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Interview: Daniel Radcliffe says he had to do 'Horns,' and talks his favorite horror films

"I knew if I watched someone else play this part I would be really unhappy.”

Daniel Radcliffe says he got lucky the year after the final “Harry Potter” film was made. He scored three meaty roles in three very different films: He played Allen Gisnberg in “Kill Your Darlings”; he was the star of a rom-com, “What If.” Then there’s “Horns,” a horror-mystery-comedy-romance, in which he plays a young man who, blamed for the brutal murder of his girlfriend (Juno Temple), one day awakens with a pair of devil horns and the power to turn people brutally honest.

The allure of the devil: “It’s interesting how many times the devil appears in pop culture, literature, plays, movies — it’s a lot more than God. I can think of “Bruce Almighty.” Other than that I’m kind of struggling. The devil is a very charismatic character, and always has been. He used to be an angel and fell from that. There is the potential for good and evil within him. There seems something relatable about that, like he’s a real human being, instead of God, who is great all the time.”
His favorite fictitious devil: “‘The Master and Margarita’ is my favorite version of the devil, because it’s the devil as an amalgamation of separate parts that are distilled into separate entities. There’s a called named Roland, who’s dressed in black, but there’s also Koroviev, who’s this seven-feet-tall, and there’s a black cat who’s five-feet-tall. They’re his retinue. It’s just a wonderful depiction of the devil tearing through Moscow in 1925. [He and director Alexandre Aja] also talked about ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ and the idea of the devil as a timeless, shapeshifting being who was ever-present.”
His need to do "Horns": “I responded to the script very viscerally. I always know it’s right to pursue something when I feel like if I was to ever see another actor playing this part, it would be like watching my girlfriend kissing someone else. It’s that jealous knot in your stomach. Soon as I read it, I knew if I watched someone else play this part I would be really unhappy.”
He had to convince Aja to cast him: “I went to Alex and just sold the hell out of myself. I let him know what I was going to do for this movie and how hard I would work, because I knew he was thinking of [the lead] being slightly older. I just went in and said, ‘I know you think I’m too old for this. Please let me tell you why I think you’re wrong.’”

Why it’s not a horror:“There is a modern obsession — maybe it’s not modern, maybe I’m being too hard on modernity — but there is an obsession with categorizing things and putting things into a genre. You could say it’s a horror film, because Alex is the director. I actually wonder if Alex wasn’t the director if it would be called horror with such frequency. I think it might not be. It has elements of horror and slasher horror. But generally speaking it’s just a beautiful f—ing love story. It’s just a drama, really. It’s about a classic battle of good and evil, except it’s all going on inside one person. The dilemma of the film isn’t who did it but what is he going to do when he finds out who did it. Is he going to stick to his path of anger and violence, or is he going to do what the person he’s ostensibly grieving for would have wanted, which is to stop the violence and hatred.”

Playing a character who’s intense and not always nice:“If you can have someone doing terrible things who the audience is still rooting for? That’s almost the ideal! His intensity, the range of his emotions made me want to do it, from the comedy at the beginning of the film to how horrible the scene is where he’s torturing his brother. There was a real mobility to him, and a real romance about him, in the sense of being pure at heart. There’s something beautiful and painful watching this get tested and destroyed and rebuilt. “
His favorite horror films:“‘The Shining’ would be the first horror film that ever really scared me in a deep way. Not that it just made me jump, but it creeped me the f— out. Also, I watched this because I was working with the director, but James Watkins, who directed ‘Woman in Black,’ his first movie is called ‘Eden Lake,’ with Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly. That’s a f—ing great movie, because it could conceivably happen in real life. The antagonists in it are just some horrible f—ing kids who f— up this family’s weekend. It also has maybe the nastiest, bleakest ending to a film I’ve ever seen. What I et him James, I said, ‘How did you have the balls to end you f—ing movie like that?’”
But his favorite-ever film is the 1946 British film “A Matter of Life and Death” (which is indeed mind-meltingly brilliant):“That’s a movie I’ve watched with every girlfriend I’ve ever been with. It’s a real moment of, ‘If you don’t like this I might not be able to go out with you.’”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge

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