How Daniel Radcliffe Learned How to Have Same-Sex Sex
Since wielding a wand in the Harry Potter films, Daniel Radcliffe has taken on some edgy roles. In 2013, two years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 hit theaters, the former wizard stared in Kill Your Darlings.
If you’re familiar with Kill Your Darlings, you can skip this next bit. However, if you haven’t seen the film, you might want to read this synopsis from Sony Classics:
For dutiful son Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Columbia University is Mecca—a portal to art, intellect, culture, and freedom—everything hometown Patterson, New Jersey is not. When Allen is accepted into Columbia, his father Louis (David Cross), a working-class poet, urges him to leave his emotionally ill mother Naomi (Jennifer Jason Leigh) behind and head to New York to go pursue his own creative dreams.
At Columbia, Allen finds stuffy tradition clashing with daringly modern ideas and attitudes—embodied by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), whom he first encounters shouting a scandalous passage from Henry Miller atop a library study table. With his louche charm and androgynous blond beauty, Lucien is an object of fascination for shy, unsophisticated Allen, and soon he is drawn into Lucien’s hard-drinking, reefer-smoking, jazz-clubbing circle of friends, including William Burroughs (Ben Foster), the dissolute scion of a wealthy family, and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), an older hanger-on who clearly resents Allen’s position as Lucien’s new sidekick. David apparently followed Lucien to New York, and now works as a janitor despite his showy intellectual pretensions. Lucien uses his moody charisma to pit David against Allen while never quite acknowledging his true feelings for either.
As their relationship deepens, Allen and Lucien realize they both share emotionally troubled pasts and a passion for poetry. Eager to shatter literary and social conventions, Lucien is full of grandiose manifestos—but it’s Allen whom he challenges to produce the work that will set the world afire (and David who slavishly writes Lucien’s school papers). While they’re busy competing for his favor, Lucien finds his interest drawn to Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who’s older, tougher, and cockier—a working-class ex-football player who shipped out with the merchant marine, cohabits with sexy Edie (Elizabeth Olsen) and—to really up the ante—writes like a wildman. Jack’s oversize persona could easily crush insecure Allen, but instead he encourages Allen’s poetry writing.
Ok, moving on.
In a recent interview with Vulture, John Krokidas, the director of Kill Your Darlings, opened up about shooting the film’s same-sex sex scenes. “I wanted the arc of the scene to go from nervousness to a place of pure enjoyment to a realization that this would ultimately become a formidable part of his identity,” he says. “Allen Ginsberg was one of the most renowned gay artists of the 20th century, and I felt that not including his sexuality as part of the story would be a crime. He wore it unabashedly on his sleeve and helped establish queer sexuality as something you could even talk about in art and literature, so the scene was incredibly important to capture right.”
According to the interview, Krokidas opted to rehearse the scene using clothed stand-ins so that “there would be less time having to put two naked men in awkward positions with certain body parts pressed up against each other.”
Krokidas and the film’s cinematographer Reed Morano, who happens to be a woman, also rehearsed the scene. He esplained, “I thought that when I was the top and Reed was the bottom, it could look a little wrong, gender-wise, so I let her take the dominant position. And in the middle of this blocking, with my legs in the air and Reed on top of me, was when I really realized we were feigning intercourse in front of our entire crew.”
“We both looked at each other like, “Is this the moment we’re always going to remember from this set?” But it’s also the moment that cemented our friendship. Once you’ve simulated sex with your director of photography, what else do you have to hide from each other?”
Apparently, Radcliffe was very comfortable with the notion of being naked on camera. According to Krokidas, “His only question was, ‘Just so I know, how naked do you want me to be… movie-naked, or Equus-naked?'”
Krokidas wanted the scenes to look authentic but was concerned Radcliffe’s penis wouldn’t be true to Allen Ginsberg’s anatomy. He reflected on the moment adding, “but then I remember going, ‘Oh shit: You’re British, and Allen Ginsberg is one of the most famous Jews of the 20th century. On second thought, I don’t think we’re going to go Equus-naked.'”
The 27-year-old actor replied, “John, my mother’s Jewish and I’m circumcised. Play the scene any way you want.” Shortly after the film’s release, Radcliffe opened up about his experience shooting the scenes in an interview with Flaunt magazine. He distinctly remembered a conversation with Krokidas. “[John] would be telling me what I would be feeling in each take—basically, [that] gay sex, especially for the first time, is really fucking painful.”
Radcliffe continued, “And he said that he had never seen that portrayed accurately on film before. He wanted it to look like an authentic loss of virginity.”
You can watch Radcliffe’s sex scene below in its entirety.