Daniel Radcliffe: Having a skinhead made me MORE recognisable

Tom Butler
Senior UK Writer
Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Imperium’ – Credit: Signature Entertainment

Daniel Radcliffe’s new film ‘Imperium’ (in UK cinemas Friday) sees the ‘Harry Potter’ star as you’ve never seen him before. He plays an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates a white supremacist gang to foil a bomb plot, and he jumps in laced-up Doc Martin-ed feet first.

His character, Nate Foster, shaves his head to blend in with the other neo-Nazis but in real-life Radcliffe said it had the opposite effect. Even though he loved the style, the world famous star says it made it even more difficult for him to move around incognito.

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“I actually became weirdly more recognisable [with a skinhead],” Daniel told Yahoo Movies, “Even though I looked very different, I think my hair gives me a little bit of cover or something. Because my eyes tend to be what people recognise about me quickest, so you take away the hair and basically my head is just two eyes and nothing else.

Daniel Radcliffe as Nate Foster in ‘Imperium’. Credit: Signature Entertainment

“So, it made me quite recognisable, but I loved it. I actually loved having the shaved hair. I would have it again if it didn’t limit me casting-wise.”

Here’s what else Radcliffe had to tell us about ‘Imperium’ and the “bleak” research he undertook for the film that included lurking on far right neo-Nazi message boards.

How much did you know about white supremacists and their ideologies before you signed up to the film?

Daniel Radcliffe: I knew they existed and I knew they were still prevalent. I’ve been surprised when I’ve been showing the film to people, a lot of people are going, ‘but this doesn’t still exist, right?’ But, yeah, it very much does.

I sort of knew they were out there but I didn’t know the breadth of different beliefs that were actually covered by the term “white supremacy”. I’m immensely comforted by the fact that were they ever to be in a position of power they would kill each other before they did anyone else, because they can’t agree on f***ing anything.

To give you an example of one thing, some of them believe that the bible is the word of God and some believe it’s part of the Jewish conspiracy. So those guys are never going to get on. So it was fascinating doing a bit of the research – I say fascinating, it was also very bleak – doing some of the reading around it, and getting into that mindset, where everything is either further proof of your conspiracy theory being true, or proof of the extent of the larger conspiracy against you to cover up the things you don’t believe in.

When you’re reading this sort of stuff, how does it make you feel?

It makes me sad more than anything else. I can’t find it in myself to get angry about it, but I find myself thinking, ‘it’s really sad that somebody in your life taught you this, and f***ed you up, and now you’re in this’.

Just because I just feel like it would be so sad to be so closed off so many people. That just seems really sad.

Imperium. Credit: Signature Entertainment

The reason I mentioned that this film could possibly educate or change one mind [in a previous interview with IndieWire] is because I think it takes and open-minded enough view of white supremacists. Not of their views, but of them as human beings, and so I’m hoping that if a couple of white supremacists go to hate watch it because they know I’m Jewish, even if that’s the reason, maybe they’ll go, because it does take a humanist approach to dealing with people like white supremacists.

So I’m hoping they might… there’s a chance we may not just be preaching to the choir and that somebody would actually take something on board.

It’s been out in the States for a while now, have any neo-Nazis seen it or commented on it?

That’s a good question. You know what, that’s a great question! I should go on the message boards again. Why haven’t I done that? I should totally go on and see if any of them are talking about the movie. I almost want to do that right now.

Daniel Radcliffe. Credit: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

But yeah, I would be really interested to see what anyone thinks of it. I imagine if anyone’s talking about it on the websites, they’ll be like, ‘they hate it’, but I think they’ll be pleased with the level of accuracy at least. Because that’s the thing, Daniel Ragussis [the director] I know one of his big things was portraying this world as accurately as possible and treating these characters as human beings rather than just evil archetypes.

One of the main characters – Gerry Conway (Sam Trammel) – is a really outwardly normal guy, and to me that felt like a comment on the rise of the far right movement – the appeal to the average person next door – was that on your minds when you were making it?

Yeah, I think it was. This was long before Trump was being taken seriously as a Presidential candidate, that this was written, and long before Brexit.

Gerry’s character is based on a real guy who was a family man who was actually plotting this huge bomb plot. But I think he represents a superficially more acceptable version of white supremacy that exists in America that look down on the skinheads and tattooed guys as being bad for the movement and promoting a negative image.

That was one of things that surprised me, that there is this very pseudo-intellectual, very smart, sophisticated brand of racism that’s being cultivated. And that’s why I think that character’s so uncomfortable, because it is just like you could meet that guy and talk to him about 95% of other things and think he was a really lovely guy, but it’s just when you get on to this very narrow topic of conversation, that suddenly all this hatred comes out, and I feel like – unfortunately – there’s a lot of people like that.

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‘Imperium’ is in UK cinemas from Friday, 23 September.