The Long Education of Daniel Radcliffe


By Aaron Hicklin

The young actor puts his decade-long stint as the world’s most famous schoolboy behind him with a career-defining turn as Allen Ginsberg.

For both Krokidas, a first-time director, and Radcliffe, busy establishing his post-Potter career, getting this movie right has been critical. On set, the two became close collaborators and friends, and continued to support one another after filming wrapped last April. Krokidas talks of Radcliffe as a mentor who became his rock through the production, and offers a telling anecdote of being together, along with DeHaan, this past New Year’s Eve. “I thanked them both for making my dream come true,” recalls Krokidas. “And then Dan turned to me and said, ‘Thank you for a beautiful collaboration and spending time with me to make such a beautiful performance. But more importantly, always remember this moment and remember all your friends who are just as talented but not yet as successful, and don’t let this go to your head.’ That is the credo that he lives by.”

For his part, Radcliffe considers Kill Your Darlings the high-water mark of his career to date, and the project of which he is proudest. “I can see why people are skeptical about me playing Allen Ginsberg,” he says. “I don’t look like him, and I’m English and middle-class and not from New Jersey. But that’s what I think is so exciting about it, because people have no idea.”

The idea Radcliffe is referring to, of course, is that a child actor scorched into public consciousness as a generational touchstone can evolve into a good -- maybe even a great -- actor. On the one hand there’s Jodie Foster; on the other is Lindsay Lohan. When he was plucked from obscurity to play the most famous boy in the world, Radcliffe had no formal training at all, and was given none on set. In essence, millions of us watched him through 10 years of self-taught acting classes. OK, so he had extraordinary mentors like Gary Oldman, Fiennes, and Dame Maggie Smith to steer him, but he also had to learn to keep pace with them, especially when the franchise hit its stride. Radcliffe says he can barely bring himself to watch his early performances. “I certainly wouldn’t watch number three, I wouldn’t watch the first two, I wouldn’t watch four,” he says, ticking off each of the installments. “I might watch five.” He pauses. “I definitely wouldn’t watch six.”

All that time spent not watching himself has been put to good use in a diverse slate of demanding projects, any one of which could have brought his career tumbling around his ears. He remembers reading such a prophecy as he rehearsed for the part of Alan Strang in the 2007 stage revival of Peter Shaffer’s intense and difficult Equus, the role that did most to broadcast his post-Potter ambitions. “While we were in rehearsal, there was a headline along the lines of ‘Crash! What’s that? The sound of a career coming to a grinding halt,’ ” he recalls. “I remember reading that and looking around the rehearsal room at [co-star] Richard Griffiths and [director] Thea Sharrock, and David Hersey, our lighting designer, and [set designer] John Napier, and thinking, If this is me fucking up, there are a lot of good people that are fucking up, too.”

It’s an illuminating anecdote, both as an example of his willingness to make daring choices and of the way he views himself as part of a team, not simply the biggest name on the billboard. There’s modesty in that, which has made him popular on set, where stars can often expect to be cosseted and indulged. “He literally gets to know the names of every member of his crew on set and remembers them,” says Krokidas. “On our set, he was playing Words With Friends with some of the P.A.s -- he’s that guy.”