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Daniel Radcliffe: Harry Potter Had a Drinking Problem
(Novus writes inspirational stories of people in the news who have overcome addiction. This is not to infer that these people are connected to Novus Medical Detox Center but simply to provide hope and encouragement to those fighting addiction.)
Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling, from 1997 through 2007. The wildly popular novels follow the life of young wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
All three are students at “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” a fictional school located in a magically-invisible land somewhere in England.
The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against the feared and dreaded Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who seeks to become immortal and to overthrow the peace-keeping Ministry of Magic and subjugate all wizards and perhaps the entire world to his fiendish powers.
The Harry Potter series broke all sorts of first-day sales records. And the movies based on the books broke box office records everywhere. Taken together, the books and movies made author J.K.Rowling world famous and more than $1 billion, securing a place for her in the historical pantheon of legendary writers.
It also made the three young actors who starred in the Harry Potter films famous and stunningly wealthy as well. With an estimated $110 million, Radcliffe netted considerably more than his two co-stars, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
A different reality
One surprising revelation about the Harry Potter movies that doesn’t require the casting of spells or waving of a wand concerns the main star, Daniel Radcliffe.
It’s been several years since Radcliffe first revealed his secret, but it still comes as news to some fans to learn that young wizard-in-training Harry Potter was frequently under the influence while on set – and not of magic spells, but of alcohol.
Now 26, the actor is openly candid about his struggles with alcohol, saying that he had a real problem with alcohol and that it could have cost him his career, or even his life. During the filming, Radcliffe says he was often drunk while shooting scenes.
“I can honestly say I never drank at work on Harry Potter. I went into work still drunk, but I never drank at work … I can point to many scenes where I’m just gone. Dead behind the eyes,” he told Heat magazine in back in 2012.
From cigarettes to alcohol
Radcliffe asserted his independence from his parents at the age of 17 because he had started smoking and had to hide it from his family. “I felt entitled,” he has said, and left home to manage his own life. “I can be honest about this now, because I know my parents know. I wanted to smoke. I was hiding it like a fiend.”
From cigarettes to alcoholism isn’t a common path to alcohol addiction. But for Radcliffe, it was a straight ride to the bottle.
He says that the “pressure of being in the spotlight” contributed to his drinking problem. He turned to alcohol to cope with the pressures of fame and potential failure. And after filming all eight movies, his drinking only got worse.
“It’s the pressure of living with the thought, ‘Oh, what if all these people are saying I am not going to have a career? What if they are all going to be right and will be laughing and I will be consigned to a bunch of “Where are they now?” lists?'”
He said that going out to a dance or a club meant camera phones coming out. “That would make me very self-conscious, and what’s the easiest way to escape being self-conscious? Alcohol is a quick way of doing that. I became a nuisance – I became the person in the group who has to be looked after.”
Drinking at home alone
“The drinking was unhealthy and damaging to my body and my social life,” he told ShortList magazine. “That’s beyond question. I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done with them – so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic – it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person and it turned me into a rude bore.”
He also says he became rather adept at hiding his drinking problem from “the ever-present paparazzi” – even while living in New York and starring on Broadway in Equus.
Radcliffe describes how blacking out after drinking became routine. “Blacking out was my thing,” he says. Costar Gary Oldman once cautioned him “You can’t keep doing this. You’ve got too much to lose.”
Then he hit rock bottom in August, 2010, after a night of drinking which caused yet another black out. This time, he woke up with bruises, but with no idea what had happened the night before. That’s when the reality hit home. He knew he had a problem.
“For a long time people were saying to me, ‘We think you have a problem,’ but in the end I had to come to the realization myself.”
No regrets and a future assured
Sober and a teetotaler since that incident in 2010, Radcliffe says he’s enjoying his life more than ever. And in an interesting observation, he says it’s easier to stay away from booze in America than it is in England, where the drinking culture is wider and more profound.
In the UK, alcohol is always the social drink. But in the US, people actually go out and have conversations over coffee together – something far less common in England.
“Even at work,” he says, “people in America go, ‘Hey, do you want to go out for a coffee?’ ‘What? Yeah, I suppose I do.’ That’s what I can do now. It’s very different.”
A whole new generation is growing up and into the Harry Potter movies, which could mean more years of being Harry Potter to kids on the street. With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a fortune in the bank, and a future filled with promise and healthful sobriety, Radcliffe wisely says he has no regrets about his Harry Potter experience in spite of the stresses and problems it engendered.
“People don’t shout ‘Harry Potter’ at me now, they tend to know my name, which is lovely,” Radcliffe says. “But I always will credit the opportunities I get to Harry Potter. I would not be a happy person if I was bitter about those 10 years of my life.”
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