LONDON — Dear Daniel Radcliffe, a.k.a. Harry Potter, please stop acting like a jackass.
Last summer, Radcliffe revealed to the British press that he’d given up drinking after a longstanding battle with alcohol. Fair enough. Although it was disconcerting to imagine Harry Potter downing anything more than butterbeer, lots of child stars struggle with substance abuse problems at an early age, even if the kids on the set of Harry Potter were thought to have coped better with the dual exigencies of fame and childhood than the likes of Lindsay Lohan.
But recently, Radcliffe went into TMI overdrive, telling the Daily Mail about how he's had sex with fans, sometimes while under the influence. (Again, one thinks back to that first kiss with Cho Chang and shudders at the thought.)
So what gives?
The conventional wisdom is that the actor is trying to get viewers to take him seriously as an adult in his new horror film, “The Woman in Black.” Because of the unbridled success of the Harry Potter film franchise, Radcliffe reportedly fears that people may never be able to imagine him as anything but “the boy who lived.”
And so he’s pulling anything and everything out of that dirty laundry basket that no doubt sits (in classic post-adolescent fashion) in his bedroom to prove that he’s a man.
I don’t blame Radcliffe for wanting to shed the straightjacket of type-casting that can befall many an actor and stifle their career development.
But Radcliffe’s strategy appears to be backfiring, because he just looks ridiculous. As the New York Observer put it: “Some lucky muggle just got Harry’s wand.”
Radcliffe also mentioned that he really doesn’t do that sort of thing very often because he prefers to “like the person” before sleeping with her, especially as one has to “talk to them afterwards.”)
So here’s the thing, Dan. (If I may, one adult to another.) The best way to show that you’re a grown up is not to run around telling everyone that you’re a recovering alcoholic and sleazebag. Rather, it’s to stretch your wings and seek out artistically challenging roles, proving to the audience (remember — show, don’t tell) that you can do things outside your perceived comfort zone.
Ironically, Radcliffe has already done this. First, by taking the lead role on Broadway in the hit musical “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” a demanding performance for which he got some good reviews. Second, by appearing on stage naked in London in the sophisticated psychological drama “Equus.” Now, he’s demonstrating his versatility by starring in a horror film.
The other way to shed your boyish image is to make fun of it, showing — with a wink and a nod — that you know that you’ve been typecast and would like to distance yourself from that role. This is also something Radcliffe did when he appeared in Ricky Gervais’ British Comedy series “Extras” as a Boy Scout trying to chat up any female within shouting distance.
Blabbering about your drinking problems and sex life only makes you look juvenile. It also hurts you with your core audience – which remains, like it or not, Dan – the Harry Potter set, of which my 8-year-old is a card-carrying member.
Having just devoured all seven Harry Potter books and as a proud owner of the new box set of all eight films, she doesn’t want to think that Harry's a drunken lech. Brand management, Dan, is a grown-up reality.