Guest of Honor

Dane DeHaan Talks Beats, Old and New

After shooting from Broadway understudy to rising movie star in just five years, Dane DeHaan isn't quite sure where he'll be in 2018. But he knows what he'll be drinking...

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Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

After a break-out role on the television series “In Treatment,” Dane DeHaan landed the lead in the hit film “Chronicle” – and the roles haven’t stop flowing since. He appeared in the Oscar-winning “Lincoln,” the heavy-metal spectacle “Metallica Through the Never,” and next year he’ll be seen in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This month he takes a detour from big-budget blockbusters to star as Lucien Carr in the indie period drama “Kill Your Darlings” — about the early days of the Beat Poets.

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Rico Gagliano: Could you summarize “Kill Your Darlings” for us?

Dane DeHaan: So basically Allen Ginsburg goes to Columbia [University]. He meets Lucien Carr, and Lucien Carr is the person that is responsible for introducing Ginsburg, Kerouac, and Burroughs all to each other. But also, as Allen and Lucien are kind of getting wrapped up in one another, Lucien’s also dealing with a very overbearing relationship with this older man named David Kammerer… and then he murders him.

Rico Gagliano: I’ve spent my whole life being told stories about the Beat poets. Everybody I think at some point in high school or college ends up reading “On The Road” and “Howl.” I’ve never heard of this story. I honestly thought this was a fictionalized version of real events until the crawl at the end that tells you this was true. Had you heard of this story? I mean, were you familiar with the Beats?

Dane DeHaan: You know… familiar with the Beats kind of like you were: just like what you come across growing up. But this story, no. Like, I had no idea. I didn’t even know who Lucien Carr was.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Lucien worked very hard to make sure that this story became a footnote in the history of the Beats. The first publication of “Howl” is dedicated to Lucien Carr, and he had his name removed from all subsequent publications. Kerouac and Burroughs, one of the first books they wrote together was called “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” and it actually recalls these events leading up to the murders, but Lucien made sure that book wasn’t published until after he died. I think he died in 2006, and the book was published in 2008.

Rico Gagliano: Now you’re a scholar of the Beats, it sounds like.

Dane DeHaan: Well that’s about all I got!

Left to right: Ben Foster as Williams Burroughs, Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr Photo by Clay Enos, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics Rico Gagliano: Watching this movie, it was interesting. I was putting it in the larger cultural context: There are a lot of movies out now set in the 60’s and the 70’s, especially exploring the creative explosions that were happening in America at that time. I think there’s a parallel conversation going on that somehow this period of time is more fallow artistically — especially in movies, which is a theory I completely don’t agree with.

I’m wondering for you, as somebody who’s involved with the arts right now… Like who are the Beat poets of now, the guys who are sort of on the vanguard for you?

Dane DeHaan: Well, I mean, I think I’ve been listening actually to a lot of Macklemore lately. In terms of at least reinventing a genre, or a kind of thing, it’s really nice to hear somebody that’s rapping about socially relevant issues, but still doing so with an artistic passion.

Rico Gagliano: This would be the rap artist Macklemore who works with Ryan Lewis.

Dane DeHaan: Yeah, his song “Wings” goes through the evolution of all the shoes that he had as a kid?  And it’s a comment on consumerism, but it’s a very like kind of serious, beautiful song, and there’s like a cello in it and a children’s choir. That song, I think… it’s hard to say that makes him a ‘Beat poet of rap music,’ but it’s reinventing the genre I think in a really cool, interesting way.

Rico Gagliano: So your next big movie is a Spider-Man movie, which I’m guessing has a budget and scale approximately 10,000 times of this film. Tell me about the cultural whiplash of that. What was the difference between day one on that set and day one on this set?

Dane DeHaan: Well, the budget, it’s incomparable. At one point they literally built Times Square on Long Island.

Rico Gagliano: That was less expensive than shooting in Times Square? That’s the most amazing part of that story.

Dane DeHaan: Yeah, because I think they had to shoot there for like three weeks, so it was just cheaper to build it! It’s crazy.

But honestly it’s just about letting the circumstance of the film — like how is it going to work to your advantage.  In “Kill Your Darlings” you have 24 days to shoot, but in a way you don’t have time to think, you just have to kind of do it. And there can be something really rewarding in that kind of experience — especially making a film about the Beat poets, that are kind of all about naked self-expression and just letting things fly.

And then, you know, on “Spider-Man” you have never-ending resources. Like, anything you can dream up can just appear. And you have all of this time.

Rico Gagliano: What was the thing that you were most amazed could be made to materialize with those resources? I’m imagining somebody going “We need 15 Ferraris.”

Dane DeHaan: I mean, not far from the truth. I think if someone did need 15 Ferraris – and you know, you would have to obviously have a really good reason! – but in theory it could happen. It’s insane. I don’t really want to give a specific example, because I don’t want to give away anything in the film, but it’s just like if you were doing a scene and then all of a sudden you were like, “Oh I just think this scene would be a lot better if I was petting like an exotic peacock,” and everyone agreed, all of a sudden you would probably have like five different kinds of peacocks to choose from.

Rico Gagliano: All right, we have two questions that we ask everyone on this show. The first one is, if we were to meet you at a dinner party, what question should we not ask you? What is the question that you are really sick of being asked?

Dane DeHaan: “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Rico Gagliano: I mean, I guess I can imagine that. You’re a rising star, so people are kind of looking ahead for you, in a way.

Dane DeHaan: I get asked that question all the time and it’s like, if someone asked me five years ago “where would you be five years from now?” I would really have sold myself way short!

Rico Gagliano: What would you have said five years ago? What would your answer have been do you think?

Dane DeHaan: Probably that I would be living in a really terrible apartment in New York, and not working as an actor, and struggling and just fighting the good fight.

Rico Gagliano: You made it a little bit farther than that.

Dane DeHaan: I have!

Rico Gagliano: Here’s our second question. It’s sort of the flip of that, which is: tell us something we don’t know.  About yourself… or it can be just some piece of trivia that you think would blow people’s minds.

Dane DeHaan: Well, we were talking, before this, about this water that I drank the other day…

Rico Gagliano: We were talking about the fact that water is now on the menu on restaurants sometimes.

Dane DeHaan: Yeah, they’ve started to make water into like a luxury item almost. I was at this bar the other day, and someone poured me a glass of, it was called sap water. I don’t know exactly… It’s like water from the sap of a tree… I don’t even really understand –

Rico Gagliano: It runs down the bark of the tree? Or it’s actually pulled out?

Dane DeHaan: I think it’s pulled out of the sap.

Rico Gagliano: So is it really good water, or just really terrible maple syrup?

Dane DeHaan: I was really skeptical and I tried this water, and it was like oddly the most delicious water I had ever had in my life! And I kept bringing it to everybody, and I was like, “You just need to try this water.” And everybody was skeptical at first, and then tried it, and they were like, “That’s really crazy…”

Rico Gagliano: You’re not a spokesperson for sap water, are you secretly?

Dane DeHaan: I am not a spokesperson for sap water.

Rico Gagliano: You can’t use public radio to commercialize this thing.

Dane DeHaan: You made me do it. You made me!