The time is coming – maybe sooner than you expect – when you look at Daniel Radcliffe and don’t think “Harry Potter.”
The 23-year-old actor has gone from boy wizard to Broadway hoofer to gay Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, whom he plays in the new film “Kill Your Darlings.” He has several wildly different films lined up, and is soon to take to the London stage as star of Martin McDonagh’s barbed comedy “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”
The play gives audiences the chance to see Radcliffe in yet another new light, as Billy, a disabled orphan in 1930s Ireland who harbors an unlikely dream of Hollywood stardom.
“I think one of the hilarious things about this play is, by our standards today, how politically incorrect it is,” said the actor, looking lean if a tad tired – he’s been at the gym, working out ahead of rehearsals for the play – in the troupe’s office atop a West End playhouse. “So much of the comedy is just people being relentlessly cruel to Billy.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one-time boy wizard is a fan of the edgier end of comedy. His entire post-Potter career feels designed to wrong-foot anyone seeking to pigeonhole him.
The play is Radcliffe’s first time on the West End stage since his 2007 run in “Equus,” Peter Shaffer’s play about a troubled stable boy who blinds horses. It featured the then-teenage actor in a nude scene, which triggered a deluge of “Harry Potter’s Wand” headlines. But critics praised the young actor’s brave and committed performance.
Radcliffe said “Equus” was “a signal of intent as to what I wanted to do.”
“I didn’t just want to take an easy way out of this. I wanted to really try and take risks and make a career for myself.”
Since then, he’s mixed movies and theater work, including a 2011 Broadway run as a scheming businessman in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
He’s shot three films due to come out in the next year. “Kill Your Darlings,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, stars Radcliffe as Ginsberg – Beat poetry, gay sex scenes and all. Radcliffe says he’s never been prouder of a piece of work.
He’s also filmed “The F Word,” which he calls a “very funny, very sweet but also very smart” romantic comedy from Canadian director Michael Dowse.
“I don’t want to say (I’m) playing myself, exactly,” Radcliffe said, “but (I’m) playing a character that’s fairly high-anxiety, slightly hyperactive guy.”
He’s especially excited about “Horns,” a film by French horror auteur Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “Piranha”). It’s about a bereaved man who grows devilish horns that allow him access to the thoughts and feelings of others.
“It’s a love story, it’s a revenge movie, it’s a horror movie in parts – it’s going to be crazy,” said Radcliffe, who made an earlier foray into horror movies with “The Woman in Black.”
Next up, he will star as mad-scientist’s assistant Igor in Max Landis’ pop-culture spin on the “Frankenstein” story.
All in all, it’s an eclectic list of projects. Radcliffe says there is a philosophy guiding his career choices, but “it’s very basic. It’s just what excites me.”
“Hopefully later on this year people will start to see some very different performances from me. And hopefully some really good movies,” he said. “It’s about the movie as a whole, not just people studying my performance and seeing how I’m getting different and how I’m growing up.”
Radcliffe accepts that fascination with how he’s growing up is unlikely to fade altogether. But he seems comfortable with the Harry Potter legacy, happy to have made the transition from child star to adult actor.
The “Harry Potter” moviemakers have been praised for creating a stable, creative home for their young stars, who went from preteens to adults over the course of eight films released between 2001 and 2011.
“I feel like everyone wanted Potter to be more of a handcuff than it actually was,” said the resolutely well-adjusted Radcliffe.
“I think Harry Potter is going to be around for a while – a long while – but as long as it doesn’t inhibit me getting parts in the present time, then it’s fine. It’s a lovely association to have, because it’s something I’m incredibly proud of.
“People always say, ‘Don’t you just want to forget about it?’ No! That was my entire adolescence.”