Known for his Emmy-nominated roles in Dexter and Six Feet Under, in which he played a sociopathic serial killer and an uptight undertaker, respectively, Michael Hall recently completed the eighth and final season of Dexter. Hall is now focusing on his film career and returning to his first love-- the stage
Where do you see yourself heading next?
I would like to do more films, certainly after making these two open-ended commitments -- Six Feet Under and Dexter -- to characters that took me through five and then eight years of my life respectively. I’m interested in doing things that have a definitive beginning, middle and end, and mixing it up a bit more. I learned after Six Feet Under, never say never because I said I never wanted to do another television series. That said, I’m interested in mixing it up a bit more so that probably means more films and stage.
Are you just taking it easy now?
Well, when Dexter ended I immediately went and shot a film in upstate New York called Cold in July. Then I went to Bangladesh and participated in this documentary on climate change. I’m there not in a hard news way but as a correspondent. It’s a series. I actually haven’t taken any time off yet though I look to be pretty free and clear until after the holidays. I’m looking forward to catching my breath a little bit.
You play a complex, conniving character in Kill Your Darlings. What was it that really resonated when you read the script and was there anything that surprised you about David when you researched the role?
I was aware of this story and went through my period of fascination with the Beats and was excited that it was being told and especially that it was being told as well as it was with John (Krokidas, the director) and Austin (Bunn’s) script. I was excited, more specifically about the opportunity to humanise and sympathize with this guy who is sort of a footnote in a lot of the accounts of the formative years of the Beat Generation. He was, if anything, characterised as a bit of a two-dimensional villain/stalker. I liked that the movie seemed to aspire to round him out a bit.
Why did you want to do it?
Generally, the idea of the film was appealing to me because I’m familiar with these guys (the Beats). I knew about the story. I always was amazed that it had never been told. I was excited at how well told it was. The specific reason, initially, was the script. It had a freshness. I don’t think it’s really a biopic because it doesn’t span anyone’s lifetime. It’s a specific period of time. It was nuanced and carefully crafted, and the characters were so well drawn. I sort of liked the fact that this sort of shadow figure was given a voice too.
Obviously, his behaviour is suspicious in terms of the nature of it. But in terms of motives go, I think he was lovesick, not someone who was twisting his moustache. That excited me.
Were you able to do much research on him? Was there a lot out there?
There is relatively little, but there was enough in The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice that was Allen Ginsberg’s journal. There were some real time accounts of his first meeting with David Kammerer. There was enough that I could make informed choices as I filled in the blanks. There was some research, but it was an imaginative exercise too.
The beat poets and generation have such a staying power, they’ve been around for 50-plus years. Every generation relates to it. When you were younger, did you have some angsty writing that you put down that either reflected this kind of feeling which these guys wrote about? Why do you think they have such
I think we’re still feeling the ripple effects of the cultural phenomenon or revolution that they perhaps started. I think our fascination with their work does coincide with a period when you’re coming into awareness in the ways of which whatever conventions there are might constrain you. It speaks to that awareness and appetite to break those boundaries or chains. I definitely have some journal entries that are characterised but ultimately just run-on sentences. I definitely tried to emulate what they had inspired me.
Is there any difference in playing people who are in that period versus playing people who are contemporary?
Yeah. I think especially with the job that our wardrobe people did and the script is so well rendered that a lot of it could be unconscious. You could just give over to living in a world that is contextualised in a totally different way and everybody has different things that are useful whether it’s listening to music or putting on the clothes or what have you.
Are there added challenges as an actor in portraying a real person?
It’s fun to have some real things to hold onto. It makes it, to some degree, a different exercise to play a real person. I certainly think, whether it’s purely fictional or based on a real person, judgment must be withheld or not exist in the first place if you’re going to do it. In the case of David Kammerer, I certainly didn’t think of him as a stalker; I thought of him as someone who was in love with the wrong person and couldn’t let it go.
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