Daniel Radcliffe and the Chamber of Child-Star Secrets

It may seem easy for Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. He has all the money in the world. Everyone knows and loves him. Of course, that last part is precisely the problem, as it is for all child stars. He’s had to make it through his entire adolescence and young adulthood — the most awkward years of a person’s life — with the whole word watching his every move.

Plus, Radcliffe was the face of the children’s series of Generation Y and the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Not only do the Potter stars need to worry about their own reputations, but also setting a good example for actual children — a constantly-moving goalpost. In the past year, another set of high-profile young actors, the stars of Glee, dealt with controversy after racy photo-shoots in GQ and Cosmopolitan drew the ire of conservative parents. And sure, there were some in the “morals ‘n’ values brigade” who were likely dismayed by Daniel Radcliffe’s naked turn in Equus.

But overall, Radcliffe, along with co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, had always seemed above the influence, pictures of propriety as child stars go. Yet, a new interview with Radcliffe, to be released in the August issue of the British GQ, reveals that not all was well at Hogwarts.

via watsongirl.tumblr.com

In the interview, excerpted at The Telegraph, Radcliffe reveals that he struggled with alcoholism, culminating during the filming of Half-Blood Prince:

Radcliffe said his life went off the rails for a period when he turned 18… “I became so reliant on [alcohol] to enjoy stuff,” Radcliffe said, adding that he had also become “complacent” about his job. “There were a few years there when I was just so enamoured with the idea of living some sort of famous person’s lifestyle that really isn’t suited to me.”

Radcliffe eventually realized “he had to change his ways” and went cold-turkey; he has been completely sober since August 2010. Of this he says: “I’m actually really enjoying the fact that I can have a relationship with my girlfriend where I’m really pleasant and I’m not —-ing up all the time.”

via James Dimmock - GQ

One thing that really struck me about Radcliffe’s redemption story is how different it is from so many others. Unlike, say, Lindsay Lohan, Radcliffe likely isn’t concerned over how he can maintain his clubbing schedule without indulging in the occasional cocktail. He sounds like an introvert, someone who was never really a “party person” to begin with: “I’d just rather sit at home and read, or talk to somebody that makes me laugh. There’s no shame in enjoying the quiet life. And that’s been the realization of the past few years for me.” Radcliffe makes it clear that the “party” persona was largely an act, designed to fit a certain ideal of the “Hollywood” lifestyle; when asked what he would tell his younger self, he says, “Don’t try too hard to be something you’re not.”

In a way, it’s not difficult to see why Daniel Radcliffe, or any child star, would succumb to the hard-partying stereotype: It’s an unmistakable way to show that one is an adult, or at least on the road to becoming one. It forces the public to accept that the fresh-faced kid they knew is no more. It’s become cliché to discuss how this innocence/adulthood dichotomy affects female stars and their sexuality — but it doesn’t just affect girls. When a young male star is as high-profile as Radcliffe is, the barrier between childhood and adulthood, between eternal typecasting and a full career, can be just as rigid — requiring its own drastic measures to break. The media generally delights in these “trainwrecks” but nobody’s laughing when self-destruction leads to permanent consequences, as it has recently for former child stars Corey Haim and Brad Renfro.

via fuckyeahdanielradcliffe.tumblr.com

I’ll finish this article with a confession: Daniel Radcliffe is the one and only male celebrity crush I’ve ever had. While I’m a fairly solid Kinsey 3 in real life, the only celebrities who do it for me are women for some reason. Except Daniel Radcliffe. Back in the summer of 2004, I developed a huge crush on him after buying a bunch of fan magazines before the release of Prisoner of Azkaban – where I found out that we liked the same books, and the same ‘70s punk bands! Clearly, we were a match made in heaven because OMG WE HAD SO MUCH IN COMMON!

Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My various personal demons aside, I had a relatively normal adolescence. Meaning, I had lots of room to f*ck up. As an overachiever with a serious fear of failure, I didn’t like f*cking up, but nevertheless it happened, repeatedly, and each time I was able to pick myself up and start again. That’s part of what it means to be a young person: Multiple chances to mess things up, and reinvent yourself, over and over, without ruining your life or leaving any permanent stains on your record. But most of Daniel Radcliffe’s life has been defined by Harry Potter. Which meant no room for the typical teenage screw-ups. Which meant no time to really be a kid.

Radcliffe is now doing fairly well. His work with the Trevor Project has made him into a strong ally for LGBT youth, and he’s currently starring on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He has houses in both New York and London, where apparently his only big splurges are on books and art. He loves his girlfriend and genuinely seems pretty happy and satisfied with his life.

So this summer’s final film may be the end of Harry Potter, but it won’t be the end of Daniel Radcliffe.

Note: Radcliffe’s GQ interview comes with a playlist of music from his iPod. You know you want to, Pottermaniacs.

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Rose is a 24-year-old Detroit native currently living in Boston, where she is working on her master's degree in musicology. Classical music, history, 1960s rock bands, cartoons, cats, Diet Coke, old movies and the Detroit Tigers are just a few of her favorite things. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network and has also written for Bitch and her own media-analysis blog. You should follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.

Rose has written 69 articles for us.

20 Comments

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    I like him. While I’ve only seen the first HP movie, and never read a single HP book (I know, I suck at life), I love reading and listening to interviews with him.

    A lot of people have given him flak for this interview (asking, “So what?”), but I think it’s hugely important that he talk about this, especially because we’re hard-pressed to find many good young celeb role models, nowadays. I think he shows a tremendous amount of self-awareness, and I wish him the best of luck in the future.

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      Yeah, I think that celebrities who have problems but recover from them are actually way better role models than the seemingly-flawless ones. I’m really glad he came forward about it, and I’m glad that from what I’ve seen on the HP sites (like the article at the Leaky Cauldron) the fans are being supportive.

      And it does give me the feeling like “Wow, if Daniel Radcliffe can recover from his problems, I can recover from mine, too!” Since I’m just an ordinary person who doesn’t have the whole world watching me.

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        Agreed. If I had kids, I’d rather point them at Daniel Radcliffe than Taylor Swift. Real people screw up. Strong real people pick themselves up afterwards. Smart real people avoid making the same mistakes again. I want to encourage my kids to be smart and strong. So.

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          Wow. What an asinine thing to say. Do you even have a clue who Taylor Swift is as a person and a talent? Do you have a clue as to how she got her start and what all she has done with her success and fame since then? Apparently not.

          Not knocking Daniel – but Taylor has never had a drug or drinking problem, she lives her life doing what makes her happy and brings her joy and she shares it with many others, especially those less fortunate.

          Perhaps if you have kids one day (which, based on your comment you don’t) that your parenting skills will be better than telling your child who to idolize or let influence them ….and instead let them decide who they want to look up to as a mentor or model.

          You’re an idiot.

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    Playlist link is broken.

    He is pretty awesome already, but I think he should hang out a lot with NPH and learn how to become an extra-awesome grown up child star.

    Sorry we stole your childhood for our entertainment, Mr. Radcliffe. I felt bad about it even back when the first movie came out, “these kids have just signed on to live someone else’s youth,” I said, but it was so good I never wanted you to stop.

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    The Potter stars have always been good role models to me. I’m glad he did this interview though, it humanizes him, lets us know that everyone makes mistakes. It encourages all of us to be better people!

    You rock, DRad.

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      It always secretly wanted him to get the hardcore green contacts I pictured the character with, but the movies/books dominated my childhood to such and extent that all thoughts of green eyes vanished with Emma Watson’s smile.

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    Daniel Radcliffe is my only celebrity male crush, too. He just seems like an awesome dude. I was about to tell my mom the other day that I’d have a deeply emotional relationship with Daniel Radcliffe if the opportunity arose but then realized she would probably get ideas and start scheming for a chance union. Ha. Nice Jewish boy. Oh, how mom would approve…

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    I have a big crush on Daniel Radcliffe myself. Reading this just makes me respect him even more, and sympathize with him. As an introvert it’s really just as easy to get sucked into the hard-partying thing, because even if you don’t like it, you might feel like you *should* like it. Anyway this gives me an excuse to finally fulfill my monthly urge to buy GQ.

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      Yeah, that’s why I felt the need to mention that stuff – I can relate as an introvert, especially one who also has social anxiety. I often go to parties because I feel like the thing keeping me from going is just my nervousness about meeting new people. It actually took me a while to admit to myself that no, maybe I just don’t. enjoy. parties. and I’d rather meet people other ways. It’s hard because in late teens/early 20s I feel like everyone loves parties and the social life revolves around them. It’s got to be even worse if you’re a big celebrity like Radcliffe.

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    First, your article is great because of the wonderful analyzation and undeniable truth of what we all go through in our lives. That is so true, that there are a lot of times that we do things just to be “in”, because it’s the trend and because we are afraid to be rejected in the society or in the community. So, we will just go with the flow. Until we forget who we really are. We are trying hard to be somebody else that we are not. It’s very hard to love the real us, I think.

    Second, I am loving daniel again… lol because of this article. That is a good thing that he admitted his problem and did something about it. I am impressed.^^,

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    All the comments on other sites about how he needs to learn to “drink responsibly” make me angry. Some people are so severely alcoholic that they cannot even touch a drop, and it sounds like DanRad just might be one of those people. I just don’t understand this mentality that people are giving up a huge chunk of life by going teetotal.

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