‘Potter’s’ Radcliffe plays beat poet in new film

by W. Winston Skinner

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William S. Burroughs, portrayed by Ben Foster in “Kill Your Darlings,” came from a family with Georgia roots. His great-grandmother is buried ne 


Daniel Radcliffe is not “Harry Potter” anymore.

In his newest film role, Radcliffe portrays Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The movie, “Kill Your Darlings,” centers around true events leading to the killing of David Kammerer in New York City in 1944.

The film’s release date was Oct. 18. It has not been shown yet in Coweta area theaters, but was being screened this week in California and New York.

The movie is set in the formative period for the Beat writers — including Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Jack Huston plays Kerouac and Ben Foster plays Burroughs in “Darlings.”

“Darlings” is based on a book, "And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks," which was co-authored by Burroughs and Kerouac. The book was written in 1945 but was not published until 2008, years after both authors had died.

Burroughs’ mother, Laura Lee Burroughs, had relatives who lived near Grantville. Her grandmother, Emily Wideman Lee, is buried at Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in the Meriwether County town of Lone Oak.

The film follows Ginsberg leaving his home in New Jersey to attend Columbia University. At Columbia, Ginsberg finds stuffy tradition clashing with daringly modern ideas and attitudes — embodied by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Ginsberg also meets Carr’s friends, Burroughs and Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).

Ginsberg and Carr learn they both share emotionally troubled pasts and a passion for poetry. Both are also eager to shatter literary and social conventions

When Carr murders Kammerer, Ginsberg discerns the truth and struggles to decide whether to betray himself and lie to the district attorney by supporting Carr’s claims of innocence — or to write the truth.

“People have been fascinated with these guys for the past 50 or 60 years,” John Krokidas, “Darlings” director and co-writer, said of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg. “But we wanted to approach this not as a biopic about these three legendary writers, but rather as a story of who they were as adolescents — awkward, still trying to figure out who they really were.”

Krokidas noted neither of the three had written any published works in 1944. “For us, what was fascinating was not so much the great men that they would become, but the insecure adolescents and young adults who were trying to figure out that greatness inside,” he said.

Krokidas and Austin Bunn wrote the script for the film.

“Burroughs did not define himself as a writer until a year after the murder,” Foster observed, “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.”

“Kill Your Darlings” marks the second time in as many years for the Beat writers to be depicted on screen. A film version of Kerouac’s classic work, “On the Road,” was released last year.

Viggo Mortensen played Old Bull Lee, the character based on Burroughs. Amy Adams won the Hollywood Film Festival Supporting Actress of the Year award for playing Jane, a character based on Burroughs’ second wife, Joan Vollmer.



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