Daniel Radcliffe sheds his Hogwarts attire to play an orphan without magical powers in December Boys, an independent drama directed by Rod Hardy and based on a novel by Michael Noonan. Radcliffe plays Maps, the oldest of a closeknit group of boys growing up together in a Catholic orphanage.
Dubbed the ‘December Boys’ because all of their birthdays fall in December, the foursome are awarded a special holiday away from the orphanage at the seaside home of one of the orphanage’s supporters.
The Appeal of Playing Maps: “I think everyone can sort of associate with Maps in some way, male or female, all the heartbreak things, and things like that," said Radcliffe. "And also the thing I didn’t necessarily connect with so much, but that moved me - when I say I didn’t connect with I mean it doesn’t apply to me quite so much - but with Maps I was really moved by the overwhelming desire to be needed by somebody, which he just doesn’t have. These boys need him for the first half of the film, but then suddenly they meet this guy Fearless who is tougher, older and rides a motorbike and they are suddenly enamored with him. So they all leave him and go to Fearless and, again, Maps is left once more with no one needing him. I think he feels he needs to be needed.”
Relating to Maps: Maps is an interesting kid, unsure of himself, and mabye even a little rebellious. However Radcliffe has a different take on the character. “That is what’s interesting. I don’t see Maps as being rebellious. I see him as being bored and having nothing else to do. People were saying, ‘Who do you think is more rebellious, Harry or Maps?’ I absolutely think Harry is, because Harry rails against things more, where Maps really has nothing to rail against except his own [situation].”
As for Radcliffe, the actor admits, “Maybe I’m rebelling against what people think I would be doing, but it is not a conscious thing. I’m making my own choices and if some people feel that is slightly unorthodox, that’s their issue more than mine, really. It doesn’t bother me.”
Getting Into the Right Mood: Director Rod Hardy says Radcliffe used music to help him connect with Maps. “Oh God, actually I still have it on my iPod on my playlist. It was stuff… I recall there was a lot of Elliot Smith on there. It was troubled guitar wielding men, mainly. And a lot of Nirvana, Radiohead, Black Alps and stuff like that. It was a fairly dark CD, but it helped. Music for me is one of the most helpful things that can get you into a scene. If I’m starting from scratch, then music is the main thing I will go to first.”
Radcliffe said that playlist isn’t far from what he normally listens to. “No, not at all. I would often listen to stuff like that, Radiohead particularly. But this CD was exclusively bands like that. I listen to a lot of…well, it is all mainly guitar music, but it is not all quite that furious.”
Shooting His First Love Scene: Director Hardy revealed Radcliffe’s love scene with Teresa Palmer was shot on the last day of shooting, which happened to fall right around Christmas. Radcliffe provided the rest of the details: “We started filming up there at 11 o’clock in the morning of December 23rd and we finished at 4:15 a.m. on Christmas Eve, so it was a very long day. We filmed the sex scene at about 8 o’clock that night so I wasn’t too tired yet [laughing] luckily, but I was nervous. Definitely. Being the first love scene that I had ever done it was not exactly imposing, but you were aware and going, ‘Oh God what do I do? What don’t I do?’ So just stuff like that, really. And luckily Teresa was very, very good at helping me to just chill out and just have a love for it, that’s what it is about.”
Portraying an Orphan Yet Again: Radcliffe says the two characters, though both orphans, are entirely separate characters. Playing Harry Potter didn’t influence how he played Maps. “I totally left Harry out of the equation when I was playing Maps, because they are both orphans, but they are totally different people,” said Radcliffe. “If you said that if you can play one orphan you can play another one, that would mean that both orphans would have to be the same character and that’s not the case. It wasn’t about using what I know of Harry to portray Maps at all. And in terms of…Maps background, I have always assumed that Maps was or at least Maps had been told he was left. I always assumed that his parents were alive and had not wanted him, or at least that that is what he’d been told.”
Tackling Roles Besides Harry Potter: Asked if he’s surprised that people are surprised to see him in a film like this, Radcliffe replied, “I know what you mean, but I’m not surprised by it. I don’t understand it, but it is sort of to be expected I suppose. It was like with Equus. When I got to take my clothes off everybody was a bit like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe he’s doing that.’ Now to me that was ridiculous, but I sort of expected it would happen so it is sort of the same thing as here. It is only natural that I should go out and do other things. I don’t know if people are surprised that I’m doing it. They are just possibly more interested than they would be if I hadn’t been involved in the Harry Potter franchise.”
More Than a Strategic Career Move: Making an independent film wasn’t next on his checklist. “If the big movie had presented me with loads of challenges and other experiences, then I would have done it. I wasn’t just saying, ‘I have to do an indie movie next because that will show [street cred].’ But it just so happened that this was the best script I read and it was for an indie movie so I wanted to do something. But then again, if I hadn’t believed in this script I wouldn’t have done anything. I really wanted to do something in between Harry Potter four and five, but if a script hadn’t come along it was very important that I didn’t just do something for the sake of doing it, you know?”
The Most Important Question of All: Was that really him mooning the camera in December Boys? “That’s me,” answered Radcliffe. “That’s the genuine Radcliffe ass.”