To say that Daniel Radcliffe is outspoken about what he believes in would be an understatement. On screen, the former Harry Potter star is known for playing characters as varied as Allen Ginsberg, beat poet, and Igor, Victor Frankenstein's sidekick, and off-screen, Radcliffe is known for his activism, supporting charities like Get Connected UK, Demelza House, and the Trevor Project. So, it's no real surprise that Radcliffe disapproves of how Hollywood treats women, in terms of the roles they get and the stories they get to tell. But if you'd forgotten, for a moment, why you love the actor, his words will certainly remind you.
"Obviously, [Hollywood is lacking] stories from women of color," Radcliffe says, when we speak before the release of his new film Beasts of Burden. "If you talk about areas of the industry that are underrepresented, that is an area that the whole industry could stand with getting better at."
That's an understatement. When the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film published their annual study examining the amount of women working behind the scenes on the 250 top films of 2017, they found that only 18 percent of the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers were women. And this was an improvement on 2016, which boasted 17 percent.
The dearth of women behind the scenes is something that Radcliffe has very recently been thinking about. In addition to Beasts of Burden, which will be released on Feb. 23, the actor was recently cast as the lead in Miracle Workers, a TBS comedy about two angels who try to convince God not to destroy the earth if they can help two people fall in love. That project was eye-opening for Radcliffe, in more ways than one.
"On the TV show that I just did, I worked with a female director called Ryan Case who is amazing. [But] it suddenly occurred to me on my second day of filming with her that I’ve been doing this since I was nine — so that’s like 19 years now — and she’s the first female director I’ve worked with on screen," he says. "And that is crazy. When I actually step back, that is an insane thing."
Because the thing is, Radcliffe isn't just interested in more female characters being added to the big screen and the small screen. (While the top three highest grossing films of 2017 — The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman — were all women-led, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that female protagonists only made up 24 percent of the top 100 grossing films of 2017 — 5 percent less than in 2016.) The actor is also interested in women getting the chance to write and direct women — like Patty Jenkins did to amazing effect when directing Wonder Woman or like Greta Gerwig did when writing the screenplay for Lady Bird.
"I think an area that we can get a lot better at is telling women’s stories and women telling their own stories rather than dudes writing women’s stories," Radcliffe says. "Obviously, men are always going to write female characters. I’m not saying that can’t happen. But the writer’s room on [Miracle Workers] was about 50-50 gender wise, I think, [and] that was a refreshing change."
And the actor seems to be as disappointed in himself, just as he is in the industry as a whole. "This should not be something that I am noticing now and going, 'oh my god, this is so unusual,'" he says. "This should just be run of the mill. That would definitely be something that I hope that we are getting better at."
It may be too late for 2017, but between Lady Bird's Oscar nomination, Patty Jenkins closing a reportedly lucrative deal to direct Wonder Woman 2, and Ava DuVernay's $100 million budget blockbuster A Wrinkle In Time due to be released this year, there's still hope for 2018. And you can bet that Radcliffe will be watching to see if Hollywood delivers.