Shock Interview: Horns’ Daniel Radcliffe on Uncooperative Snakes & Exploding Heads

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Daniel Radcliffe - Horns

Fans of Daniel Radcliffe from his days playing Harry Potter may be surprised to see him go “full Slytherin” for Alexandre (The Hills Have Eyes) Aja’s Horns, based on the Joe Hill novel.

That’s pretty much what he does while playing Ig, a young man accused of murdering his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) who starts growing horns and affecting those around him to reveal their darkest secrets. As the horns grow, Ig is able to use his newfound powers (and the numerous large snakes that follow him around) to try to learn the truth about what happened to Merrin.

Earlier this week, ShockTillYouDrop.com had a chance to talk with Radcliffe about his second foray into horror following 2012’s The Woman in Black, as well as getting some idea what to expect from his turn as Igor in next October’s Victor Frankenstein.

As we sat down, we chatted with Radcliffe about the nature of interviews and how often things said in print don’t come out as they’re meant, which may have been the case when a trip to visit Marvel Studios got blown out of proportion (as he explained at the end of the interview).

ShockTillYouDrop.com: “Horns” is interesting when compared to “What If,” because both movies were announced around the same time…

Daniel Radcliffe: They were filmed back to back.

Shock: They were at Toronto last year and the characters are so different. You’re such a nice guy as is your character in “What If” and this guy is…

Radcliffe: He’s a good guy but he’s not nice.

Shock: Exactly, it’s hard to define him as nice.

Radcliffe: No, I mean, he’s a good person who does some pretty terrible things throughout the course of the movie, but it is all in the name… that’s the thing. The tension in this movie. Although my girlfriend’s obviously been killed , so there is an element of who done it in there. However, the real tension in the film comes when after you find out who it is, it’s about how I’m going to act on that. Am I going to fully let myself be taken by the dark side and just commit to violence and vengeance as the only way out of this? Or will I do what the person whose memory I am actually fighting for would’ve wanted, which is to not let violence beget more violence and, you know, not live with that anger and that hatred inside myself, which is obviously what Merrin would not have wanted for me?

Shock: Did you read the scripts around the same tie and think that you wanted to counterbalance “What If” with something completely different?

Radcliffe: No, it was one of those things where they came in pretty quickly after one another, I knew sort of immediately. It was just one of those things which never happens in the film industry, where both of these projects could time out perfectly if they both go, and we could do one right after the other in the same country. Normally, it’s like “Sh*t, will, we have to drop one? Will we have to get out?” This time, there was a real possibility of them both happening. I’d done “Kill Your Darlings” already that year, and I was just like it was too good to be true to be able to show that kind of a range in one year was amazing for me. I guess I filmed all those the year after the last “Potter” film came out, so that was fantastic for me to be able to get my hands on so many different things, and I thought they would’ve weirdly compliment each other well.

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Shock: Was that in between your Broadway stints?

Radcliffe: It was between “How to Succeed” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” yeah, which I guess was 2011, so 2012 was the year I did all those movies.

Shock: Was it harder to convince them to cast you in one of the roles over the other?

Radcliffe: Maybe there was a little bit more in “Horns,” but not really because I know that all I knew was that when I went to meet Alex to talk about “Horns,” I knew at that point, one of the pieces of information that I had was that he was thinking of Ig as being someone who was slightly older, like in their late 20s. So, that was, I think, the only thing that I knew I was kind of up against. I just went in and I think I let my hair and I let my stubble grow for a couple of days to look a little bit older. Then, I went in and I think pretty much the first thing I said to him was, “I know you think I may be too young for this, but let me try and explain to you why I think you’re wrong.” Then we got on really well very quickly, which was great. He is one of my absolutely favorite directors. That year, I had out of “Potter,” John Krokidas with “Kill Your Darlings,” Michael Dowse with “The F-Word” and Alexandre. It was like ridiculous in terms of how lucky I am, because they are three very different, but all excellent directors. I mean, Alex is–I don’t use the word genius often because I think it’s vastly overused–but Alexandre, when you can come up for a different creative, imaginative solution for every single scene, in terms of how to make it somehow visually interesting or emotionally interesting, that’s when you’re operating at a very high level as a director, I think, is when you can bring something like that to every scene.

Shock: Are you a fan of his remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”?

Radcliffe: “Piranha,” actually, was the one that I had seen, but I have a love of that kind of B-movie beast horror movie. When I talked to him about it, it was great, because he said, “I just want to make the bloodiest, sexiest beast movie horror of all time.” I was like, “Well, yes. You achieved that.” Actually, if you watch that film, it’s wonderful to… in a way, it is one of the things that you can see why he does so well in a movie like “Horns.” “Piranha” is tonally a really tricky film to get right because it has to be that thing of being the thing it is also parodying and being them both successfully. Similarly, in “Horns,” there are so many different tones that have to mix constantly from the very, very funny stuff to the very dramatic. Then, this very earnest love story, which kind of anchors the whole film, that’s a lot to get right, but Alex is that person. I mean, he’s a real romantic, which I don’t think people have any associations with him being, but he is. He’s very romantic. He’s incredibly intuitive and smart about how people relate to each other, which I think is an absolute key for any director. I’ve also never seen somebody who draws creativity out of a crew quicker and better than Alex does, just in terms of because he listens to everybody, and everybody on set knew, if they had an idea and it was really good and they said it to Alex, it would be in the movie. So, everyone, seriously, they know that. Everyone’s like, “Oh, how can we help? How can we make this even cooler?” It just becomes such a team effort. Yeah, it was great.

Shock: I assume he likes to do a lot of stuff practically, and you have a lot of different kinds of horns in the movie….

Radcliffe: Yeah, yeah, they were all there. He does like, obviously, as much to be done practically as we possibly can. He’s also just, as a technical director, to watch him solve problems and watch him work stuff out was brilliant. So there was the snake problem, which is that I have a snake on me for the last half of the film. You can’t train a snake–a snake does what it likes during the takes. You’ve got one take. The snake will be somewhere and you’re never going to find two shots that cut together the same, where the snake’s in the same place twice. We were doing this long speech where the snakes were all over the place, and I said to Alex, “How are you going to make any of this match?” He just had a B-camera rolling, just getting snake footage all the time, so that they could cut into it at any moment. Half of directing is problem solving on the day, and he is so good at it.

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Shock: The tonal thing shifts in the movie kind of through me off, because there’s humor in watching you with the horns growing, making people do all sorts of bad things, then you realize Ig’s girlfriend’s still dead and has to figure it out. By the end, it becomes what we usually expect from Alex with people’s heads blowing up.

Radcliffe: Yeah, is the head blowing up in America. Is it here?

Shock: Oh yeah. At least in the version I saw, it was there.

Radcliffe: Okay, because I think it’s been cut now, it’s been cut in some places. I’m not sure where. I know some countries don’t have the exploding head and some do. I’m really just very disappointed for the countries that don’t have the exploding head.

Shock: I’m sure Radius would keep it.

Radcliffe: I hope so.

Shock: They’re pretty good about just leaving things as is, and I’ve seen much worse in R-rated movies.

Radcliffe: Yeah, it’s kind of fine. We were already pleased with the exploding head and that was a banner day on set, when we all gathered around to watch the head explode.

Shock: I actually got to be on the set of the “Carrie” remake on the day they dropped the blood on her.

Radcliffe: Oh really?

Shock: Yeah, so we got to see the bucket of blood dropped on Chloe Moretz.

Radcliffe: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that is the shot from that movie.

Shock: I don’t think anyone would’ve ever pegged you as a horror fan. You did “The Woman in Black,” but that was more gothic. That was a different kind of horror movie.

Radcliffe: Well, I think the thing I like about horror is that it gives you the chance to have a really, really cool, compelling story, but with lots of underlying layers of kind of quite introspective, emotional things. “The Woman in Black” is a good example, actually, because as much as it is a kind of a fun ride around a haunted house, as like a fight for my life, it’s also about a guy who in the midst of grief, starts seeing a ghost. So he starts trying to find confirmation of an afterlife because that means his wife is still out there somewhere. So, as much as it is a ghost story, it’s about loss. Similarly, with this, as much as it’s a really kind of great story about a guy who grows horns and starts making people do whatever the hell he wants and trying to get revenge, it’s a story about what we become when we lose the person we love the most or it’s a story about the idea that you become what you are perceived as. If people treat you as a devil, then that’s what you will become in some way. There’s so much other really interesting thematic stuff going on at the same time as having a really cool surface story, if you will.

Shock: I think it’s a genre which is more acceptable among serious dramatic actors because there’s really good horror movies like “The Orphanage” and things like that, and they have really good actors in it…

Radcliffe: And amazing directors. That’s the thing. That’s the key. I think there are some people who really see the potential in horror to be more than just jump scares and all that stuff. Alex is definitely one of them. I think this film, for both me and Alex, was something that we talked about at first, because it’s very different for both of us. But I think particularly for fans of Alex’s work, I think they’ll really get into seeing his work deepen and cover even more genres and you see more of his–actually, you get to see a lot of his humor in “Piranha”–but even more of his humor and that romantic that is very much in there.

Shock: What’s the tone of the “Frankenstein” movie you did?

Radcliffe: I would describe that as an adventure movie. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not traditional horror in the same way that a lot of “Frankenstein” movies have been, obviously, very associated with that genre. But it’s kind of a fun adventure movie about two guys who are at the tip of the spear of technology and how they fire off each other, but also eventually, how I sort of have to try and save Victor from himself and his own ego and madness. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I think people will enjoy it. And James (McAvoy) is amazing as Victor.

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Shock: You’ve been going more back into dramatic films, so have you started shooting “Brooklyn Bridge” yet?

Radcliffe: No, no. I don’t know when that’s happening at the moment. We haven’t got a firm answer for that yet, but hopefully we will at some point.

Shock: I know you did something in the Judd Apatow movie, too, and that’s more back into comedy.

Radcliffe: That’s just like a cameo. That’s a very small part in that. It’s like a blink and you miss it, but yeah, I’ve done a bit of that. Yeah, I’m just getting ready at the moment for sort of films that are hopefully going to be starting in the new year.

Shock: Is it nice to be at a point where your name attached to something will get the movie made?

Radcliffe: Well, I mean, you know, sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t. It’s definitely… if it helps, fantastic, but it’s never easy getting independent films made, by anyone’s name being attached. It’s always going to be tricky.

Shock: There have been rumors about you meeting with Marvel.

Radcliffe: No, I’m not. There’s nothing happening. I just met those guys, but I think I learned very quickly that if you mention the word “Marvel,” you will make headlines whether you mean to or not, but I absolutely didn’t mean to. It was a very casual meeting.

Shock: Was it just like one of those “I’d love to go to Marvel,” like anyone else who might want to go there?

Radcliffe: Right. You go and exactly, yeah, yeah, it’s very more like that.

Shock: Maybe it’ll turn into something eventually.

Radcliffe: Maybe, yeah, who knows?

Shock: It sounds like you have a lot of other movies you can do before then.

Radcliffe: Yeah, well, hopefully, hopefully.

Horns opens in select cities on Friday, Halloween, October 31st, as well as being available on iTunes and On Demand. You can read Ryan Turek’s earlier interview with director Alexandre Aja and author Joe Hill from Comic-Con here.