Jane Goldman, James Watkins On Misconceptions About Their 'Woman In Black' Star Daniel Radcliffe
"What's been amazing is that people who aren't natural Harry Potter fans, have been really sceptical, gone in ready to hate it, and they've come back saying 'oh my god, Daniel Radcliffe, that was a revelation.'"
Woman in Black director James Watkins is reflecting on his strange duty of escorting the world's most bankable youthful actor out of his childhood cloak and into the adult world of film-making. Was this a double-edged sword of expectation that could have gone horribly wrong?
"You have to go into it with your eyes open," he agrees. "Certain people will have preconceptions and misconceptions of Dan, but we had the advantage of meeting him, evaluating him.
"It would have been insane just to cast him on the strength of his fame, but it was clear he had a strong sense of what the character was and a real dedication to the craft. And he worked incredibly hard. Dan's fundamentally done a good job, he's carried the film."
Someone who knows a bit about public misconception is the film's screenwriter Jane Goldman. Despite having a catalogue of A-list film scripts to her credit, the cerise-locked Goldman remains instantly recognisable as the zen to the zaniness of her husband of 25 years, Jonathan Ross. How does she weather having a public profile so at her odds with her personal profile?
She laughs, physically shrugging away all the media attention that inevitably comes her way:
"Tucking myself away is my natural habitat. The other stuff is all incidental and accidental, and not something I feel comfortable with, or pursue actively. I love the film-making process because being part of this team allows me to be creative, but I'm very shy and I love writing alone. I could never push myself to the fore and be an actor."
"People can have misconceptions of people," adds Watkins, evidently admiring of Goldman's writing skills. "In reality, we're all here to do a job, and everything else is just guff, white noise and the fruits of other people's imaginations."
Meanwhile, the day job has been bringing to screen Susan Hill's spooky tale of widowed father Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe's central role), who must attend to the deserted house of a deceased client. Tucked away on an island only accessible at low tide, the mansion is the background to all sorts of spooky goings-on, guaranteed to test Kipps' rationale. So why did these two seemingly jolly people get so attached to bringing this story, already a long-running play in the West End, to the big screen?
"I'm quite a rationalist person, but at the same time, I can still get spooked," reflects Watkins. "I can hear a creak in the house late at night and imagine the worst.
"It's a fascinating arena - there's that element of us as people in a very primal caveman way - we have those irrational fears."
But isn't that because of films like Woman in Black piercing our imaginations? Watkins agrees it's "chicken and egg" but points out, "film gives people a way of experiencing those fears in a safe environment."
Goldman is less circumspect:
"Horror movies are something I seek out as a cinema goer, because when they work, whether it's a ghost story or a gory horror story, that adrenalin rush is something I don't get from other genres."
I just need to check something. Did Jane Goldman really say she was shy with that hair colour? This surely needs further explanation, which she's happy to give:
"The hair is really from growing up watching cartoons and Japanese anime and stuff and just thinking, 'I fancy having my hair that colour.'
"But actually the attention it attracts is kind of paradoxical, because I am a bit..." and she hides her face behind her distinctive mane, which no doubt comes in equally useful when she's watching her spooky films.
The Woman in Black is in UK cinemas on Friday. Watch our exclusive footage below: