The Harry Potter books and movies don’t shy away from the realities of death. And the list of deceased characters in the series is a tragically long one. Spoiler alert: important and beloved folk such as Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Cedric Diggory, Dobby the house elf and Fred Weasley all ultimately pass away. Now, though, Daniel Radcliffe – the man who brought Harry Potter to life – has talked about which death he personally found most painful.
Ever since he was a child, Radcliffe has been the face of the Harry Potter franchise. At the age of 11, the young actor clinched the role of the boy wizard in the first film adaptation of the massively popular book series. He would continue playing Potter until 2011, with the part ending up shaping the rest of his life and career.
Radcliffe got to work among some huge names on the sets of the Harry Potter movies too. By the end of the series he’d acted alongside individuals such as Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman. And, of course, by then he was a famous movie star in his own right.
“I think to a certain extent it’s true that Harry will stick to me,” the young actor told Parade magazine in 2010. “I think in a lot of people’s minds I will always be him.” He added, “I don’t think I’m being typecast so far. But I would never be anything but proud to be associated with [the Harry Potter] series forever.”
Yet although the original movie series has ended, the story of Harry Potter and the wizarding world actually continues. A prequel movie series without Potter in it, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, began in 2016. And a sequel play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, debuted in the same year – though Radcliffe sat that one out as well.
Instead, Radcliffe kept himself busy with different acting work after Harry Potter ended. Most notably, he has appeared on the big screen in the likes of Swiss Army Man and Now You See Me 2 as well as treading the boards in London and New York City. However, the star has also appeared to be happy to talk about the Harry Potter movies whenever the occasion has arisen.
In October 2018, for instance, Radcliffe gave an interview to BuzzFeed in which he discussed the films and his feelings about them. And in the video entitled “Daniel Radcliffe Plays With Puppies While Answering Fan Questions” – in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month – he revealed some tidbits that Potterheads may never have known.
One question put to Radcliffe was, “Did you keep anything from the Harry Potter set?” And as it turned out, the actor had walked away with the boy wizard’s famous eyewear. “I did keep the glasses… I kept one pair of glasses, and, I think, a few other bits and pieces and props that I stole along the way,” he said.
After that came the question, “What death in Harry Potter was the hardest for you to get over?” And despite the fact that there were so many to choose from, Radcliffe knew his answer immediately. “Sirius, definitely,” he said, referring to his on-screen godfather Sirius Black, portrayed by Gary Oldman.
Radcliffe explained, “At the time, I didn’t know if I’d be working with Gary Oldman again, and that was very sad. And I adored Gary, and working with him was an incredibly formative experience in my life. The character’s death just comes so out of the blue as well.”
Radcliffe has spoken before about his time on set with Oldman. In 2007 – before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released – he talked to Rotten Tomatoes about Oldman’s apparent method acting, mentioning a particular occasion that called for a degree of intensity. “[Oldman] grabbed me and shook me violently for 30 seconds while screaming at me,” Radcliffe recalled. “And then he sort of backed away slowly, and… I just started to cry.”
“It was this really weird thing, but [Oldman] obviously knew it would work,” Radcliffe went on. “I don’t know if he’s done it to people in the past, but certainly it worked then.” Then, in 2012 Radcliffe opened up about a problem that had plagued him throughout his adolescence – and how he’d turned to Oldman for help.
In particular, Radcliffe revealed that he’d had a problem with alcohol during shooting for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “The drinking was unhealthy and damaging to my body and my social life. That’s beyond question,” he told Shortlist magazine. “I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them [and] what I might have done with them, so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone.”
And Oldman himself had fought against alcohol addiction in his younger years. “I did talk to [Oldman] about it once. I didn’t say I had a problem – because I didn’t think I did at that point. But I told him I shared that mentality he had for actively seeking out chaos,” Radcliffe said to Shortlist.
“[Oldman] just said, ‘You can’t keep doing this. You’ve got too much to lose,’” the young actor went on. “And that really went in. But not even he could have stopped me alone; I had to stop myself. And stopping has shown me a world of happiness that I didn’t think was possible.” Now, Radcliffe is sober and glad that he managed to kick his addiction.
Radcliffe also mentioned Oldman in a 2016 interview with Thrillist, entitled “My Happiest Freaking Moments Ever.” There, he said, “Gary Oldman taught me the bass line to [The Beatles’] ‘Come Together’ one day. I was learning bass at the time, and he plays bass. I went in one morning – I was 14 – and just looked up to him so much. He had his bass in there and was teaching me the thing. That was amazing.”
So, it’s perhaps no surprise that Radcliffe remembers Oldman’s on-screen death with sadness – even many years later. Potter fans likewise expressed their feelings in the comments section of the BuzzFeed video. “Sirius was my most favorite Harry Potter guardian too. I’m sad that he died,” one person wrote. “That was also the hardest for me to get over when Sirius Black died,” another said.
But perhaps Sirius may show up in one of the Harry Potter prequels and so give fans a little more time with him. Younger versions of already established characters have already shown up in those movies, after all. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, for instance, showcases a young Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, played by Jude Law and Johnny Depp, respectively.
Meanwhile, The Cursed Child, which features an older Harry Potter dealing with parenthood, is still showing on Broadway. Radcliffe has said, however, that he’s not sure if he would ever star in a film version of the play. “I really don’t know. I think that’s all highly theoretical talk,” he told Good Morning Britain in 2017. “If it was to become more than theoretical, I would, of course, think about it.”
And although Sirius Black will never be part of the older Harry Potter’s life, he does live on in the name of one of the wizard’s children: James Sirius Potter. Fans of Harry and Sirius – and of their respective actors’ relationship both on and off screen – can at least take solace in that knowledge.