Interview: Daniel Radcliffe on A Young Doctor's Notebook

Dec 4, 2012

Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov took up writing after he was invalided out of a medical career following World War I. His semi-autobiographical short stories about a callow medic assigned to a rural hospital have now been adapted into a four-part series, and star Daniel Radcliffe is enthusing about the blackly comic writing: here’s his five-item prescription for the success of ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’.


‘I’m an obsessive Bulgakov fan and have been since I read [Bulgakov’s allegorical masterpiece] “The Master and Margarita” when I was about 18. I spent my twenty-first birthday in his house! The way this adaptation weaves his short story “Morphine” into the “Country Doctor’s Notebook” stories is inspired. Bulgakov can’t help letting his crazed imagination come through, so everything has this fantastical element to it.’


‘Jon [Hamm, who plays Radcliffe’s morphine-addled future self] is really funny, incredibly personable… But he’s also one of the best technical actors I’ve worked with. He’s directed a lot of episodes of “Mad Men”, so he knows about saving time with set-ups. Jon choreographed our first fight scene in about 30 seconds. What a guy!’

‘I do get to share a bath with Jon, which is great – I was the envy of every woman! Whenever I’m involved in a bath scene, I really look forward to it. I like a bath. But I always forget that water goes cold.’


‘I wanted to do a comedy, but this does get dark and pretty sad. I encouraged as many short jokes as I could possibly get in there [Hamm is seven inches taller]. I’m going to have to be very wary of it, because on this and [upcoming feature] “The F Word”, we made a lot of references to it. I might stop trying to get so much mileage out of my height.’


‘This was the only thing that had to stay: you can’t do justice to the book without it. The amputation scene [we did] was rough. The prosthetic leg was so good, you had all the different layers of skin, fat, muscle and bone to saw through… Horrendous. But I did ask our medical consultant if, at a push, on a plane, if someone asked if there was a doctor – or anyone who’d played a doctor – on board, I could step in [to perform a tracheotomy]. They do it with a biro in “Anaconda”!’


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