'Kill Your Darlings' director on the 'fearless' Daniel Radcliffe and Ben Foster's flaming finger
An epic and blunt Q&A with filmmaker John Krokidas
PARK CITY - To say the filmmaker sitting in front of me is having a good week is something of an understatement. John Krokidas and I may share 24 mutual Facebook friends, but I don't know him well enough to gauge if his current euphoric demeanor is his normal disposition or the result of too many energy drinks combined with the thin air of Park City, Utah. I'll take a wild guess that only an upbeat and energetic person could have spent nine long years endeavoring to shoot his first feature. I'll also assume having said film, "Kill Your Darlings," debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to strong reviews might be a huge relief. Moreover, having distributor Sony Classics acquire "Darlings" a few days after can't hurt either. Yes, it's been a great festival for Krokidas.
The director and co-writer of "Darlings" pulled off something quite remarkable. Shot in only 24 days, "Darlings" looks like a much more expensive picture than it is and features an all around superb ensemble including Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Kyra Sedgwick, Elisabeth Olsen, Jack Huston, Jennifer Jason-Leigh and David Cross. Based on a true story, "Darlings" centers on Allen Ginsberg's first and only year at Columbia University, the circle of friends that introduced him to the "deviant" ways of the Manhattan's Greenwich Village and a tragic event that changed the poet's life forever.
Impressively blunt (don't let Hollywood change that John), Krokidas and I spent 30 minutes discussing the contributions of Radcliffe, Foster and the perils of having Columbia University try to kick a prestige cast off campus. "Darlings" won't hit theaters until later this year, but for Radcliffe fans the following is a must-read.
Q: So first of all, congratulations on the Sony Classics pick up.
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Q: You hear stories where people stay up all night waiting for a deal and you found out about the pick up what, three days later? When did you know the deal was going to go down?
Literally, yesterday about five minutes before you did.
Q: So, you've worked so hard on this movie and you know you’ve got investors and you know you want to sell it. When you wake up the next morning after the premiere and everyone loves it and you don’t have a deal yet, do you start to get stressed?
I start to get stressed the second I stepped off the plane.
Q: About the sale or about the movie?
No. About, about everything. About the whole experience. It’s so funny the directors that I’ve met, we went to the directors' brunch and I had the fortunate experience of going first so I had the band-aid ripped off right away. And then on the bus I saw the directors going through the same thing I went through the day before. And the funniest part is the thing that we were most worried about was the introduction of our film.
Q: You mean…?
The directors stepping out in front of a huge audience…
Q: You worried what you were going to say?
Yeah, and how that would go down.
Q: You did a great job, though.
Thank you. It's just weird that that’s the thing we're the most worried about and then of course after the movie was over all of the actors and I looked at each other and just went, 'Did we just do a good thing or a bad thing?' And we had no idea at that moment and then we walked out and went to the party and there was just so much love and excitement in the room, that’s when we knew something special had just happened.
Q: You couldn’t tell from the audience's reaction?
Out of body experience. Total out of body experience because I had been imagining that moment for the last 11 years, since I had a short film here. And I would imagine what that Q&A would be like and the questions that would be asked. I did not know a question would be asked of Daniel Radcliffe about his perm. That was surprising. (Laughs.) But just that feeling of being there and giving that speech and what it would be like. So, when I was actually doing it, I was so in the moment I couldn’t even tell what the overall perception in the room was.
Q: You've had other Q&As since then. Have you enjoyed them more?
Every time it gets better and better and the really special thing to me about this film -- sales, publicity, all that regardless -- is to see the audiences reaction at the end. And to have people come up to me on the street and tell me how much it moved them. To sit next to people on the bus and eavesdrop about how much the movie moved them. And so I’ve just been given as much love as I can on that stage for the audience. When you hear people have been waiting since five in the morning to see your movie, I figure I should tell them all the secrets and putting it together, and answer all the questions that they want to hear.
Q: Are there any constant themes in the questions? What's the one thing you’re hearing again and again?
The questions that people are very curious about are 'Why the story?' 'How did you get together this crazy wonderful cast?' And, 'How’d you survive for the nine years it took emotionally to get this movie made?'
Q: And how did you? A lot of people would’ve given up or they would of, you know, maybe said, 'Oh, let someone else work on it and, you know, give me an executive producer credit if you ever make it' or something. What made you keep working and working and working on it?
I’m going to give you my psychiatrist's phone number. He might have some insight into that. No, honestly, in a way it was a very personal story for me to tell and I knew from people’s reaction and reading the script that there were something in there and when you’re a first-time filmmaker in the industry you’re considered a 'deadly attachment.' [That's] actually what they call you. And to find a financier [willing] to give you a shot and to trust that you can bring it home is not the easiest accomplishment when you have a period film with several characters, musical sequences and tons of locations. You know, I never do anything small. I wish I did. The film probably could have gotten a lot sooner if it were a small intimate drama with four people in a room.
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