Biographer: Kerouac Would Be 'Very Pleased' With Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund in 'On the Road'
Don't look now, but Beat novelist Jack Kerouac's seminal masterpiece 'On the Road' is about to get the tween treatment. The film adaptation draws on a fresh-faced cast, including 'Tron: Legacy' star Garrett Hedlund, newcomer Sam Riley and Bella Swan herself, Kristen Stewart, a teeny-bopper trifecta sure to draw hordes of 'Twilight' fans. The first production still (above) from the hotly anticipated film was recently released and has Kerouac fans around the world talking.
While some have questioned the casting choices, others think director Walter Salles was spot-on in picking Stewart, Hedlund and Riley to play Kerouac's iconic characters. "Well, the irony of it all is that Marylou [Stewart's character] was about 17 in 'On the Road,' and Kristen Stewart kind of looks like what I imagine she looked like," says Dennis McNally, Grateful Dead historian and author of 'Desolation Angel,' the definitive Kerouac biography. "I met Salles, the filmmaker. He was doing a lot of advance research. And while 'On the Road' as a film project always seemed jinxed to me -- ['Godfather' director Francis Ford] Coppola's been trying to make it since the 1970s -- I wish him well."
At first glimpse, it certainly seems a poor fit to cast baby-faced Riley as Kerouac's alter ego and innocent-seeming, blue-eyed Hedlund as Kerouac's stand-in for Neal Cassady, a charismatic speed-gobbling chatterbox. Thankfully, 'On the Road' is also backed by veteran talent such as Viggo Mortensen, Terrence Howard, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and Elisabeth Moss. And then there's Kirsten Dunst.
McNally is certain the Beat novelist would approve. "Kerouac wanted to see his movie made," he says. "He was hoping for Brando at the time. But I suspect he'd be very pleased."
Salles' project, which was filmed around the world, from Arizona, California and Louisiana to Argentina, Canada and Mexico, has yet to secure a U.S. distributor but is expected to be released later this year.
The film has been stuck in preproduction hell for decades. Coppola bought the film rights in the 1970s, and Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell have both been lined up for lead roles at different points in the book's journey to the big screen. Marlon Brando was at one time slated to play Dean Moriarty opposite Kerouac himself as Sal Paradise. In a 1957 letter from Kerouac to Brando, discovered while Salles' film was in production, Kerouac assigned the roles himself:
"I'm praying that you'll buy 'On the Road' and make a movie of it. Don't worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak."
Kerouac continued to give Brando the hard pitch:
"I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I'll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I'll show you how."
Will the film version jolt a new generation like the book did, sending countless wide-eyed seekers on the road searching for kicks armed with hip flasks and cranked on jazz? It's anyone's guess.
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