There was Alexander the Great, Truman Capote, and Harvey Milk. And now there’s Allen Ginsberg. The famed gay poet and Jack Kerouac contemporary has become the latest real-life luminary to spawn two movies at the same time. Shooting now is Howl, a legal drama from writer-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet) starring James Franco (pictured, left) as Ginsberg along with Jon Hamm and Mary-Louise Parker. And starting this summer is Kill Your Darlings, a coming-of-age thriller featuring Chris Evans and, as Ginsberg, Jesse Eisenberg (pictured, right).
Usually, dueling biopics result in one clear winner trumping its competitor: With Alexander and Milk, the first film to start shooting effectively killed the other. In the case of Capote, both films were eventually made and released, but the first one to hit theaters (Capote) dominated the second (Infamous) at the box office and in terms of awards, even though both received strong reviews. Still, Kill Your Darlings director John Krokidas says he’s not concerned. “Capote and Infamous both covered the same exact period of time and story as the other,” he says. “Our two films are very different. Kill Your Darlings is about the untold story of murder that started the Beat movement and tells how these guys came to be the legends that they would
later be. And Howl takes what most would call Ginsberg’s greatest work and shows how it
caused such a ruckus and started one of the greatest trials about
censorship in the history of the United States. I think that the films complement each other perfectly.”
But will critics and moviegoers compare Franco and Eisenberg’s takes on Ginsberg like they did with Philip Seymour Hoffman and his fellow Capote, Toby Jones? Krokidas, who hopes to have Darlings out in late 2009 or early 2010, doesn’t think so: “Jesse is playing Allen Ginsberg when he was 19, when he’s trying to figure out who he is. Whereas in Howl, Ginsberg is starting to become a notable poet and is a lot more comfortable in his shoes. So I think they couldn’t be more different.” Still, the only way one film won’t have the upper hand over the other? If they both came out the same day.