Daniel Radcliffe will forever be the kid who brought Harry Potter to life when he was eleven years old. Just as William Shatner is still constantly referenced as Captain Kirk despite countless roles in the more than four decades since Star Trek (1966) ended, Radcliffe created an iconic character that will always be referenced throughout his career. But since closing the chapter of his life that ended with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), Radcliffe has taken on a great deal of distinctly adult, largely darker-themed projects. He jumped right off Potter and into The Woman in Black (2012), a beautifully gothic ghost story, then wonderfully played the part of a young Alan Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings (2013). He coupled that time with the dark comedy television miniseries A Young Doctor’s Notebook (2012) alongside Jon Hamm, a story about a morphine-addicted doctor in 1917 Russia. And then came Horns (2013), the dark comedy / horror / fantasy / thriller about a man wrongly accused of murder who mysteriously grows devil horns that convince people to reveal their inner demons.
The foray isn’t completely unexpected - the Harry Potter series grew consistently darker as the films progressed, to the point where they were hard to even categorize as children’s fiction. The supernatural world of Potter has been a part of Radcliffe’s acting since its beginning, and many of his subsequent titles continue to revolve around the supernatural.
When Christina Radish of Collider interviewed Radcliffe about Horns, she asked about his apparent attraction to the supernatural film:
“I do like the genre because anything can happen in it. As long as you play by your own rules, you can do whatever you’d like. It’s not an intentional thing that I’m picking all of this really dark work, but I guess I enjoy it. People do talk about Horns, The Woman in Black and Victor Frankenstein (2015) as being things that are all of one genre, but they actually aren’t. The Woman in Black is the most traditional horror film you can get, and Horns is the least. And with a film like Frankenstein, it more falls into the adventure category than anything else. I hope it’s going to be a great film. So, I can’t explain my attraction to dark material, but I don’t think it’s going to end soon.”
He gave his input on this subject to Edward Douglas of Shock Til You Drop, as well:
“I think the thing I like about horror is that it gives you the chance to have a really, really cool, compelling story, but with lots of underlying layers of kind of quite introspective, emotional things. The Woman in Black is a good example, actually, because as much as it is a kind of a fun ride around a haunted house, as like a fight for my life, it’s also about a guy who in the midst of grief, starts seeing a ghost. So he starts trying to find confirmation of an afterlife because that means his wife is still out there somewhere. So, as much as it is a ghost story, it’s about loss. Similarly, with Horns, as much as it’s a really kind of great story about a guy who grows horns and starts making people do whatever the hell he wants and trying to get revenge, it’s a story about what we become when we lose the person we love the most or it’s a story about the idea that you become what you are perceived as. If people treat you as a devil, then that’s what you will become in some way. There’s so much other really interesting thematic stuff going on at the same time as having a really cool surface story, if you will.”
It’s unlikely that Radcliffe’s acting career, or his attraction to the darker, more mysterious elements of film - and human nature as a whole - are going to end any time soon.