“Howzit?”, Hand Doubles, and Hand Molds: Daniel Radcliffe Talks “Escape from Pretoria”

Escape from Pretoria has officially launched on Amazon Prime Video today. Starring Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, the story is based on activist and writer Tim Jenkin’s autobiographical novel about his real experience and escape from a prison in the 1970s. Radcliffe had his work cut out with a South African accent and a script peppered with pronunciation landmines. Talking to BBC Radio 1’s film critic Ali Plumb in a Zoom interview, he discussed what it was like to film the movie with Jenkin on the set as well as a handy hand double. Additionally, he revealed what strange kind of skeletons from the Harry Potter sets you can find in his attic to this day.

Before Radcliffe even got to acting out Jenkin’s prison days and painstaking escape, he ran into a metatextual trap. It was the accent. “One of the first lines I have in the film is – and I can’t do the accent now but – ‘The car’s parked 250 yards down the road,'” he remembered, in hindsight laughing about the famously difficult sentence to master in the South African accent. “They know, and they’re trying to set traps!”

 

Ian Hart and Daniel Radcliffe are sitting facing each other at a prison table. They are wearing grey uniforms and seem to be having a tense conversation.

Ian Hart as Denis Goldberg and Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin in “Escape from Pretoria”

 

Although Radcliffe’s mother was born in South Africa and he had briefly holidayed and worked there beforehand, he came to the realization that the apartheid is very recent history only while shooting Escape from Pretoria. He explained that even Jenkin’s prison break tactics as seen in the movie were subject to his White privilege despite the already grim circumstances:

Look, obviously, it’s one person’s perspective, and it’s a White person’s perspective, but it was still a very interesting look at the details of everyday life, and even the details of how they escaped, through a lens of their Whiteness. Because he [Jenkin] was just like, ‘We wouldn’t have been able to do this if we were Black.’ One of the things they obviously did is they snuck money into the prison to start off with. They would not have been able to do that if they were Black because the searches that Black people were put through were so much more invasive and honestly humiliating than [those] White people were [put through]. So it’s a fascinating thing to think about. Even as they were going to prison, they were still super lucky to be White.

Without spoiling the movie for those who have yet to stream it as of today, Radcliffe had to act out several tricky stages of the escape. He gave a shout-out to his hand double, James, without whose help they would not have made the deadlines. Handy!

 

Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber in a scene from "Escape from Pretoria".

Daniel Webber as Stephen Lee and Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin in “Escape from Pretoria”

 

Rounding off the interview with quick-fire questions about Radcliffe’s whole career, the hand theme continued:

I mean, I’ve got a bunch of stuff from Potter. I’ve got a couple of sets of the glasses. I’ve got, actually, somewhere… I don’t know where this is in that I don’t have it. I think it’s in my parents’ house, I guess. Maybe in the attic. What a weird thing for someone to find in the attic one day: I’ve got a prosthetic arm that was molded for me in the scene where Harry lost all the bones in his arm. So I’ve got a big floppy arm in my attic and also a mold of my face that was taken when I was ten or eleven, which looks like a death mask. So they’re around somewhere.

Brr! That’s the stuff of horror movies. But luckily, Radcliffe is made of sterner stuff and he didn’t need his hand held when he tapped into his fighting spirit in Escape from Pretoria. Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video, or start with the full interview below as a warm-up.

 

 

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Dora Bodrogi

I am a writer, a critic, a researcher, a traveler, and a Ravenclaw through and through. My main fields of interest are representation, gender, and LGBTQ fiction, history, and censorship. Incorrigible doodler and theatre kid.