When it comes to child stars, Daniel Radcliffe is the exception to the rule.
While actors including Shia LaBeouf and Lindsay Lohan spent years making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Radcliffe kept his eye on the prize and managed to avoid the trappings of fame that befall so many young stars. In Playboy's 20 Questions feature, Radcliffe reflects on playing Harry Potter in eight films over the course of 10 years and how it's shaped the man he is today.
"When I did my first non-Potter film, December Boys, I became good friends with one of the makeup and hair teams," he says of the 2007 movie. "After a few weeks, I said, 'So, honestly, what did you expect when you were going to get me?' And they said, 'We thought you were going to be a dick.' Because that's the notion people have in their heads of child stars," he says. "People expect me to be an absolute a--hole. And when I'm not, that always plays in my favor."
How did Radcliffe manage to stay levelheaded in spite of his fame?
"The most underrated way I and all the producers on Potter got lucky was that I f--king loved the work. I've seen kids on set who are bored, and I'm like, 'What are you doing? This is the best place on Earth.' I loved it from the word go. I loved being on set. I loved the hours. I loved the people. I loved the crazy, weird s--t I got to do every day," Radcliffe says of fulfilling his dream. "Acting was the focus for me, and I wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize being an actor."
Radcliffe was 12 years old when the first Harry Potter movie, The Sorcerer's Stone, was released in 2001, but the franchise's lasting impact only became clear to him "in the past few years," he tells the magazine. "In your head, you imagine it will all go away once the series is over. When I was first going out to bars and pubs, I was trying to pretend I could have a normal existence," the actor explains. "Then you realize that people know who you are, and when you're in a bar they take out their camera phones. Eventually you accept that you have to adapt how you live."
Thanks to the Internet and its love of nostalgia, Radcliffe reveals, "It feels like I get recognized more now. Here's what's scary: If you were 14 when the first film came out, you'd now be almost in your 30s and could well have a child under 10 whom you're now introducing to Harry Potter. We're already getting the next generation. That's just bizarre. It's never going away."
The final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, came out in 2011.
People are still in love with J.K. Rowling's story about "the boy who lived" because "the stories are great," he says. "A huge part of our culture now is that if something becomes successful there's a backlash. Harry Potter didn't have that. There are people who don't want to read it, but the number of people who actively dislike it is very low," he tells Playboy. "The books are great, and they came along at the perfect moment, when there was a fear, because of the rise of computer games, that reading was going to become a thing of the past. When kids suddenly found these books, it was something everyone could get behind as a global populace."
To this day, Radcliffe is still happy to talk to fans about his experiences as Harry Potter. "Getting recognized on the street teaches you that most people are polite and nice and just want a quick picture. Then you get an occasional a--hole. Normally they're drunk. The a--holes want a picture as well, but they want to be an a--hole as they take the picture with you. They'll start off, 'Just so you know, I never really liked the Harry Potter movies.' Thanks, dickhead; that's 10 f--king years of my life. One time, a girl came up to me and said, 'Could I have a picture?' I said, 'Yeah, sure, if you want to.' And she goes, 'Well, I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to.' What the f--k?" he says with a laugh. "And of course, me being me, I'm just like, 'Sorry, that's silly of me.' Then she walks off and Erin says to me, 'That girl was a dick to you. You don't have to be nice if someone's rude.' But I'm better at saying no than Rupert Grint. He ended up going back to a fan's house because he couldn't say no to anything they asked. That's when it's gone too far."