First look at Kill Your Darlings

In 1944, nascent writers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were arrested as material witnesses in the murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, their close friend and early leader of the intellectual circle which would become the Beat Generation. This event had life-altering consequences for both. Kerouac, unable to secure bail money from his father, was compelled to marry then-girlfriend Edie Parker. Burroughs’ morphine habit worsened as he struggled to deal with the death of his old friend (Kammerer), developing into a dependency that dogged him throughout his life.

Kerouac and Burroughs decided to collaborate on a novel about the murder. Each wrote alternating chapters, and in 1945 they completed And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a hard-boiled mystery novel in the style of Dashiell Hammett.

Though Burroughs would later comment that Hippos was “not a distinguished work,” and that “it wasn’t sensational enough to make it…nor was it well-written or interesting enough to make it [from] a purely literary point of view,” the real-life events it was based on are nonetheless compelling. So compelling, in fact, that they’re the basis for writer/director John Krokidas’ new film, Kill Your Darlings.

Lucien CarrLucien Carr Dane DeHaanDane DeHaan
David KammererDavid Kammerer Michael C. HallMichael C. Hall
Jack KerouacJack Kerouac Jack HustonJack Huston
William BurroughsWilliam Burroughs Ben FosterBen Foster
Allen GinsbergAllen Ginsberg Daniel RadcliffeDaniel Radcliffe
Louis GinsbergLouis Ginsberg David CrossDavid Cross
Edie ParkerEdie Parker Elizabeth OlsenElizabeth Olsen

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) portrays 18-year-old Allen Ginsberg in mid-Forties New York City, while David Cross, no doubt in a nod to his cameo as Allen in I’m Not There, is slated to play his father, Louis Ginsberg. Ben Foster (Rampart, 3:10 to Yuma) will play Burroughs. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Dane DeHaan (True Blood, In Treatment) are to portray David Kammerer and Lucien Carr, respectively. Edie Parker’s character will be played by Elizabeth Olsen (yes—the Olsen Twins’ older sister).

While the internet is abuzz about Radcliffe’s casting, perhaps most impressive is Dane DeHaan’s striking resemblance to the real-life Lucien Carr.

What we find most compelling about this story is that earlier on the same day as Kammerer’s murder, Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr had attempted to stow away on a merchant marine ship bound for France, hoping to reach Paris in time for the Allied liberation. They planned to travel across Europe in the guise of a deaf-mute (Carr) and his French translator (Kerouac). They were discovered last-minute by the first mate and thrown off the ship, but had they succeeded, the history of the Beat Generation would have been radically different. Kerouac probably would never have met Neal Cassady, never written On the Road, and (possibly) never even visited San Francisco. Of course, Carr wouldn’t have killed Kammerer, either. Who knows? Had events transpired differently, the ‘King of the Beats’ may very well have been Lucien Carr, rather than Kerouac.

Few other details about the film have been made public at this point, but we’ll be keeping you posted on further developments.