Dane DeHaan brings a Beat Generation story to life

TORONTO -- When you're making a movie in New York City with -- cue the squeals -- Daniel Radcliffe, you can expect a crowd to gather.

Especially when you have no place to hide, not even trailers, and are shooting an outside scene across from an elementary school. At recess.

"Obviously all the kids wanted to see him," actor Dane DeHaan recalled, "and it was a really beautiful moment because he went up to the kids and he explained to them, 'We're making a movie over here and so we have to play pretend and so we need you to be quiet for a little while, while we're filming.' "

They silenced and shushed themselves at the request of Mr. Radcliffe, who had graduated from Harry Potter and was making "Kill Your Darlings," an R-rated movie in which he plays poet Allen Ginsberg to Mr. DeHaan's Lucien Carr. It opened Friday at the Regent Square Theater. (For a review, go to post-gazette.com.)

Ben Foster turns up as William Burroughs, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac and Michael C. Hall is David Kammerer, an older hanger-on of the Beat crowd who was killed by Carr in 1944. Carr served a brief time in prison for manslaughter and was later pardoned.

When Carr died in 2005, The New York Times called him "a literary lion who never roared." He spent his working life as an editor with the United Press (later UPI) news service.

Through the prism of today's sensibilities, Kammerer might be considered a stalker. "A lot of people have said that. That's not really how I ever looked at it," Mr. DeHaan, 26, said, in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival where the movie had its international premiere.

"They say Lucien was getting kicked out of all of these private schools, and David was 'following' him to the next school. But I think one of the qualities of Lucien is that he longs for that desire and he wants people to desire him, and I think that he really enjoyed this kind of cat-and-mouse going around the country.

"I think that he was getting kicked out of these schools for things they were doing together, but that didn't mean he wanted those things to stop. It wasn't until around this time of the story -- when he was kind of over him and ready to become his own person, and David was still so enamored of him and latching on and trying to hold onto the thing that they had -- that he just couldn't take it anymore."

Carr was very young when his father died, possibly fueling some of his behavior.

"I think that he was always aware of his power to charm and to be desired and to inspire other people and to get reactions out of other people, and that was a really easy way for him to hide the demons that were within him," the actor said.

Mr. Carr, also called the "fallen angel" of Beat generation mythology when he died of cancer at age 79, was survived by three sons, but no attempt was made to reach out to them.

"He did work really hard to kind of hide his past for the rest of his life, but ultimately this is a story that really happened, and he was a really interesting person and a very influential figure in an entire movement of literary geniuses. So it's a story that I really feel should be told, and I just tried to look at all the clues as to who he was as a person and the things he did and honor those clues, rather than think about how they would want him to be portrayed."

Mr. DeHaan, whose face (with light blue eyes and blond hair) may be more familiar than his name thanks to TV's "In Treatment" and movies such as "Metallica Through the Never," "Lincoln," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Lawless" and "Chronicle," said he wasn't an encyclopedia of knowledge about the Beats but wasn't a neophyte either.

"I had read some of their stuff, and I certainly knew who they were and what they stood for. Not Lucien. Lucien was completely new to me, and this entire story was completely new to me."

Ginsberg, for instance, dedicated "Howl" to Carr, who asked him to remove his name from subsequent publications. Kerouac and Burroughs wrote a novel inspired by the murder called "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks," but it pointedly wasn't published until after Carr's death.

Mr. DeHaan, a native of Allentown, should rocket to a new level of fame in May when he appears as Harry Osborn in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

In September, it also was announced he will play James Dean in a project opposite Robert Pattinson. "Life" is the true story about the friendship between James Dean and Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock.

He didn't accept the role of Dean lightly.

"He's my favorite actor and I have a lot of respect for him, and it's a really terrifying, daunting task, but that's what I always say I'm looking for in my work, is something that's going to terrify me and challenge me and make me grow.

"So I will certainly work as hard as I can to honor him, as much as I feel he should be honored, which is a lot."

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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