Perhaps the most curious thing about Daniel Radcliffe’s involvement in Now You See Me 2 (NYSM2) is that his character isn’t the greatest magician on the planet. Radcliffe, after all, is best known as Harry Potter, the boy wizard, in the extremely successful Harry Potter series – a big part of which is about magic.
But in NYSM2, Radcliffe plays the antagonist to the film’s greatest magicians – or, as they call themselves, The Four Horsemen (portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and newcomer Lizzy Caplan). Radcliffe’s character Walter Mabry is a tech prodigy who forcibly recruits them to pull off an impossible heist using their mad skills.
In an interview transcript provided by GSC Movies, Radcliffe said he was attracted to the role as Walter is unlike any character he has played before. “My take on Walter is that he was the unpopular kid at school who would have to pay people to come to his birthday party.
He’s somebody who is incredibly desperate for friends, attention and validation, as well as an incredibly powerful, brilliant prodigy – which is how he sees himself. It’s that desperation though that makes him both very dangerous and also quite pathetic at the same time.
“When I was starting to get ready to play him, I was thinking, here’s a guy who has taken himself out of society… And then I started thinking, he must be so lonely and so bored. So I imagined that his mission to employ the Horsemen is partially that he wants to acquire something, but also that he just thinks they’re the cool kids and he wants to hang out with the cool kids. He thinks if he pays them or threatens them, then they’ll think he’s cool too.”
Well, the thing is, while Walter does attempt to pull off a magic trick or two – possibly to impress his new “friends” – he messes up, badly. Good news is, the actor himself is not bad at executing the trick Walter attempts in the film.
“Of course, as soon as I screwed it up on camera, I was like, ‘That’s going to be the one they use!’ …(because) it is much funnier and much more appropriate for the character to see him screw up the trick than to pull it off perfectly,” he shared with a laugh.
Radcliffe admitted to being a fan of some of the real magicians working today. However, he also said that he enjoys knowing how the tricks are executed.
“It makes it even more magical to me when I actually know how it’s done. That to me is the most amazing thing. Even when they’re really simple.”
At 26, Radcliffe is already an old hand in the acting field – the Londoner was cast as Harry Potter when he was just 11 years old. Since then, he has added other projects to his growing resume including last year’s Victor Frankenstein and this year’s Swiss Army Man.
He has also performed on West End and Broadway in productions such as Equus and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
So it makes sense that, even though he didn’t know any of the actors on his first day of filming NYSM2, he knew many of the film’s crew because much of the production took place in London.
“A lot of the crew were people that worked on Potter or on The Woman In Black (2012). So I knew a lot of them really, really well. It’s always nice to work in England. It doesn’t happen all the time, so it’s lovely to have an excuse to spend some time there and work there for a bit.”
Luckily though, the cast members were all very welcoming and Radcliffe attested they all got along just fine from the start.
“They’re a really, really nice group of people – Dave, Jesse, Woody, Lizzy and Mark. Mark Ruffalo is about the friendliest human being on the planet.”
One of the most memorable moments shooting NYSM2 was during a night shoot when Radcliffe sat in a tent together with Ruffalo and Michael Caine waiting for the next shot to be set up.
He recalled: “We were waiting there … and Mark just turned to Michael and started asking him about his movies. And I was so grateful that he did that because clearly both of us had been desperately wanting to ask Michael Caine those questions about his career.
“Mark kind of broke the seal and we both just started asking him as much as we could. We had this wonderful night where we all sat down and Michael Caine regaled us both with stories from his career and his life. He told us the story of how he met his wife, the first time he met Laurence Olivier … It was wonderful. A really amazing night.”
As for what kind of film the audience can expect from the sequel, Radcliffe answered: “An exciting one. It was a really exciting and fun movie to make and I think that’s the kind of experience people are going to have watching it.
“I think we’re pushing those elements further with the second film in terms of the illusions and ‘who’s really got the power and who doesn’t’. The tension in the film I think comes from the audience not being able to quite work out who’s really got the upper hand – whether it’s Mark Ruffalo or myself or Jesse Eisenberg or Morgan Freeman or Michael Caine. All of our characters are sort of struggling for power and struggling to gain the upper hand. The tension really comes from wondering who has it and who thinks they have it.”