In every interview with Daniel Radcliffe, there’s That Moment.
One minute the British actor is talking enthusiastically about his latest project – in this case, “What If,” the first romantic comedy of his 14-year movie career, in theaters Friday; and then without warning ... yup, here comes the “Harry Potter” question.
But he doesn’t try to avoid the topic, doesn’t tense up, doesn’t cringe.
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“Everyone thinks I’m going to, and I really don’t,” says Radcliffe, 25, star of eight films about a certain boy wizard that comprise the most successful movie franchise ever. “The thing I say to people is, for me never to talk about ‘Harry Potter’ again, it would have to mean I would never talk about anything that happened between the age of 11 and 21 in my life.
“I love those years, I love those films. I don’t love watching those films, but I love those films. And I love everything it gave me. It gave me a sense of belonging, it gave me a sense of community, and a sense of what I wanted to do with my life.”
Since wrapping the saga with 2011’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” Radcliffe has blazed a bold and unpredictable path as an actor: He did the 2012 horror movie “The Woman in Black,” portrayed poet Allen Ginsberg in last year’s “Kill Your Darlings,” and plays a man who sprouts horns in the fantastical “Horns” (due this Halloween). He has also starred in three Broadway shows and a darkly comic British TV series.
“What If” – which stars Radcliffe as an unlucky-in-love med school dropout who forms an instant bond with a woman who already has a boyfriend – is arguably the smallest of his post-“Potter” projects, and unquestionably the sweetest.
That woman is played by Zoe Kazan, an actress Radcliffe met about four years ago in a fashion vaguely similar to how their characters meet: In the film, they strike up a conversation at a house party, only to learn his old college roommate is her cousin; in real life, they met through a friend at an Irish pub in New York.
Though Kazan has a boyfriend (actor Paul Dano) and Radcliffe has a girlfriend (actress Erin Darke), the pair clicked as friends, and the result was an obvious on-screen chemistry.
“Zoe and I were having this conversation the other day where we were like, ‘Do you think if we had hated each other, the film would have been as good?’ ” Radcliffe says. “And we came to the conclusion it just couldn’t have been, because you wouldn’t have had the same sense of fun arriving all the time that I think runs through the film.”
There are no sex scenes in the PG-13-rated rom-com, but there’s a brief skinny-dipping scene in which Radcliffe and Kazan are glimpsed in the buff (from behind), a moment Radcliffe waves off as not a big deal.
“Compared to other nude scenes I have done, which have sometimes been about losing your virginity (in “Kill Your Darlings”) or blinding horses (in the play “Equus”), this is a very pleasant one,” he says.
Beyond “What If” and “Horns,” Radcliffe has three other films coming, including a top-secret Judd Apatow comedy next summer and an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” in which he’ll play Igor, scheduled for fall 2015.
Radcliffe also says he would like to eventually sign on to either a sports movie or a buddy-cop flick. (“Me and my friends were joking around awhile ago about who would be the best person for me to do a buddy-cop movie with, and we ended up with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.”)
And although he has been decidedly noncommittal about whether he’ll return to the Potter character in the future, he’s happy to talk about its past.
“I still get people coming up to me saying, ‘Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood, and thank you for being such a big part of my childhood,’ ” Radcliffe says. “That doesn’t get old. That’s a lovely thing. I’m very lucky to be associated with such a beloved franchise. Because God knows they aren’t all.”