Daniel Radcliffe Loses It In ‘December Boys’ Before Getting Back To Harry Potter

'When you know the character as well as I do, it's easy to get back into the role,' says actor, who starts shooting 'Half Blood Prince' next week.

When you’re the star of the top-grossing movie franchise in history — and yes, it’s official: The “Harry Potter” films received that accolade on Monday — you’d think the best way to have a career beyond the franchise is to branch out. Stretch. Do something different. So Daniel Radcliffe is doing just that with his next film, “December Boys,” out Friday, in which he plays … another orphan.

“The tally is up to three,” Radcliffe laughed. “David [Copperfield], Harry [Potter] and now Maps. It’s not intentional, it just happens that way. But when I read the script, I thought, ‘Oh no, not again. That’s my third orphan!’ I don’t know why I have a knack for them — I had a happy upbringing. But Chris Columbus said I have these large, melancholy eyes, and that’s what helped me get the role of Harry.”

For his first film role since Harry, Radcliffe took a break between “Potter” films four and five (“Goblet of Fire” and “Order of the Phoenix”) and shot “December Boys” in Australia. “It’s about four boys who grow up in a Catholic orphanage in the outback of Australia and who are, due to a generous donation to the orphanage, all sent on holiday for their birthday month, which is December,” Radcliffe said. “And they all have their various rites of passage while they are away.”

For Maps, “who is much more restrained than Harry,” that involves smoking, drinking and being with a girl for the first time. Considering Radcliffe shot that deflowering scene long before Harry rather innocently kissed Cho Chang in “Order of the Phoenix” (see ” ‘Phoenix’ Trailer Reveals A Harry Potter Who’s Ready To Fight — And Kiss” ), it’s funny that more of a fuss was made over the kiss than the sex. “I think it was because it was Harry, and it was a big moment for that character, an iconic moment,” he said. “But yeah, when people asked about my ‘first kiss’ onscreen, I’d be like, ‘No, I did that two years ago.’ But if I hadn’t done that scene in ‘December Boys,’ I would have been more nervous about the kissing in ‘Harry Potter’ five.”

Shooting the sex scene in “December Boys,” however, did make him nervous — even more so than being naked onstage in “Equus” (see “Final ‘Harry Potter’ Book’s Release Set As Films’ Star Fights Controversy” ). “Once you’ve been doing the play for two hours, you’re so into the character, you’re not even thinking about it,” he said. “But the sex scene in ‘December Boys’ is broken up, more interruptions, more time to get nervous.”

There’s no time to be nervous anymore — straight from promoting “December Boys,” Radcliffe jumps right back into the wizarding world next week, when he starts shooting “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” on Monday. “It’s pretty whirlwind,” he said. “I stop press on the 14th and start on the 17th. There’s just one week of rehearsal. That’s manic. But when you know the character as well as I do, it’s easy to get back into the role. So the amount of prep you do, it’s possible to do a lot of what you need on the day of. It comes very naturally now.”

Just because it’s easy now doesn’t mean he’s not excited — especially about certain parts, such as being able to give Rupert Grint a hard time when it’s his turn at a kissing scene (see ” ‘Harry Potter’ Casting Call Could Help Ron Weasley Find Perfect Shade Of Lavender” ). “I’m going to be on set pointing at him every time. It’s going to be funny,” Radcliffe grinned mischievously. “And I’m looking forward to [the seventh movie] when he has to kiss Emma [Watson]!”

Of course, he may want to take it easy on them, since Radcliffe will have to kiss her too. “Presumably,” he said. “I should get my evil twin for that scene!”

His only worry is that some scenes will have to be cut for length, and the ones he’s most excited about filming might not make it in. “It’s going to be a hell of a challenge for the writer,” he said. “There’s other bits [in other books] you can cut, but I don’t see anything in ‘Deathly Hallows’ you can cut. [Author] Jo [Rowling] always talks about the chapter she had written in her head before anything, when Harry’s going to face Voldemort, and I’m really looking forward to doing that. It should be powerful — if I don’t screw it up. Of course, I’m saying all this hoping it won’t be cut. I don’t think it can be, it’s so vital.”

It’s a scene he hesitates discussing, for fear of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read it — since the resolution of the whole series hinges on it. Despite being wary of spoiling it for others, he didn’t worry about spoiling it for himself, and begged Rowling to tell him how the book would end. “She wouldn’t tell me, but she gave me a clue,” he said. “I made sure no one was listening, and I asked, ‘Do I die?’ She paused for the longest time, and she said, ‘You have a death scene.’ And then I was like, ‘Ah! Oh. Wait a second, that’s not a yes-or-no answer! Something sneaky is going on.’ ”

(Watch Daniel Radcliffe explain what J.K. Rowling told him after he asked how “Deathly Hallows” would end.)

Now having read the book and understood why the author didn’t give him the answer he was looking for, he’s happy he got to realize what she meant in his own due time, and he’s even happier at the scenes ahead of him to film, typecasting or no, in the next two films. “That’s the great thing about the book is that even if you tell what happens, they still don’t know the half of it,” he said. “To write a book under that much pressure, all the hype, and to live up to the hype, that’s sort of remarkable. I don’t think anyone else has ever done that. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to get back to Potter.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “December Boys” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

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