Michael C Hall: No more serial killers

It's exciting to have the freedom to explore new characters, Michael C Hall tells Kaleem Aftab after appearing in his first feature film since Dexter ended

There was a time when everyone wanted to do "a George Clooney" and make an effortless transition from the small screen to the big screen. The posse from Friends couldn't manage it. The Seinfeld squad struggled. And then came the new golden age of television and it seemed that every actor worth his salt wanted to make it big in our living rooms. So it's kind of a throwback to sit down with Michael C Hall and discuss Kill Your Darlings, his first film since TV executives murdered his serial killer Dexter.

The 42-year-old gives the impression that he was dying for Dexter to end. On the final day of filming he says that a bar was set up and an impromptu party was had. He says, "I am certainly thankful for the time, and I shall miss that family, but there is also a sense of relief in that soup of feelings." A sentiment reinforced by his time on the Kill Your Darlings film set. "It was so nice to be reminded that there was something other than a serial killer to play. It was restorative."

He has discovered the hard way how not to make proclamations about where his career will be headed. "You know I finished Six Feet Under and I said in interviews like this: 'I'll never do another television series again.' I learned to never say never, but I wouldn't like to make commitments to characters that are open-ended, right now."

On television, Hall has specialised in playing characters carrying secrets around with them. As David Fisher in Six Feet Under he struggled to keep his family funeral home in business and during the course of the show managed to reconcile his homosexuality with his religious beliefs. As the eponymous lead in Dexter he was a forensic blood-splatter analyst who moonlighted as a vigilante serial killer in his downtime.

So for his foray into the silver screen he was looking to change things up, although the plan didn't quite come together. "I think the role is different [to things I have done before]," he says. "It's a different time period and a very different story. I don't know if I was super self-conscious about avoiding any parallels between what I've done before and this; then I would not have done it. After all, it's a homosexual scene and a murder scene, a sort of mash-up of my TV roles."

That's quite a good way of putting it because in Kill Your Darlings Hall is both victim and aggressor. He plays David Kammerer, who in 1944 was fatally stabbed by Lucien Carr, a literary student at Columbia University. Carr was the crush of a certain Allen Ginsberg, who at the time was an impressionable 19-year-old trying to make his way in New York. Also on the scene are a young Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. Carr served 18 months in jail for manslaughter and right up to his death in 2005, he claimed that the murder was done in self-defence against an older homosexual stalker.

Directed by first-timer John Krokidas, this little-known episode in the lives of the Beat Generation took place before they became literary stars. Hall says, "I was familiar with the Beats and this particular story. I was always amazed that it hadn't been told and I was really excited when I read the script that it was finally being told, and that it was as carefully rendered as it was."

Several cinematic tales have centred on the Beat generation in recent years; there was Howl starring James Franco, and the lamentable On the Road directed by Walter Salles. Kill Your Darlings benefits from being set in an epoch when little is known about the writers. It also has a stellar cast of upcoming actors, with Daniel Radcliffe playing Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Carr, Ben Foster as Burroughs and Jack Huston in a brief appearance as Kerouac.

"I think there was a collective freedom in that we were meeting all these characters before they became icons," says the North Carolina-born star. "In my case I was playing a character about whom very little was known aside from sketches about his relationship with Carr and the fact that he was murdered."

There's one thing he looks for in all his roles: "I think if it doesn't feel like there's some degree of risk or danger or uncertainty then it's probably not worth doing."

Hall has twice married and divorced actresses he has worked with. In 2003, he married stage actress Amy Spanger, and a year later he played Billy Flynn opposite her Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. They divorced in 2007. Dexter fans got very excited when it was announced that he had married Jennifer Carpenter, who plays his adoptive sister on the show, on New Year's Eve in 2008. However, the relationship was short-lived and heavily shadowed by Hall's battle with cancer.

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. When he accepted the Golden Globe award for Dexter he was wearing a beanie to cover his post-chemotherapy hair loss. The diagnosis, which Hall received aged 38, was particularly hard as his father, an employee at IBM, had died of cancer when he was 39. He also had a sister who died in infancy before he was born. His mother, a college-guidance counsellor, was among the mightily relieved when it was announced in April 2010 that his cancer was in remission.

During this period, and while he was contracted on Dexter, he couldn't take on other roles; "Doing the show created some opportunities that because of the show I couldn't take advantage of, because of obligations to continue to do the show."

He directed an episode of Dexter, an experience he describes as, "Great! I enjoyed it a lot more than I feared I wouldn't. I felt worried that I would feel stretched in two directions and not be able to give full focus to either, but one sort of informed the other and I really enjoyed it. It was really difficult for me to say 'Cut!', without some sort of absurd gesture or face; it felt sort of ridiculous. I couldn't say it with a straight face."

The hardest part came during the edit: "It was tough because it is a subjectively told show and sometimes you do need to be tight on Dexter and that was a challenge at times."

He has recently been shooting Cold in July, an adaptation of the cult novel by Joe R Lansdale. Hall plays the protagonist Richard Dane, who shoots and kills an intruder who breaks into his home in the middle of the night.

As for whether it's better to play a character over the months of a movie than the years of a TV show, he states: "I don't know if it's better. It's different, or it becomes different after you do it over a certain period. You're not asking yourself the same questions. If you've been doing a television show for three years, like when we were doing Six Feet Under and we were in the fourth season, I had what felt like real memories, that were actually the memory of having filmed a scene two years before with these people, and that's a unique and heavy thing to experience."

'Kill Your Darlings' is released on 6 December

Video: Interview with Daniel Radcliffe on nudity in 'Kill Your Darlings'

By default player size is set to 420 x 315px. But you can resize player width and height once you get the player code using player params.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum