Daniel Radcliffe’s new movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ (in UK cinemas on 30 September) caused quite a stir when it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, but not for the reasons they were hoping for.
Reports from the indie film festival suggested that dozens of people had walked out of the film’s premiere, with Variety saying that “a continuous stream of audience members” headed for the door before it had even finished, and thus the the film’s reputation as “that farting corpse” movie was cemented for eternity.
However Radcliffe – who plays the farting corpse in the film (no, really) – says those reports were exaggerated.
“It’s really boring what actually happened at Sundance,” Radcliffe explained to Yahoo Movies, “The film went up half an hour late. It’s a film festival where people are going to a lot of films per day and have to race off to another screening, and a lot of people are there to buy films. And I think probably there are a certain amount of people who within the first 10 minutes of this film go, ‘my studio and my boss is not going to be interested in this, I can go’.
“So I think that’s what it was. It was maybe 20 people out of a few hundred [Editor: the film was shown at a 1269 capacity venue], but it was definitely not the mass walkouts that was written about.”
Despite what the former Harry Potter star says, ‘Swiss Army Man’ is likely to be divisive; it’s certainly one of the weirdest movies you’ll to see all year. Radcliffe plays Manny, a corpse that washes up on the beach of a deserted island, where Paul Dano’s castaway Hank is preparing to commit suicide. Within 10 minutes we see Hank riding Manny’s farting corpse like a jet ski across the ocean and, later on, he uses Manny’s erection as a compass.
Despite all the crudity, it’s also surprisingly moving, with the film utilising magic realism to hammer home a very important message about shame and loneliness.
“I think a lot of people who’d gone in to see it in that screening had read the articles coming out the days before calling us an Oscar contender for next year,” adds Radcliffe. “We were like ‘we’re not. We haven’t made that kind of movie’. So I think that they were going in to it expecting something worthy rather than getting something brilliant, but crass.”
Here’s what else we learned about ‘Swiss Army Man’ from Daniel Radcliffe, including why his “boner rig” required some adjustments on set…
Yahoo Movies UK: Farting, boners, naked bums – this role seems like one many other actors may have avoided?
Daniel Radcliffe: Maybe. I think they would be crazy if they avoided it, just because to me when I first read the script I was like ‘this is brilliant’. I think everyone hears about the film and hears bits about it and then thinks it must have been quite a hard sell to get me to do it but it really wasn’t.
I read the script and, yes it was a crazy idea, but I’ve read crazy ideas before that were just s***. And this was a crazy idea that had been executed brilliantly and it was so funny, and it was moving. What I didn’t count on being there was the epic feel that some of those scenes have, against all the odds.
It’s obviously not a good part for someone who’s vain though?
I guess so. Vanity is not something I have too much of a problem with. I think it’s lovely to be able to take the p*** out of yourself. And if a couple of moments get an extra laugh in the cinema because it’s somebody that used to play Harry Potter doing it, I definitely don’t mind that.
When the film premiered at Sundance there were reports of mass walkouts – can you see why? Is it offensive?
It’s definitely not offensive. If you’re offended by that then you must like… I don’t know what happens when you fart yourself.
It’s really boring what actually happened at Sundance. The film went up half an hour late. It’s a film festival where people are going to a lot of films per day and have to race off to another screening, and a lot of people are there to buy films. And I think probably there are a certain amount of people who within the first 10 minutes of this film go, ‘my studio, my boss is not going to be interested in this, I can go’.
So I think that’s what it was. It was maybe 20 people out of a few hundred, but it was definitely not the mass walkouts that was written about.
But by the same token, it meant people were talking about us, and I think a lot of people who’d gone in to see it in that screening had read the articles coming out the days before calling us an Oscar contender for next year. We were like ‘we’re not, we haven’t made that kind of movie’.
So I think that they were going in to it expecting something worthy rather than getting something brilliant, but crass.
It definitely surfs that line…
Definitely, somebody described it as being a Terrence Malick film written by the Farrelly brothers, and that’s pretty close.
The film is full of amazingly weird moments, what was the weirdest to film?
One of the weirdest moments came very early on probably, when Paul [Dano] was using my face to shave, and that was a suggestion of mine. He was running my teeth down the side of his face and then we preset a load of hair in my mouth so that it looked like I had shaved some off.
Then there’s the moment he spat on his hands and rubbed it on my face – I just couldn’t stop laughing.
Then there’s the moment when one of our directors… there were two penis rigs. There was the very, very fancy penis rig that was like animatronic and hydraulic, but before that was ready we just cut a hole in the back of the trousers, and shoved a broom up there, and have someone puppeteer it.
Brilliantly it was one of our directors who was the person that was standing behind me operating it during the take, trying not to hit my balls.
Did you demand a bigger broomstick?
The first time they showed it to me, I said ‘that’s not the right shape’. The silhouette, the line that’s going to create isn’t going to be right, so I did have to give some “bell end tips”. Tips is the right word for that I suppose.
The film is about Paul’s character being on the outside of things, an outsider – do you relate to that in any way?
I don’t feel like… no, not particularly. I don’t feel like I’m on the fringes of society or anything, but also don’t feel like I’m in the midst of it.
I definitely relate to that feeling, I think everyone has felt like that at some point. It’s not how I feel permanently, but I think everybody has felt cut off and isolated at some point. And just like a lot of other things in the film, it’s a very human thing that we’re taught to be ashamed of, and if there is a message in ‘Swiss Army Man’ it’s that shame is what keeps us from love – of ourselves, and of other people.
One day, we’ll all be farting corpses.
Hopefully. That’s a great leveler.
Gemma Arterton has been speaking recently about actors being cast based on their social media following – you don’t do social media – so it is something you’ve come up against?
It’s not, yet. But it’s something that I’ve experienced, when at the other end of stuff, people ask, ‘please get a Twitter account, please start promoting the film on your Twitter’. Does Gemma have them?
She does, but I think someone else looks after it for her, and her point was she didn’t want to live her life on social media to get film roles.
No. And you shouldn’t. I love promoting films, when I believe in them particularly. I love coming here and talking to people like you, and doing shows and all that stuff, it’s part of the job.
I just don’t see that Twitter is part of my job, because that is a personal thing and, yes you can have a professional version of it, but I feel like one day I might want to make an argument – if I have kids for example – I might want to make an argument for my privacy. And if I’ve ever been profiting off my image in that way, then it’s a harder argument to make I suppose.
Also, I would get into fights on Twitter, that’s the reality.
‘Swiss Army Man’ is in cinemas from Friday, 30 September.