Daniel Radcliffe is still only 24, but already he’s had the kind of career in film and theater that actors twice his age would probably kill for. Thanks to his long running and lucrative "Harry Potter" days, he’s now also one of the richest young men in England, with a net worth said to hover around $80 million.
That’s probably why outfits like Access Hollywood and ABC News came to the launch of his revival of Martin McDonagh’s "The Cripple of Inishmaan" alongside more familiar outlets like NPR and Broadway.com.
Radcliffe is a megawatt celebrity, and his undiminished star power looks certain to make the revival of the dark Irish comedy he’s starring in a sellout when it opens on April 20 (the show begins previews on April 12).
But what on earth made Radcliffe, who’s father hails from Banbridge in Co. Down, choose the role of an impoverished young Irish cripple? As steps away from the "Harry Potter" juggernaut go, it’s a major one. What brought him back?
“Broadway is an amazing community to be part of,” he tells the Irish Voice. “New York and Broadway will always be an incredibly special place for me, and any time I step on a stage here I want to give them the best experience they’ve ever had in a theater.
“When I came over here at 18 to do "Equus" the rest of the world and almost all the journalists wanted to say he’s only ever going to be Harry Potter. New York gave me the chance to do something else. If you work hard and enter into it with the right spirit it can work out here. I just feel very lucky to be here.”
The role is not such a stretch for Radcliffe, as it turns out. His father is Irish and he’s been going to Ireland for most of his life.
“I grew up in England, but we went over to Ireland at least once a year to visit my gran and aunt and uncle and cousins, so yeah I know it. It’s been a while since I’ve been back to visit them now, but up until I was at least 18 I did,” he says.
Working alongside a revolving cast of Britain and Ireland’s most accomplished actors like Ralph Fiennes and Fiona Shaw has made Radcliffe comfortable in their company. He doesn’t get starstruck, having worked with the best in the business.
Now he working on his new show alongside gifted Irish actors like Pat Shortt (most famous for "Garage" and his turn in the Irish TV series "D'Unbelievables") and Padraic Delaney (most famous for his work in Ken Loach’s masterpiece "The Wind That Shakes the Barley"). You can tell Radcliffe has forged a real company, because they clearly get along well with each other, onstage and off.
“It’s basically been my whole life,” says Radcliffe. “My parents were actors when they were younger. I feel like if I hadn’t got the break I got when I was 11 to do Harry Potter I feel like I would have ended up in the industry in some way, probably on the other side of the camera because my parents were in that world and it would have been what I was interested in I feel.”
But it’s not all fun and games. Millions of young people have grown up obsessed with "Harry Potter" and the young man who played him. How does he remind them that he’s Dan, not Harry? How can he persuade them he’s an actor, not an icon? How do you square that?
“I mean you don’t,” he says. “You just live with it being weird, and it is a little weird. But it’s also nice and people are very polite and people are very enthusiastic and it’s lovely to be famous for something people love.
“On the whole people love Potter and it has a very special place in people’s minds. The reactions you get are quite nice. It is a weird thing. The nature of fame is that people feel they know you and they don’t.”
It’s odd when you meet people and they say something that they know about you and they know about your life, Radcliffe clarifies.
“And you reply, ‘That’s odd. I know nothing about yours,’ but it’s just one of the things that happens and you just have to deal with it.”
His parents were the buffer when all the "Harry Potter" madness began.
“When you’re a kid you base your reaction to things on how your parents react to things. When I was going through the insanity of a Japanese airport aged 12 and there were 5,000 people screaming and shouting, if my parents had been panicked and freaked out by it I would have been too,” Radcliffe said.
“Instead they just laughed. They thought it was hilarious and weird.”
It’s the same attitude he has to being a celebrity now. “That’s always been the attitude I’ve had to my fame. It’s hilarious and weird.”
Although he plays a young man with a disability in "The Cripple of Inishmaan," the most physical job Radcliffe ever had is the musical he did here in 2011 ("How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying").
That show received a sneering review from The New York Times' chief theater critic Ben Brantley, and so choosing a McDonagh play (a Times in-house favorite) may be the best possible vehicle for a second attempt at some elusive critical plaudits.
Meanwhile, Radcliffe has concerns of his own, not the least of which are making sure he creates some authenticity in his character.
“Obviously Billy is a character who lives with a disability, and people tend to focus on that. You have to learn about it to make all parts of your portrayal as authentic as possible,” he says.
“Because I am aware for a lot of people out there this isn’t a play. This is something they live with. I want them to come and see the play and enjoy it just like anyone else can.”
Billy is the smartest, kindest person in a play populated by caustic and mostly hateful ciphers, and Radcliffe never loses sight of the fact.
“Billy is constantly being dismissed by the people around him. When he sees this opportunity to get to America it becomes all-consuming to him. America was viewed as a place of great tolerance and acceptance and he thought, well, that’s my ticket,” Radcliffe says.
Speaking of tolerance and acceptance, Radcliffe (who is heterosexual) is one of the most passionate champions of the Trevor Project, a national gay rights and anti-bullying non-profit hotline focused on preventing suicide.
“I do think the Trevor Project is one of the best things I have ever been able to do with my money or my fame because it facilitates some of the most important conversations that are being had,” he says.
It’s one of the reasons that the Broadway community loves him.
"The Cripple of Inishmaan" will play at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street in a limited 14-week engagement. Visit www.crippleofinishmaan.com.
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