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‘Kill Your Darlings’ Shows Daniel Radcliffe Is a Wiz at Career Moves

The actor is redefining himself via tough roles and smart choices. His latest is as a young Allen Ginsberg

Daniel Radcliffe, in Toronto to promote “Kill Your Darlings” and two other new films, described his post-“Harry Potter” career choices as “unconventional.”

Not only was the actor unapologetic in an interview with Variety about his selection of roles, when asked if he was scared about accepting some of those parts, he enthused, “Yes! That’s why I do it!”

In “Darlings,” Radcliffe transforms himself into the semi-schlubby but brilliant American poet Allen Ginsberg during his formative years. The film, which screened at Sundance, then Venice and now Toronto, will be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics on Oct. 18.

It’s not an easy sell, with an esoteric title and plot. The truth-based film focuses on the college years of Ginsberg and fellow writers William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, who pushed the conventional limits of the law, creativity, drugs, sex and social behavior, and became iconic leaders of the Beat Generation in the 1950s.

The chief lure of “Darlings” for mainstream audiences and kudos voters will be word of mouth about Radcliffe’s breakthrough performance, though the film has many other assets.

He also seems surprisingly grounded for someone dealing with so much attention. A Sept. 2 Q&A in Venice that he participated in had a surreal intensity. There were about 100 European journos crammed into a space designed for half that number, while several hundred fans crowded outside around the glass windows trying to catch Radcliffe’s eye.

The actor balanced questions in Italian from Piera Detassis of Ciak magazine, and from this Variety reporter in English. Fans could hear none of the conversation, but stood there holding signs, forming heart shapes with their hands or pointing to the word “Daniel” written on their face.

Most were undoubtedly there because of “Potter.” But it’s a tribute to the actor and filmmaker John Krokidas that when the press asked questions, they focused on “Darlings,” not the boy wizard.

Radcliffe said he’s dissimilar to Ginsberg, but added, “We are both intensely curious and have a love of poetry.” He said that he liked Ginsberg’s most famous poem, “Howl,” and other works, but noted his favorite is “Kaddish,” in which the writer mourns the 1956 death of his mother.

As for Radcliffe’s creative process, he began to build a career after “Potter” as the franchise started winding down. The first significant step was performing in “Equus” on the West End and Broadway — a successful statement about his serious intentions.

Since then, he’s done a Broadway musical (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”), a West End dark comedy (Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan”) and some small and serious films, avoiding easy movie roles with big paydays.

He said it’s heartwarming that “Potter” fans have moved with him as he expands his range.

Asked if it’s fair to say he was a movie star before he became an actor. Radcliffe replied, “I’ve never been asked that before,” and thought for a moment. “I’d like to think I had something that made them cast me (as Harry),” he said. “But I hope I’m a better actor now than I was when I started.”

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