It's always great when Hall ventures into movies, because he manages to bring that small-screen gravitas to a bigger forum. In "Kill Your Darlings," Hall plays real-life character David Kammerer, an oft-overlooked historical figure who played a prominent part in the formation of the Beat poet group -- among them, the famous writers Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster).
Moviefone Canada caught up with Hall at the Toronto Film Festival, where the film was screening. He spoke about the Beat poets, his co-stars, and if it was difficult to play a real-life character.
Moviefone: How familiar were you with the Beat Generation before you started shooting this film?
Michael C. Hall: I was actually pretty familiar. I was aware of this particular story too, and I was amazed to me that it had never been told. It's a bit of a footnote, despite the fact that it was such a catalyst for fundamental change in all these guys' lives in that time. Of course, this was all before they became icons. It was a buried, dark secret for them all, and something that -- explicitly or not -- motivated their creative output.
I understand that you met Allen Ginsberg once?
Yeah, I did! In the '90s, I spent time in his apartment on 12th Street in the East Village. He had his harmonium, his meticulously organized library, cassette tapes of Kerouac reading, and yeah, it was amazing. Anyway, I was familiar with the Beats, their work, their lives, the characters. I was so excited when I saw the script.
It's strange that not a lot of people have ever heard of David Kammerer.
In all accounts, if you go into the index, he'll be there, sporadically. Some Beat scholars say, in some ways, that he's the father of the Beats. He's a generation older than them, but he did as much to turn Lucien [Carr, played by Dane DeHaan] on to the kinds of thinking that Lucien turned Ginsberg and everybody else onto. He was unfortunately just victimized in the end.
Is it harder to play a real person or a fictional character?
In some ways it is, and in some ways it isn't. I certainly had less to go on than other people in this film, in terms of raw material that I could look at. There was a greater degree of imaginative leaping that I had to do, but that was fun, especially within the context of the time when I was playing Dexter, who's not only a real person, but not even necessarily a person who could ever BE a real person. He was an idea. It was nice to play someone who actually existed. [Laughs]
The cast around you is magnificent, too -- Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan and Ben Foster are incredible in their own right.
It's like they went back in time to get William Burroughs to play William Burroughs. It was a nice alchemy. We had a lot of mutual respect for each other and the work.
Despite the darkness of the film, was it still fun to act in this era?
Oh, it was a blast and so fun. The fact that we shot on location, wearing those period clothes, that it was such a bare-bones operation ... we shot it in 23 days. There were no trailers. It was nice to be reminded just how little you need to make a movie. I think it fostered a sense of camaraderie, which we might not have had if all the traditional trappings were there.
"Kill Your Darlings" opens in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal on November 8. It has already opened in the U.S.