Following the Southland preem of “Kill Your Darlings” at the Writer’s Guild Theater on Oct. 3, Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall and others gathered at the Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel, where it proved to be a night for celebrating firsts.
Attendees toasted helmer John Krokidas and his co-writer Austin Bunn, for whom “Darlings” is a freshman debut. For Hall, “Kill Your Darlings” marks his first project to be released in the post-“Dexter” era. And for Radcliffe, the film prompted his first foray into a new acting method.
“Dan said to me, ‘I want to treat this like my first film, too,'” Krokidas remembered. “I want to forget everything I’ve known. I don’t want to approach this film like anything else I’ve done before.” Radcliffe offered up high praise for the director’s approach, saying he’s already taken the acting methods he learned from Krokidas on to other projects.
The Sony Pictures Classics-distribbed pic follows college-aged Beats Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) in an untold story of murder and unrequited affections. DeHaan plays Lucien Carr, whom Krokidas calls “the Beats’ first muse.”
“We wanted this film to really be from the perspective of an 18-year-old who is so excited to be going through every kind of first,” Krokidas explained from a cozy booth at Caulfield’s, outfitted with art deco and industrial fixtures apropos for Ginsberg and the gang.
That said, it’s not the first time audiences have seen a silver screen take on the Beats — “Howl” (2010) and “On the Road” (2012) both had a hand in reigniting indie interest in the Beat writers. To distinguish his pic from the rest, Krokidas and Bunn limited their research (and that of their actors) to sources from 1945 and earlier, turning to adolescent journals and audio recordings “from before Allen Ginsberg was Allen Ginsberg with the beard and the beads around his neck.”
“It wouldn’t have been servicing the character if I was trying to live up to who he later becomes (and not the insecure person he was at 18),” Krokidas said.
Radcliffe said he could relate to a young Ginsberg’s dilemma — “negotiating the difference between what you are and what you want to be, or what you think you want to be and what people expect you to be” — when it comes to his career choices post-“Harry Potter.”
He added, “I get a weird amount of attention for picking stuff that’s adult-themed because I was in movies generally marketed to younger people with ‘Potter,'” he said, “But I’m not intentionally trying to challenge ideas people have, I’m just doing what I think most actors do — build up as varied and diverse a career as they can. It’s not worth doing if I won’t be challenged by it.”
Hall has a similar strategy in mind for picking next projects now that “Dexter” has wrapped: “I’m just excited to mix it up. Film, or stage — I’d like to do things that have a definitive end in sight, rather than an open-ended commitment.”
Despite being a freshman feature, “Darlings” drew principals like moths to a flame. Radcliffe joined the project four and a half years ago, and DeHaan signed on soon thereafter. As for Hall, the subject matter made it an instant click.
“I went through a period of fascination with the Beats and I was familiar with this story,” said Hall, who first learned about Ginsberg’s “Howl” via the Bob Dylan doc “Don’t Look Back.” He later had a couple of chance encounters with Ginsberg when a friend was housesitting at the poet’s New York City digs. He added, “I was amazed it had never been more widely told, and I was thrilled to breath life into a story that had fascinated me for some time.”
“Kill Your Darlings” opens in theaters Oct. 16.