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Murder by a Beat: the Yalies
who made 'Kill Your Darlings'

"Like many college students," writes Austin Bunn ’95, "I fell in love with the Beat Generation writers in college. I remember crouching in the aisles of the bookstore in New Haven and reading Allen [Ginsberg]’s poetry"—not being a Beat myself, I am here omitting Bunn's description of the content—"like they were a drug."

The drug stayed in his system: last weekend, Sony Classics released the new movie Kill Your Darlings, about Ginsberg as a Columbia University student in 1944. Journalist and college professor Bunn cowrote the screenplay—his first—with his Yale roommate and "oldest, closest friend," John Krokidas ’95, who also directed.

The film tells the story of Ginsberg, fellow students Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr, and Carr's bohemian friends from the New York nightclub scene. One of those is the writer (and Harvard grad) William Burroughs. Another is David Kammerer, a man in his 30s who's obsessed with Carr's "louche charm and androgynous blond beauty."

Subtitled "A True Story of Obsession and Murder," Kill Your Darlings is no On The Road frolic. The spurned Kammerer confronts Carr, who stabs the older man and dumps his body in the Hudson River. Carr pleads self-defense, portraying Kammerer as a sexual predator, and is convicted of a lesser charge.

“This is a story that needs to be told to the world," Krokidas tells an interviewer. "The fact that in 1944 you could literally get away with murder by calling your victim a homosexual pissed me off to no end. That was the one thing I could always turn to, even when it looked like the film"—a decade in the making—"wasn’t going to happen."

Starring Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, Kill Your Darlings is drawing mixed reviews but has prompted Variety to name Krokidas one of its "10 Directors to Watch." And at the Toronto film festival last month, Bunn and Krokidas were "treated like rock stars."

That might be the first time for Krokidas, who studied acting at Yale until “I was cast as the cute guy" in a musical, he recalls. “I realized then that perhaps acting was not in my future.”

Filed under John Krokidas, Austin Bunn, film, Beatniks
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