Q&A: Daniel Radcliffe on “HORNS”, “FRANKENSTEIN”Features/Interviews,Home,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
For those keeping tabs on the world of horror as intently as FANGORIA, there’s few actors who have been as curiously intertwined in the genre as Daniel Radcliffe, the former HARRY POTTER actor who has since lined up an impressive and interesting resume of fright flicks. After impressing many with his committed turn in THE WOMAN IN BLACK, Radcliffe dives head first into much more chaotic and devilish territory with HORNS, the Joe Hill adaptation from noted filmmaker Alexandre Aja. As HORNS stabs its way into cinemas, Radcliffe sat down with FANGORIA to discuss the devil, emotional challenges in HORNS and his involvement in Paul McGuigan’s secretive FRANKENSTEIN adaptation…
FANGORIA: How did you initially get involved with HORNS?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: It was one of the scripts my agent sent to me, and he said, “Let’s see what you think.” It wasn’t an offer or anything; it was more like, “If you like it, we’ll get a meeting with the director.” I read HORNS and, when you’re an actor, you’re constantly looking for that script. You’ll always get a script that’s good and you’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s good… maybe,” and there are very few scripts like HORNS where they’re asking for a lot of time in advance, which is hard to do unless you really love something. And when I read HORNS, it was one of those scripts that made me want to get up, bang on the table and say, “No one else can play this. I must play this part.”
That was the sign that I wanted to do HORNS; I didn’t want anyone else playing this role [laughs]. I had that feeling with the script very quickly, so then I had a meeting with Alex [Aja] and that went really well. We had a long conversation about The Devil in literature and pop culture, and it turned out I knew a weird amount about that; enough to come off as knowledgeable. But we talked about how The Devil has been generally a much more interesting character than God, and a much more charismatic one, which is why he turns up all the time .
Did you know that when John Milton wrote PARADISE LOST that he felt so bad, as a religious man, for having made The Devil into such an interesting character that he wrote PARADISE REGAINED to make Jesus the star? The problem is that one was really boring and no one liked it, so it was not as successful. So we talked about that as well as THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, which is one of my favorite books and The Devil is important in that story as well. We talked about The Devil a lot, and when you respond to a script that like, it’s very easy to be like, “I love this, and I love this,” and the process becomes a lot easier to talk about.
So we got off to a great start, but I really was won over when Alex showed me these photos that were made to look like portraits. They were very vibrant, intense and cool. When the director sits you down and shows you a mood board, and you see exactly what you were thinking, that’s when you go, “Oh man, this is going to be really cool.” I didn’t have the part by that point, but I really wanted to be a part of HORNS because it looked really cool. But then I read the book, and things started to fly after that meeting, really.
FANG: HORNS is a very hard film to define; it’s part love story, part crime story, part horror story, etc. What was the film exactly in your eyes?
RADCLIFFE: That’s the thing; I think we’re obsessed with defining things and the thing I loved about HORNS is that it was very hard to define. I loved the fact that it jumped between genres and was really, really funny. To me, though, the most important aspect where if we didn’t have it right, the film doesn’t work, is the romance. We had to carry off the love story well, and when you say, “a love story in a horror movie,” as funny as that might be, that’s what I think it needed.
Particularly, it was most important that we nail that scene in the diner where my character goes to propose to Merrin, especially considering that we see that scene from so many different perspectives. It’s such a key moment in the film, and unless you care and really feel how perfect that relationship between Ig and Merrin was, and how much of a gut-punch it is to have that ripped away from him, then the film doesn’t work. Ig’s quest for revenge wouldn’t make sense, and you’d ask, “Why are you doing that?” It’s those moments and that storyline which elevates the film from just being a really fun, entertaining movie with some horror elements to having a real place of emotional power. Hopefully, HORNS will be the kind of movie that sticks with people.
FANG: Speaking to that point, there’s a theme of uncovering hidden emotional truths that runs through the film. Sometimes, it’s used for comedic effect, but other times, especially in Ig’s chats with his parents, the film takes a really tragic, heartbreaking turn. Was there any scene of this in particular that you were wary of approaching or perhaps felt like could hit a nerve personally?
RADCLIFFE: No, but actually, those kinds of scenes are actually kind of welcome when you’re an actor. When things get close to home and you start to face down those fears, that’s when it’s really easy, actually, and acting feels very natural. That’s something everyone can tap into: the fear of disappointing your family, no matter what form that takes. People can relate to that fear, and the idea of your parents saying those awful things to you is so horrendous, but I think that’s why actors are really lucky: we’re allowed to have a very healthy relationship with our own dysfunction, so we get to know it and we can use it.
As an actor, I can be at peace with that dysfunction and that can really be helpful in the rest of my life. In a way, that’s also what Ig does throughout the course of HORNS: he gives people permission to feel these dark, awful things and realize that they’re all human and normal. Just because something you feel isn’t moral doesn’t mean you’re not moral; it’s how you act upon those feelings which chooses to dictate that. But that kind of catharsis is really helpful as an actor, even though one of my biggest acting challenges in HORNS was making those reactions feel gradual. Those first bits in the hospital with Ig are a bit disconcerting but it’s also quite funny, but when you get to Ig seeing his mom, and she says she doesn’t want to see him ever again, that’s an awful thing for someone to say. You have to give yourself room emotionally, because we’re only a half hour into the movie and it’s only going to get a lot worse for Ig. So it was like making sure you did justice for the scene you were in, while always making sure you didn’t screw yourself for those later emotional moments.
FANG: The role of Ig Perrish also required you to become quite demonic at times. Were there ever times during certain scenes where you might have felt that you were going too far or were those the moments you wanted to play more in while you had the opportunity?
RADCLIFFE: Yeah, absolutely. Like the scene where I go to torture Terry, where I have the snake around my neck? That’s a scene I’d never done before, where I’m being asked to be really ominous and frightening. I think my natural reaction is to downplay stuff and not go particularly over the top, but Alex and I were on the same page most of the time. The battle with HORNS was making sure we got all of the tones right and making sure they didn’t conflict with each other, so I really put myself in Alex’s hands for those moments. If Alex said he was getting what he needed, I always trusted that, and I never have a problem with “going for it” on set. I don’t remember Alex having to reign me in on set, but you’d have to ask him.
FANG: As a genre publication, we have to ask: what can you tell us about Paul McGuigan’s VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN? Can you tell us anything about the project?
RADCLIFFE: I’ve seen a very rough version of VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, and it’s really good. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a very new version of FRANKENSTEIN. I’m very pleased with how they portray Igor because there’s certain things people picture when you say you’re playing Igor. You want to live up to that and do that well, but you also want to make something unexpected and different. I think we’ve done that.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN is much like an adventure movie, and it’s less of a straight horror film than previous FRANKENSTEIN movies have been. But there are a lot of nods to past incarnations of FRANKENSTEIN. James McAvoy, in my mind, is now the definitive Victor Frankenstein, and I think he’ll be that in everyone else’s mind shortly.
HORNS, directed by Alexandre Aja and starring Daniel Radcliffe, hits theaters this Friday, October 31st, from Radius-TWC. You can also find the film currently on many VOD platforms. You can also see Radcliffe in VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN next October.