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In his first post-Harry Potter film role, Daniel Radcliffe, who has said he wants “longevity” in his career, still finds himself caught up in the supernatural. In The Woman in Black, a spooky horror film, the young British star plays a lawyer sent to a remote house in the English countryside to sort through the estate papers of its deceased owner.
The movie, the first offering of the resurrected Hammer Films, the venerable British horror studio, is a ghost story. Radcliffe’s character is a single father who lives in London with his young son at the end of the Victorian era. Haunted by fleeting visions of his beloved dead wife, once he gets to the countryside he begins seeing the ghostly figure of the titular darkly garbed gal.
It seems that the woman in black is somehow linked to the continuing, horrifying deaths of small children in the village near to the house that Radcliffe’s character is visiting. Can Radcliffe’s character figure out who this ghost is, what she wants, and how to make her go away for good before something even worse happens?
The Woman in Black scares up its chills more through atmosphere (dark rooms, creaking floorboards, flickering candles, etc.) than mayhem. It’s heavy on impending threat, light on actual gore, a refreshing change from many recent horror films.
Radcliffe acquits himself respectably, successfully making the transition to adult character and father from Harry Potter, his boy wizard. It helps that the 22-year-old star sports a noticeably heavy 5 o’clock shadow through much of the film.
Click here to watch Daniel Radcliffe talking to the BBC on the red carpet at The Woman in Black premiere in London last month.
What’s going to hamper Radcliffe going on, one suspects, is his noticeable lack of height. No matter what angle he is shot from, other actors tower over him.
He has officially given his height as 5 feet 5-1/2 inches, but he sure looked shorter when seen in person prancing around the Broadway stage last year in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Now, plenty of actors of diminutive physical stature have survived in movies and even had major careers. Think of, in ascending order, Mickey Rooney (5 feet 1 inch), Michael J. Fox (5 feet 4-1/2 inches), Joel Grey (5 feet 5 inches), Dustin Hoffman (5 feet 5-1/2 inches) and Tom Cruise (5 feet 7 inches).
Of this group, Radcliffe would probably be smartest to map his own career based on that of Fox or Hoffman. He should look for challenging parts, whether leading man or character roles, and polish his comedy chops. And he should keep returning to the stage, where he is a huge draw and, as he showed in How to Succeed, his likeability factor and obviously willingness to work extraordinarily hard make up for whatever he may lack in natural dancing and singing abilities.
Next up for Radcliffe, he begins shooting on Kill Your Darlings, a film about the Beat Generation poets. He is to play Allen Ginsberg. Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), the younger sister of Full House twins and fashion designers Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, co-stars. (For video of the younger Olsen raving about getting to work with Radcliffe, click here.)
Do you want to see Radcliffe in The Woman in Black?