The entertainment wires have recently been buzzing with impressions of Daniel Radcliffe’s attempts to reinvent himself on Broadway in the 50th anniversary revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. And whilst reception of Radcliffe’s first musical role has been mixed to positive, he’s no stranger to reinvention on the stage after a spell in Equus in 2007 through 2008.
Reinventing yourself after being typecast for a decade is clearly not an easy task. By the time the second part of The Deathly Hallows is released, Daniel Radcliffe will have been Harry Potter in more films than either Sean Connery or Roger Moore were James Bond and will have also portrayed the character for more years than any one actor portrayed Doctor Who. But unlike these franchises, the possibility for reinvention of the role seems minimal: No matter what roles Daniel Radcliffe has as his career progresses, Harry Potter will probably ‘be’ Daniel Radcliffe for as long as the character is remembered.
He’s not the first to face up to the reinvention problem, but his managed approach throughout his career so far almost seems to suggest that he’s all too aware of how it has gone for other blockbuster stars. So how has reinvention gone in the past? Well, let’s take a look-see…
The Bad: Star Wars ‘Ruins’ Careers
Looking for a modern parallel to Daniel Radcliffe’s career isn’t easy: there are actually fewer springboard blockbuster series than you’d think. But perhaps the most important film series of all throws up an interesting contrast and compare, if not a warning of things to come. I refer of course to Star Wars. The series cemented the reputation of co-star Harrison Ford and provided late career highlights for Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness (though in Guinness’ case the highlight was undoubtedly the 2% share of the box office gross that he received). But its young stars – Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher – would struggle to find big roles in Hollywood once the film trilogy was completed.
The success of the films was their downfall. In a world where actors are accosted in the street and publically condemned for acts their characters have performed in even the most trite of British soap opera storylines, Mark Hamill was completely unable to sell himself as anything but Luke Skywalker. Carrie Fisher had slightly more success, but struggled with a cocaine habit and a lack of further blockbuster success.
When the subject of reinvention comes up, these two are regularly brought up and honestly, it’s worth acknowledging that neither has been exactly short of work since their Star Wars days. Intriguingly, Mark Hamill’s absence from film after Return of the Jedi wasn’t an entirely dry period: like Daniel Radcliffe now, Hamill attempted a Broadway reinvention with starring roles in Amadeus and the Elephant Man. However, he is now best known for a catalogue of voice acting roles, spanning cartoons, anime cinema and video games.
The Good: Reinvention For The Fun Of It
Hugh Laurie’s reinvention as Doctor Gregory House has been of a most shocking character for most Brits. There’s two reasons for this: firstly because his American accent was so convincing that Executive Producer Bryan Singer assumed that he was American. But most importantly, Laurie’s reinvention was shocking because I don’t think anyone in the UK actually realised he needed to reinvent himself.
Hugh Laurie is something of a national treasure by association. His comedy partnership with Stephen Fry goes on paying dividends despite the fact that the pair haven’t done any substantial work together since Jeeves and Wooster (which ended in 1993). Consequently, it’s easy to forget that Hugh Laurie’s career through the mid nineties to mid noughties wasn’t actually all that great. In fact, with Laurie taking various oddball roles in various kids movies (Including the live action 101 Dalmatians, which I still can’t forgive for having racoons and molasses in Kent) you’d be forgiven for thinking that his career was winding down.
Reinvention for Laurie was more of a necessity than we’d care to admit then, but you get the impression that he did it for the love of it, and because he wanted to be tested as an actor. Here’s the thing though: with House ongoing and even Laurie voice over roles parodying the role, will he have to reinvent himself again to stay in the game?
Steph Wood is a blogger and copywriter currently writing on behalf of Vanquis a bank offering Credit Cards and credit advice.
- 17 Actors Who Successfully Reinvented Themselves (popcrunch.com)
- Daniel Radcliffe Has His ‘Harry Potter’ Costars’ Support On Broadway, So Why Don’t They Join Him? (moviesblog.mtv.com)