15 October 2013

Slant magazine interview

Interview with Daniel by Slant magazine in promotion of Kill Your Darlings.

Is it true you were offered the part in Kill Your Darlings because the director, John Krokidas, saw your work on Broadway?
Absolutely. I do think, looking back on Equus, it was more important than I knew at the time even. I knew that it was a good choice to make, and I was really pleased with the work we had done on it, but I could never have imagined that four or five years later it would have got me this part. Also, you know, just as a statement of intent to the industry, I think it made people go, “Oh, okay, he’s not content to rest on his laurels and just live off of Harry Potter, as it were, for the rest of his life; He wants to challenge himself.” I think half of the key to success in this industry is showing the willingness to take a risk and then people will give you a chance. And when you are given that chance it is up to you what you make of it.

You know, it’s impossible to make a plan in the film industry. You can’t go, “Okay, if I picked this script and then this script, it will complete my transition from Harry Potter.” Nothing’s that simple or straightforward. So I think once you realize there’s no strategy that will 100% work, you just have to pick things based on what you love. And I’m in a position where I don’t have to do something for the money. That’s a very rare position in this industry, and I’m very, very lucky to be in it. Off the back of that, I think I do just tend to pick things that I get passionate about and my taste seems to be slightly off the beaten path.

So what was it that drew you to Kill Your Darlings?
There were many things, all centered basically around the script. Firstly, the fact that there was this incredible story about three very culturally important historical figures that nobody knew, or a very small amount of people knew. It was just like finding buried treasure or something. I mean, how has this film not been made already? Of course, that was in large part because Lucien Carr never wanted it to be made, for obvious reasons. Then the character of Ginsberg itself is fascinating. And what I think is great is you don’t rely on the future fame of the characters to make it interesting. This story is good enough that even if Allen [Ginsberg], Jack [Kerouac], and Bill [Burroughs] hadn’t gone on to become writers, the story would still be interesting enough to hold it together. And their relationships are interesting enough for you to continue to be engaged.

Other than that, it really comes down to the overall quality of the script. Normally when you read scripts there is a lot of exposition. In this script the story is always being moved forward and it’s all being done through the interactions between the characters. To me that spoke to such a high level of writing that I wanted to be a part of it. And then I met John [Krokidas], and he’s an incredibly charming, charismatic, fun guy to be around. People always point out that he’s a first-time director. I say no, because when you meet John, nothing about that guy says first-time director. He knew the film he wanted to make inside out. He knew it from the word go, nine years ago when he first started writing the script. I think you can have a director who has done 10 jobs who wouldn’t have had the vision that John had for this film. And ultimately that’s what counts more than anything, having a clear vision of the specific film that they want to make.

Did you have any concerns playing a real-life figure like Ginsberg, who’s also an American? Did you do a lot of research?
Not concerns—a to-do list, really. There are certain things that I had to do to make a transition, superficially at least. It’s interesting. If you have the time and inclination to watch Pull My Daisy, the very experimental film they made, Allen wasn’t athletic, but he has a really interesting physicality and he uses his physicality. He’s kind of goofy. And people say he was a pretty fun guy to be around. Then there was the accent, which I worked with a dialect coach on, as I have done for a few parts now. I enjoy accents. I like working on them and I enjoy the change it affects in you, once you put an accent on. And in terms of the research, it was largely his diaries. His diary from his teenage years was a great insight into his mind. He was really an interesting split between this guy who was incredibly ambitious and assured of his own intelligence on the one hand, and on the other hand, somebody who never displayed any of that confidence outwardly or in social interactions. At least when he first met people, he would come across as quite shy and awkward and reserved. I just thought that was an interesting dichotomy between the inner and outer lives, and one of the things that make him an interesting character to me.

Didn’t you also change your physical appearance a little—your eyes for instance?
I did. I had brown eyes for the film, which I loved as well. Yes, brown eyes, the perm, and they very slightly just outlined my lips. It’s a very subtle thing and you might not even see it, but it does do the smallest things because Allen had really full lips.

Did being half-Jewish yourself mean something when it came to playing Ginsberg?
My Jewish blood does mean something to me, but Judaism didn’t hold the same place in my life that it did in Allen’s, that’s for sure. But I think a guy’s relationship with his mother is an important one anyway, particularly when you’re Jewish—the place the mother holds in that family. And so the situation as it was with Allen’s mother would have been incredibly impactful. Also I think you have to take into account what was like being Jewish in that time, as was being gay in that time, although being gay was vilified even more than being Jewish, but being Jewish also meant you were the butt of all the jokes. I think it’s important to understand all that so that you have this character in context. But obviously, this isn’t a film about someone moving away from their faith or something.

Sure, it’s more a story of discovery and coming out—sexually and artistically—isn’t it?
I think that’s one of the things that makes it, despite being a very specific story about a very specific period in history and an event, also a universal story, because it takes place at the time in the lives of these characters where they are all going through self-discovery, particularly Allen and Lucien, moving in various ways from being a boy to being a man. And also, young love is involved in this story in such a major way. I would be hard-pressed to find something more universal than that feeling of a first love affair.

I won’t insult your craft as an actor by asking you whether it was difficult playing gay scenes, but certainly no punches were pulled in the scene in which Ginsberg loses his virginity to a man he picks up at a bar in the Village. It will probably startle some of your Harry Potter fanbase. Did you have any qualms?
No not really, because I had done Equus by this point and Equus was a lot more out there, frankly, in terms of the things that my character was doing and going through. So it wasn’t particularly weird to me. I mean sex scenes, regardless of who you are doing them with, are always a little awkward, in a funny way. I trusted John that it was going to be the vulnerable, slightly afraid, and sweet tender scene that we all wanted it to be. And it comes at such a great point in the film, as part of a really powerful montage sequence. So, no, I never doubted that it would be anything but what it needed to be in the film. It’s explicit in terms of the emotions that are being dealt with, the fear and excitement of one’s first time, so I think we definitely achieved our goal in that sense.

You pretty much grew up in the movies. Who were your mentors, and how do you see your career going forward?
I learned from my parents a huge amount and I learned a lot from the crew and the cast on Harry Potter. I definitely think I have taken their good advice at heart and have tried to do the right things. If you look at the people whose careers I really admire, like Gary Oldman and David Thewlis, people I’ve worked with I’m talking about, I like to think that the choices I’m making these days will have their blessings. The next thing I’m doing is Frankenstein [playing Igor to James McAvoy’s Dr. Frankenstein] and, down the line, I just hope to continue acting for as long as I can. And then, ultimately one day I would like to direct, but I think that’s a long way off.


source: slantmagazine.com

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