Daniel Radcliffe: people asked me why I’m not more messed up

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Although Daniel Radcliffe has been sober for 12 years, he didn’t start discussing it in earnest until the last few years. And even though he doesn’t speak about his sobriety often, he is quite frank about it when he does. Recently he spoke about the other side of recovery, which is that people are often amazed he isn’t more “messed up” than he actually is. After starting a career so young, Daniel said many people in his orbit were sure he’d fall prey to the kid star jinx. And hearing what he went through, they are amazed he pulled back at the young age of 20.

When Daniel Radcliffe hit the bottle while filming Harry Potter, it seemed the child star curse had struck again.

But he got back on the rails and stayed there as firmly as the Hogwarts Express.

And after reaching 32 last week he reveals people are always amazed he isn’t more “messed up”.

“I was very aware early on people have very low expectations of what I’ll be like,” he says. “Which is great because hopefully you always exceed them.

“Once I was having dinner with the Director of Photography on a film and I told some weird story about a thing that happened to me in a kind of light, amused way.

“When I got to the end, the DP looked at me and went, ‘How are you not more messed up?’ It’s a reaction that does happen and I don’t really have a satisfying answer for people.”

He attributes his level-headedness to literary agent dad Alan and casting director mum Marcia Gresha.

He says: “I have parents supportive of me but who also asked me between every film: ‘Are you still having fun? You do know you don’t have to do this?’

“And I was like: ‘I really want to do this, I hate school so much.’ I was conscious of the stereotype of child actors, and they didn’t want to be pushy parents.”

[From Mirror]

I’m glad to hear Daniel’s parents were invested in his well-being rather than their bank accounts. Some of the worst young celebrity stories revolve around parents who rely too heavily on their kids supporting the family. I admit my first thought when I read Daniel’s comment about his parents telling him, “You do know you don’t have to do this,” was: is that true? I would think all those kids had some pretty structured contracts to see that franchise through. I’d be surprised if they could walk away before the films were done. However, his point, I’m sure, is that his parents were looking out for him and not how much he could make them and that made the difference in how he turned out.

I’m also interested in what’s not being said here. “I told some weird story about a thing that happened to me in a kind of light, amused way.” In that example, it wasn’t really Daniel as the offender in the story. It’s sounds more like maybe somebody was plying an underage Daniel with alcohol or possibly worse. We talk a lot about the laws to protect kids in Hollywood but if you ever actually read them, they are shockingly weak. So many of those Harry Potter kids made it out relatively intact and they all seem so close. They probably formed their own protective tribe.

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Photo credit: Getty Images and Avalon Red

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29 Responses to “Daniel Radcliffe: people asked me why I’m not more messed up”

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  1. Merricat says:

    I would bet dollars to donuts that Kevin Spacey tried his best to take advantage of Daniel. I hope Dan has a long and happy career for as long as he wants it.

  2. Becks1 says:

    It sounds like his parents did a lot to ground him.

    I think it also helped that Harry Potter was a series and was always going to be a movie series – he didn’t try to do Harry Potter the TV series or Harry Potter the You Tube Promo or whatever. He did his role as Harry Potter, and then he seemed to move on and try some different things career-wise. I think it helped because now I think there’s a big gap between Radcliffe and Harry Potter. I mean he’s always going to be Harry Potter, but I don’t think anyone watches him now and expects to see him playing harry potter in one form or the other. Some child stars are forever that character (not even child stars, it happens to adults as well) and I think he’s effectively put some distance between him and the character.

  3. Sigmund says:

    I’m glad that Dan is well now, but I definitely think he went through some sh*t as a child actor. You don’t take up drinking that young for no reason.

    I’ll be honest, I would never let my child into that environment. I’m glad that Dan’s parents had his best interests at heart, but I wonder if they’d do it all over again.

  4. PPP says:

    I heard that when they cast the kids, they specifically looked at parents as part of it. They didn’t want a kid with starbiz parents to be in that place for so many years… I wish Hollywood would so similarly there are already child actors I see everywhere and I worry about them.

    • Meercat says:

      I think this is more complicated though. While I do not want to ignore all the different ways child actors can be exploited, not giving opportunities to talented children from less financially stable backgrounds isn’t the answer either. Daniel seems already quite priviledged and let’s face it he was probably always going to get an opportunity through the casting agent mother. Insisting that only children with well off parents should get these parts makes it even harder for groups who already have a much harder time breaking into the industry.

    • Iris says:

      @PPP, I’ve heard that too from someone who was in the movies. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

      • Calypso says:

        I’ve also heard that! I think it’s just a huge recipe for disaster when the kids end up being the primary breadwinner for a family. It’s a situation that is bound to be extremely exploitative.

        In regards to the criticism that it denies opportunities to kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds…. I think we need to re-frame this idea that any kids should be working. Like, I get it, but we don’t say we deny kids the opportunity to work in factories or politics or healthcare. Filmmaking is a business at the end of the day, and one of the few industies in America that uses child labor and we need as many protections as possible in place to protect those kids because child labor is so fraught.

  5. Pippin says:

    I’m a few months younger than him but I always want to say “what a nice young man” whenever he’s interviewed lol. He seems like a sweet person and I’m glad he’s got good parents.

    • sally says:

      Lol, I’m a year older and I always think HOW?! In my head he’s a child, even though we were children at the same time.

    • observer says:

      i’m also a few months younger than him and i have admired him as a person (i sort of had a platonic crush? but not sexual it’s like he’s always too wholesome and charismatic?) ever since i was 11 or 12 years old. i really don’t know if i’d even have cared about the HP movies (and at 12 i was an HP fan) if they had cast someone else– his real character tend to shine through in some way and i like that.

      i also highly admire that he isnt afraid to take risks and do really weird movies, indie movies, and unfortunately a few movies that just downright kinda suck. but, it’s the principle of the thing: he’s grounded, tries new things (i.e Equus) and does what he wants but not in a selfish manner.

      i hope his life continues on a steady path since it feels like we have grown up together.

  6. Klu says:

    I also think the big difference is all of the children involved in Harry Potter is being British. For as much as we all here are critical of the UK and their media (I’ve been reading this blog for the better part of the last decade and only recently felt comfortable to post and like I may have something to say), I think most of their child stars in the UK do better than in Hollywood. I think there is a cultural difference that allows for less trauma than Hollywood and more stability in the end.

    • Bettyrose says:

      KLU – I was thinking the same thing. Sounds like a mixed bag though. British productions are less predatory towards the children but it’s more socially acceptable to only select kids from privileged homes. But even adult actors in Britain tend to be formally trained and better prepared psychologically than American actors who are often plucked from obscurity on the basis of looks rather than talent.

      • Baela says:

        That’s a good point. Although one of the reasons the British industry is less predatory towards kids is because kids are from a privileged background. It is much easier for parents to say no to money if they have lots of it.
        It is no coincidence that Harry Potter kids turned out fine. I have no idea what the solution is though.

    • I literally came here to say this. My kid has had child stars in his school in LA at all times and boy, do I have stories. These kids live in a hot house and most barely attend “regular” school even when they are on set. I can’t tell you how many wealthy kids get some kind of online degree for high school. My son had to explain this to me as I was always saying ,”Wait I don’t understand why isn’t X in school?” You don’t want to know the drugs and druggies and hangers on that surround these kids and because they support their parents, they have zero control over them. I can’t give too much away, but we are close to one and THE SADNESS. I know casting directors and they wanted my kid for a commercial when he was a baby and I wouldn’t even do that. It’s something I would stay far, far, far, away from, god bless these kids.

      • bettyrose says:

        I wanted to be a child star *so badly* as a kid. I did theater in school and camp, read all the fan magazines, obsessed over all the family sitcoms, but it wasn’t even a conversation I ever had with my parents. They were always pretty wrapped up in their own lives and that’s a separate issue (meaning, it wasn’t to protect me that they didn’t support my ambitions) but for better or worse I’m grateful for the normal childhood things I got to do, including having fun in theater class with no pressure to be anything but a kid.

  7. Case says:

    All the main HP kids seemed to turn out really well. It amazes me that Daniel realized he had a drinking problem at such a young age and quietly took care of it.

    • liz says:

      My recollection is that he was on Broadway at the time, co-starring with John Larroquette in How to Succeed in Business. Larroquette has been sober since the early 80s and he helped Radcliffe get sober.

  8. Bettyrose says:

    Daniel Radcliffe is 32. I was in my twenties when the film franchise started. I don’t think I’ve aged so he’s now older than me. Huh.

    • Killfanora says:

      Oh Bettyrose, I feel your pain! 😂

    • observer says:

      in another comment section a few of us were saying that we were the same age as DanRad when the movies came out and that it feels weird as well. is that better or worse? i’m always wondering about other people’s [of an older age than me] perspectives on this kind of thing…

  9. Hyrule castle says:

    I wonder if that’s why the parents of MBB moved to LA?
    They didn’t pass the parent sniff test, and British movie people didn’t want to cast MBB because they knew she had no support system and was at real risk of being exploited.

    Because she is being exploited.

    • Meercat says:

      I think that sniff test is very classist though. While I worry for MBB I also somewhat understand the side of the parents because I do not think that they necessarily need to have bad intentions for the situation to turn bad. If you had a genuinely talented kid but not a lot of money would you really deny that child the opportunity for an acting career? These parents know that their child may not get more than one shot and who knows what the repercussions would have been had they said no to their child’s dream.

  10. Elvie says:

    I’m so glad that Dan, Emma, Rupert and the rest of the HP kids made it out of child stardom relatively healthy and well adjusted.

    I think Dan’s parents could have pulled him out because Emma almost quit at a few points and she renegotiated her contract so that she could attend Brown.

  11. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I have a huge soft spot for all things HP. And these actors weren’t just part of a movie series, the entire franchise was enormous and universal. I remember getting the first book sent to me as a gift from family in London. The books taught my oldest son, now 30, how to read. School couldn’t do it, but Harry Potter did lol. These kids were part of something cosmic and changed the way modern kids were reading. So when the movies erupted like Mt Vesuvius, I can only imagine how their lives suddenly had to be managed and maneuvered in very certain and particular ways. And whoever orbited their careers and personal positions did a damn good job imo.

  12. The Recluse says:

    So glad he made it out of that treacherous time.
    We’ve been enjoying him – and Steve Buscemi – in the Miracle Workers series. He gets to have fun there.

    • auntie_git says:

      Yes, I am also loving Miracle Workers from here in Oregon Country! 😀 So good!

  13. lucy2 says:

    He just talked about it on Conan’s podcast (that might even be where these quotes are from) and it was interesting to hear about. He seems like a really decent and interesting guy, and I’m glad he made it through OK.

  14. Ange says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for him and he’s made some really interesting choices since finishing HP, he’s one to watch. His series Miracle Workers is really funny also.