The Tragedy of Comedy — Daniel Radcliffe Returns to Broadway in Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan

By Ruth Leon
04 May 2014

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe
Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Film and stage star Daniel Radcliffe discusses taking on the demanding title role in the Broadway production of The Cripple of Inishmaan.


Daniel Radcliffe thinks. He thinks deeply about what he's doing and why he's doing it. He may only be 24 but he's been a star since he was 11, and he knows exactly how he wants to move forward and what it will take to get where he is going.

"I didn't just want to be famous, I wanted to be an actor," he professed during a delightful and wide-ranging conversation about his latest challenge, playing the title role in The Cripple of Inishmaan at Broadway's Cort Theatre.

He has just arrived in New York for rehearsals with his director, Michael Grandage, and the rest of the cast of this Martin McDonagh play set in the west of Ireland on the Isle of Aran in 1934 when an American film company arrives to make the documentary that became Man of Aran. His character, Billy, has cerebral palsy ("it's a particular form of cerebral palsy," said Radcliffe, who has researched the illness thoroughly, fluently pronouncing the medical name for it), and is accustomed to being dismissed and maltreated by everyone on the tiny island. He is routinely and casually the butt of jokes and the touchstone for the entire community's frustrations. His body is distorted, he has a deformed arm and leg, and his head is set sideways on his body. Poor Billy is a physical mess. "He's outwardly a cripple, but he's more mentally agile... than anyone else on the island." Billy, despite his infirmities, is determined to get a part in the film.

And how does the physically agile and strong Radcliffe manage the physical demands of being folded almost in half for the whole play? "It's something that your body has to get used to, and builds up the strength to do. It's something I was keen to get right. When I played it in London I had months to adjust, but this time it's harder because I've been filming 'Frankenstein' right up to this week and my character is hunchback. So, different physical challenges, but both characters are similarly abused."

Wait a minute, did he say a hunchback? What makes an actor take on harder and harder roles and increasingly demanding physical challenges? Why? He could easily go from rom-com to light comedy to undemanding young leading man parts?


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