When Allen Ginsberg is remembered, it’s as the chanting dervish at the center of many cultural events of the 1960s. As one of the original “Beat” artists, he represented a nexus of drugs and sexuality. He let some of his poetics rub off on Bob Dylan, faced down the Hell’s Angels at an anti-Vietnam War demonstration in 1965, and chanted at the 1968 DNC demonstrations in Chicago. But it wasn’t always thus. A famed campaigner for gay rights, Ginsberg for a while tried to mingle with the “straights” as a reporter for the World-Telegram with girlfriends and everything. As a poet, he struggled to escape the influence of his mentor William Carlos Williams before blossoming with “Howl,” one of the most famous poems of the 20th century.
Which is why the news that Jesse Eisenberg is to play the young Ginsberg in the horribly titled Kill Your Darlings is kinda intriguing. As the oldest son in Noah Baumbach‘s The Squid and the Whale, he created an indelible portrait of an awkward adolescent who, not unlike Ginsberg, wasn’t afraid to be off-putting. Eisenberg is poised to become the next Michael Cera with this spring’s Adventureland, but let’s not hold that against him. This could be some very exciting casting.
Kill Your Darlings is about the early years of the Beats, when they mostly spent their time convening in Jack Kerouac‘s apartment, smoking marijuana, talking books, sleeping with each other, and receiving stolen goods. The group included Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the older William S. Burroughs, a smackhead-about-town. The melodramatic hook for the movie is the relationship between Lucien Carr, the common link between all three writers, and David Kammerer, an English teacher whose unhealthy obsession with Carr ended with murder in 1944. Kerouac recalled those heady days in his clapped-out novel Vanity of Duluoz:
“I can never forget how June’s present husband, Harry Evans, suddenly came clomping down the hall of her apartment in his Army boots, fresh from the German front, around September 1945, and was appalled to see us, six fullgrown people, all high on Benny sprawled and sitting and cat-legged on that vast double-double bed of ‘skepticism’ and ‘decadence,’ discussing the nothinginess of values, pale-faced, weak bodies, Gad the poor guy said: ‘This is what I fought for?’”
Handled right, this could be a fascinating look at the nascent years of a gang of writers whose work had an indelible impact on America. (Levis has a lot to thank Jack Kerouac for). Himbo Human Torch Chris Evans makes sense as Kerouac, arguably the most photogenic and least talented member of the bunch, while Ben Whishaw, who has played aesthetes in Bridehead Revisited and I’m Not There, will be Carr. The X-factor is untested director John Krokidas, who wrote the script with Austin Bunn.
Which only leaves William S. Burroughs to be cast. Peter Weller is too old. Any suggestions?
Tags: Allen Ginsberg, Austin Bunn, Ben Whishaw, Bob Dylan, Brideshead Revisited, Chris Evans, David Kammerer, I'm Not There, Jack Kerouac, Jesse Eisenberg, John Krokidas, Kill Your Darlings, Lucien Carr, Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale, William S. Burroughs