whatever budget these things have – movie. I don’t think that’d be a good place to start!

You’ve worked with four fantastic directors on the Potter films, each of them with their own styles and ways of working, so you must’ve learnt quite a bit over the years.

DR: I’ve learnt a lot about certain things but you also learn through your own experience. I love working with David and I love his style of direction because I love the way he works with actors. There may be actors out there who wouldn’t like that same style. I’d say the thing I’ve learnt most of all from watching these directors is how to direct actors. But at the same time I’ve learnt how I like to be directed and that’s the only thing that can influence how I can direct anyone else.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

With co-star Emma Watson.

In terms of the technical side of things I’m still pretty clueless. I know a certain amount and I can see a certain amount of what’s going on but technically speaking I really don’t know. But then I said that once, and it’d have been either to David or Mike Newell, and he said, “Oh, don’t worry about that, you just need a good D.O.P.!” So I thought that was quite a good piece of advice!

But, certainly, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with four amazing directors, so I’ve been very, very lucky.

Well, not just four…

DR: Absolutely, Brian Kirk, Simon Curtis, Thea Sharrock… John Boorman on The Tailor of Panama, who’s a very good director but did then say that my life would be ruined so I hold that against him a little bit!

What are you most looking forward to doing in Deathly Hallows?

DR: I think it has got to be the walk into the forest to find Voldemort. And, also, the King’s Cross chapter. I’m looking forward to doing all of that. It’s weird because those scenes always seem to be the ones you shoot about two weeks into filming. Which is great because you get them over with and you’re not worrying about them, but it’s the difference between getting a book and going straight to the back and going, “OK, fine,” and getting a book, reading it through, and being moved by it. In my dream, idealised world, we’d do that scene on the last day of filming and I’d get very, very emotional and it’d just be great. But that won’t happen. It never happens that way!

Generally, all the on-the-road stuff will be great, because we very, very rarely go on location with these films. It’ll be lovely to get out of the studios.

Continue on to the final page as Radcliffe talks about leaving Hogwarts behind, Harry’s weaknesses and whether the films are still exciting to him.

RT Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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Very little Hogwarts, too…

DR: Very little, so I’ve no idea what’s going to happen to the sets. They’re going to keep them, but we’re going to have to knock some down…

What do you think Harry’s greatest weaknesses are?

DR: I think he’s quite reluctant to listen to other people sometimes. Some might say he’s overly opinionated. I think he can make a martyr of himself sometimes; I think he likes the suffering, lonely hero mystique. Sometimes I think he revels in that. Not always by any stretch of the imagination; I think 90% of the time he’s absolutely genuine, but I think 10% of the time he slightly revels in it a bit too much.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve had during filming?

DR: I was talking to someone recently, funnily enough, and they said an interesting thing about acting. Acting is really instinctual and I think you can overanalyse what you’re doing. A lot of it has to be based on instinct. Someone said something really interesting which is that you should never move or feel you have to change your expression just because you haven’t changed your face for a while. Wait for that just to happen and almost try not to be in control of it because then you’ll be in control of it in the moment. I’m explaining it really badly but basically it’s about waiting for the impulse to come to you rather than forcing it to come.

You’ve been on these films for a long time now. Is there still a sense of excitement or does it dull?

DR: I’m here doing a job that I love and I get to see some of my best friends every day at work. I’m incredibly lucky and I do still get excited to come to work and I still do get wowed by some of the sets that I see. When I walked onto the cave set, obviously some of it is green screen but of what’s actually there, it’s amazing. You’re still very wide-eyed and overawed by it, definitely.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is out now.

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