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Is There Life after Harry?: An Open Letter to Daniel Radcliffe

Written by: Jaime Kawamoto, special to CC2K

In this classic piece, CC2K's Jaime Kawamoto advises Daniel Radcliffe on how to pursue his post-Harry Potter career.


Dear Dan,


Hey Dan…if you want your career to live past this…

It’s almost July 21st, the day the world finds out the fate of Harry Potter.  How are you holding up?  Fans are upset to hear you hope Harry dies (because you think it’s the only way to kill Voldemort) but I know what you’re really saying.

You are thinking about your career.  You are hoping the gawky bespectacled wizard has his flame extinguished so you can rise anew from the ashes, just like Dumbledore’s phoenix. 

There is no doubt you’ve grown up.  I saw the posters for Equus, London’s West End stage production better known as ‘the play where Harry Potter gets naked’.  That, sweet Daniel, is precisely why I’m worried.  I’m all for doing a prestigious piece of theatre so you can ‘grow as an actor’ – once you’re established.  And did you really have to strip down to do it?  The whole thing smacks of desperation to distance yourself from the ‘G’ rated franchise resting on your very muscular shoulders. 

You’ve proven that you have talent through four Harry Potter films.  Can you transcend the icon to have a long and fruitful career though?  I know you can if you follow the path of those who have gone before you.

Harrison Ford was a carpenter in Hollywood.   He helped out his buddy George Lucas by reading lines at an audition for a little space opera called Star Wars.  Turned out Ford was perfect for the role of Han Solo and a screen icon was born.

Ford’s fame gave him the opportunity to pursue a career.  Sure, everyone wanted him to play versions of the salty space captain.  And he did capitulate to that embarrassing Star Was Christmas special with the musical Wookies.  What Ford did right though was choose films with pedigreed casts and directors that called attention to his acting skills. 

Hanover Street is by no means a critical darling, but the film gave Ford the chance to work with the venerable Christopher Plummer and director Peter Hyams, hot off the critical and box office hit Capricorn One.  He proved he could hold his own against a Serious Actor.  Then he co-starred in The Frisco Kid with Gene Wilder, a comic genius.  The film was directed by the great Robert Aldrich who was known for such classics as The Dirty Dozen and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  A great movie, both hilarious and touching, and a great showcase for Ford’s comedic skills.  There was also Force 10 From Navarone, an ensemble “sequel” to The Guns of Navarone.  It was co-written by Carl Foreman, who had penned High Noon and The Bridge on the River Kwai.  It was directed by Guy Hamilton, known for his James Bond films.  Ford didn’t give the world a chance to shoot him into the vacuum of space movies.  He built an interesting and respectable filmography that caught the attention of Peter Weir, Sydney Pollack, Ridley Scott and that guy who did E.T.

Do you see what I’m saying Daniel?  Your upcoming December Boys and My Boy Jack are a step in the right direction.  Neither is a ‘Daniel Radcliffe Vehicle’.  You are showing you take the craft seriously and are not looking to be just a celebrity.  Now avoid anything with the word “boy” in the title.  You turn 18 this month.  Harry is a boy; you are a man.  Use your clout to work with proven talent.  Both of your projects are heavy with TV folk.  Who cares if December Boys helmer Rod Hardy did a couple of The X-Files – they were Agent Doggett episodes! 

The reality of this business is perception counts.  Ford understood that.  You’ve worked with Alfonso Cuaron and Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman and the Potter list is endless.  Trade on those connections in your non-Harry time.  Impress the Powers-That-Be with a small but memorable role in Emma Thompson’s next period piece.  Get Steve Kloves to adapt a Nick Hornby novel for you.  A play with “Uncle Vernon” Richard Griffiths that only runs in London, England doesn’t count.  Nobody important read the reviews because they were blinded by your pubic hair!  Shock does nothing to ensure longevity. 


…then take a lesson from him.

Harrison Ford was so adept at escaping Han Solo he actually played another film icon – Indiana Jones – and went on to have one of the longest and surest careers in Hollywood.  He’s done everything from Blade Runner to Working Girl.  He’s been President of the United States, Jack Ryan and Richard Kimble.  He’s worked with Sigourney Weaver (another example of escaping an icon – she was Ripley after all!), Mike Nichols and Steven Spielberg.  Producers don’t think ‘Han Solo can’t seduce Julia Ormond’ because they know Harrison Ford is capable of charming a much younger woman.  They also believe him as a crusty cop/real estate agent in a buddy comedy with Josh Hartnett as his partner.  And as a cold blooded killer who would cheat on Michelle Pfeiffer.

Ford also respected his roots.  He did More American Graffiti for George Lucas.  He came back to Star Wars three times and, now, Indiana Jones for a fourth.  He has always understood his career depends on a balance of keeping the fans and himself happy.  Mosquito Coast wouldn’t have happened if he’d refused Return of the Jedi or Temple of Doom.  I understand that despite the press on the matter, you have yet to sign on for the seventh Harry Potter film.  Just do it.  Unlike Ford’s Indy, Harry has an expiry date.  Whether or not he actually dies, this is the final book.  You come off as ungrateful (and a little ridiculous) waiting on your high horse for script approval.  Ford waited for a good Indy script because there was no point in revisiting that world without good reason.  You have every reason possible.  And really, do you think J.K. is going to write six fantastic books then blow it at the end?  Even if she does, the world will forgive you if the last one doesn’t measure up.  They won’t if you leave them Harry-less!

I hear you are coming into $40 million.  Having to work is not a concern but you want to act.  You don’t have enough money to buy the film industry’s love.  You have to earn it.  Pay attention to Harrison Ford and you will have a long career. 

And watch out for that Rupert Grint.  His last film, Driving Lessons, co-starred Laura Linney.  It was directed by first timer Jeremy Brock whose writing credits include Mrs. Brown, Charlotte Gray and The Last King of Scotland (co-writer).  If you’re not careful, Rupert could become the Harrison Ford of the Harry Potter films.  That would make you the Mark Hamill.