WARNING: The following Q&A contains sensitive plot information about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you plan to read the book but haven’t yet, DO NOT READ THIS. And if you dare disregard the warning, don’t blame us if J.K. Rowling’s magical minions send you a howler that screeches, ”How could you?”
He ripped through Deathly Hallows like a kid gorging on Halloween candy, anxious to get to the bottom of the pile and sort out the best goodies. So now that Daniel Radcliffe, who’s been playing Harry Potter since he was 11, finally knows his character’s fate, what’s he thinking? At the tail end of a chat about his upcoming film December Boys, an Australian-made drama about orphans that was shot in 2005 and opens in mid-September (and which you’ll see more about on EW.com in the weeks ahead), Radcliffe weighed in on what surprised him, what didn’t, and what he was listening to during those fateful final chapters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There was a picture that circulated this week, of you in a cap, holding a copy of Deathly Hallows…
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Oh, yes. I think it was probably at Lord’s Cricket Ground [in St. John’s Wood, London]. Which was a great day. That wasn’t actually my copy. A guy had asked me to sign it, and of course, somebody took a photo. It looked like I was about to start reading. So that became, The moment when Harry Potter started reading.
When did you in fact get to start reading it?
I actually wrote, in the front of my book, the exact time of me starting to read it. I think it was 9:30 at night on the 22nd of July, which was the day before my [18th] birthday. I read two chapters on that day, which wasn’t very much at all, of course. About page 30, I got to. Then I actually didn’t get to read [any of] it again for another couple of days. I started again on the 24th and 25th, and over those two days or so, I seemed to completely demolish it. I read 350 pages in one day at one point.
What surprised or shocked you the most?
Dobby’s death. He’s always been a comic character, in some ways. And that’s what makes it so powerful, I suppose. I’m sure Jo’s had that planned for a very long time. That was one of the bits that made me surprised. One of my other theories had been that Snape would end up being a sort of tragic hero, and so I was pleased to see that one in fact come through. That [idea] was given to me by a guy interviewing me, a while ago. He said he thought that would be the case. And I thought, Oh, that’s very good.
You finish Half-Blood Prince feeling Dumbledore was a fool to trust Snape. But I finished Deathly Hallows feeling maybe Snape was not well served by trusting Dumbledore, and that Dumbledore used him pretty ruthlessly. There are so many ways in which Rowling changes our picture of Dumbledore by the end of Deathly Hallows. He’s got even more flaws than you’d expect.
I have to say it matched some of my predictions [about Dumbledore]. I’d sort of thought of a couple of those things. I’d imagined we would see a darker side to Dumbledore. But I didn’t know in what way. I was incredibly moved by it, the whole thing.
Any other surprising bits of closure for you?
Another thing has confused me for so long. It was in the fourth film script, and it was in the book as well, of course. When we rehearsed the scene, it was the scene in which Harry had come back from the maze, and his blood has gone into Voldemort and so on. I could never understand why there was a line in the book that said, Dumbledore looked at the scar on Harry’s arm with — I think the phrase is something like, He looked at it with something close to triumph in his eyes. I’ve never understood that. I could never get it. No one could. No one knew. And of course, it turns out it’s because Dumbledore realized that as well as Voldemort being inside Harry, Harry’s blood was now inside Voldemort. Therefore his mother Lily’s blood was also inside Voldemort, which obviously plays a huge part in [Deathly Hallows]. That explained a lot to me.
NEXT PAGE: ”What did I do when I finished? I think I just put the book down and carried on listening to the music. Just looked out of the car window, ’cause I couldn’t think of what else to do.”
Were you glad to find out that Harry, Ron, and Hermione all survive?
I was, actually. Weirdly enough, I think that’s the bravest thing she could’ve done. I was convinced for about two years that Harry would die.
I just felt it was the only way she could end it. But then, within the last six months, it suddenly occurred to me that that was far too obvious. She had to find a cleverer way of doing it. And indeed she did. With Ron and Hermione, I really liked the epilogue. I think a few people might’ve been not so keen on that. But I actually really, really liked it.
In a way, Harry actually does die, because he believes he’s going to die. There’s a profoundly, existentially lonely passage in the chapter when he prepares to let himself be killed.
In a way, the time between Harry learning he has to die and actually dying —
Or believing he’s dying…
That time wasn’t short enough to be painless. But it wasn’t long enough for him to find complete acceptance within it either. He struggles to find acceptance. Ultimately, he finds a sort of acceptance. But he’s not necessarily reconciled with the idea of it. He knows he has to do it, but he’s still scared. I just can’t wait to be able to film it. I think Jo has given me, once again, an amazing opportunity to step up. So hopefully I’ll be able to.
What did you do when you finished reading Deathly Hallows?
I was in a car at the time. I had my iPod in, and I was listening to Sigur Rós. I don’t know if you know them. They’re a band who do sort of instrumental music, but it’s just amazing. I think they’re from Scandinavia somewhere. They’ve got an album called Takk…I was listening to, and it’s very, very appropriate [for the end of Deathly Hallows]. I was listening to it and I remember I was sort of turned away from everybody else in the car, just so I could be in my own little world when I read it. What did I do when I finished? I think I just put the book down and carried on listening to the music. Just looked out of the car window, ’cause I couldn’t think of what else to do. I’m still struggling to really take it in. It doesn’t leave you in a hurry.