The sun had just begun peeking over the Manhattan skyline on a calm April morning in 2012 when Dane DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe shared their first kiss. It was 5 o’clock on the final stretch of a 24-day shoot for Kill Your Darlings, a movie for which first-time filmmaker John Krokidas enlisted his two male anchors (along with Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, and Elizabeth Olsen) to recreate the events leading up to David Kammerer’s death, nearly seven decades ago, at the hands of Beat generation fixture Lucien Carr.
Bloodshed provides the narrative climax to Kill Your Darlings, but the romantic core of the film centers on Carr (DeHaan) and a sexually awakened, pre-bearded Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe). “We did it three times really fast,” DeHaan says of their 11th-hour scene, which he hopes will be the second man-on-man lip-lock to win Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards (after Brokeback Mountain in 2006). “Then it was over, just like that. We looked at each other like, Holy shit. We just did it. Any time I have a love interest in a movie, it’s my job to actually fall in love with them. While I was making this movie, I totally fell in love with Dan.”
Carr, unlike the other Beats, didn’t conflate notoriety with talent. “The first publication of Ginsberg’s Howl was dedicated to Lucien, but the poet had his name removed from all subsequent publications,” says the 27-year-old Allentown, Penn., native. “But if you dig, you start to get little clues about who he was. He once went out on a boat with Kammerer and sunk the ship just to feel what it was like. He went into a restaurant and ordered the most expensive steak raw, just so he could throw it into the waiter’s face.” Carr’s legacy was cemented by an outburst that occurred on August 13, 1944, when, following a heated argument, he stabbed Kammerer, his longtime lover and much older benefactor, with a Boy Scout knife. He then tied his hands and feet together, restrained his arms with his own belt, weighted his body with rocks, and dumped him in the Hudson River. Carr was released from prison only two years later, his crime dismissed as an “honor slaying” because he’d ostensibly been protecting himself against a violent pederast.
DeHaan, who married actress Anna Wood last year, admits he had a hard time quitting Carr off-set. “I became very manic depressive,” he says, “and it wasn’t until after it was over that I was like, That’s what became of me? Thankfully, my wife is very understanding. We’d get into a fight and she’d say, ‘You know what, Dane? I’m going to try to forgive you for this because I know this isn’t you. This is Lucien talking.’ ”
Kill Your Darlings wasn’t DeHaan’s first time trying on the skin of a layered gay character. In 2010, as Jesse on HBO’s In Treatment, he seethed with the rage of a defiantly promiscuous high school student who exhausts his therapy sessions by taunting his analyst (Gabriel Byrne). “It was all about Jesse,” DeHaan says. “ ‘Look how comfortable I am with my sexuality—so comfortable that I’m going to make you uncomfortable.’ Lucien, on the other hand, was always doing things to get a reaction from other people, but he never talked about himself.”
On the surface, the “last gyzym of consciousness” conveyed in Howl seems miles away from the arena rock of Metallica, with whom DeHaan spent three weeks in Vancouver filming his other fall release, the thriller concert movie Metallica Through the Never (out Sept. 27). But dig deeper, he says, and there are parallels. “It’s different strokes for different folks, but Metallica and Ginsberg are both iconic artists who help people release a rage inside of them that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable releasing.”
DeHaan, whose film credits belie a still nascent career — a conflicted superhero in Chronicle, a moonshiner opposite Tom Hardy in Lawless, Ryan Gosling’s estranged son in The Place Beyond the Pines — will continue to channel that inner rage with his upcoming turn as Harry Osborn (a.k.a. the Green Goblin) in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. A longtime comic book junkie, he’s only recently discovered the world of slash fiction. “I just learned what that was the other day,” he says of the fan-created homoerotic fantasy stories that have, say, Harry slipping something into Peter Parker’s drink before ravaging him. DeHaan pauses for a moment and laughs. “I haven’t read any yet and, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever really go there.”
WATCH: an EXCLUSIVE clip from Kill Your Darlings below: