Daniel Radcliffe talks trading wands for guns in latest action flick Guns Akimbo
Editor’s note: This interview took place on Friday, Feb. 21.
Daniel Radcliffe isn’t using wands to defeat his enemies anymore.
In Guns Akimbo, the Harry Potter star takes on the role of Miles, a down-on-his-luck video game developer who finds himself stuck in a real-life video game situation after he accidentally gets caught up with an underground gang who creates and live-streams death matches. Oh, did we mention he wakes up with guns literally bolted to each of his hands? Yeah, talk about inescapable. Once he deals with the everyday inconvenience of his hands being out of commission, — think getting dressed, using the bathroom and unlocking your phone — Miles is on the run, as he’s tracked down by Nix (played by an eyebrow-less Samara Weaving), a relentless killer at the top of her game.
Written and directed by Jason Lei Howden, the fast-paced, darkly-comedic action movie is a wild ride that put Radcliffe through his paces. We caught up with the actor about surviving between takes with no hands, working with Weaving, and spending half the shoot in a robe and slippers.
What made you want to be part of this movie when you first read it?
Scripts don’t always come with a log line and this was one of those where I was like immediately like, okay, interesting and then thought, how thoroughly has this premise being explored? When I started reading I was like, oh good, very throughly. Page 10 of the script is around when he gets the guns bolted onto his hands and then the sequence of the next few scenes is him trying to get dressed, trying to get out of the apartment and going to the toilet. Honestly, at that point of reading, I was pretty much like, I’m probably going to do this movie. I enjoyed the fact that it was clearly going somewhere very dark and cartoonish-ly violent, but also not taking itself super seriously and being willing to explore just the mundane physical comedy of what the potential day-to-day life of someone who had guns for hands would be like. So I was really taken with the script immediately and then I talked to Jason (Lei Howden) on Skype about it and his enthusiasm for it. I love working on these kinds of films. I did a lot of stunts and things during the Potter movies, but not a lot of the roles I’ve done since then have really called for very much of that, so I really enjoy that stuff. This just looked like it would be really, really fun — and it was. Anytime I read a script and there’s a really original voice coming through, that’s when I get the most excited.
What spoke to you about your character, Miles? He’s definitely not the hero of the story but he’s also not a bad guy; he’s really just an average dude in a really bizarre and horrific situation.
Yeah, that’s what I liked about him. I’ve heard a lot of people try to talk about the film like it’s some kind of searing satire on social media or the internet, and I really don’t think it is. There’s a bit of that, but it’s not the whole point of the movie. I don’t think anyone should be getting their moral compass from this film by any account. I’ve read quite a few action film scripts and I just don’t ever really believe myself as any of those characters who are fairly ordinary dudes and they’re suddenly thrust into this world and so have to learn to survive in this situation. What I liked about Miles was that I could believe myself playing the guy who spends an hour trying to run away from the fight before he really has to confront it. So one of the things that was appealing about him was that by no means does he start, or really end, a hero. He’s just somebody who gets through a horrible situation.
Was there any hesitation at all when you were signing on about being part of a movie that is so gun heavy, considering the current climate?
You know what, I’m going to be very honest about it. I didn’t think about it until I was on set, which is maybe slightly a bad thing to say. This film is made by Jason; he’s from New Zealand. Samara’s from Australia. I’m from the U.K., and this was before the mosque shooting in New Zealand as well. All of us are from countries where it was not present enough in any of our minds. Nobody’s going to copycat this in England and I think the fact that it is so heightened…Look, there are some incredibly cool action sequences in it and fight sequences, some of which involve guns, but actually not all of them do. My favorite one is just the one where Nix (Weaving) kicks the s— out of everyone at the beginning. My character’s life does not go well after his hands become attached to guns. I very much want to emphasize that nobody should be taking their moral compass from this film. It’s just a fun, crazy action movie. Maybe I should have thought about it more, but then you can get into a larger conversation about culture informing art and all that stuff.
How is working with Jason in general? He has a very particular and unique vision. Were there every days when you’d go to set and just but like, Okay, wow, what?
A little bit, but he’s also very good at explaining it and he’s very organized so it wasn’t overwhelming in any way. It’s also just very exciting because he’s the kind of director who will show you how to do something in terms of like, if he wants you to roll around and hit the ground in a specific spot, he’ll do a running jump and ram himself onto the ground just to get it right. He loves being involved in those and is very hands on in a very fun way. He does have a unique and brilliant vision for this film, the way it should look and the tone of it. A lot of the films that I think have turned out the best that I’ve worked on are the ones with writer-directors. It’s not always essential — Alexandre Aja did Horns which he didn’t write and had an amazing vision for it — but a lot of the time I find the directors with the most exciting, specific visions are also the ones that have written it, especially when it’s something like this where there is a weird tonal line that you’re walking between very dark and completely silly.
Samara Weaving goes through a wild transformation on this movie. How was working with her? I’m sure she’s the complete opposite of her character in real life.
Samara is just awesome and I just love watching her in this film. She gives an incredibly unhinged but also charming performance.
Right? She’s weirdly still likable!
Yes!! She’s totally likable — she’s like a psychopathic killer that you’d like to hang out with! And Samara in real life is just the sweetest, most gentle person so she does an amazing job in the film. She’s also incredibly game. This film was shot very, very fast. The last day of shooting, she did some insane number of hours because she had to be in a prosthetic. She’d been called in earlier than me so she was supposed to finish earlier, and she had finished on time but by the time I’d finished, they were still getting her out of makeup. But she’s uncomplaining and just awesome to work with.
How annoying were those guns fastened to your hands between takes? Could you remove them or were you kind of stuck for the day?
It depends how long the break was. If it was between takes, I would just keep them on, but they were strapped to my forearms and wrists so I could take my fingers away from the trigger and that part of the gun and have a bit of dexterity. I’m irrationally proud of how dexterous I became with guns for hands. I must shout out our fantastic props person who was in charge of the guns throughout and made my life very easy.
The other thing I imagine was a little uncomfortable is that you spend about half of this movie in boxers, a robe and monster slippers and you’re constantly running. How was that to shoot?
They made me a special pair of the slippers with the soles cut out and a pair of trainers inside so I could run pretty well in them. Other than the days where it was raining and I’m crawling around on the ground, going to work everyday and being in a robe and some slippers is a very, very lovely life. It was one of my favorite costumes I’ve ever had.
Right, I suppose you cold just roll out of bed, ready to go — no prep needed.
Yeah, he’s going through a terrible time in the film so I could look like sh— every day and not have to worry about it.
If you had to take part in a real-life video game scenario like Miles does, which game would you choose?
Oh God. You know what? The only video games I’m really familiar with that I played when I was younger are stuff like Splinter Cell, Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto and God knows I don’t want to be a part of any of them in the real world!
Guns Akimbo is in theaters and on demand this Friday.