“I met some really key people, some actors, some of them not, who just gave me great advice and really cared for me.”
Daniel Radcliffe was 11 the year he was cast as Harry Potter.
The then-unknown actor had only one other credit to his name when he landed the leading role in what would become a hugely successful eight film franchise. He was only 11 and new to the industry, and yet he was forced to shoulder the burden of this massive undertaking, alongside his co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
In a new interview, Radcliffe has revealed that his unhealthy coping mechanisms for the pressure of the role and the intense scrutiny of the spotlight included alcohol dependence.
“The quickest way to forget about the fact that you were being watched was to get very drunk,” Radcliffe told Off Camera with Sam Jones in the US. “Then as you get very drunk you become aware, ‘Oh people are watching more now because now I’m getting very drunk so I should probably drink more to ignore that more.”
He might have been a wildly successful and wealthy actor, starring in the most popular film franchise of the time, but Radcliffe explained that none of that mattered when it came to his mental health.
Some people even suggested to Radcliffe that he had no right to be struggling, because “you have a great job, you’re wealthy, you don’t have a right to not be excited about the thing all the time,” the actor explained.
“I think that’s a pressure as well,” Radcliffe continue. “You suddenly start to feel, ‘Man, if I am just feeling the human emotion of sadness, does that mean I’m doing this wrong? Am I not good at being famous?’”
Radcliffe quit alcohol in 2010 after filming wrapped on the final Harry Potter film. “I have been unbelievably lucky with the people I had around me at certain times in my life,” Radcliffe said. “I met some really key people, some actors, some of them not, who just gave me great advice and really cared for me.”
“It was just my own decision,” Radcliffe added. “I woke up one morning after a night going, ‘This is probably not good.’”
This is an important lesson on the nature of addiction: that there is no cure. You have to want to get better, and that you have to work towards that goal. It is a long-term, progressive illness that, while treatable, has no quick-fix cure. Recovery is a lifelong commitment.
Speaking to The Telegraph in 2016, Radcliffe admitted that sobriety has been a long and difficult journey at times, with a relapse in 2012.
“I change when I’m drunk. I’m one of those people who changes,” Radcliffe explained. “There is something in any person who drinks in a way that’s clearly not good for them, something that is attracted to that chaos.”
Since becoming sober, Radcliffe said he had regained his love of reading. “I was a really voracious reader in my teens and that was one of the things I found drinking took away from me, bizarrely, as a side effect,” he said. “I didn’t have the compulsion or energy to read anything. So I’ve got that back.”
If you are struggling with addiction, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. In the US, contact the National Drug Helpline at 1-888-633-3239.
Images: Getty, Warner Bros