DR: “When it comes to the character I play, one of the reasons I took this particular part is that there are parts of Allen Ginsberg that I can relate to. The character we’re showing in this film is universal because we see him at a time in his life that we all can identify with. It’s somebody finding out who he is, and everyone had some variant of that experience around the age that Allen is in the film. It’s about young love and all that goes with it.
The thing I found most interesting is the difference between Allen’s inner and outer life
The diaries Allen kept through his teenage years give a fantastic picture of this guy who was both incredibly ambitious and incredibly aware of his own intellectual genius. At one point in his diary he writes, “I know I’m a genius. I just don’t know what form that genius is going to take yet.” [Editorial note – the exact quote – “If some future historian or biographer wants to know what the genius thought and did in his tender years, here it is. I’ll be a genius of some kind or other, probably in literature…either I’m a genius, I’m egocentric, or I’m slightly schizophrenic. Probably the first two” – Allen Ginsberg, aged fourteen!]. But on the flip side of that, he was quite shy and not very confident in terms of social interactions. And I found that interesting — to play these great literary figures before they became the great men we know.”
“Allen hadn’t smoked a million cigarettes by that point. [sic – was he ever a heavy smoker?]. He didn’t have that low, gravelly voice that everyone knows from all his recordings. And John (Krokidas), our director, was very firm about the fact that he didn’t want us to research our characters beyond the age we were playing them. He said, “You’re not playing Allen Ginsberg the great American poet. You’re playing Allen Ginsberg, a boy from Paterson, New Jersey, desperately hoping to get into Columbia University.”
“Nailing Ginsberg’s accent was a huge thing for me. I enjoyed learning how to speak in a New Jersey accent. On set, I just did it all the time. I listened to a lot of Allen Ginsberg at various stages of his life and Jersey accents of varying degrees on the Internet. I didn’t want to go too far with this, because Allen didn’t have a terribly strong Jersey accent. When he was young, it was more neutral than the ones heard on “Jersey Shore.” I’d talk in the accent and read a lot of his poems and diaries out loud by myself and with my dialect coach.”
Everybody’s talking. It’s the zeitgeist – cultural zeitgeist – Dane DeHaan (who, alongside Radcliffe’s Allen, plays Lucien Carr in the film), speaks here, on the impact, the current cultural impact, of the phenomena of the Beat Generation:
DD: “..Well, listen, I mean, I think (that) their (the Beats) effect on today’s society…is.. like, kind of amazing. It’s not just that their books are still celebrated and read, but also (that) they were the original hipsters. And, like, where I live, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I can’t walk down the street without seeing at least ten people dressed exactly like Jack Kerouac – it’s really insane! So, they.. they, you know.. Obviously, their books have (and continue to have) this huge impact, but also their entire.. what they stood for, and how they dressed, you know. And all that stuff, still resonates today – maybe even the most now since then, in terms of what they stood for and the impact (that) it’s had culturally.”
Style (“how they dressed”) and substance (‘what they stood for”) – worth pointing out, perhaps, this crucial distinction. We are reminded of the debates over “beats” (sic) and “beatniks” – (see Joyce Johnson’s observations here and, indeed, Ian Crouch’s observations here) Lauren Oyler, writing this past week in Dazed Digital “Today’s hipsters… are paying premiums for our “angel-headedness”, (perhaps?), and, “We are skeptical.. because the commodification of cool has made us fortify our defenses of irony and obscurity.” – and Andrew O’Hehir in an interesting piece in Salon – “Every tattooed millionaire athlete, music impresario and bad boy movie star must be a nonconformist, a reckless and defiant individual who is also, simultaneously and miraculously, a representation of our collective consumerist desire”
That said, we are reminded once again of Daniel Radcliffe’s remark (in Huffington Post) “”I don’t care why people come and see films. If they come and see a film about the beat poets because they saw me in `Harry Potter,’ fantastic. That’s a wonderful thing,”. And, in recent conversation with Entertainment Weekly editor Jess Cagel, regarding the fabled sex scene(s) – “It is slightly salacious, but if that gets people to buy a ticket and they end up seeing a one-and-a-half hour drama about the Beat Generation, then I’m happy with that”. Whatever path it takes to “turn you on” then, to get you one-on-one to the primary source.
Here‘s Radcliffe, DeHaan et al at the (recent) L.A. press conference, in its entirety.
More (extensive) KYD content in tomorrow’s blog.
Another one not to be missed, Damien Cave’s piece last week in the New York Times on Kerouac’s Mexico =
Ken Kesey‘s papers are to remain at the University of Oregon‘s Knight Library (where they’re currently residing) following an announcement by University president Michael Gottfredson, on Tuesday that he would add one million dollars to the already approximately four hundred thousand dollars that had been raised through private donations. Here’s the AP wire story.
Tomorrow night, KPFK’s Arts In Review (AIR) Repertory Players and Pacifica Radio Archives present the broadcast premier of Che and Allen, an imagined 1965 St Patrick’s Day meeting of Che Guevara and Allen Ginsberg in Limerick, Ireland, conceived and written by playwright/journalist, Julio Martinez, hosted by producer/editor Mark Torres and directed by Irene Arranga. It will be streamed live world-wide. For more information, see here