ADAM GRAHAM

Surviving Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe rolls on

With two strong turns in theaters now and a third on the way, Daniel Radcliffe is no longer tied to Harry Potter

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Shaved head. White power T-shirt. Nazi salute.

Harry Potter’s not in Hogwarts anymore.

This week, the trailer for the upcoming thriller “Imperium” was splashed across the web, and it features the rather shocking sight of Daniel Radcliffe — aka Harry Potter — in full white supremacist mode.

Turns out Radcliffe is playing an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a skinhead gang. Still, the sight of Radcliffe — trading the lightning bolt on his forehead for a full Nazi get-up — is enough to make Dumbledore roll over in his grave. (Rest in peace, professor, and sorry to everyone else for the decade-old spoiler.)

The role is another sign that Radcliffe, who turns 27 later this month, is all grown up. And it comes as the actor continues to shed his image as the most famous boy wizard in history — which thereby made his mug one of the most recognizable on planet Earth — and take on challenging new roles.

Radcliffe was cast as Harry Potter, the lead character in the filmed versions of J.K. Rowling’s gargantuanly successful series of novels, when he was 11 years old. Over the course of eight movies released between 2001 and 2011, he grew up on screen, the entirety of his teens caught on film during and in between high-flying Quidditch matches. It’s not the easiest position to be in when puberty hits, but the $7.6 billion in global box office helped ease the awkwardness.

When the “Harry Potter” movies ended, Radcliffe began taking on a series of left-of-center roles. He starred in the dreary and forgettable horror film “The Woman in Black” in 2012, played a guy who wakes up with horns protruding from his head in 2013’s “Horns,” and that same year portrayed poet Allen Ginsberg in the offbeat indie “Kill Your Darlings.” It was exciting to see him do unexpected, low-key work rather than jump into the blockbuster fold, but he was still finding his footing.

He had begun to branch out while “Harry Potter” was still going, appearing on Broadway in a production of “Equus” in 2007, which made waves for the actor’s nude scene. He returned to Broadway for a production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” in 2011, which was running the same time the final “Harry Potter” movie was hitting theaters. Building blocks, all.

Now, this summer is proving to be a breakthrough for Radcliffe. He’s the best thing in “Now You See Me 2,” which is faint praise, considering the second best thing in “Now You See Me 2” is the end credits. But Radcliffe, playing a playboy villain, is having a ball on screen, a bright spot in an otherwise lamentable sequel that should have gone straight to TNT.

Radcliffe is also currently starring as a gassy corpse in the wacked-out “Swiss Army Man,” where his character washes ashore and plays spiritual (and physical) guide to Paul Dano’s suicidal drifter character. The movie is never quite sure what it’s trying to get across, but Radcliffe is a near marvel as a pale, half-dead, almost-zombie who teaches Dano’s character lessons about life while learning about the world around him. He’s like Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s” mixed with Forrest Gump.

Now with “Imperium,” opening next month, Radcliffe looks like he might have his most provocative film role yet.

It wasn’t a guarantee he’d get to this point. Childhood stardom more frequently than not ends in disaster, and actors who take on iconic roles often have their entire careers overshadowed by those characters. (Rupert “Ron Weasley” Grint isn’t currently burning up the cineplex, and where is “Twilight” star Taylor Lautner these days?)

Radcliffe’s films aren’t earning tons of money, but then he doesn’t need them to; he’s in it for the long haul, building his credibility in order to sustain a successful career. Looks like the boy wizard still has a little magic left in him.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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