What If features Daniel Radcliffe as the emotionally burned out Wallace, a medical school drop-out who falls in love with Chantry (Zoe Kazan) but fails to admit this to her when he finds out she’s in a long term relationship. Asking the age old question of can men and women be just good friends and whether honesty is the best policy, it’s a sweet and funny tale that is immediately relatable to anyone who has navigated the choppy waters of love. Christa Ktorides attended the London press conference to hear what Daniel had to say …
On actively looking for a romcom
Actors only talk about genre when they’re promoting a film. I don’t think it really factors in when I’m picking a role. You’re not thinking, ‘I want to do a romantic comedy. Only show me romantic comedies!’ You’re just looking for a good script. When this script came along I’d read a few romantic comedies around that time, this one just stood out to me. I really wanted to be a part of it.
On the script
It was very, very smart. The dialogue was both funny but also it didn’t feel like contrived funny it felt like how people actually speak. It’s just a very simple, sweet story. Films like this can be kind of disposable and very entertaining to watch for a bit and then you sort of forget about them immediately but I hope that this is the kind of film that will stick with people for longer.
On playing Wallace with his own accent
I initially learned the part American [sic] but then to be honest what happened when I got out there was two days before we started filming in Canada the production company said, ‘You have to do it English you’re not marketable with an American accent that people don’t recognise you as.’ Which is bad news for Horns and all the other stuff I’ve done with an American accent [laughs].We used a lot of improvisation during the film so I think a lot of my own personality and stuff does sort of come out through the character and obviously I talk quite fast so Wallace talks quite fast. I’m not saying it’s great that I’m so quick thinking because I’m not! I’m slow thinking and fast talking which is a terrible combination [laughs].
On choosing scripts
There isn’t a process to choosing a script beyond enjoying it or not enjoying it. I think I’m very lucky in the sense that I’ve got good instinct. My mum’s a casting director and my dad’s whole job as a literary agent was to find new writers and I like to think I’ve inherited some of their tastes and instincts for scripts. I like good dialogue and fully realised characters.
On the nude scene in the film
I’ve obviously not been somebody that shirks nudity throughout my career so that was definitely me. As far as nude scenes go my previous nude scenes have generally been about losing your virginity or blinding horses! So as they go this was a really nice one [laughs].
I’ve done vaguely romantic gestures before but I don’t think that’s what a relationship relies upon. I don’t think I’ve ever used a chat up line on a girl. I have had a couple of fairly cheesy Harry Potter lines done to me but I’ve always been quite impressed by [that]. It takes some balls to walk up and say some of the things I’ve had said to me.
On Zoe Kazan
We had like four days rehearsal before we started shooting. Zoe and I had met once years before but not for very long. We knew enough of each other in that first meeting I think to know we’d enjoy making the film together when we came up with the parts. A lot of the chemistry thing is just being interested and open and generous. Between takes is just telling each other embarrassing stories from youth and from terrible exes or dates and just swapping that stuff. You try and match the collective memory your characters have together and their shared knowledge of each other so that you can have that relationship on screen.
On JK Rowling’s recent statement that Harry Potter and Hermione should’ve ended up together
I was perfectly happy with the way everything ended, I thought she did a fine job. If anything I think Harry and Hermione would’ve been a sort of predictable way to go. It definitely wasn’t something that I thought needed changing but it’s her characters so she’s entitled to change her mind.
In terms of Wallace and Chantry that’s what’s lovely about film it’s very hard to show or explain why it is that two people connect in the way that they do but in this movie that’s what it’s about. It’s about watching them and finding out why they love each other. They have a very similar sense of humour. That’s also what I love about it, in a normal movie it would much less of a dilemma because in your normal romcom there’s me, the girl I fancy and then the girl I fancy’s boyfriend who is a tool and it’s just horrible and you’re going, ‘Why is she with him?’ it’s kind of inevitable that she’ll end up with the nice guy. It just makes it more true to life and authentic that she’s not choosing between a bad guy and good guy, she’s got a great relationship she just happens to be falling in love with somebody else and that seems a lot more real.
I’m very accepting of what my life is and one of the limitations of my life is definitely that were I to walk on the Comic Con floor without anything there would be a reaction to it. That’s fine. It’s not so much a frustration, it’s just nice to be able to do that kind of thing once in a while and have that interaction with people without being a famous person that changes the way people interact with you. For better or worse, most people’s reaction to meeting someone they know from the telly is to be very nice and very friendly so I’m not saying that I don’t like that reaction but it’s just nice to experience life without it even for like an hour.
On the film’s message
If there’s a point to be made about the film it’s a) about how silly it is to live in denial of your own feelings and b) love is complicated and not clean and easy a lot of the time but that doesn’t make it less valid or less true in terms of your feelings for somebody.
Can a guy & a girl be friends?
Yes of course they can. I’m sure all of you have friends of the opposite and haven’t slept with all of them!
On rejecting scripts
The worst idea that ever came across us was way before Potter had ended and they were suggesting that we remake The Wizard Of Oz with Emma as Dorothy and then me as the Lion and Rupert cast as either the Tin Man or Scarecrow. I remember getting that and being like that person is the laziest, crazy person in the world.
I think it’s a crazy movie and could find a totally different kind of cult audience and I’d be very happy with that. [director] Alex Aja, he’s an amazing director. He’s also super cool and French but he’s a complete leader of men and everyone loves him and wants to be a part of his vision. He’s just got the most ridiculous facility for directing films that I’ve ever seen. The way he finds into every scene is original. I one day just hope to be a director half as good as he is.
What If opens in the UK on 20th August.