Teresa Palmer Discusses December Boys and Daniel Radcliffe

Theresa Palmer, Daniel Radcliffe at the December Boys Los Angeles Premiere
Theresa Palmer, Daniel Radcliffe at the December Boys Los Angeles Premiere. Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images

Teresa Palmer made her American feature film debut as one of the bitchy schoolgirls in the horror film The Grudge 2. But prior to shooting that movie, Palmer worked on the independent drama December Boys alongside Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. In December Boys, Palmer plays a real wild child who provides Radcliffe’s character with his first real romantic encounter.

Working with Daniel Radcliffe

Palmer signed on to December Boys before Daniel Radcliffe was cast, but it’s likely that had Radcliffe been involved first, it wouldn’t have changed Palmer’s opinion of the project one way or the other. Palmer had not seen a single Harry Potter movie before shooting began and so she wasn’t as star-struck by her onscreen love interest as some actresses might have been.

“This is going to sound really weird but I actually didn’t know who Daniel was because I hadn’t seen the Harry Potter films. I heard ‘Daniel Radcliffe’ and I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And then someone was like, ‘Harry Potter, helloooo!’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen it.’ I didn’t know. But, everyone around me made such a huge deal about it that I couldn’t help but be really nervous when I first met him. I remember I was like shaking. It was sort of bizarre because I’d never seen him in anything. Too much hype about it - but it was sort of great for us.

We shot in South Australia where I’m from and we had no celebrities in South Australia at all. For him to choose a little Australian independent film after Harry Potter was just so amazing for an Australian, just so exciting. And, obviously, for me personally, it was such a huge thing to have him onboard.”

As far as her time spent with Radcliffe on the set of December Boys, Palmer proclaimed Radcliffe a delight to work with. “He is so brilliant and talented. At the same time, he has all this amazing success and fame and all these things which, you would think, he would be very affected by it all but he really isn’t. He’s very unaffected and unassuming. Just like a regular 18-year-old guy. I think he really brought that to set and made the younger boys who, obviously, idolized him, just feel so comfortable. They’re all like brothers hanging out. I felt like the sister. It was so fun. It was such a good experience.”

Teresa Palmer Has Nothing Against Fantasy Films

Palmer explained that’s not the reason she hasn’t seen the Harry Potter movies. “I do like fantasy films,” said Palmer. “I’ve been told that you need like two weeks to sit down and watch all the Harry Potter films and read all the books at the same time. And I’ve been just so crazy busy the last few years, I haven’t been able to. But my favorite film, which the girls will understand what I’m talking about, is The Notebook. Everyone loves that. We all cry. …To watch a film like that, it’s so beautiful and you get wrapped up in the story and you want to have a relationship like that, and you want to die together and all these silly things.

But, in terms of acting, I like acting in dramas. I like pushing myself and constantly being challenged. The first film I did, actually, I played a rape victim who was pregnant with my brother’s baby. Pretty intense, especially for the first time I’d ever acted as well. And then December Boys came along after that. So, I’d say drama for sure to act in.”

Taking a Chance on Edgier Characters

“I think it’s very easy to get typecast out here,” explained Palmer. “And I think that’s something that I tried to steer away from as much as possible by doing some darker films and taking on some darker, grittier characters. I really love the fact that I’ve never seen or heard of a character like Lucy before who was this young flower girl who is very overtly sexual, and she uses her body to manipulate men. It was so interesting to play with all of those elements.”

Getting Into Character

Capturing this very sexual young woman presented a challenge for Palmer. “Both of those characters are quite far removed from who I am. I’m naturally quite a bubbly, happy person and I’m not a seductress, so it was hard to draw from any personal experiences. But I did watch a lot of different movies. I watch Lolita for December Boys. I studied Dominique Swain’s performance. I thought she was really brilliant in that movie. It was her first film. And different things like that. With the rape movie, I actually sat down and talked to people who had experienced those sorts of things in their life. I just tried to get as much information as I could and just get it in my head and put something out there. The director kind of directed me and helped me out trying to create and mold the character.”

That Love Scene

Every Daniel Radcliffe fan is going to want to know about the love scene in December Boys and Palmer was happy to talk about filming it. “Obviously a scene of that nature is always going to be very awkward and I was of course a little nervous,” revealed Palmer. “I had done a sex scene and kissing scenes before, whereas Dan had never done that. I remember him saying, ‘I’m a little bit nervous,’ and we both kind of admitted it to each other. We laughed about it.

That was actually the last scene we shot in the film and we finished shooting it at 4 am in the morning on Christmas Eve. Everyone was so tired and by that stage, you’re so tired that you’re just on auto-pilot. You didn’t even have time to think about what you’re doing. You’re just like, ‘Ahh, let’s just get this out of the way. Let’s just do it.’ I think [director] Rod Hardy did that, especially. He knew that was how it was going to be. The last day of the shoot, we just want to get it done, and we really did and it was absolutely fun.”

Building Up a Backstory

Teresa Palmer came up with her own ideas as to her character’s history in December Boys. “I did build a backstory. Rod and I worked together, and that’s actually one of the reasons why I got the film was because he asked me before the meeting, he said, ‘Look, I want you to think about the character. Tell me your thoughts.’ I came with this elaborate backstory starting from when she was 3 and like where she went to school and all these funny things. He was like, ‘Whoa! That’s incredible because I had so many of the same ideas for the character.’

My ideas were that she was really brought up in a very dysfunctional family in a very sexually charged environment. If she is staying in this little caravan with her uncle, this tiny little caravan, you don’t really know what happens to her. I think she’s been subjected to a lot of bad influences. I think she’s actually quite a tragic sort of character, and I think that her relationship with Maps, she really gets as much out of it as what he does.”

Up Next – Kids in America

“I am playing Tori Frederking who is the dream girl of Topher Grace’s character, Matt Franklin. And it’s an 80s comedy so I did the 60s with December Boys, now I did the 80s with Kids in America and it was really fun. It’s like American Graffiti but for the 80s. It’s sort of got that Superbad-type of feeling to it. It’s so hilarious. I worked with comedic geniuses. It was wonderful. It comes out in March.”

That '80s Hair and Makeup

Palmer described it in one word: ridiculous. “It’s like a whole bowl of hairspray every day,” joked Palmer. “No, it was like sky high. I have these huge big bangs. I had eye make-up drawn right up to my eyebrows. It was great. I had these shoulder pads. I got to wear this vintage Halston gold sparkly dress. They wanted her to be like the golden girl. It was so much fun and the 80s music is the best 80s music in the film as well. I think everyone will really like it.”