Daniel Radcliffe appeared for a Q&A on Monday night following a screening of his upcoming film “What If” as part of the Los Angeles Times’ ongoing Indie Focus Screening Series. He discussed, among other subjects, Comic-Con, rom-coms and unhealthy foods, making for a lively conversation.
The film marks the first screen role for Radcliffe playing a contemporary character. In the Toronto-set rom-com directed by Michael Dowse from a screenplay by Elan Mastai based on a play by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi, Radcliffe plays a brokenhearted young man who meets a young woman (Zoe Kazan) who already has a boyfriend. The two struggle to be just friends, nothing more, with complications coming from both sides. The cast also includes Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park and Rafe Spall.
Radcliffe wrapped up his run on Broadway in a revival of Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” barely a week before, but had in the meantime been traveling to promote “What If” while also making an appearance at last weekend’s Comic-Con convention in San Diego for another new film, “Horns.”
Radcliffe acknowledged how many people find it “unbelievable” that he had never attended the event before, since the “Harry Potter” series that launched him to stardom inspires just the kind of fandom that makes the convention run.
Calling his time at Comic-Con “fantastic,” he added, “it was lovely to be able to go there, it’s an amazing atmosphere. You can’t imagine a fight breaking out, everyone’s just in a great mood, everyone’s there for comics and action figures and talking about films. It’s awesome. It’s a nice vibe.”
He even walked among the crowds on the floor of the convention center, albeit hidden in a masked costume. (His security team tagged along in character costumes as well.) While noting that Hugh Jackman and Bryan Cranston have appeared in costume as characters they had portrayed and still gone unrecognized, Radcliffe opted not to appear as the young wizard that made him famous.
“I went as Spider-Man, which has no relevance to anything I do,” he said. “It’s just a great superhero and one I fancied myself playing. That was the superhero I was convinced for a brief period of time I would one day turn into.
“So I got the suit on and walked around. And it was great,” he added. “I don’t mean this to sound like a celebrity wishing they had a normal life or whatever and whining on, but it was very nice to walk around and interact with people without the fact that I played Harry Potter changing the interaction in some way. Not necessarily getting in the way, but it alters it, and it was nice to just not have that.”
The distinction of his role in “What If” as his first contemporary character was not lost on Radcliffe, and was among the things that attracted him to the role. Besides the “Potter” franchise, his other roles have been in period stories such as “The Woman In Black,” “Kill Your Darlings,” in which he played a young Allen Ginsberg, and the miniseries “A Young Doctor’s Notebook.”
“It’s the first time I’ve either not played a wizard or somebody who has been dead for many, many, many, many years,” he said.
“There was something very attractive about playing a normal guy, someone you might meet,” he said of his role in "What If." “And I think a lot of my own sense of humor was definitely allowed to come out in the film.”
There’s a repeated reference made in the film to the sandwich known as “fool’s gold,” which involves an entire loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jam, bacon and a lot of butter. (A Toronto café also featured in the movie is serving them for a limited time.) Besides its intimidating density, the sandwich is perhaps most famous for the legend that Elvis Presley once flew to Denver expressly to have some delivered right to his plane.
“If you can get a job where people will pay you to eat fool’s gold sandwiches, take it,” said Radcliffe.
“Zoe hated it, but she grew up here and I grew up in England,” he added. “In L.A. you’re all very healthy here, but I am not. I am 70% fool’s gold. I enjoyed it a lot. Well done, Elvis. Another great thing you gave to us.”
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