One of the first images to appear for Daniel Radcliffe’s TIFF pic Guns Akimbo featured the actor in a bathrobe, with giant, furry monster slippers on his feet, being held at gunpoint by police on the sidewalk of some major urban area. In his hands, two guns appeared to have been strapped in place, and the look on his face suggested he wasn’t happy about the situation.
It felt of a piece for Radcliffe, whose career highlights since the end of the Harry Potter film series include Horns, in which he played a young man afflicted with devil horns growing out of the top of his head, and Swiss Army Man, in which he played a farting dead body that Paul Dano used as a raft to escape an unforgiving island. In between more dramatic roles, Radcliffe seems to favor the weird and the wacky. As he explains, Guns Akimbo is no different.
DEADLINE: While you were shooting, some photos of emerged of you in a bathrobe, with two guns strapped to your wrists and furry monster slippers on. Care to explain?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Yeah, you probably need some context for that [laughs]. My character, Miles, is a very non-violent person, but somebody who spends a lot of time and gets drawn to the darker parts of the internet. He gets in an online fight that has very real implications for him.
It’s such an insane film to talk about, but there’s basically a terrorist organization called Schism that pits normal people against each other in a fight to the death. I am basically forced into a fight to the death with a much more experienced fighter called Nix, played by Samara Weaving. The majority of the film is Miles doing everything he can to avoid being killed by her. And then we join forces towards the end of the film to defeat a larger enemy.
As far as that picture goes, my character wakes up after having been kidnapped by this awful organization, and he realizes that they have screwed and bolted two guns to his hands—including his index fingers, which are screwed to the triggers. He gets sent into a waking nightmare where he doesn’t really want to kill anybody or do anything particularly violent, but he’s forced into fighting for his life as the film goes on.
What I really enjoyed about it is it’s a crazy, very funny action movie. It has a great sense of humor. It does one of the things that I really enjoy in films, in that it can veer wildly from some genuinely great, exciting, really cool action sequences, into some very intense moments, into stuff that is just ridiculous and silly and fun, all very, very quickly.
Ned Dennehy plays Riktor, who is the main bad guy of the film. He gives an amazing performance that’s equal parts psychotic and hilarious. And Samara is incredible as Nix. I feel like Jason [Lei Howden] created an amazing character there. It’s just a really cool world. I’ve only seen a rough cut so far; it’s being tinkered with right up to our premiere in Toronto. But it goes a hundred miles an hour in the best possible way.
One of the moments I fell in love with it is, obviously, you can have somebody who has guns for hands, and it’s like, “OK, that’s a cool premise, but what are you going to do with that?” Three pages into him getting the guns on for the first time, there’s a scene with him trying to negotiate how to use the toilet in his new situation. That was the moment, reading the script, where I was like, “OK, I love this.” You’re fully exploring what it would be like to have guns for hands in a way that’s both funny and pathetic. I had an amazing time working out how to do lots of very stupid stuff, like working out how to dress with guns for hands. Those kinds of challenges were a lot of fun.
DEADLINE: Something for the resume. “Can dress with guns for hands.”
RADCLIFFE: Yeah [laughs]. I’m sure there’s got to be loads of other uses for that, right?
DEADLINE: Tell me about the mad genius behind this film, Jason Lei Howden, who wrote and directed.
RADCLIFFE: When I first talked to Jason, you could tell there was a lot of him in the character of Miles. Jason comes from visual effects—really painstaking work—and I think he feels about himself the same way Miles feels about himself. Miles is a vegetarian, Jason is a vegan. He’s this really interesting split between this guy who is incredibly gentle, incredibly sweet, just a super chill dude, and then the films he makes and the games he plays and what he loves. Jason is all about metal, and really into gaming in a way that I don’t even feel fully qualified to talk about, because I’ll just get it wrong. There’s a scene in the film involving Twitch; Jason had to explain Twitch to me. I didn’t know what it was.
I think this is a film really born out of Jason’s love of ’80s action movies; Schwarzenegger and Van Damme—and shoot-’em-up games. It’s like a Jason Statham movie directed by Edgar Wright. Insane action and violence, but directed in this swanky, pop-art way. It reminded me a lot of making Swiss Army Man and Horns. Every day you get to work and they would have figured out weird, cool shots that really let the cast and crew and everybody know, “Oh, we’re working on something that could be really, really cool.”
DEADLINE: You mention those two films there. It’s definitely of a piece. It seems like you’re drawn to this stuff.
RADCLIFFE: I do love finding those scripts. They’re few and far between. I’ve read a lot of weird stuff that has been weird for the sake of being weird, but that doesn’t really have anything tying it together. But the lovely thing is, I’m at the point now, in my career, where I have a bit of a reputation for liking this kind of material, so I’m definitely on the list of people who get sent those kinds of more out-there scripts. You’ll read five that are like, “What is this?” But every so often there’s a Guns Akimbo or a Swiss Army Man, where you think, This is so crazy it might just work.
DEADLINE: Jason is from New Zealand. That sense of humor has always suited a British palette, but it’s becoming more international.
RADCLIFFE: Absolutely. Rhys Darby is in this film and he goes full New Zealand, even though it’s set in America. If you don’t know what kind of film you’re watching before, you will do when you get to Rhys Darby’s scenes [laughs].
It’s not necessarily the most mainstream kind of comedy in America, but Flight of the Conchords had a massive following here, and Taika Waititi is everybody’s favorite director of Marvel movies. One of the nice things about the fact that films are coming from more places now is that our sense of humor—the British and New Zealand sensibility—has become homogenized in a good way, where we can all get each other’s jokes a bit more.
DEADLINE: You’ve been fortunate in your career to have those poles between crazy comedy and then the dark drama of an Imperium or Kill Your Darlings. How important is that mix?
RADCLIFFE: I try to find it as much as I can. If I ever felt I was doing the same thing again—or doing one thing for too long—I would start to feel like I was resting on my laurels a little bit or getting complacent. I think it’s how I enjoy my job the most. The more variety you can find, the more fulfilling your work as an actor.
Frankly, I’ve been lucky to have started my career in the way I did with Potter, and to have the opportunities it gave me from then on. For every director out there who didn’t want to cast me because they felt there was too much baggage from Potter—which I can understand and totally get—there was another that was excited for the chance to do something weird and unexpected with me that people wouldn’t have seen before.
I’ve been lucky to have had those opportunities—like doing Endgame at the Old Vic at the end of the year. That’s the Samuel Beckett play, by the way—I have to say that now, since Avengers came out [laughs]. As long as people are going to keep giving me opportunities to try different, weird stuff, I’m going to keep grabbing them.
DEADLINE: Has the call of the other side of the industry been felt? You’ve produced a little bit. Would you write or direct?
RADCLIFFE: I’d be very interested in writing and directing. It’s getting to the stage where I’ve been thinking that for so long that I had better do something about it. I always used to have it in my head that I’d pop off for a month or two and direct something in between projects. Now, I have a much better understanding of what the reality of that is. So if I find a project I want to direct, I know I’ll have to say, “OK, no acting for me for the next year. I’m just going to focus solidly on pre-production to get this made.” I wouldn’t want to half-heart it. You hear a lot of stories about actors who direct who just suddenly turn up on set and everyone else has to make the film around them. I don’t want to be one of those people.
Producing interests me. I am a producer on Miracle Workers. But I’m only really involved in a producorial capacity before we start. As soon as filming begins, I’m just an actor, pretty much. I’m into the casting and the writing process, but once we start production I feel I’m an actor more than anything else.
I love being on set so much, and I love working with all the different departments in my capacity as an actor, so I’d love to work with all those departments as a director. I think I’d be OK at it. It’d be a learning curve, obviously, but I think I’d be all right.
DEADLINE: You worked with an actor who directed for the first time. Woody Harrelson, on his movie Lost in London, which was a feature film shot and transmitted live, in real time. It blows my mind he chose that for his first feature.
RADCLIFFE: Yeah, it was a military operation. I don’t know Woody as well as a lot of people know Woody. It’s crazy that anybody did this, but I think it’s crazier that Woody did it. But Woody is hyper f*cking intelligent, but he’s also so f*cking chill. The stress of organizing… I think it was 30 different sound guys alone, without even considering how many camera people there were…
My bit of it was actually really easy. It was all pre-recorded. The story of that night with Woody is, the day after the story took place in real life was the first time I met Woody, aged 12, when he came out to the set of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The day after he left, all these stories came out in the papers of this crazy night he’d had in London. At some point that came up between Woody and I, and he was like, “Would you just tell that story as the epilogue to Lost in London?” So I had the easiest job on the entire film.
I wonder if we’ll see more of that kind of stuff, or if it was so hard to do that it’ll never be a real business proposition for anybody. But Woody is a really cool guy, and he’s very special. Ever since I did Now You See Me 2 with him, literally every single piece of theater I’ve done since then, he has come and he has supported. He’s just incredibly kind and loyal.