Next up for “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe is playing legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
An actor who has his first significant screen role as the lead of a phenomenally successful, long-running film series is obviously blessed. When Daniel Radcliffe debuted in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 2001, just two years into his acting career, he began a decade-long run that made him famous and wealthy enough to retire whenever he chose.
Instead, Radcliffe has been acting overtime to beat the curse of typecasting and leave behind the world of magical fantasy franchises.
On Broadway he stripped naked to star as a psycho stable boy in “Equus” and sang and danced through “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He appeared in the British dark comedy TV series “A Young Doctor’s Notebook.” He helped revive the Sixties Hammer Studios horror tradition as the haunted lead in 2012’s “The Woman in Black.”
This year Radcliffe stars in three wildly diverse film projects. “The thing I’m thrilled about is they’re all very different films,” he said in an interview at September’s Toronto International Film Festival.
“I get almost unfair praise or attention for picking diverse things. Every actor tries to. I’m in a position where, A, I can, and B, I played one character for so long that people notice. The actors I look up to, and the ones that have the most fun, I think, are the ones with a body of work that is expansive and weird and varied.”
If Radcliffe’s 2013 output is any indication, he’s having fun. He plays an emo demon with antlers in the tongue-in-cheek supernatural thriller “Horns,” a film he said “defies definition. It is a horror story but also this incredible love story and very, very funny. People will either come out saying, ‘What the hell did I just watch?’ or ‘That is my new favorite movie.’ ”
He’s a moonstruck hipster opposite Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver in the indie production “The F Word.” But the best-known of his post-Harry projects casts Radcliffe as the college-age poet Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings,” an intriguing real-life murder story set at the birth of the hard-drinking, reefer-smoking, jazz-clubbing Beat movement.
It shows Ginsberg’s struggles with his sexuality and art amid a New York homicide investigation involving William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. The 19-year-old Ginsberg faces a stark dilemma: betray himself and lie to the district attorney, or condemn a friend by telling the truth. The film opens locally Friday.
Radcliffe has been with the project for five years. He first auditioned for director/co-screenwriter John Krokidas to play Ginsberg when he was 19. In 2011 while he was doing “How to Succeed,” he worked weekends with Krokidas to perfect the voice, the accent and physicality of Allen Ginsberg as a freshman at Columbia University.
“Hair, contact lenses, we went through all this stuff and rehearsed far in advance. John showed me ways of acting that I had never been taught before” despite coming of age alongside the Potter ensemble of Britain’s most acclaimed adult actors. “It sounds crazy but there are things that people on Potter assumed that we knew that we never got told. He opened up a world of new tools to help me with my work.”
Radcliffe added, “Allen was, at that age, an interesting dichotomy. On one side he has complete confidence in his ability and his own intellect. When he was 14 he wrote ‘I know that I’m a genius, I just don’t know what form that’s going to take yet.’ He was completely overconfident and pretentious in his diary. In his life he was a shy, nervous, very dutiful son. He grew up in Patterson, N.J., and wanting to get to the big city was such a motivating force at that age. And when he finally arrived, he made a daring journey, rebelling against his parents and moving from conformity to nonconformity.”
“Kill Your Darlings” follows film adaptations of Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and a resurgence of interest in the rule-breaking, culturally engaged Beats. Just as in a family the grandparents are usually much more interesting than the parents, many millennials look on the Beats as exotic forebears with a lot to offer.
“The Beats find relevance with every generation,” Radcliffe said. “I think they stand for something that couldn’t happen now, which is a real counterculture movement. I think it’s a longing for something that might not be achievable now.”
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186