Daniel Radcliffe, the actor famous for playing Harry Potter, turned 23 on Monday.
Starring in the eight film adaptations of the best-selling book series by J.K. Rowling, Radcliffe truly brought the title character to life. Since his role as the famous boy wizard, the young actor has forged an unconventional path towards a serious acting career, starring in everything from a twisted psychological play to a romantic comedy.
Radcliffe has embodied and shaped our understanding of Harry Potter. From reading the books, I had always envisioned Harry as stubborn, impulsive, burdened by a Messiah complex, moody when older, yet always courageous and loyal. In the movies, Radcliffe portrays all of these traits, but adds innocent charm to the boy wizard. Harry seems steady, serious, and strong-willed when he battles Voldemort’s incarnations in the first films, but the actor’s wide blue eyes, short stature, delicate cheeks, and circular glasses remind us how young the wizard is. Even in the bleak final film, Radcliffe steps towards Voldemort shakily, hesitantly. The actor physically emphasizes how much Harry is playing everything by ear - an important detail that makes him so relatable and believable as a teenage hero.
Post-Potter, Radcliffe has proven himself to be beyond maturity. Like the overburdened wizard himself, Radcliffe seems to have grown up too fast -- he has already forced himself to stop drinking to prevent alcoholism. Yet professionally, he has not become a degenerate child star. On the contrary, Radcliffe has committed himself to a serious acting career. He has strayed from typical teen films; his post-Potter films include horror/thriller The Woman in Black and Beat poetry film Kill Your Darlings. In his theater debut, he won critical praise for the psychological stage drama Equus, in which he portrayed a 17-year old that blinds six horses with a spike and he went completely naked for an episode of religio-erotic worship to a horse. But he is not a fun-killer -- he has starred in the comedic musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and will be in the upcoming romantic comedy, F Word. Rather than devising a career strategy, Radcliffe is true to his artistic interests, choosing only quality projects that grab his attention. His creative spirit goes beyond drama -- as a bookworm, he spends most of his money on books, he writes poetry, and he publishes short stories; he appreciates underground and punk rock music.
Radcliffe, with his definitive portrayal of Harry Potter, was the heart of the Harry Potter films. While he has yet to separate entirely from the wizard, Radcliffe has proved that he is becoming a serious artistic force.