Five years after graduating from Hogwarts, Daniel Radcliffe is at it again. He’s making magic. This time around, however, there’s no Gryffindor or Hufflepuff; the Harry Potter star is taking on a role in Now You See Me 2, the sequel to the 2013 hit movie about a disparate group of modern-day magicians and illusionists.
For Radcliffe, the film seemed like a new departure, offering him an opportunity to play a malicious and mysterious character. “I actually didn’t consider the connection to magic until somebody pointed it out to me,” Radcliffe says. “They were like, ‘You are going to get loads of questions about magic again,’ and I went, ‘Oh, damn, I guess I am!’ ”
In truth, the 26-year-old is no stranger to people wanting to look back at Potter. Such is Radcliffe’s association with the boy wizard, people see connections in everything he does. For example, there’s a scene in the 2013 film Kill Your Darlings, in which Radcliffe plays American counterculture poet Allen Ginsberg, where he is seen sweeping the floor with a broom. “People began asking me whether the broomstick was a reference to Potter,” he says. And in the film Horns, an adaptation of Joe Hill’s fantastical novel, he wears a yellow hoodie with a red T-shirt. “People asked if I was deliberately wearing the colours of Gryffindor!
“Basically, it doesn’t matter what I do,” he adds, shrugging his shoulders. “If people want to find a correlation, they will. I should probably pay more attention, but for me Now You See Me 2 was a new type of role. I have never played a part like this in a film like this and didn’t think about the connection to magic.”
With JK Rowling branching out into the West End with her new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which features Harry as an adult working at the Ministry of Magic, would Radcliffe consider returning to play an adult Potter on the stage or screen? “It would depend on the script. The circumstances would have to be pretty extraordinary. But then I am sure Harrison Ford said that with Han Solo and look what happened there! So I am saying, ‘No,’ for now but leaving room to backtrack in the future.”
As with the original film, Now You See Me 2 (in cinemas from Monday 4th July) centres on a group of magicians called the Four Horsemen, played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson and Lizzy Caplan (replacing Isla Fisher, who was pregnant during filming last year). The sequel sees Radcliffe’s character, Walter, out for revenge after the Horsemen robbed his father (played by Michael Caine) last time out.
So, did he learn any magic for the role? “I can do a bit of card throwing,” Radcliffe says. “I can do the trick where I have a card in one hand and flick it and catch it in the other hand. I drove my girlfriend mad by practising that trick for hours. She is no longer impressed by it.”
He met his girlfriend, Erin Darke, 31, on the set of Kill Your Darlings and says that the pair “just got on immediately”. Darke has a degree in theatre performance from the University of Michigan and has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed films including We Need to Talk about Kevin and Still Alice.
Radcliffe bids to keep his private life private and says that anonymity is easier to find in LA, London and New York. He has a home in Manhattan. “New York is the easiest place in the world to walk around,” he explains, “because even if people do notice you, they don’t really give a s**t.” Japan and Mexico City he finds difficult. “They are the two places where I thought, ‘OK, I can’t really walk around here.’”
Has the attention got easier as he’s got older? “No. It is much more now because when I was younger I wasn’t going out by myself. Also, the fans of the films were younger and they were indoors with their parents whereas now we are all in our 20s. The people who were big fans of Potter I am more likely to meet now, rather than when I was in my teens.”
He’ll be hoping to appeal to that fanbase with his next film, Swiss Army Man, in which he plays a corpse that is washed up on a beach and befriended by a suicidal man (Paul Dano). It’s an unusual comedy drama that provoked an extreme reaction at this year’s Sundance film festival, where a number of people walked out.
“The day before its premiere I read an article in Vanity Fair that listed 17 films you might see at the Oscars next year and Swiss Army Man was in there,” says Radcliffe. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, you don’t know the kind of film we have made; it is definitely not an Oscar film!’ So I think some people may have gone into the Sundance screening expecting a very serious, worthy, survival film, not knowing that they were going to get a crazy, surreal, sweet buddy movie with a farting corpse.”
It all sounds a long way from Potter. “People will probably still try and find a connection!” he smiles.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news