KILL YOUR DARLINGS
Finding the Best Minds of Their Generation
The casting of Radcliffe gave the project an initial burst of energy that sustained it throughout
the rest of pre-production. The next piece of that puzzle was to find an actor to play Lucien
Carr, a vivid and riveting figure who, despite his youth, exuded self-destructive brilliance.
"I knew that was going to be a tough role to cast from the beginning," says Krokidas, "because
it's someone who has to be so charming that they could convince three people -- Kerouac,
Burroughs and Ginsberg -- that they had something important to say, and that they should rebel
against their university, rebel against their parents and the world to create a cultural
To find the right match for the part, Krokidas, Vachon and Radcliffe auditioned exhaustively.
"We auditioned almost every young actor out there again," Krokidas confirms. "But in 30
seconds of watching Dane DeHaan he became the character I'd imagined in my head. He was
real, he was honest, he was seductive, and yet there was a fragility behind those eyes that let
you know that there was more than just what he was playing on the surface."
DeHaan leapt at the chance not only to play such a multi-faceted, chameleonic figure, but also
one about whom, comparatively, far less is known. "I just think he's an incredibly complex,
interesting person," says the young actor. "So much of his life is ambiguous. All of the other
guys have a lot of historical information out there on them... even videos and all that stuff. With
Lucien, it's much harder to find, not that it doesn't exist."
Even without his later-famous cohorts, Carr's backstory alone might have been a compelling
film in its own right. As DeHaan notes, "his father left him and his mother when he was 4 years
old. When he was 11 and in the Boy Scouts, David Kammerer was his scout master. And they
formed a relationship seemingly right away. The actual details are historically ambiguous, but
what's important is that David really introduced Lucien to the idea of broadening your horizons
and learning what it really means to live. But David is also the one that, eventually, when Lucien
grew older, drove him to... I don't want to say insanity, but to having to get rid of this force that
was in his life."
Making DeHaan's job more challenging was the fact that in the aftermath of the murder --
successfully (and dubiously) defended by Carr as an "honor slaying" to stave off Kammerer's
homosexual advances -- Lucien Carr worked systematically to have his name erased from the 8origin story of the Beats. "He always made it a point to distance himself from all this stuff,"
observes DeHaan, "to really take himself out of the history of it. The original edition of "Howl"
is dedicated to Lucien Carr, but he had his name removed from all subsequent versions." An
even starker fate befell the manuscript of the early Burroughs/Kerouac collaboration And the
Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a noir-stylized account of the murder whose publication Carr
had suppressed during his lifetime; it was finally published in 2008. But the irony isn't lost on
DeHaan: "The very thing that he had to purge from his life really took over, in its own way, once
he was out of prison. To approach a character that was so complex and also so open to
interpretation was really exciting."
With the pivotal duo of Ginsberg and Carr in place, it remained for the team to fill in the other
major players of the story -- the hard-edged Kerouac, the visionary, elliptical Burroughs, and the
morose, doomed David Kammerer. In Kerouac, Krokidas dealt himself a pair of Jacks, casting
Jack Huston, the scion of one of the great families of American cinema, but the first to grow up
outside the U.S.
"The script is filled with heavy hitters, Burroughs, and Ginsberg and obviously Kerouac" says
Huston, the grandson of legendary director John Huston, son of Tony (the screenwriter of his
father's final film, "The Dead," adapted from the classic James Joyce story), and nephew to
celebrated actors Anjelica and Danny Huston. "But I liked that it was Kerouac when he was
younger. Although he had written a million words, he hadn't been published yet. So it was
before the Kerouac that we know, the Kerouac who he would later become... the man, the
legend. One could take a little bit of artistic license to make it one's own, without mimicking
Radcliffe was particularly grateful to have Huston in the fold. "It was great to have another Brit
on set," he shares, thoroughly alert to the irony of having two towering American literary
figures portrayed by native Londoners.
The project took another leap forward with the casting of Ben Foster as the darkly magnetic
William S. Burroughs. Foster particularly relished the opportunity to showcase the importance
of the writers' fellowship on the development of one of his heroes. "Burroughs did not define
himself as a writer until a year after the murder," he explains, "when he started collaborating
with Jack Kerouac. And what is so beautiful about this particular story, this angle that Austin
and John took, is that these men became who they were through each other. Burroughs didn't
find the courage to put pen to paper until he found union with his brothers."
Michael C. Hall, as the obsessed David Kammerer, was no stranger to playing alienated
outsiders, being a five-time Emmy nominee for his portrayal of conflicted serial killer Dexter
Morgan in Showtime's acclaimed "Dexter." Hall relished the chance to fill in the blanks of the
character who is, in many ways, the most mysterious and troubled in the film. "When Lucien
Carr was 11," he notes, "David Kammerer was 25... a scout master and burgeoning academic.
But that encounter started a life-long obsession with Lucien. I think that in David's mind, this
meant a commitment to being his caretaker, his lover, his go-to guy. After all, Lucien's father died when he was 3, so it was a relationship dynamic that was ripe for this kind of
development. And I think that initially, there was a real exchange of ideas, certainly an
exchange of affection and enthusiasm, some sort of connection that neither found elsewhere."
"But it turned sour," Hall continues. "In people like Ginsberg, certainly, and Kerouac, David
recognizes younger people who, for Lucien, maybe bring as much to the table intellectually.
And like all these guys, he has this sense or conviction that he's the smartest guy in the room,
or at least one of them. But he senses a threat there, and I think he realizes that these people
can offer Lucien everything he has been providing, exclusively, up to this point."
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