Entertainment & Arts

Woman in Black: Daniel Radcliffe is a bereaved father

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Media captionDaniel Radcliffe: "I get very protective of kids on set"

Daniel Radcliffe talks about his first film since Harry Potter, playing a bereaved father in The Woman in Black, an adaptation of the long-running West End hit show.

According to The Times' most recent list of the UK's youngest millionaires, Daniel Radcliffe has amassed more than £50m during his tenure as the world's most famous young wizard.

But in his first film since the Harry Potter franchise came to an end, the same audiences who watched the young actor grow up and even have his first kiss, will see him, not just as a bereaved husband, but also the father of a young child in the spooky Woman in Black.

The new film is based on the long-running West End hit show.

"This kind of film, I've always really loved," says Radcliffe. "I remember seeing The Others a few years ago and thinking it was a great movie, and as soon as this came up, that was a touchstone for me."

But will movie audiences be able to suspend their disbelief enough to see him in the role of lawyer Arthur Kipps?

"His performance is extraordinary," says screenwriter Jane Goldman, who also wrote the script for breakout superhero comedy Kick-Ass.

Director James Watkins agrees: "The opportunity to reinvent Dan and say: 'Hang on a minute, you think you know Dan Radcliffe?''

"That's just one role he played, but he's not Harry Potter any more."

The filmmaker rose to prominence with his disturbing debut Eden Lake - in which a young couple are terrorised by a gang of teenage hoodies.

That film starred a pre-A-list Michael Fassbender, the Bafta-nominated star of Shame.

"In my position, you have to go into it with your eyes open," Watkins says.

"You know that there's a certain amount of expectation and baggage and association that people have with Dan, but he's so smart and so bright and engaged and he totally understands all of that."

"He's playing a different role in an engaged and moving way."

The film follows single father Kipps as he is sent to the remote Eel Marsh to settle the legal affairs of the recently deceased lady of the house. A spate of mysterious child deaths in the nearby town lead him to discover the house's terrifying secret.

An early scene shows the grief-stricken Kipps shaving and, for a brief second, holding the open razor at his throat.

Radcliffe said: "In terms of the bereavement and the grief, I spoke to a counsellor for an hour or two one day.

"I had a few questions for her because Arthur, my character's wife dies in childbirth and I wanted to ask about what the relationship with his son would be like."

Image caption Radcliffe plays a young lawyer in the supernatural chiller

With a cast that includes Oscar-nominee Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds and Roger Allam, the film is a throwback to classic ghost tales, packed with jump-out-of-your-seat scares.

"The slasher/gore stuff, I've never been into that in my life, so I don't think I would have wanted to do one of those films," says Radcliffe. "But this more gothic kind of thriller is excellent for me."

The Woman in Black was originally a book written by Susan Hill and was adapted for the stage in 1987, reaching the West End two years later.

It is the second-longest-running play in West End history, behind Agatha Christie's Mousetrap.

The Woman in Black was one of the final films to get funding from the UK Film Council before it was disbanded last year.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron threw down a challenge to British filmmakers ahead of former culture secretary Chris Smith's report into the UK industry, calling for funding for be directed towards more "mainstream" films.

It was met with fierce criticism by filmmakers like Ken Loach and independent studios like Warp Films - behind critically successful films such as This Is England, Tyrannosaur and Submarine.

At the launch of his report, Lord Smith insisted his proposals were "not trying to dictate an artistic vision".

"We advocate support for the widest possible range of films, from the overtly commercial to the overtly arty - and much in between," he said.

When it comes to definitions of what is commercially viable, a purposefully old fashioned Victorian ghost story like Woman in Black sounds out of step with modern fare like the reality TV-style Paranormal Activity and the gore of Final Destination.

However, the film opened at number two in the US box office over the weekend, taking more than $21m (£13m).

"There are films that have come before us like The Others and The Orphanage that I think have been certainly commercially viable, so its not like we're doing something that's completely out of left field," says Goldman.

"I think everybody wants to make commercially viable films but nobody has the answer to that," says Watkins.

"We're in this unquantifiable business and we all try as hard as we can to make films that have their own integrity and, of course, you want the to reach a wide audience, but if someone had a magic formula to make them all commercially viable, then they'd be very rich."

The Woman in Black opens in UK cinemas on 10 February.

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