The Woman in Black set visit 0
You might have vaguely recognised the man on the other side of a soundstage at Pinewood Studios last Christmas. Dressed in an impeccably tailored three-piece suit and standing at a police sergeant’s desk as he pieces an eerie puzzle together in his mind, you might have remembered Daniel Radcliffe as the boy who grew up in eight of the biggest and most bombastic blockbusters of all time.
But as Radcliffe makes his first big-screen outing since Potter’s end, there’s precious little to recognise about the quiet, still and withdrawn character he’s playing in The Woman in Black. Drawn from the novel by Susan Hill – most remembered for its ever-popular stage adaptation – Radcliffe’s character, Arthur Kipps, couldn’t be further removed from the adolescent adventurer of the Potter series.
For a start, Arthur is a father, struggling to deal with his wife’s untimely death and forced to confront his own mortality when he’s sent to a creepy coastal village and encounters a ghostly figure dressed all in black. ”Kipps doesn’t have the capacity for happiness,” explains Radcliffe. “And he’s struggling to hold down his job. When we meet him at the beginning, he really is a man on the edge.”
And while Potter might have been all nervous energy and emotional ups and downs, Arthur Kipps is not the sort of man who wears his heart on his sleeve. “There’s a real stillness to him,” Radcliffe says. “Everything has that sort of Victorian, English withheld quality.”
This isn’t, then, a small shift of pace for the 21-year-old actor, as much as it’s a page-one rewrite. “It’s a reinvention of Dan, as Dan the grown-up actor,” says director James Watkins (Eden Lake). “I think he’s really excavated and explored aspects of himself and pushed himself as an actor in really different ways.”
The latest in a string of productions for the newly revitalised Hammer Films, The Woman in Black is steeped in the traditions Victorian ghost stories that stretch right back to the era itself, but screenwriter Jane Goldman says she took her inspiration from an unlikely source. “The story is both unashamedly scary and full of this real, emotional depth,” she reveals. “And in adapting it I kept coming back to some of the better examples of J-Horror in recent years.”
The Japanese horror genre, popularised by the likes of The Grudge and The Ring, may not be instantly identifiable with the tenets of Victorian ghost stories, but Watkins says the marriage has worked well. ““Intersecting the period world with the J-Horror world was very interesting and fresh,” he explains. “The film has a very rich look with these kinds of of bruised colours. The colours of decay and death: purples and blacks and rich, deep crimsons.”
And with a cast rounded out by the likes of Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer and Shaun Dooley, expect plenty of depth to the inhabitants of the dark village at the story’s heart. “Through the process of casting them we did some work in rehearsal with Jane, just trying to excavate those peripheral roles a little bit more,” says Watkins. “I wanted each character to have a small story to tell, really.”
Still, for all the adjustments Radcliffe is making as he abandons the orbit of Potter, TF points out that Harry and Arthur share a certain sense of the tragic with one another. He laughs. “[Potter director] Chris Columbus said when I was eleven that I’ve got sad eyes. That’s, I think, largely why I tend to play such sad, lonely characters. My mind has a capacity for melodrama!”