Daniel Radcliffe What If Interview

on football, food, and his new movie!

by liza darwin

In case it wasn't obvious from recent roles as lit wizard Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings and a kinda-sorta devil in the new movie Horns, Daniel Radcliffe has successfully left his Harry Potter days far, far behind him. But despite the fact that this is a guy who can flip the switch from drama to action to laugh-out-loud funny in an instant, there is one genre he hasn't tapped...until now. We're talking about the rom-com. Luckily Radcliffe is checking that one off his list in What If, the upcoming flick alongside Zoe Kazan. This whip-smart love triangle follows med student Wallace (Radcliffe) as he eventually falls in love with his best friend, Chantry (Kazan).

The only problem? Surprise! She's taken. While the plot is something we've all heard--and potentially experienced-- before ourselves, this down-and-dirty relateability is actually what makes the film so appealing. Case in point: their email-based friendship, which first sparks after Wallace explains his love for Fool's Gold, an insane concoction involving bread, butter, peanut butter, and bacon (not exactly the most romantic pick-up line, but whatever...).

And while we don't want to give away any spoilers, well, let's just say Chantry falls hard. You'll have to watch What If when it hits theaters this weekend to find out all the details--but first, check out our hang sesh with Radcliffe below, where we talk about the film, football, and of course, food.

First things first: what's the deal with the Fool's Gold?! Was it gross or awesome?

Well, it's a lot easier for me to answer this than it is for Zoe, because Zoe hated it and wouldn’t go near it every day. I was just like, "Give me some of that. That looks great!”

It was good?

It’s fantastic. Yeah, I mean it’s not healthy, but you’re not eating it to be healthy. You’re eating it to eat a lot of peanut butter and bacon and jam together. 

Just like Elvis. 

It’s really good. Apparently they have some here in the other room. They have some made so you should get some before you go. 

I really enjoyed the film. How was the overall shooting experience for you? It seems pretty fun, young cast.

It was really fun. Normally I do films where it ends up getting really intense and I have to cry or be covered in blood or mud or something, and there was none of that on this. I just had to go to work and make Zoe Kazan laugh everyday. There’s something great about that. It was a fantastic shoot and there was a genuine sense of kind of sadness from the cast and crew when it was over. Like, “Oh we’ve go to go onto other films now and do that.”

Totally. The process of filming is just as important.

I think it’s an underrated part of filmmaking what the actual process is like in terms of how the actual film turns out.  I think the fact that we all had such a good time is one of the reasons that it makes you really happy as an audience member...I’d like to think that, anyway.

Can we talk about the dialogue between the characters? I really liked how the conversation in the film wasn’t forced. It was just how normal people talk and they had normal jobs and I thought it was very down to earth. 

I think so often in romantic comedies, the characters just exist in a vacuum and also Zoe said a really cool thing the other day like, “I think most of the time in romantic comedies you have two kind of quite bland leads that are surrounded by their crazy friends." In this case I’d like to think Zoe and I are as interesting as the people around us are. As you say, they’re all real people who you can imagine meeting and hanging out with and liking. And I think part of that is actually we did improvise a lot on the film and Michael, our director, encouraged us to do that because it does make for very natural dialogue. 

Is it scary when you’re like, “Uhhh…what do I say next?” 

It is when you don’t have any script to go off. But luckily we have a great script and Elan and Michael would be behind the monitor shouting at us things to talk about. I actually really like it because I think as an actor, the moments that don’t work are those where you’re suppressing an impulse that you would otherwise have. Because everyone’s got permission to do that, it just makes everyone feel quite relaxed on camera.

And your character has an English accent, so you didn't even have to adopt an American one.

I know, and I was ready to!  I was all ready to do the film in an American accent and then shortly before they asked me to change it, because I did American in Kill Your Darlings and on Broadway shows.

Do you prefer doing an accent?

Well, I thought Wallace would have worked great as an American, but after I didn’t mind being myself. But  I love working in accents. I’m doing a play at the moment, which I get to be Irish and I really enjoy doing an accent.

What's your favorite American city?

It’s New York. Completely, it really is. I love it here. I also love San Francisco and I visited it twice and I’ve had great times both times. But in terms of a place I could see myself spending a lot of time one day, it would be New York-- it’s always been such a welcoming city to me. I feel like you don’t have to be from New York to be a New Yorker. There’s so many people who come here from other places, but absolutely are New Yorkers. So yeah, I love it. I miss it when I’m not here. 

That’s almost part of the charm that you can basically come from anywhere and that’s what draws people here. Is there a particular American food that you just don’t understand why people are obsessed with? 

Cinnamon. Cinnamon’s on f****** everything in this country! I’ve never understood it. It’s like something you have in stuff in England, but it’s not like an entire flavor to itself. I’m pretty much okay with the rest of what your country does, food-wise. I’m very on board with mostly everything. Except there was something that was big in Canada while I was there...Clamato juice. 

What is that?

It's literally clam and tomato juice and it was huge in Canada when I was there. Some people were really into it, just drinking it plain! So those two things--cinnamon and Clamato juice-- get rid of them and we’re fine. [Laughing] 

Since you're all over the place right now, what bands are on your travel playlist?

The Pixies are one of my favorite bands and they’ve also got a new album out, which I was very excited about and it’s really good. I mean, the Libertines were one of my favorite bands growing up, as well as the Sex Pistols. A lot of the music I loved growing up was like the Libertines, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand. Lately I’m really into M. Ward. The song I’m most obsessed with at the moment is called “Majestic” by Wax Fang.  They used the whole song in an episode of American Dad and I was like, "Did they write that for the show or who is it?" And then I looked it up and it’s just this band that sounds something like Queen and over-the-top rock and roll, but it’s quite fun. 

Last question: What’s one thing that you’re just obsessed with right now? It can be anything!

Well, the Food Network shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped are taking up a lot of my time. [Laughing] The thing is I’m a huge sports fan and a huge NFL fan, so I’m going through what every other NFL fan is at the moment, where you just have to find something to fill the rest of the year with and Food Network has been what I settled on this year. So that’s my latest obsession until fantasy football starts again: I’m all in with Food Network.

What If hits theaters this weekend. Read our interview with Daniel Radcliffe's What If costar Zoe Kazan here.