The film was shot in 2007, the same year Radcliffe began performing Equus in London’s West End. One year later, he would reprise the role on Broadway.
He was heralded by critics for his portrayal of Alan Strang, the mad stable boy — embraced as far more than just a blockbuster dilettante trying to prove his worth by baring his soul and everything else. And early reviews for his turn in How to Succeed in Business, in which he acts beside Night Court’s John Larroquette, were kind to kind of forgiving: “The young actor shines as J. Pierrepont Finch, the ambitious window-washer who rises from mailroom to executive suite,” glowed Variety. Ben Brantley of The New York Times gave him a more, let’s say, ?paternal pat on the back: “You can almost hear an unseen coach’s voice whispering to Mr. Radcliffe, telling him when to do what. And because you so feel the effort and eagerness with which Mr. Radcliffe responds to that voice, you truly want him to succeed.” From the stacks of big-league reviews, but one major thorn sticks out: The Washington Post’s jab that, for all his obvious hard work, Radcliffe is “out of his league.”
But none of it matters to Radcliffe, the self-deprecator who insists he’s never read a single review written about him. The accolades and brickbats are for others to pore over and obsess about; he’s got a whole team of professional worrywarts, after all, chief among them his parents, his literary-agent father and casting-agent mother. He is his own harshest critic, the boy becoming a man who wants to prove himself worthy — not just lucky, but good.
“I find it easy to get into Finch because of the levels of ambition,” he says. “I do want to be successful in this industry — hopefully not just as an actor, but I would like to one day direct and maybe write. I’ve been exposed to this so young that I’ve developed an enthusiasm for every aspect of it. Now I know that if I’m going to succeed in that, it will be by hard work.”
Radcliffe could have disappeared after the Potter movies and used his millions to spare himself the potential embarrassment of flopping as a song-and-dance man. But Radcliffe did no such thing, because as far as he’s concerned, it’s imperative he begin proving right now and forever after that he belongs. And, certainly, he wants to belong on Broadway, which is why he returned when invited by producers to play.
He doesn’t just want you to think he’s good. First, he has to convince himself.
“Most actors, maybe they go to drama school, and it’s over that time they get better and better and start getting jobs, and only then do you start to go, ‘That person is good,’ ” he says. “If you come into it in that way, you’re somehow — I think, in my head — you’re somehow more legit than somebody who gets a part when they are young. We were all learning on the job, and in a way, that is the best way to learn — surrounded by brilliant people. But on the other hand, by the time you reach a certain age, you are expected to be a finished product, and that is what scares me. I know that I am not.
“So, in my head, I’m going, ‘I think I may have a finite amount of time to prove that I am moving in that direction.’ As an actor, you can never think of yourself as a finished product, but people’s perceptions of you as being a good solid actor who can tackle anything? That is what worries me sometimes. I think the way I’ve got to prove it is to myself first, and I’ll do that by taking risks and doing stuff that is outside of my comfort zone and working hard.”
In other words: by really trying.