Daniel Radcliffe on being a child star: There’s nobody being honest with you

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Daniel Radcliffe spoke recently about a subject he rarely discusses: his alcoholism. He’s so quiet about it, I had no idea he gave up drinking at the young age of 20. Daniel said he fell prey to the vices of child-stardom to cope with his Harry Potter fame. According to him getting really drunk was a way of dealing with the fact that he was constantly being watched, since not only were people scrutinizing Daniel’s public behavior, they were scrutinizing Harry Potter’s.

Daniel Radcliffe has revealed that playing the lead role in the Harry Potter franchise was the reason he became an alcoholic.

He made the frank admission on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs feature, where guests are interviewed by host Lauren Laverne.

Radcliffe, 30, said: “If I went out and if I got drunk, I’d suddenly be aware of there being interest in that because it’s not just a drunk guy. It’s ‘Oh, Harry Potter’s getting drunk in the bar.'”

Speaking to Laverne, he continued on to say that his way of dealing with his fame was to drink more often, saying: “I did a lot of that for a few years.”

Radcliffe, who first appeared as the character when he was just 11 years old, said: “A lot of drinking that happened towards the end of Potter and for a little bit after it finished, it was panic, a little bit not knowing what to do next – not being comfortable enough in who I was to remain sober.”

It’s not the first time the star, who has been sober since 2010, has spoken about his struggle with fame and attention, as well as deciding what to do when he no longer played the role that made him famous.

He said: “They are by that point the breadwinner for their family. So multiple people are now reliant on them continuing to do this job and they feel pressured into it and forced into it.
“I think that’s why you can see people go to drink and drugs because it is fun and they’re available and it seems like a good idea.

“There’s nobody around you talking about the consequences or being ¬honest with you about that.”

[From Lad Bible via Dlisted]

As I mentioned, it isn’t often that Daniel speaks about his struggles with alcohol, but this wasn’t the first time. Last year, Daniel gave a stark description about how truly difficult it is to navigate life as a child star. When speaking to Sam Jones on Off Camera, Daniel discussed how people felt they owned him because of how invested they were in the Harry Potter fandom, sometimes to the extent of grabbing him and forcing him to join their party. He also discussed the prevalent message given to young stars is that they should be in a constant state of delight and gratefulness because they have money, fame and status. So when they actually do feel sad or depressed, they are left to believe that they are “doing it wrong.” When you add that to having to be the breadwinner for your entire family, that’s way too much pressure for a child not even old enough to drive. The whole Potter family of actors deserves a lot of credit for coming out the other end.

One thing that Daniel said saved him was that he truly loves acting. He was recently starring alongside Alan Cumming in Endgame on the West End. The show’s run was ended early in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, despite the fact that Boris Johnson made it seem like isolation was just a suggestion. Speaking of the coronavirus, poor Daniel was the first victim of false reporting. For some reason, the internet choose him to claim to be “the first famous person to contract coronavirus.” He was not and is perfectly fine, thank you very much. Daniel said the reason he was selected was because he looks, “ill all the time so you can believably say it about me ’cause I’m very pale.” Thank goodness he’s safe and still has a sense of humor.

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17 Responses to “Daniel Radcliffe on being a child star: There’s nobody being honest with you”

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  1. Mtec says:

    I think it’s awful when parents make their child their golden goose. I feel like i’ve heard that from most child actors who have gone through some awful times growing up.

    Parents of children in entertainment should keep their day job, let them be a child be a child, not their moneymaker.

    • kellybean says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more. It disgusts when I hear parents defend putting their children, literally children, in the industry or pageants because “ they love it and asked to.” Kids would also love to eat nothing but candy, stay up as late as they like and only go to school when they feel like it. It is your job as a parent to look out for the health of your child and their best interest.

      I danced for many years at a studio where the focus was on Broadway influenced jazz funk, tap and classic ballet. Virtually every other studio had eight year olds dancing like th sy were in videos in costumes that barely covered more than a bikini. Once YT became a thing these dances at conventions also were uploaded for the entire world to see. Parents would also defend it with a dismissive and humorous tone like ,” oh this is the music all kids listen to. They don’t know what it means and it’s harmless because it’s just how their body moves.” Yes, but everyone else knows exactly what this means. I fully believe because kids don’t know the dangers of these industries that they cannot consent. Movies, tv, commercials, music videos, modeling and YT videos don’t just go away and the children may very well not be ok with this exposure when they grow older.

      With all the cautionary tales it is not possible for parents to be unaware of the risks. They are putting their childrens’ safety and health on the line. There is no excuse.

    • DS9 says:

      This is a little bit simplistic and not terribly realistic.

      Child stars need to have a parent with them constantly. Idk that it’s a requirement but if I’m the mother of a 14 year old actor, there’s not a lot of places I’m letting them go, be it an interview, the set, a table reading where I’m not in shouting distance.

      It’s an unstable, ever changing lifestyle, frequent moves and scheduling changes and I don’t see how you could keep most jobs and be an involved, watchful parent.

      But what they could do is be sure they and their child meets with a therapist regularly to be sure balance is being maintained, that their child believes mom and dad do not want them to take work just to keep the checks coming.

    • Noodle says:

      I live in Southern California and have had a few friends or children of friends do some work in commercials, modeling, and extra-work. One of my best friend’s hands appeared in Titanic, so you know, big-time stuff! (His hand really did appear and 18yo us were super excited but looking back it’s all a bit silly.) If your kid wants (or the parent wants) to be serious in the industry, it’s a full time job for the parent. Going to auditions every day, the photographs, the calls, being on set, making sure your kid is being worked with by the tutor… all these things take a ton of time by a competent adult. Sometimes parents initially take their kids to LA or wherever and then find another adult to care for them while they are there if they get casted or a contract, but it’s a full time job managing a child’s career, if you’re serious about it.

    • Amy Too says:

      On the other hand, if my child was acting or in any other kind of entertainment industry, I would want to be with them all the time to make sure they’re safe and happy, no one is taking advantage of them sexually or otherwise, and they’re not doing things that are inappropriate for their age like smoking or drinking or listening to adult jokes. So I can see how parents end up quitting their day jobs to be with their kids who are acting or making music.

      • Noodle says:

        @Amy Too, yes, 100%. I met a woman on a flight once whose infant (she was maybe 6mo?) appeared as a baby on The Bold and The Beautiful. She was telling me about their schedule, and how hard it was to basically be at the set 10-12 hours a day. Of course the baby wasn’t working that whole time and there are really strict restrictions on how long the baby can be under lights, etc, but just for a 1 minute scene with the baby, it was like 3-4 hours of prep on the mom’s part. She had to nurse, entertain, sleep, all the normal things you do with babies, but on a set. They offered her a caregiver so she could go home and the baby would keep working, and she told them absolutely NOT. Unfortunately, a lot of parents take up the studios on their offers to caretake the kids so the parents can go home (to other states, to other kids, jobs, etc). It seems to me that the kids who are left with caretakers often are the ones who are exploited the most. I think (and I could be wrong because my memory is really foggy) both Britney and Lindsey were left with caretakers early in their careers.

      • Veronica S. says:

        Alright, I’ll play Devil’s advocate on this one: If all of these risks exist and are known in the industry, why would you want your child in that situation? Can you actually be considered a responsible parent in that situation, even if you protect them from everything else, if they wind up being your primary form of financial support because you can’t hold down a job?

        This woman is telling you she’s working 10-12 hour days to protect her infant…but that infant doesn’t have a choice. It can’t talk. It has never verbalized the desire to be in a film nor does it have the ability to consent properly for the next eighteen years. For all anyone knows, the kid will be completely disinterested in acting as an adult. It’s the parent that wants the child on camera. So what’s really happening there is that she’s using her child as a prop to make money, no matter how she frames it otherwise.

        I see this argument a lot that these parents are helping their kids fulfill their dreams, but the thing is, part of being a parent is protecting your children from the decisions they make for which they don’t have a fully formed idea of the consequences. You don’t let your fifteen year old date a twenty-two year old adult, no matter how much they insist it’s love. You don’t let your four year old dive into the shallow end of the pool. You don’t send your eight year old to work at McDonalds to bring in more money to the home. Yet plenty of people have no problem watching parents submit their children to the demands of the industry that is rife with abuse, drugs, alcohol, and other dangers. Why?

  2. Lara says:

    I would recommend that people listen to the show, he come across as very likeable and level headed. I think it was Kathy Burke who tweeted that no one in the industry has a bad word to say about him and that’s very rare indeed.

  3. helonearth says:

    I was lucky to see Endgame a few weeks ago. Both Daniel and Alan were amazing.

    No parent should be reliant on their child for a pay cheque. There should be a law against a parent having control over a child’s income or being their manager in these situations – an independent accountant or lawyer should always be brought in to do a thorough check of what the situation is.

  4. Otaku fairy says:

    “He also discussed the prevalent message given to young stars is that they should be in a constant state of delight and gratefulness because they have money, fame and status. So when they actually do feel sad or depressed, they are left to believe that they are ‘doing it wrong.’ ”
    He’s probably right about that being common. A few years ago Debby Ryan gave that same r reason for why she initially kept quiet about her abusive relationship and the toll it took on her. Last year, Jesy Nelson from Little Mix also gave a similar reason for why she tried to downplay her depression and suicide attempt as a result of online bullying- she didn’t want to be seen as a diva.
    There’s a very narrow idea of what can cause issues in young famous people and a similarly conservative outlook on mental health and trauma for certain groups of people too. But experiences like his and others show that there’s more to it. It’s good to let people speak for themselves on these issues.

  5. Veronica S. says:

    Brutal honesty here: the moment CGI gets good enough to be passably real, I’d be fine with child acting being banned across the board. Too much exploitation, too much opportunity for abuse, way too many stories of it going bad than going well. Any parent who puts their child in that situation with everything that’s come out in the last twenty years is frankly not somebody I feel overly comfortable trusting with a child’s care there.

    I’m glad Radcliffe seems to have come out of this relatively well balanced. Looking out for yourself at that age, being able to reconcile and articulate what happened so clearly, is not something everyone can do well. He’s speaks with a lot of thoughtful honesty and self-awareness, much better than you’d expect for something who went through that.

  6. RedWeatherTiger says:

    I LOVE Daniel Radcliffe. I just do.

    So here is a public service announcement: if you have not yet watched Daniel Radcliffe’s series, Miracle Workers: Dark Ages on TBS, please do so! It is so cute and funny, and he is adorably goofy. It co-stars Steve Buscemi and a bunch of other great actors. I hope it is okay to post a link to TBS, where you can stream episodes.


    • The Recluse says:

      We have been watching it. The 2nd season is even more of a hoot than the first season. And he is one of the producers, along with Buscemi.

  7. A says:

    I remember reading an article abt Macaulay Culkin a while ago. It mentioned in that article that Chris Columbus, who directed the Home Alone movies and the first two Harry Potter movies, learned a huge lesson re casting young children after watching the way Macaulay Culkin was treated by his parents and the struggles he had because he was their sole breadwinner and how much it screwed up his life. He figured out after that that he’d have to audition the parents as much as the children to make sure they weren’t exploiting their kid’s fame for their own means.

    And it strikes me that Daniel Radcliffe is, by all accounts, one of the survivors of child fame. He’s done really well for himself. And he had really good parents who worked really hard to keep his focused and grounded. And even THEN he struggled in the aftermath of doing the HP movies. If even the best equipped child actors are struggling after their child acting careers, the industry needs to take a really close look at what it’s doing that’s resulting in this happening.

    Anyway, it also struck me while reading this that like…it’s essentially what would also happen to Harry Potter in the books, if we ever were to catch a glimpse of his life in the immediate aftermath of book 7. JKR tied up all of her loose ends in a neatly wrapped little package complete with a suburban house and a white picket fence and didn’t confront the reality of having a whole generation of children who grew up essentially fighting an effing war. I know that falls outside the purview of what counts as children’s books, but are we really supposed to believe that Harry was all fine and dandy and nothing happened to him? Really? A boy who grew up never learning proper coping mechanisms for all the grief and tragedy and terror that he went through as a child and as a young adult? Yeah ok. Sure Jan.

  8. Paula says:

    Blut isn’t everyone supporting this by watching movies with child actors in them? Because it truly is child labor. And for what? Just to entertain us?!? I think it’s sick and it’s one of many reasons I stopped watching movies, TV series, etc

  9. liz says:

    Radcliffe’s first job after he got sober was on Broadway. He was doing a revival of “How to Succeed in Business” with John Larroquette. Larroquette has been very open about his alcoholism (he got sober in the 80s). Radcliffe has said that Larroquette helped him get through that first year of sobriety.