Harry Potter was "the boy who lived," but in his new film, Daniel Radcliffe plays the boy who has to live with his mistakes. In the new Jesper Ganslandt thriller, "Beast of Burden," Radcliffe's character, Sean Haggerty, has made a lot of them -- perhaps foremost among them is his failure to tell his wife that he's signed on as a pilot for a Mexican drug cartel cartel.
"To me, it's a story about somebody who absolutely sees himself as a complete failure, trying to redeem himself in what is a very misguided attempt," Radcliffe tells CBS News. "It's also a film about what happens when you have a lack of honesty with yourself and the people around you. Like, he obviously thinks he's doing the right thing by not telling his wife what's going on, but you know, were he to just be open with her, so much of the terrible things that happen to her in the film probably wouldn't have happened to her."
Those terrible things include being abducted, bound and used as human leverage -- all while her husband, an ex-Air Force pilot, races through the air from Mexico to the U.S., answering phone call after phone call in a frenzied attempt to play double agent.
"He's absolutely conflicted," says Radcliffe. "I mean he's trying to play both sides in a way that he is not smart enough or equipped really to do. So, the cartel threaten his life more directly, but then the DEA also end up revealing that they're not particularly good guys either. There's really no good side for him to try and align himself with in this. He's just stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. He's trying to thread the tiniest needle in the world to make his way out of it with both his life and his wife's."
Grace Gummer ("Mr. Robot," "The Newsroom") plays Radcliffe's wife, and he sang the actress' praises.
"She's amazing, really," Radcliffe tells CBS News. "First of all, she's just a lovely human being. But she's also just like, utterly professional and was there doing off-camera lines for me for days and days, so it wasn't as isolating an experience as it sort of looks. It was incredibly generous and just everything you want in a scene partner."
All those off-camera lines were necessary because the bulk of the movie takes place with Radcliffe alone in a rickety cockpit, juggling phones calls from his wife, the cartel and the DEA as he struggles to maneuver his dilapidated plane toward the ever-changing coordinates of his drop point. And while all that acting in isolation might have seemed off-putting to another actor, Radcliffe says it's part of what he liked most about the project.
"It felt more like a play when we were doing it than a film has ever done for me before," recalls the Hollywood star, who has done his fair share of majoras well. "Normally, it's so broken up on film. But because, you know, we were in the same location for so much time, we would be able to get like long 25-minute, half hour takes of doing 20-25 pages of the script in one go, which really allowed you to get into it."
Radcliffe says those long takes also enabled him to feel as if he was really flying.
"They allowed you to kind of forget about the camera and forget about everything else after a while and just feel like you were in a plane, even though I know that's really stupid because I was eight feet off the ground," he jokes. "Anyone reading this is probably thinking, 'That sounds ridiculous,' but I do think there was something about doing longer takes that kind of allowed you to forget you were filming and work yourself up into a little bit of a frenzy."
Other than the extended soliloquy-like sections, Radcliffe fans are also likely to make note of the Brit's quite convincing American accent.
"I love working in American accents," Radcliffe says. "We were filming in Savannah and the film is set in the South, so he's supposed to be vaguely southern; but I didn't want to be doing the kind of accent that would make genuine southerners cringe and be like, 'Ugh what is this English kid doing?' So, I tried to make it as real feeling as possible, and I really loved doing it."
In fact, when he's working in an American accent, he'll stay in it all the time when he's on set "'cause it's just easier."
"When you start to slip up and make mistakes is genuinely when you're going back and forth a lot between English and American. So, I'd sort of stay in American most of the day. And then, if I'd see people at night or after we'd finish filming, and I'd be in my own English accent, they would look at me like I was -- like this was the fake me. Like I was doing a thing. Like I was putting on a British accent. And I was always like, 'Okay. I must be doing okay then.'"
The American accent may be new, but Radcliffe says, to him, the film itself has a "classic movie feel."
"It's somebody trying to get from point A to point B and, in between, you throw as much awful, flaming trash at them as you possibly can and just subject them to hell," he says. "That's the thing that's really compelling I hope."
Perhaps nothing is as compelling, however, as watching an actor who the world came to love as an underdog with a heart of gold play a character so very different from the one that made him famous.
When asked which Hogwarts House Sean Haggerty would be placed in, Radcliffe shares his guesses.
"Oh god, wow! I want to say Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, but I don't particularly know why," Radcliffe laughs. "I don't think I have a rationale for that particularly, but that's just what my instinct is telling me."
Maybe. It's also entirely possible, though, that a man who became a drug mule to earn money for his wife's cancer treatment, has the same sort of Gryffindor/Slytherin mix inside him that Harry had ... that Sean Haggerty, too, would be sitting under the sorting hat, pleading, "Not Slytherin! Not Slytherin!"
This time, however, the sorting hat might not listen.