When Kill Your Darlings premiered in Sundance this year, the chatter was not about how director John Krokidas had crafted a credible drama about the Beat writers as students. Or that it gathers together one of the most exciting young casts of 2013. It was that Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter himself – kissed a guy. Moreover, that guy just so happened to be Dane DeHaan, one of Hollywood’s hottest stars-in-waiting.
The 27-year-old has already made a huge impression – this year alone he’s featured (briefly) in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, played Ryan Gosling’s grief-stricken son in The Place Beyond The Pines and starred as a roadie in the concert/video hybrid Metallica: Through The Never – impressing the band’s drummer Lars Ulrich so much, he presciently dubbed him: “Everybody’s favourite film star 10 years from now. Or maybe five.”
“I’d like to still be working 10 years from now – that would be great!” DeHaan says, when I relay Ulrich’s comment. “But I can’t look that far into the future.” He doesn’t need to. Next summer, he’ll line up alongside Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, playing Peter Parker’s old friend Harry Osborn, the character played in the previous Sam Raimi-directed trilogy by James Franco.
We’re sitting in a half-empty hotel bar, just before the evening rush, DeHaan coolly commanding a corner seat. He’s certainly handsome enough for Hollywood – sandy blond hair and magnetic blue eyes that have already drawn comparisons with a young Leonardo DiCaprio. On screen, he makes a vivid impression every time he appears. In 1930s gangster film, Lawless, he was memorable as a rickets-suffering bootlegger; likewise in Chronicle, as the teenager with special powers.
But it was HBO drama In Treatment that truly marked DeHaan as one to watch, playing the volatile Jesse, an adopted teen full of anger who has taken to selling prescription drugs and sleeping with older men. Little wonder he had no apprehensions (“none whatsoever”) when it came to kissing Radcliffe for Kill Your Darlings. “It’s not a scene about people that are apprehensive about kissing each other. It’s a scene about people that finally get to kiss each other.”
With Radcliffe starring as Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William Burroughs and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac – long before they’d write Howl, Naked Lunch and On The Road – DeHaan plays the volatile, virile Lucien Carr. “He’s the man behind the curtain,” says DeHaan. “He’s the one that introduced everyone to each other. He’s the one that was like, ‘Listen, this is what we’re doing and this is what we stand for.’ He was the whole catalyst for the Beat poet movement.”
Set in 1944, and based around a real-life murder that Carr was involved in, the film wisely plays down some of the more extreme elements of his personality. “There were stories about him going onto the dock of a ship and sinking it, so he could feel what it was like to be on a sinking ship. He’d go to a restaurant and order the most expensive steak raw just so he could throw it in the waiter’s face. Or he’d be in a bar, drinking wine, and chewing off the glass in his mouth to get a reaction from those around him.”
Born and raised in Allentown, in what he calls “normal upper middle-class suburbia”, DeHaan recognised his own past in the story too. “I could certainly relate [it] to the time in my life when I went off to college,” he says, “being around artists for the first time.” Studying at North Carolina School of the Arts, it made a huge change from his Pennsylvania childhood, where neither of his parents – both white-collar professionals working in technology and business – had much interest in the arts.
It was during his time in North Carolina that he met actress Anna Wood, now his wife. She briefly featured in Chronicle, after DeHaan suggested the producers consider her when they were searching for an actress, but he’s uncertain about working again with her. “There’s something really nice about keeping my professional separate from my private life, and be able to go home… she really keeps me feet on the ground and brings me back to reality. And I wouldn’t want that to go away. That’s what I’d be protective over.”
He’ll surely need that stability next year, when The Amazing Spider-Man hits. He spent six months, on and off, shooting the project – longer than he’s ever taken on a film. “That’s like six Kill Your Darlings!” he laughs. “It’s luxurious, though. You get to take your time. And the sets blow your mind. You don’t need to use that much imagination because they make everything so real.”
Aside from hanging out with superheroes, he’s got a small role in Atom Egoyan’s upcoming Devil’s Knot, a drama based around the West Memphis Three – the teenagers controversially imprisoned for killing three eight-year-old kids. Then there’s Life After Beth, co-starring Aubrey Plaza – his first real attempt at comedy. “There was something really terrifying about it,” he says. “But those are the ones I take, the ones I’m worried about.”
DeHaan, it seems, likes to push his own buttons in the run-up to a role. “I’m scared before every job I take. That’s a main component of why I do things – to scare myself and to challenge myself.” In many ways, he looks to be heading the same way as Ryan Gosling, his co-star from The Place Beyond The Pines. “I would take a career like Ryan Gosling’s!” he grins. “Sure – why not? He maintains his integrity.”
We’re winding up, when we return to that scene with Daniel Radcliffe. Did he ever break character and double-take, thinking ‘I’m kissing Harry Potter’? “I never had that moment, ever,” he says, solemnly. “It was always, ‘I’m Lucien Carr and I get to kiss Allen Ginsberg – and that’s a wonderful thing.’” And what did his wife think? “Oh,” he winks. “She thinks it’s hot!”
‘Kill Your Darlings’ opens on 6 December