From 'Harry Potter' to 'The Lost City' to...Directing? Daniel Radcliffe Is Still on Top of Hollywood

Daniel Radcliffe reflects on filming 'The Lost City,' playing Weird Al, and reuniting with his 'Harry Potter' co-stars for their reunion special.
by Scott Huver —  Updated

Daniel Radcliffe

Cindy Ord / Getty Images

Daniel Radcliffe admits that, after playing the titular hero in the uber-popular Harry Potter film franchise, he was more than a little bit delighted to take on the role of villain in the action-comedy The Lost City

Always nattily outfitted, tastefully coiffed, and perfectly manicured — even while in rabid pursuit of a lost, legendary treasure on a tropical island — Radcliffe plays the dastardly billionaire Abigail Fairfax with relish, expressing his aims with polite precision and courtly charm before revealing the frustrated rage of the over-privileged man-child underneath when he doesn't get his way.  

"My main job after that was not sweating so profusely that I made all the suits look terrible," Radcliffe tells Metacritic with a laugh.

The big-budget film, which aims to occupy the same zone as the classic romp Romancing the Stone, has Radcliffe's Fairfax menacing bestselling romance novelist and antiquities buff Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), a walled-off widow at an existential crossroads he hopes to force into locating his spoils, while her hunky if not so-bright cover model, Alan (Channing Tatum), tries to white-knight his way into her heart. 

After a lengthy stint in more grounded, character-driven films, Radcliffe — who recently wrapped Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, playing the beloved song parodist — says he is glad he's had a chance to experience such a wealth of different filmmaking experiences after committing to an actor's life at such a young age.  

"A film set at its best is one of the most delightful places to exist in the world when it's going well," he says. "To get to feel a part of a team that is creating something together is just one of the most fun feelings that I've ever experienced. It's incredibly satisfying and fulfilling, and you get to meet loads of incredible cool people. So that's it for me, really. The thing I've always loved about it is still the thing I love about it, which is just being on set. I love film sets." 

Here, Radcliffe talks to Metacritic about working with Bullock and Tatum, how The Lost City and Weird fit into the next chapter of his adult acting career, and how it felt to reunite with his Harry Potter co-stars for the 20th anniversary reunion special.

Even with all your leading roles, I feel like there's been a character actor also bursting to get out, and The Lost City seems like a real sweet spot for that kind of thing. What was creatively exciting and energizing about sinking your teeth into a role like this? 

Obviously he's the bad guy of the piece, but all of his villainy is motivated by incredibly pathetic and, to me, very funny things like being desperate for his dad's approval. There also seemed to me to be something really funny about the idea of kidnapping somebody and then spending at least the first couple of days convinced that if they just think about it, they'll realize that this is all fine. That to me was a very [appealing]: the idea of the idea of wanting the person you kidnapped to like you so much. [It] struck me as really funny, and sort of sad.  

So yeah, there were lots of things to latch onto on that side of things, but also just the chance to play this character opposite people like Sandra and Channing, just because I'm huge fans of both of theirs. 

What was the fun, ultimately, of playing with those two? 

They're both very, very generous actors who like to play on set. If we were making a different type of movie, I'm sure they'd both be different as well, but this is the movie where the express purpose of the film existing is to create joy and escapism for people. So, I think we had a very good time. 

Sandra's just been at an elite level of film and movie acting for the best part of 30 years — maybe longer. I'm not sure — so to get to work with somebody who I had grown up watching their stuff, and they're one of the biggest stars in the world, and then to find out that they are still lovely and generous and great with the crew on set and with the other actors, it was a really [great]. And also, there are many actors that take a vanity producer credit; that is not her. She really, genuinely produced this movie in a way that I was pretty impressed by. 

After making several movies that are a little bit more grounded, this has a lot of spectacle. What was it like for you to return to that kind of filmmaking? 

It was very, very fun. To get there on the first week and be like, "Oh man, yeah! We've got helicopters and boats and stuff!" If I were the directors, I would have been terrified to have that as my first week on this movie. And amazingly, they never seemed even remotely flustered by it, or stressed. They were totally prepared and knew what they were doing. And it's hugely fun to get to go to work on some of those massive sets again and play in those worlds. I don't think it'll be every film for me, just because I'm really picky with scripts and it has to be something that I really love. I loved this script and a chance to make this kind of movie with these guys.  

Was there a day on set that was unlike any other that you've had before? Something that either tested you or was hilarious, trying to get to the end of the day shooting? 

One of the funniest and most surreal moments that we had on set was the scene where what was in the script referred to as "a meat-and-cheese vortex," where all this cheese and stuff swirls around at the end of my first scene with Sandra. We were doing that scene and in all the wide shots there were massive fans blowing everything around, but then for the close-ups on Sandra, they just had a couple of wind machines on her and six to 10 people standing about 6 feet away from her pelting her with nuts and cheese. And that was just one of those moments you go, "Never did I think growing up in Fulham, London that one day I would be standing on a set in the Dominican Republic watching Sandra Bullock get thrown brie at her." 

You have enjoyed a lot of luxury of choice and been able to really stretch as an actor throughout your career. How do you see the next phase? 

I think it's impossible to really make a plan in this industry because you don't know what you're going to see, what scripts are going to come your way. You don't know what you're going to read that you're suddenly going to become obsessed with, so it's hard to say. Generally over the next few years a goal is that I [have is to] direct a movie, but I don't want to stop acting. I always want acting to be something I'm doing as well. But yeah, my one goal for the future is to direct something in the next few years. But there's no rush on that either. 

Do you have a style or genre of film that you're really looking for as that debut directorial project? 

Not particularly. I've had attempts at writing many things over the years; I've written something that is comedy, but I don't think I would be able to particularly say it's any kind of genre. It's a fairly dark comedy, but it's not Western or horror. It's not something that's easily [defined]. It's just a comedy. 

You've just tackled one of the more interesting challenges an actor can take on by playing "Weird Al" Yankovic, a real person that also happens to be quite famous. What was that experience of figuring out how to capture him for the tone of the movie that you're in?  

I'm not a mimic or a professional impersonator, so I'm hopefully capturing the spirit of Al. Obviously I'm doing an accent and I'm looking much more like him than I normally do. But it's also something, when people will see a movie, they'll see that it's a version of Al; it's not necessarily 100% accurate in terms of the events that take place. So yeah, it's a fully insane movie in all of the best ways. I have rarely been so excited to see something that I'm in as I am to see that because the script is brilliant. Even if you had taken out the character of Weird Al and it was just a person that this script was about, I would still have wanted to do it. The fact that it was about Weird Al was both incredibly exciting because I am a huge fan, but also terrifying because I am a huge fan. But thankfully Weird Al is very famously the nicest guy, and so being with him on set was a delight, and he was nothing but encouraging and very, very helpful. And I can go to my grave now saying that I've had accordion lessons from Al Yankovic. Not everyone can say that. 

As viewers we all got to enjoy the Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion and indulge in that nostalgia, but for you, it's a very real and personal thing. What was your takeaway after that experience of both reuniting with your cast mates and colleagues, and also seeing the public reaction when the special aired? 

I generally try and steer clear of public reaction to things. I knew some people would like it, and I'm sure some people didn't, but whatever. I ended up having a really, really nice time on it, so I didn't want to paint that with learning how anyone else felt about it. The takeaway for me was, "Oh, that was such a lovely period of my life and something that I'm still incredibly proud and very emotionally attached to." But also I had the thought of, "Oh, I'm very glad this isn't my day-to-day still. I'm wandering around the set and being like, "Oh yeah, here's the Great Hall, and here's all these things that were so vivid in my memory..." But no part of me was like, "Oh man, I wish I was still here." So, I feel like it was like the best reaction you can have to any reunion, where it was just lovely to see everyone. It was lovely to see some people who I've stayed in contact with, and then some people who I haven't spoken to for years, and seeing how they have become amazing people. It was really, really lovely. 

Get to know Daniel Radcliffe by checking out his top 10 films, ranked by Metascore.