Swiss Army Man's Wet, Wild Opening Scene Was 100 Percent Daniel Radcliffe

In many ways, "Swiss Army Man" is a very physical movie. Not only is it largely concerned with themes of bodies in terms of what functions they serve and what abilities they have, but it also explores what bodies mean, positing that a person's spiritual and physical selves are beautifully intertwined.

It's also about a talking, singing, farting corpse discovered by a depressed man marooned on an island. Writers and directors Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) knew that their first feature would be a difficult sell from the first few minutes, which is why they wrote and shot an opening sequence that perfectly establishes the film's themes and blend of genre (which is part indie dramedy, part musical, and part gonzo action film).

The opening sequence culminates in a moment where Andy Hull and Robert McDowell's soaring score accompanies the sight of Hank (Paul Dano) riding the farting body of his new corpse friend, Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), across the ocean back toward the mainland. It's a visual that is all at once moving and hilarious, one that you'd assume was achieved through some visual effects trickery. Yet Dano and Radcliffe performed that stunt for real, further proof that "Swiss Army Man" was a physical experience from beginning to end.

Radcliffe embraces the physicality of Swiss Army Man

When Radcliffe (along with his co-star, Dano) spoke to Business Insider upon the film's release in 2016, the actor explained how he was "very, very onboard" the movie based on the strength of the Daniels' script, explaining that "when you read a script that is this f—ing original and out there and special, it stands out a mile."

Radcliffe knew just from reading "Swiss Army Man" that a lot of physicality would be involved for the role of Manny, and was more than ready to embrace that challenge. As he explained:

"I said to the Daniels very early on, 'Can I do all of my own stunts?' And I think they were just relieved that they had an actor say that because they knew they weren't going to be able to afford a stunt double for the whole thing. So I had a stunt double for a couple of scenes and that's really it. And same for Paul — we did a ton of it ourselves. But that was one of the things that was exciting about it."

Radcliffe braves the waves ... and carries his co-star

While the actor was prepared to do things like be dragged across the woods by Dano and eager to see how the directors were going to make him fire a grappling hook out of his mouth, one stunt he was surprised to be able (let alone allowed) to do himself was becoming a human jetski.

As Hank rides Manny across the ocean to hoped-for safety, the bodies of Dano and Radcliffe are actually zooming through the water. As Radcliffe explains, "There's one shot where Paul is pulling back on my tie and there are no visual effects, that is both of us in the water at the same time." With three words, Dano succinctly explains how the effect was achieved: "Board. Daniel. Paul.," indicating the order of objects in the shot. Elaborating further, Radcliffe said how the board "was wide enough that I could lay on it and then Paul was on my back and they dragged us along the side of a boat."

Of course, performing the stunt wasn't comfortable, especially for Radcliffe. As he pointed out, "That's me [in the shot] desperately not trying to blink because the saltwater was just hitting my face."

Nobody was prepared for 'Swiss Army Man,' especially Paul Dano

While Radcliffe understood the physical requirements of "Swiss Army Man" going in, Dano wasn't quite ready for the toll the filming would take on him. As he recalled, he didn't work out before shooting began, which he regretted "not having done ... because I suffered, just my stamina ... I never really totally understood what it would take."

When "Swiss Army Man" was released, not all audiences understood it right away, either. Even so, it proved that cinema still has the power to shock, surprise, and delight. Though the film was delightful to some and repulsive to others, it paved the way for the Daniels' second film as a duo, "Everything Everywhere All At Once," to be made, and that movie not only doubles down on the directors' penchant for weird bodily functions but has achieved numerous accolades and a prosperous theatrical run. Hopefully, new fans of the Daniels will go back and discover the adventures of Hank and Manny, and join the rest of us in looking forward to whatever new bizarre bodily functions the directors come up with for their next feature.