On February 3 CBS Films releases Hammer’s The Woman in Black, an old fashioned ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter 1-7.2) and Ciaran Hinds (There Will Be Blood). With a screenplay by Jane Goldman (X Men: First Class, Kick Ass), based on the novel by Susan Hill, the film is directed by James Watkins who helmed Eden Lake in addition to writing The Descent: Part 2.
It’s a big moment for Daniel Radcliffe, embarking on his first major leading role since the end of the triumphant Harry Potter franchise. It’s an interesting choice to attempt to play someone so far removed – “lawyer” isn’t as synonymous with youth as say, “boy wizard” – from his signature character. I had a chance to hop on the phone with him recently and talk about the process behind the transformation.
In the supernatural thriller, “Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a widowed lawyer whose grief has put his career as a lawyer in jeopardy, is sent to a remote village to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased eccentric. But upon his arrival, it soon becomes clear that everyone in the town is keeping a deadly secret. Although the townspeople try to keep Kipps from learning their tragic history, he soon discovers that the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost…and no one, not even the children, are safe from her vengeance.”
Hit the jump to check out the interview! I’m sure you have a lot to pick from in terms of projects. What attracted you to this role?
“First of all, mainly it comes down to the script for me. The script was so good for this. Normally if there’s a script that has a lot of stage direction it can be hard work wading through it. But this just read like a novel. The stage direction was so compelling and beautifully written and so clear, and so visual actually, that just reading it you had a sense of what the film was going to look like. And it came down to that for me. It was a very compelling, frightening story. It frightened me when I read it, which I took as a pretty good indicator that it would frighten people when it was filmed. And when I met the director James [Watkins] I became even more excited to be a part of it because he was this smart, young, ambitious, hungry director. And that’s always wonderful to work with.”
And you’re playing a lawyer which is a change of pace from the role you’re most associated with -
“By the way, what’s hilarious is that no one wants to say it. Everyone is doing what you just did.”
Yeah, “the role you’re known for”.
Ok, Harry Potter. I’ll say it.
“It’s funny, everyone’s being far too respectful.”
I think they probably figure that after 10 years you’re ready to move on. So what was the process of preparing for such a different role?
“I knew there were certain hurdles to make this a believable character. The main thing that I had to work on is that I have a lot of hyper energy. And I’m playing a character who has been completely [sapped] by the loss of his wife. It’s taken all of his energy, his drive and even his desire to live at all has been diminished greatly by the fact that his wife has died. So to kind of try and suppress the zeal and excitement I have about life and just playing a much lower energy character that was kind of the main challenge. Also, knowing that everyone’s seen me in a school-boy outfit for the past 10 years it’s going to be kind of a leap for them to see me as this character. And playing older than myself. So I was just trying to make it as true and real as possible I think. Those are kind of the main challenges that resented themselves in terms of moving away from Harry.”
This is a Hammer film, and from what I’ve seen it retains some of that old-timey hammer aesthetic. Were you familiar with a lot of the old Hammer films before you started?
“Only one, the Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee ‘Dracula’ [Horror Of Dracula] that was probably the only one that I grew up with. I was saying to somebody else actually that that was kind of like the end of term film that you bring in at the end of every semester that you’d play in class, it was one of those things that you’d watch. I mean, this film does take a lot from the more old fashioned horror films, but I’d have to say that while it’s a Hammer film and I’m very very proud to be associated with such a great British company with such a rich heritage, this is first and foremost a James Watkins film and it is his vision that is responsible for how the film turned out.”
Is it a particularly effects heavy film?
“There’s very little special effects. I mean there are a few, but almost everything was practical. The only visual effects we do in the film really are things you would never think about watching. Like background shots, the house that we filmed in looks kind of isolated. In reality it’s right next to a road. So we covered that up, the more mundane side of visual effects that we used to create a setting and an atmosphere and make the locations feel more real and connected to each other rather than being on the opposite end of the country. In terms of the visual effects, I mean The Woman In Black, the ghost, is always there. It was never an effect it was always the actress who was playing her.”
That has to help as a performer.
“It does, it really helps and makes things easier when you’ve got a really good actress to work against, rather than a ball on a stick.”
What’s coming up next for you? More stage work or films?
“I’d love to be able to talk about it, but I can’t. Next year is hopefully is going to be a pretty exciting year with at least one or two good films going on. I’m attached to three or four different things and if any one of them goes I will be delighted.”