PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Daniel Radcliffe casts off boy wizard Harry Potter to play the voice of the 1950s Beat Generation in new movie "Kill Your Darlings" - a seductive tale of friendship, gay love and murder.
Radcliffe, 23, plays poet Allen Ginsberg aged 17 - a young, naive and closeted teen who struggles to find his place in the world years before the sexual and cultural liberation of the 1960s.
As Ginsberg enters Columbia University in New York, his encounters with fellow mavericks Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) bring about a new vision - the founding of the Beat Generation.
Indie film "Kill Your Darlings" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to critical praise this week and was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics for wider distribution later this year.
After 10 years and eight "Harry Potter" films, Radcliffe is also looking for a new place as an actor, appearing on stage in 2007 in London and New York in the drama "Equus," for which he appeared fully nude, and musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" in 2011.
"Kill Your Darlings" sees Radcliffe pushing boundaries again as Ginsberg comes of age, including a raunchy sex scene with a man.
"Everybody wants to have as diverse a body of work as they can possibly have, and that's what keeps people interested in your career," Radcliffe told Reuters.
"There's a lot to live up to in a sense that you're playing someone so well known, and revered by so many people, but we're not making a reverential film about him in any way," he added of his role as Ginsberg.
Hollywood entertainment publication Variety said Radcliffe gives a performance "to banish any semblance of Harry Potter from the screen."
The Hollywood Reporter review noted a scene in which Ginsberg "decisively embraces his sexuality (that) likely will be viewed as a major step for the actor toward distancing himself from the Harry Potter persona."
Radcliffe joins a long line of actors who have portrayed Ginsberg on film, including Ron Livingstone in 2000's "Beat" and James Franco in 2010's "Howl."
"I purposely stayed away from other portrayals of (Ginsberg) because I find I am a terrible mimic, so I didn't want to end up doing an impression of James Franco doing Allen Ginsberg," the young actor said.
Radcliffe said that while the film shows the four men who went on to create a literary and cultural revolution in America, the story is not solely about the birth of the Beats.
"It's about showing how much fun they had and how they sparked off each other, and it's that energy and vitality that launched the Beats," Radcliffe said.
Director John Krokidas said Ginsberg's story was central to the film because he had the biggest personal journey.
"At the beginning of the film he's very much the dutiful son ... but he never shows who he is inside, because he's taking care of everyone else," Krokidas told Reuters.
"By the end of the film, he becomes the rebel, he self-proclaims himself as a poet and finds his own voice."
Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Jackie Frank