Daniel Radcliffe was one of the biggest stars in one of the biggest franchises ever to hit pop culture. Now he's starring in movies about farting corpses and a man with guns for hands.

Looking in from the outside, you'd be forgiven for thinking Harry Potter's career was spiralling, but the thing about Radcliffe is all these twists and turns are entirely on purpose.

The downside of being the Boy Wizard is you've pretty much peaked before you've even hit 20 — and Radcliffe freely admits this. But the upside, he says, is that you're set up for life and that's freeing.

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Daniel Radcliffe filming in central Auckland

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After years being locked into contracts and held on a pedestal by a fan base that spanned generations, Radcliffe realised two things: he was never going to top Potter and didn't need to, so he may as well just do what he wanted.

Since graduating from Hogwarts, he's done fantasy and gothic horror, absurdist comedy, a white supremacy film, a survivalist biography and more. Now he's starring in the comic book-style comedy action flick, Guns Akimbo.

Radcliffe gets to dive into action, gunfights and humour like fans have never seen before, all while running around in boxer shorts, a dressing gown and slippers.

Radcliffe's Guns Akimbo co-star, Samara Weaving. Photo / Supplied
Radcliffe's Guns Akimbo co-star, Samara Weaving. Photo / Supplied

"My character, Miles, is absolutely, incredibly non-violent and is not cut out for any of this and he inadvertently gets sucked into a battle to the death with a psychopathic killing machine [played by Australian Samara Weaving]," Radcliffe sums up, with a grin.

"That's one of the reasons I really wanted to do this film; because I love action movies and I really enjoy watching them but it's very rare that I read a script for one where I'm like, 'Oh yeah, I believe myself as this character.' But with this one I absolutely believed me as this guy who does not want any part of this and is being forced into it. I just immediately was like, 'Oh that's a version of an action movie that I can exist in quite comfortably.'"

That and the humour were the main drawcards. One of the first scenes Radcliffe read when presented with the script was one in which Miles wakes up with the guns attached and has to work out how to do hilariously mundane things like put on pants and use his phone.

"That was when I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is funny, I like this film, I like whoever came up with this mental idea.' That was the moment where I was like, 'Yeah, cool, I'm in, I'm gonna do this movie.'"

The film attracted the wrong kind of headlines last week when the person who came up with said "mental idea", Kiwi writer and director Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm), got involved in a Twitter stoush that prompted calls for a boycott (see sidebar below).

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It's fairly low-budget — particularly compared to Potter — and was shot in New Zealand so, as Radcliffe says, "We're relying on ingenuity and resourcefulness."

Most of which Radcliffe found in Howden, who the star could not praise enough, calling him "incredibly creative and funny".

"I love working with directors who love getting stuck in on set and Jason is absolutely somebody who would rather show you something than tell you. I can't tell you the amount of times our [first assistant director] had to ask him to 'please get up off the floor' because he was just rolling around with guns trying to demonstrate something," laughs Radcliffe.

"But that's what I love, that hunger and love of being on set is really infectious and I think it's one of the things that made this a really special shoot."

There's nothing Radcliffe has taken on that feels "particularly weird" or outlandish. "I'm just in a position where ... I can sort of afford to be guided by my taste — and possibly my taste is weird and out there — but I don't know, those are just the scripts that I find fun and enjoy reading. It's also about challenging yourself and ... for as long as I can, trying not to repeat myself."

That's the real crux of Radcliffe's decision-making. While many assumed he was taking on these projects to distance himself from Potter — as stars change their image to escape Disney — Radcliffe says getting away from his breakthrough role was actually shockingly easy.

"I don't know what I would've had to do to not get away from Potter," he exclaims, pointing out: "What's a similar part that I could've played?

"I want people to see me as an actor rather than just one character obviously."

But he's aware that for some fans he will always be Harry Potter — "and that's fine too. Potter was a huge part of people's childhoods ... everyone's got some sort of memory of it and that's lovely. The idea that something that I was involved with could mean as much to somebody as things I loved when I was a kid is really special, and not something that I shy away from.

"I think people always assume that I won't want to talk about Potter but that's 10 years of my life. I loved doing those films, I'm very happy to talk about it."

Now, though, he's just focusing on doing the work that makes him happy and proud — nothing more nothing less.

Simply because he can.

"I don't go back and look at box office figures to get my treasured memories of that time. The thing you're left with at the end of the day is the experience that you had on set, so if you're not enjoying that, then ... do something else."

It certainly seems to be working for him.

• Guns Akimbo is out tomorrow.

Tweets miss the mark

Guns Akimbo's Kiwi director Jason Lei Howden almost derailed his own movie.

Last week he used its official Twitter account — and his own — to target people criticising film blog Much Ado About Cinema over its non-black editor-in-chief's used of the N-word in a private group chat.

Several of Elbir's colleagues quit and she later tweeted an apology that indicated she had attempted suicide. Howden launched a thread calling Elbir's critics "woke cyberbullies", and tweeted a list of Much Ado's former staff — leaving them, it was claimed, vulnerable to bullying.

He went on to criticise a writer who claimed he — and others — were forgiving racial abuse.

Despite his subsequent apology, there were calls in the US to boycott Guns Akimbo. Nevertheless, the film was released there last Friday.

NZ distributor Madman said Howden's behaviour was "unacceptable" but the film would be released here "to honour and support the hard work of hundreds of individuals behind the production".

A Rad-ical reinvention: Daniel down the years

2001:

Major breakthrough with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, aged just 11.

2002-2007: Tied up seemingly exclusively with Harry Potter.

2007: Breaking away from Potter: Radcliffe stars in new films December Boys and My Boy Jack but more notably as Alan Strang in the stage production Equus, for which he made headlines after appearing nude.

2009-2011: The remaining Harry Potter films are released and Radcliffe cements himself as a household name.

2012: Radcliffe does gothic horror in The Woman in Black.

2013: Risk-taking season kicks in: Radcliffe stars in Kill Your Darlings, which sees him play Alan Ginsberg and portray the beat poet's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle. He later stars in dark fantasy horror Horns, as a man accused of rape and murder.

2016: Things take a wild left turn with Swiss Army Man, in which he plays a farting corpse.

2016: Next up he's an undercover FBI agent posing as a white supremacist in Imperium.

2017: Radcliffe gives a raw performance in Jungle, the biographical film based on the true story of Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg.

Today: Nine years after the end of Potter, Radcliffe goes all-out, comic book-style nuts in Guns Akimbo.