What Freaks Dan out in Horror Movies

In the years since the blockbuster Harry Potter franchise which made him a household name, Daniel Radcliffe has been thoroughly adventurous with the roles he’s chosen on stage and screen. From starring on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, to playing beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, to his role as a flatulent corpse with a heart of gold in Swiss Army Man, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Radcliffe and we’ve learned to never underestimate his dedication to every part he plays. In Jungle, out this Friday in theaters and VOD, Radcliffe might have found his most adventurous post-Potter role yet.

In Jungle, Radcliffe plays real-life Israeli survivor Yossi Ghinsberg who was famously stranded in an uncharted part of the Bolivian jungle for three weeks in 1981. In bringing this awe-inspiring true story of perseverance to the screen, Radcliffe worked for the first time with Australian director Greg McLean, widely known for his notoriously harsh and grisly 2005 horror debut Wolf Creek. Radcliffe and McLean share a passion for stories about survival against all the odds, and McLean’s uniquely gritty genre sensibilities bring a requisite intensity to the film.

Parade spoke with Radcliffe about bringing this astonishing true story to the screen, his ambitious career choices and where he draws the line in horror movies.

Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi Ghinsberg in the thriller JUNGLE 

Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi Ghinsberg in the thriller JUNGLE (Momentum Pictures)

Is this the most taxing and difficult film shoot you’ve ever done? 

Practically speaking, yeah. Absolutely. There were some sets that were a two-mile hike to get through. The poor camera crew had to transport their equipment by hand—and actually by donkey, too. A lot of the camera equipment was going to set by donkeys when we were in Colombia because those were the only animals sturdy enough to traverse the jungle with all that weight on their back. We were filming by rapids, we were filming in tanks full of mud; it was very rare that you got to set and thought, Oh, this is a nice easy day! 

It would have felt wrong if it were an easy shoot. I went into this shoot knowing it was going to be tough and demanding, for sure. I could give myself a nice, humbling reminder that a guy actually lived through this and I was going to a hotel every night. You know, don’t complain; it could be worse.

What are some of the biggest challenges you had to go through in preparation for this role?  

One thing was obviously learning the Israeli accent. It’s an accent so different from my own, and so different from any accent I’ve ever done. That was a challenge. One of my pet peeves is when an actor is promoting a thing based on a true story and they talk about how their own process was so hard or whatever. I don’t want to do that because Yossi actually lived through this.

If I were going home to the hotel every night and having steak and chips, it would have made my job a lot harder. So I just kind of stopped eating a lot. I cut down massively on eating just to create that sort of tiredness that goes through your bones when you haven’t eaten properly in a while. Obviously that’s not exactly what Yossi went through, but I found just to get a sense of that was really helpful.

There was one particularly heartbreaking moment for me. I was eating, say, a protein bar every day. Or a chicken breast and a protein bar every day. We were supposed to be filming the final scene on a Monday. In my hotel fridge, I’d saved a massive bar of chocolate and a steak. I had my meal all planned out. Then we got word that a rainstorm caused a river to rise and it washed our set away. The scene had to be postponed for a week, which meant that I was like get the chocolate bar out of my room, I can’t be around it, I’ve got another week to wait! 

All of the stuff in the water was very intense to film. We had the best safety crew in the world, and they were amazing. Still, we were filming by a racing river. It required a lot of concentration, and it was quite stressful.

Have you met the real Yossi Ghinsberg? 

Yes! I talked to him on Skype for about four and a half hours in the lead-up to the film. Then Yossi was out with us in Colombia and Australia for a lot of the shoot. I have to say, he was lovely. There’s a lot of ways you could be unhelpful when you’re the real person something is based on walking on to a set. He would have been perfectly within his right to come up between takes and say things like, “I didn’t do it that way,” or “I never said that.” He was really welcoming and generous, and incredibly kind. He was happy the movie was getting made and the story was being told.

Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi Ghinsberg in the thriller JUNGLE

Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi Ghinsberg in the thriller JUNGLE (Momentum Pictures)

What can you tell us about working with Greg McLean?

I really enjoyed working with Greg a huge amount. For the film he had to get made and the conditions he made it in, he always seemed so calm, chill and fun. That’s very useful when you’re shooting a really intense film. He and our director of photography Stefan Duscio were just great. Greg obviously had such an appreciation for the horror moments in the film. Obviously it’s based on a true story, but there are moments that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. Having someone with an appreciation for that aspect of the film, as well as the survival element I was talking about just made it clear he had a vision for the film.

Your work on stage and in film in recent years has been so eclectic and adventurous. If it’s possible to even sum up, could you tell us what you look for in a role? 

The thing that most excites me is any kind of originality–something that I haven’t done before. I’m not as excited about scripts that make me feel like I’ve seen it a million times before.

I’ve heard some people say Swiss Army Man is a weird movie or Horns is a weird movie. I don’t think of them as weird choices; they all make perfect sense to me. What I’m really drawn to–and you’re not always going to be able to find it, though I really felt this way about Swiss Army Man— is something that kind of reflects the way I think about the world; compassion and empathy being this force that exists to all of the most positive things that we can possibly portray in film. When you can find films that reflect the way you feel about the world and you feel it’s an important thing to communicate to people, that’s an exciting thing to do.

Jungle will be in theaters and On Demand / Digital HD Friday, October 20.

Source: Parade

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