Being the world’s most famous child actor is not an easy job. It has its rewards, but life cannot be ordinary for the boy who plays Harry Potter. And for Daniel Radcliffe, it posed challenges for which he felt unprepared. He found a way to cope, but in the end it wasn’t doing him any good.
Radcliffe first played the young spellcaster in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It wasn’t his first film – he’d been seen on the big screen in The Tailor of Panama – but it brought him unprecedented exposure. The film was a huge success, raking in not far short of a billion dollars at the box office. And seven more enormously popular films in the Harry Potter series would follow.
The level of fame that the Harry Potter series brought to Radcliffe was astonishing, and as he explained to TV show Off Camera with Sam Jones, “There’s not a blueprint to get somebody through that.” And he described how he felt he should feel “delighted” all the time. He said, “You have a great job, you’re wealthy, you don’t have a right to not be excited about the thing all the time,” the actor said.
But Radcliffe struggled with the pressure and found a destructive way to deal with it. He told Off Camera, “In my case, the quickest way to forget about the fact that you’re being watched is to get very drunk. And then as you get very drunk, you become aware that ‘Oh, people are watching more now because now I’m getting very drunk, so I should probably drink more to ignore that more.’”
Radcliffe never drank while filming, but he confessed to U.K. magazine Heat that he did turn up on set drunk. He said, “I went into work still drunk, but I never drank at work. I can point to many scenes where I’m just gone. Dead behind the eyes.” Luckily for the young actor, he proved able to turn back from substance abuse, giving up alcohol in 2010.