Wednesday, 13 August 2014 | MYT 6:30 PM

Daniel Radcliffe becomes a ‘normal’ guy in ‘What If’

Daniel Radcliffe -- AFP

Daniel Radcliffe -- AFP

We’ve seen him in fantasy and period roles, but in What If, actor Daniel Radcliffe finally steps into the real world.

From kid wizard Harry Potter to Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, British actor Daniel Radcliffe has made a career out of playing fantastic and period characters. Until now, that is.

In the new romantic comedy What If out in US theatres on Aug 8, Radcliffe plays Wallace, a young man damaged by previous romances who becomes enamoured with a girl (played by Zoe Kazan) already in a steady relationship.

The role also represents his first time playing a normal flesh-and-blood character, no magic, no period costumes – and the 25-year-old Radcliffe finds it totally refreshing.

In the here and now: Daniel Radcliffe and girlfriend Erin Darke, seen recently at the 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York, in June. – Reuters

You have taken on action, fantasy and horror, but never a romantic comedy. What drew you to What If?

I had never done a contemporary project that was set in the world we are in that we recognise, I’ve never done that. “Potter” was in its own fantasy world and everything else I’ve done since then has been period films, so I’ve wanted to play somebody contemporary for a long time.

What did playing Wallace allow you to explore?

This is the first time I’ve ever played a character that’s quite close to myself, not in terms of the decisions he makes or the way he goes about things, but just in terms of his sense of humour and his speed of thought.

I used to worry that playing myself, or that not playing somebody that different from myself, would make people think of Harry Potter. And then I realised I hadn’t been playing myself at all in Harry Potter. I was playing a very different, much sterner character than I am myself. So I think I let a bit of that embarrassment go, and it definitely made it easier.

You received criticism for your on-screen performances early in your Potter career. Did that fuel your determination?

Yeah, prove everyone wrong. Anyone who ever said I couldn’t do it – and this does sound terrible – but I do want every film to be a “f*** you” to them. If you say horrible shit about a 12-year-old boy, then yeah, I want to make you pay for that, I want to embarrass you by my success. Like, that’s what I do. (Laughs)

I’m not somebody who makes a fuss about stuff or gets particularly angry ever, but I do have a mean competitive streak, which I suppose that’s how it comes out. That and table tennis.

Romancing, the modern way: Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe in a scene from the new romantic comedy What If.

What genre would you like to take on?

I’ve always thought sci-fi looks really fun, just because of the set. And if it’s a good sci-fi movie, a clever sci-fi movie, with an interesting take on the future, then God yeah, I’d be up for that. I would just like to be on a spaceship set.

How do you deal with the celebrity spotlight?

You don’t. The only way to navigate it sanely is to pay as little attention to it as possible. It’s weird that people take photographs of you, it’s weird that anyone would care that you went to the shops. They always have to write some headline, like “Daniel Radcliffe and girlfriend go for a stroll to the shops”, because that makes a story. Because otherwise it’s just some creep taking photographs of you on the street, and if there isn’t a headline, that’s all it amounts to.

You’ve been acting for 15 years now. Would you ever step away from it all?

There’s a chance, but I love what I do so much that I don’t think I could ever imagine doing anything else. I can’t imagine if somebody told me tomorrow, “You’re never going to be stepping on a film set again.” I genuinely don’t know what I’d do. I couldn’t imagine my life without it. – Reuters

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