Given the gap between first auditioning for the role and the completion of the film, Kill Your Darlings could almost be considered a passion project for Daniel Radcliffe.
Having auditioned in 2009, Radcliffe became unavailable due to Harry Potter commitments. The film was recast with Jesse Eisenberg, Chris Evans and Ben Whishaw before financing fell through, and when director John Krokidas came to restart the project, Radcliffe was asked again.
“Even though someone else would have been playing it, I never quite let go of the idea,” Radcliffe told the audience at this summer’s UK Cinema Showcase Q&A and screening of Kill Your Darlings.
“I’d had such a great time working with John with the brief sessions we had together, so when it came back around, I was very excited and ready to start.”
Centring on Beat poets Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Kill Your Darlings tells the story of the murder that brought the three together, involving Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).
Radcliffe is clear when describing what attracted him to the project. “It was the story. The fact that there are these three major figures in American literature who were involved in what is a really incredible, bizarre and interesting story that no-one’s ever told.
“It seemed like a great opportunity for me personally to show something different, to show a different side to what I could do as an actor. It wasn’t out of any sort of fandom that I have to play Ginsberg; it was really just because I became a fan of the character in the script.”
Having an awareness of the Beats going into the project, Radcliffe focused his research into the role on Ginsberg’s diaries and Krokidas was keen to ensure none of the film’s stars researched their character’s lives in the period after the film. “There’s always a danger of the knowledge of what he became, forming what he was when he was 17 which wasn’t what we wanted.”
“[Ginsberg] says at one point, I know I’m a genius but I haven’t figured out what form this will take yet. He had a huge amount of self-confidence for a 14-year-old. [The film] is about him finding his voice and also the pain he had to go through in order to find that voice.”
Following the likes of On the Road, Radcliffe commented that the filming of Kill Your Darlings is what sets it apart from other Beat films. “To shoot a period film on location in New York on film is not something anyone would advise you to do, but we did it with a mad, vital energy. Part of it was real guerrilla filmmaking.
“The Beats are treated with a lot of reverence as they are these great men of American literature, but actually there’s a lot of anarchy as much as there was anything else, and that’s what we capture in this film.”
Radcliffe noted that Kill Your Darlings, and specifically Ginsberg’s journey in it, reflects his own, having grown up in the spotlight of the Harry Potter films.
“Certainly my teenage years were in pursuit of trying to be someone that I’m not. Part of the last few years of my life, and the same period in Allen’s life, is about working out who you are and being okay with it.”
Kill Your Darlings is released in UK cinemas on Dec 6 through The Works.