THE F WORD directed by Michael Dowse, written by Elan Mastai based on the play by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi, with Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Megan Park and Rafe Spall. An Entertainment One release. 100 minutes. Opens Friday (August 22). For venues and times, see Movies.
Daniel Radcliffe may be the most famous human being in the world. He's handling it really well.
In Toronto last month for a red-carpet screening of his new romantic comedy, The F Word, the actor drew a massive crowd to the Scotiabank Theatre. Rather than duck in through a side door surrounded by security, he engaged with everyone he could - talking to his fans, goofing around with the assembled media, even telling NOW's Sabrina Maddeaux that he really enjoys ice cream after sex - specifically Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream - which of course got her footage onto The Colbert Report the following night.
"I don't get actors who don't promote films," he tells me the next day, sitting in a suite at the Trump Hotel. It's immediately noticeable that in the two years since we last spoke, when he came to town with The Woman In Black, the compact Radcliffe has gone from "reasonably fit" to "almost insanely toned."
"I'm like, ‘Well, why did you do the movie? Did you do the movie so you could tell people you'd done the movie, or so that people would go and see it? Do you want people to go and see it?'
"Actors' attitude toward [doing] press is always like, [moaning] ‘Oh, I don't want to do it. I'm tired. I want to do something else.' No! Everyone else who worked on that film, all the other people you worked with on that set, who worked just as hard as you, want people to see this movie as much as you do, and want their work seen just as much as you do.
"But nobody's gonna do an interview with the head of our camera department, so it is up to the actors and the director to go and bang on the table for your movie you all made together. For me, you see it through to the end."
It also helps that The F Word is a project worthy of Radcliffe's commitment. It's a straight-up charmer, casting Radcliffe as Wallace, a heartbroken technical writer who falls for animator Chantry (Zoe Kazan) only to discover she's already in a relationship. They decide to be friends. It gets complicated.
"There is something really beautiful about being able to watch the moments of people falling in love," he says.
"Those moments of getting to know each other are often so fleeting and so intimate and so sweet. As an audience member, I think that's the real fun of this film: you're sort of voyeuristically allowed into this whole experience."
He was also impressed by a script that had room for characters instead of types.
"The fact that Chantry has a job," he says. "She doesn't just exist in a vacuum to fall in love, like I feel happens sometimes in romantic comedies. Everybody's characterized beautifully... [and there's] a real emotional through-line to this story which is really strong. It isn't just an hour and a half of people being witty or making jokes. It has a real kind of emotional punch, and I knew if we got it right it would be a film that sticks with people and becomes some people's favourite movie. I hope we achieved that."
A couple of other things attracted him to the project.
"This is literally the first time I've ever played a modern human being," he says. "And that's something I was really keen to do. If you're playing someone in the 40s or the 1900s or whatever, physically there is a bearing that is different. To be able to just be relaxed and not care that I'm modern? It was great."
There was one other thing he wanted to accomplish in a romantic comedy.
"Like, I don't consider myself a very funny person, but I don't consider myself unfunny," he says. "I've loved comedy all my life, and I really wanted to do it because I thought I'd be good at it. And I thought I would enjoy it. I wanted people to see that side of me, because they haven't really before."
At 25, Radcliffe's found himself in a position that might paralyze another actor: he's already starred in the biggest and most successful franchise of his career. Unless he signs onto Star Wars or decides to play a Marvel superhero, there's simply no way to equal the success he enjoyed before he was even out of his teens.
He's decided not to worry about it.
"I'm never gonna spend all the money I was paid on Potter," he says. "Having lots of money should free you from worrying about money rather than just going, ‘Oh my god, I want more.' Because, like, what are you gonna do with all that?
"I wanna do films where I have a good experience," he says. "Ultimately, that's the most important thing for me. There are scenes in films that I would take back, acting-wise, and do again, and there are lots of times watching films I'm in [when] I go, ‘Oh, god, I don't like that' or ‘I don't like this' or whatever.
"But I have had a fantastic time on every single job I've ever done, bar none. And to me, that's way more important. The money is wonderful, and I'm very lucky to be doing a job where you get, you know, ludicrously overcompensated. But the main reason I do it is because I like being on a film set. I like hanging out with all those people."
Radcliffe could have geared down after the franchise wrapped or chosen not to work at all. Instead, he went directly into a Broadway production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and then made half a dozen movies - including Kill Your Darlings and Horns, which Radcliffe brought to TIFF alongside an early cut of The F Word last year.
Did he ever consider taking a break?
"I really couldn't," he says. "If a kid goes to work every day from [age] nine to 21, for that many hours every day, and gets used to that structure.... I can't imagine ever not wanting some form of that. I really liked it, so the idea that I would just suddenly stop and not be on a film set was insane to me. Because that's the place I can be most relaxed. I can't be very relaxed when I'm out, you know."
And of course he's right. Of course the bustle of a movie shoot would be comforting to him.
"I love it when I get there, because no one gives a shit," he says. "Film sets are the place where my fame and celebrity and all that counts the least of anywhere. People do just treat me like a normal person, which is great."
As for the legacy of that big, career-launching franchise... well, Daniel Radcliffe's enjoying that, too.
"I do like the fact that I got to be a part of so many people's childhoods," he says with evident pride.
"I went to a Jets-Patriots game last year, and I was standing on the sidelines watching them warm up, and I was in fucking seventh heaven. I'm a huge football fan, and it was just amazing to be there. And as the players were going off, two of these big fucking dudes that you'd never think of as being young - but of course they are - just went, ‘Oh my god, it's Harry Potter!'
"There was something incredibly sweet about that. You don't think of NFL players as ever watching the Harry Potter films, but they do. Or they did when they were young."
Photos by Michael Watier
Don't miss: the interview outtakes.