Kill Your Darlings tells the story of the cataclysmic murder of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), his relationship to Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), and how that murder would change the lives of young poets Alan Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), an experience that helped shaped them into the great figures of the Beat Generation. This film explores the truth of what may have actually transpired between Carr and Kammerer through Ginsberg’s eyes. And we got a chance to talk to Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall, about his work in the film and about being on the other side of a homicide.
When you read the script for Kill Your Darlings, what enticed you to explore the role of David?
The strength of the script as a whole. It was a story I was aware of and amazed it had never been told because its such a great story about a group of guys who went on to become cultural icons. I was excited that the script aspired to do what I would hope to do, which is to flesh this guy out more. Sympathize a character then-characterized as a shadowy stalker guy. I had suspicions that this story was a bit more complicated, that the relationship was co-created by both of them as relationships are. In spite of the age difference I imaged that he wasn’t completely to blame for whatever dynamic evolved… or devolved.
David seems to be a precursor to what came before The New Vision and later the Beat generation as he served in a mentor capacity of sorts to Lucien, who became an influence to Alan’s artistic awakening. Did you play it that way intentionally and if so what choices informed the sort of figure he was to Lu?
The first time David is introduced is at that party talking about the wheel. He’s talking about Yates and Lucien in an aside to Alan says, “He got it all from me.” That’s not actually true. I think Lucien actually got a lot of his ideas from Kammerer and maybe absorbed of the vitality that Kammerer once had. We meet David in a place where the affection he once shared with Lucien is no longer being returned. Lucien has a pragmatic need for him; David does all his homework. I imagine there was a time in their relationship when Lucien was captivated and David did hold the cards and was in control. It’s a control he’s desperately hanging onto and it’s just not there for him anymore. In a way Alan just coming into the picture reveals the degree to which Lucien’s appetite no longer has anything to do with any sort of emotional connection or intimacy with David. The sad thing about the guy, what ultimately does him in is his unwillingness to accept that that’s changed.
Would you say for the artists of that time who lived passionately, wildly even — that this inability to love in moderation is what later got David’s affections smeared as “obsession”?
That’s a good point. Yeah, I think if he’s gonna put his money where his mouth is, practice what he’s preaching then he’s going to completely live in service to the breadth and depth of his passions. In a way this story is about a lot of things but its about love and the purity of feeling. As twisted as it is I think at the same time David’s love for Lucien is as pure a feeling as exists in the world of this film.
The center of the film really also brings attention to the fact that Lucien essentially got away with murder under what was known as “Honor Killing” something that Alan Ginsberg later went on to rally against and director John Krokidas mentioned was the motivation to tell this story. Are there ideas or causes that drive your artistic choices in roles?
I wouldn’t say that my choices are in any explicit way politically motivated. I think I do tend to be attracted to things that are challenging or subversive in their way. Ideas that are challenging to me in a sense but something that pushes some button in me, something that scares me. Something that confronts me or challenges me. I’m interested in telling stories that do that to me and hope that maybe they’ll do the same for an audience.
And what’s next for you?
I just did a film in upstate NY called Cold in July. Jim Mickle directed it, most recently did We Are What We Are which is going to be released imminently. I was in Bangladesh taking part in this documentary about climate change. I’m doing a play in New York, start rehearsing in January for that. It’s called The Realistic Joneses. I’ve got some other irons in the fire for the period beyond that which will occupy me until the spring/early summer. I’m just excited about the chance to continue to mix it up now that I’m not on the T.V. show.
Kill Your Darlings opens October 16th