Daniel Jacob Radcliffe (born 23 July 1989) is an English actor who rose to prominence as the title character in the Harry Potter film series. He made his acting debut at 10 years of age in BBC One’s 1999 television film David Copperfield, followed by his cinematic debut in 2001’s The Tailor of Panama. At age 11, he was cast as Harry Potter in the first Harry Potter film, and starred in the series for 10 years until the release of the eighth and final film in 2011.
Radcliffe began to branch out to stage acting in 2007, starring in the London and New York productions of Equus, and in the 2011 Broadway revival of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He starred in the 2012 horror film The Woman in Black, and played beat poet Allen Ginsberg in the 2013 independent film Kill Your Darlings. He has contributed to many charities, including Demelza Hospice Care for Children, and The Trevor Project for suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, which gave him its Hero Award in 2011.
Radcliffe was born in West London, England. He is the only child of Alan George Radcliffe, a literary agent, and Marcia Jeannine Gresham (née Marcia Gresham Jacobson), a casting agent who was involved in several films for the BBC, including The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Walk Away and I Stumble. His father is from “a very working-class” Protestant background in Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland. His mother is Jewish, and was born in South Africa and raised in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. Her family had originally come from Poland and Russia Radcliffe’s parents had both acted as children.
In a 2012 interview, Radcliffe stated: “There was never faith in the house. I think of myself as being Jewish and Irish, despite the fact that I’m English.” He has stated that they were Christmas tree Jews and he is “very proud of being Jewish”.
Radcliffe first expressed a desire to act at the age of five, and in December 1999, aged 10, he made his acting debut in BBC One’s televised two-part adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, portraying the title character as a young boy. He was educated at two independent schools for boys Sussex House School, a day school in Chelsea’s Cadogan Square, and the City of London School, a day school on the North Bank of the River Thames in London’s financial district (known as the City of London). Attending school became difficult for Radcliffe after the release of the first Harry Potter film, with some fellow pupils becoming hostile, though he says it was people just trying to “have a crack at the kid that plays Harry Potter” rather than jealousy.
As his acting career began to consume his schedule, Radcliffe continued his education through on-set tutors. He admitted he was not very good at school, considering it useless and finding the work “really difficult. He achieved A grades in the three AS-level exams that he took in 2006, but decided to take a break from education and did not go to college or university. Part of his reasoning was that he already knew he wanted to act and write, and that it would be difficult to have a normal college experience. “The paparazzi, they’d love it,” he told Details magazine in 2007. “If there were any parties going on, they’d be tipped off as to where they were.
In 2008, Radcliffe revealed that he suffers from a mild form of the neurological disorder developmental coordination disorder. The motor skill disorder sometimes gets so bad that he has trouble doing simple activities, such as writing or tying his own shoelaces. “I was having a hard time at school, in terms of being crap at everything, with no discernible talent,” Radcliffe commented. In August 2010, he stopped drinking alcohol after finding himself becoming too reliant on it.
Radcliffe is an atheist. He has been quoted as saying: “I’m an atheist, and a militant atheist when religion starts impacting on legislation”, and in a separate interview, he stated; “I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do. Anything he does on television, I will watch”.
Radcliffe is a supporter of the Labour Party. Until 2012 Radcliffe had publicly supported the Liberal Democrats, and before the 2010 general election Radcliffe endorsed Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader. In 2012, however, Radcliffe switched his allegiance to Labour, citing disappointment with the performance of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in government, and approving of the Labour leader, Ed Miliband. In September 2015, he endorsed Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 leadership contest to succeed Miliband. He is a supporter of a British republic. At the age of sixteen, Radcliffe became the youngest non-royal ever to have an individual portrait in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG). On 13 April 2006 his portrait, drawn by Stuart Pearson Wright, was unveiled as part of a new exhibition opening at the Royal National Theatre; it was then moved to the NPG where it resides.
In November 2007 Radcliffe published several poems under the pen name Jacob Gershon – a combination of his middle name and the Jewish version of his mother’s maiden name Gresham – in Rubbish, an underground fashion magazine. He has a close friendship with his Harry Potter co-stars Tom Felton and Emma Watson, and is tight-knit with his family, whom he credits for keeping him grounded.
Speaking out against homophobia, Radcliffe began filming public service announcements in 2009 for The Trevor Project, promoting awareness of gay teen suicide prevention. He first learned of the organisation while working on Equus on Broadway in 2008 and has contributed financially to it. “I have always hated anybody who is not tolerant of gay men or lesbians or bisexuals. Now I am in the very fortunate position where I can actually help or do something about it,” he said in a 2010 interview. In the same interview, he spoke of the importance of public figures advocating for equal rights. Radcliffe considers his involvement to be one of the most important things in his career and, for his work for the organisation, he was given the “Hero Award” in 2011.
Radcliffe has supported various charities. He designed the Cu-Bed for Habitat’s VIP Kids range (a cube made of eight smaller ones which can be made into a bed, chaise-longue or chair) with all the royalties from the sale of the bed going directly to his favourite charity, Demelza House Children’s Hospice in Sittingbourne, Kent. Radcliffe has urged his fans to make donations, in lieu of Christmas presents to him, to the charity’s Candle for Care program. In 2008 he was among several celebrities who donated their old glasses to an exhibit honouring victims of the Holocaust. During the Broadway run of Equus he auctioned off a pair of jeans he wore in the show for “thousands of dollars”, as well as other items worn in the show, for the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS “a New York-based nonprofit HIV/AIDS grant-making organisation”.