Daniel Radcliffe continues post 'Harry Potter'-transformation with new role in 'Jungle'

The "Harry Potter" star plays a man who gets lost in the Amazon rain forest.

October 20, 2017, 2:03 PM
PHOTO: Daniel Radcliffe in "Jungle."
Daniel Radcliffe in "Jungle."
Momentum Pictures

— -- Daniel Radcliffe is apparently proud to shed his boy-wizard image.

When a reporter suggested that his new film, "Jungle," is nothing like "Harry Potter," he replied, "Thank you."

It's a porthole into how the actor, made famous by J.K. Rowling's iconic character, thinks about his film choices now.

Since the final "Harry Potter" installment, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," premiered onscreen in 2011, the British actor has happily shied away from roles that could even offer up a simple comparison.

He played a medical school drop out who falls in love with his best friend in "What If?" He then starred as a man who must use his newly found paranormal abilities to uncover his girlfriend's killer in "Horns." In "The Woman in Black," he portrayed a widowed lawyer searching for answers, and we saw the actor take on the role of poet Allen Ginsberg in "Kill Your Darlings."

PHOTO: Daniel Radcliffe at the Tommy Hilfiger Dinner in celebration of the 12th Zurich Film Festival, Sept. 30, 2016, in Zurich, Switzerland.
Daniel Radcliffe at the Tommy Hilfiger Dinner in celebration of the 12th Zurich Film Festival, Sept. 30, 2016, in Zurich, Switzerland.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Now in "Jungle," in theaters and On Demand today, Radcliffe is taking on another real-life role -- that of Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg.

"It’s a true story," the actor told ABC News. "Yossi Ghinsberg, who went to South America as many people do to travel and have an adventure, found himself going deep into the jungle when somebody presented him with the opportunity."

Radcliffe added that his character eventually did trek into the Amazon rain forest, only to be separated from his friends "and had to survive on his own for three weeks."

The actor said he was drawn to Ghinsberg's story after reading the script adaptation of the adventurer's 2005 memoir of the same name.

"It is so hard to crush a person's will to survive and it so hard to make a person give up on their lives," Radcliffe said.

It's hard to tell if Radcliffe is referring to himself or not.

PHOTO: Jungle
Momentum Pictures

The actor did admit, however, that in his post-Potter life he's had to "imagine starting again" or "starting from scratch."

"Some directors shied away from me. Other directors were intrigued by it and the opportunity presented," Radcliffe continued. "I think I’ve been really lucky and people have given me really interesting opportunities to do interesting and different work."

Radcliffe underwent a dramatic weight loss to prepare to play Ghinsberg, often eating white fish for lunch, which he drenched in hot sauce to give it a bit of flavor, and a protein bar for dinner. In between meals, he'd treat himself to coffee with milk "and a lot of sweetener," he said.

People everywhere are surviving everyday. This film is an example of how far you can push.

Off camera, Radcliffe kept busy. After meeting with Ghinsberg, he'd listen to the same music the adventurer listened to and read the same books Ghinsberg had read during that terrifying period. Radcliffe then worked on perfecting Ghinsberg's accent, which is Israeli mixed with a bit of Romanian.

"He may be short, but small he is not," Ghinsberg told ABC News of the actor portraying him onscreen. "He’s a big man. A really big man."

Ghinsberg, 58, said he was charmed by Radcliffe's dedication to getting his story right.

"He takes his job very, very seriously...and he's very hardworking and he doesn’t have to be," Ghinsberg said. "He does it for his passion. He does it for his art. The things he went though in order to become Yossi ... it's flattering that someone went through all the trouble."

In one particular scene that's hard to watch, Radcliffe uses a knife to dig out a parasite from his head.

Ghinsberg said in reality, he found 14 parasites in his head during his trek in the Bolivian jungle. Director Greg McLean naturally took some creative licenses in the movie.

"It’s excruciating pain, but it was more painful to have them inside because they eat you from under your skin," Ghinsberg recalled. "Initially I didn’t know what it was until I popped the first one."

It was this strength, and more, that attracted Radcliffe to the project in hopes of inspiring others who might be dealing with their own parasites -- literally or figuratively.

"People everywhere are surviving everyday. This film is an example of how far you can push," Radcliffe said.

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