LOS ANGELES - Seventy years after the birth of the Beat Generation, whose unconventional lives and writings shook up the literary world, a young Hollywood actor has taken on the portrayal of a lesser-known Beat at the centre of the movement's creative whirlwind.
In "Kill Your Darlings," out in US theatres this week, 27-year-old Dane DeHaan plays Lucien Carr, who might have become as famous as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs if not for his killing of a man he accused of making homosexual advances and assaulting him.
The film follows the 1943-1944 period when Carr brought the group together at New York's Columbia University, forming a circle of writers enticed by creative liberation that would inspire a generation to rebel against conformist 1950s' America.
While Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs went on to define the movement, Carr's path to creativity was sidetracked after he was charged in the killing of David Kammerer, an older man and school teacher who is shown to be infatuated with Carr, following him from school to school across the country.
"Kill Your Darlings" opens with the death of Kammerer and then backtracks a year to follow the events that led to his stabbing at the hands of Carr.
The film follows the coming of age and sexual awakening of Ginsberg, played by "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, but casts a spotlight on Carr, depicted as a charismatic and manipulative young man drawn to intellect, particularly the vulnerable Ginsberg.
"My job is to look at Lucien as a human being and try to find out the real human reasons that he was doing what he was doing," DeHaan said in an interview.
"In life, people don't do things thinking what they're doing are terrible and wrong. People usually are sympathetic to the reasons they do what they do."
DeHaan said he researched Carr's quirks and character in Ginsberg's books, correspondence between Ginsberg and Kerouac, and in a book written by Kerouac's first wife, Edie Parker.
One such anecdote that he found typified Carr's intensity was an incident where Carr stood on a deck of a ship that Kammerer then sank, just so that Carr could experience the feeling of being on a sinking ship.