Nineteen-year-old poet Lucien Carr got away with murder, killing his alleged stalker David Kammerer by burying a Boy Scout knife in his chest. He tied his hands and legs together, weighted his body with rocks, and dumped it into the Hudson River. Carr called the 1944 incident an act of self-defense, citing unwanted sexual advances that turned violent.
Kill Your Darlings chronicles the incident and its reverberations in the lives of beat poets and best friends Carr, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and others. Hollywood’s up-and-coming leading man Dane DeHaan takes on the murderous role, and spoke to The Daily Beast about the twisted character, kissing Danielle Radcliffe, and taking on Hollywood icon James Dean.
Why were you drawn to the script?
It was really good. Any time you find a well-written script it’s a rare find. I read a lot of scripts and often don’t have very strong reaction to them. It was a story I’d never heard of, and certainly my character was someone I’d never heard of.
You had no prior knowledge of Lucien Carr?
I didn’t know the story at all. I didn’t know who he was at all.
How did you prepare?
The script gives an accurate portrayal of who he was at this time. That was backed up by reading Ginsberg’s diaries, and the correspondence between Ginsberg and Kerouac. There’s a book that offers clues into who he was as a person and the things he used to do. One time he stood on the dock of a ship and sunk the ship just to feel what it was like to be on a sinking ship. He would order the most expensive steak at a restaurant, just so he could throw it in the waiter’s face. He would be drinking at a bar and bite off part of the wine glass and chew the glass in his mouth, just to evoke reactions out of people. These clues helped support the Lucien that was already in the script. He doesn’t do anything like that in the film, but the essence of that is there.
So there aren’t any deleted scenes of you chewing glass?
No…the chewing glass thing really happened, according to the research I did, but that’s the kind of thing that if it was in a movie, people would be like, “I don’t believe that!” even if it did really happen.
You have a palpable chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe on screen.
Dan is probably the best friend I’ve made making films. Making a film can be a very fleeting experience in terms of the relationships you make, but Dan is one of the only people I’ve met where the relationship has stuck, and we’ve become great friends. So in that way it wasn’t hard to create chemistry.
Is he a good kisser?
Um, sure, yeah. I mean listen, in that moment it’s about finally getting to kiss someone that not only you deeply love but also who you haven’t been comfortable every expressing your love for, and you get to do it in a big way. It was a big moment for Lucien and yeah….He didn’t disappoint.
How did Lucien get away with murdering David Kammerer?
He got away with it because [honor slaying] was a law, and no one really knew what happened that night so he could easily paint it that way. He got away with it, and that was it. People believed him, and he only went to jail for a year and a half, and then had a really successful career. What do I think of someone who would do that? Listen, it was a really complicated relationship. Lucien, at this point in his life, was a really troubled soul, he had a lot of feelings inside him he didn’t know what to do with and I think that it wasn’t an evil part of him that committed his murder, it was just a confused, overwhelmed part of him. I think, just because I played the role, I have an understanding to what his motivations were. Not that he did the right thing—he didn’t—but I’m sympathetic to those reasons.
You’ve had a tremendous year. Is there a film you’re particularly proud of?
I’m really proud of The Place Beyond the Pines. That was just a really rewarding experience, that movie is my kind of movie. But I’m also proud of Chronicle, and the impact that had on the world is really incredible.
I just saw Metallica Through the Never. That was…different.
It’s truly one of a kind. It was just an undeniably cool experience. When you get the call, “Hey, do you want to hang out with Metallica and make a movie?” That’s not an opportunity I would ever turn down. It uses the medium in a really beautiful way, definitely different than anything I’ll probably ever do.
You’re set to star in a biopic about James Dean. Those are some big shoes to fill. How will you go about playing the iconic actor?
This script is about two weeks of James Dean’s life, right before he became really famous. It’s a film about how a normal person can be turned into an icon. I’m really interested and looking forward to figuring out who James Dean as a person was, not who the person that most of us have a poster of on our wall is. I think that they are very different people, and I want to get to the humanity of who he was. He’s my favorite actor, and I’ve always idolized him like a lot of people have. His performances have really overwhelmed me in every way. He was ahead of his time, being one of the only people doing this cutting age stuff. That’s what’s always attracted me to him but I never gave much thought about who he was as a person.
What can you tell me about your first comedic venture, Life After Beth?
Life After Beth is this really zany, zombie romcom. It stars me and Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon. It’s super fun and crazy and I’m really excited for it to come out I got to work with a lot of insanely hilarious people. I think the movie will be too crazy for people to really not latch on to and respond to.
Do you play a zombie?
No, I play a normal guy who’s coming back from college and his girlfriend dies and then she comes back to life. And her name’s Beth. Hence the title, Life After Beth.
It must have been a lot of fun to portray Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
It was a really fun experience, to be a part of a franchise that has the amount of resources and time that doing something like that affords you, equals an amazing opportunity. I had never had that much time to do anything before. The script is great. All the actors are really awesome. Marc Webb is like a totally chill guy, and it was ultimately an incredible positive experience. I’m really excited to see it.
What’s your favorite superhero movie?
The first Iron Man, the last Iron Man, The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger, whichever one that was.
The Dark Knight.
(Laughing) Yes, I really liked The Dark Knight. Honestly, I really liked the first Amazing Spider-Man, and I’m not just saying that. What’s important to me is that it’s not just explosions and shiny suits—you can easily get away with a lot in those films. So it’s the ones that really honor themselves as movies.
You never really hit the same note twice. You’ve played a wide array of characters this year. How do you choose?
Well, that’s nice of you. And it’s important to me. I try to challenge myself in different ways, and always do different things. Ultimately, I’m an actor and I want to be seen as an actor and not just a personality. The variety of it is what continues to challenge and help me grow.