How Harry Potter Stumbled into Sobriety

By Dirk Hanson 07/05/11

Daniel Radcliffe’s admission that he abused alcohol for years before getting sober last August stunned the media. But after years of trawling New York's party circuit, the former teen phenomenon is ready to reinvent himself an adult actor of substance.

Daniel Radcliffe, child star of the blockbuster Harry Potter movies, has admitted to alcohol addiction, saying that he became “too reliant” on booze during the filming of the last few films in the blockbuster series. But now he is seriously sober.

Still, it was the same, old Hollywood story: fame and its many trappings captured his head. But in an exception to the rule, this kid's head appears to be screwed on straight. "There were a few years there when I was just so enamored with the idea of living some sort of famous person's lifestyle that really isn’t suited to me," Radcliffe, now 21, told British GQ,

His life began "going off the rails" when he was 18, filming Half-Blood Prince. And the teenage star wasn’t sipping alcopops, either—whiskey was his drug of choice. Radcliffe said he feels extremely lucky that he avoided becoming tabloid fodder over his addiction. No paparazzi ever caught up with him in the midst of a lost weekend. "I really got away with that, because there were many instances when a shot like that could have been taken,” he told GQ in an upcoming interview.

But Radcliffe is not exactly a regular on the messy celebrity circuit. He spends most of his time in his $5 million apartment in New York City's West Village, but even there his bar hopping has been tough to track, according to the New York Observer, which checked with all the local boites of note for Radcliffe sightings but came up empty.

Sober for almost a year now, Radcliffe said he was “actually enjoying the fact I can have a relationship with my girlfriend where I'm really pleasant and I'm not fucking up totally all the time.” He finally realized that drinking and partying with the famous was not working out for him. “I do that very unsuccessfully,” he said. “There’s no shame in enjoying a quiet life. And that’s been the realization of the past few years for me.”

Radcliffe starred in the first of eight Harry Potter movies when he was nine years old, and has earned more than $75 million from his work. Counter to type, he has developed an increasingly substantial presence both on and off screen, as noted by Salon, taking risky career moves—with unusual success—to make that very tricky transition from adorable teen idol to serious adult actor. His forays on Broadway starring in 2007's  Equus and How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, which is currently running, have won him high marks from critics.

Who knows what a sober Daniel Radcliffe will deliver when the Harry Potter juggernaut is finally docked for good. The final movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, is due in theaters July 15. Queue the DUI broomstick jokes.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]