Dexter Michael C. Hall

For eight seasons Michael C. Hall has killed well over 100 people on Showtime's "Dexter." In a nice change of pace John Krokidas' acclaimed debut "Kill Your Darlings" has Hall playing the victim at the other end of the blade.

The drama, which screened this week in Toronto and opens October 17, tells the story of how the Beat Generation movement came to be by centering on Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and his tenuous relationship to fellow Columbia student Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who would go on to murder gay elder sophisticate David Kammerer (Hall). Ben Foster co-stars in the film as William S. Burroughs, while Jack Huston embodies Jack Kerouac.

Indiewire sat down with Hall in Toronto the day of its Canadian premiere to discuss his role in the drama, saying goodbye to "Dexter," and playing his first gay character since his run on HBO's "Six Feet Under."

Both David Kammerer and Dexter have predatory tendencies. David begins to stalk Lucien when he ignores his advances, and Dexter hunts down bad guys as a side job. Did you draw any parallels between the two?

No, I didn't really. I think I would liken the characters more in terms of having very different but equally consuming compulsions. I think Dexter subconsciously thinks of himself as a predator. I think David Kammerer has been characterized as a predator, though I think the film aspires to present someone who is not that sort of black and white. He's a predator but maybe it's an emotion that's requited and is arguably inappropriate, but is as pure as any exhibited in the film. Certainly, in Ginsberg's more poetic recounting of the murder, kind of gives himself over to his beloved and essentially says, "I'd rather die by your hand than live without it." There's something totally twisted about it, but there's some weird nobility about it too. But I definitely saw more differences than similarities, though there is a degree of obsession and a moral gray area that the areas are living and presented, that does run between them.

Dane DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe in 'Kill Your Darlings'
Dane DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe in 'Kill Your Darlings'

The film's remarkably ambitious for a directorial debut. What gave you the confidence John, who also penned the screenplay, could bring his vision to the screen?

Well, John is so inherently passionate about whatever he's doing, I think. And he co-wrote the screenplay and had been living with the material for so long and was able to speak so passionately and intelligently about the subject matter that I had confidence that he had the doggedness and tenacity and clarity and the strength of vision that it would require. And I was right.

Did you read any poetry growing up?

Yeah. I mean, maybe not quite growing up, but in my early twenties I familiarized myself with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Borroughs, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke. And I was aware of this particular story and always amazed that it hadn't been widely told, so when it made its way into my hands I was really excited that that was happening, and how beautifully the story had been rendered. It was exciting.

Did you feel the need to brush up on your Beat poetry before embarking on this project?

Yeah, I mean, I don't know that Kammerer himself was a poet. I knew he did some writing, and that a lot of his creative energy was dedicated to doing Lucien's schoolwork. I spent some time with the Beats, and spent some time reading Allen Ginsberg's journals from the time, to get a sense of the atmosphere and to get real-time accounts of meeting Kammerer. But I also read some Yates; I think that's what inspired Kammerer, and what he used to in turn inspire Lucien, who in turn inspired Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs. I mean, there are some Beat scholars who consider Kammerer the godfather of Beats. I talked to someone who worked intimately with Burroughs and asked if he ever talked about Kammerer. All he really had to tell me is that he just couldn't let it go. I think he's someone who creatively and intellectually brought as much to the table as these other guys, but he was consumed by the passion.

When preparing for roles, do you have a routine you follow?

No, I think part of what I like about acting is that, certainly you accumulate more tools over the years and you have more tools in your toolbox. But hopefully different roles and different worlds in which those roles exist call upon you to fashion new tools. This was unique in that it was a world populated by characters who were all future icons, and this footnote in Beat history that was sort of off in the shadows. But I was able to find enough information about him to make informed decisions as I filled in the blanks, and that was a unique position to be in.