Autumn 2012 sees the release Walter Salles adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s much-treasured novel, ‘On the Road’ (1957), which debuted at Cannes Film Festival. With fresh-faced Sam Riley taking the lead, supported by Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Garrett Hedlund, the Francis Ford Coppola produced 1950s America drama has got everyone talking.
It is no surprise that a lot rests on how Walter Salles, Francis Ford Coppola and Jose Rivera (screenplay) deliver the big screen adaptation. The book is considered to be one of the best English-Language novels and as an important work, emerging during the postwar Beat Generation of writers. ‘Beat’ culture is associated with the rejection of materialism, experimentation with drugs, exploration of sexuality and generally living life without censorship. Sounds rather idyllic, no? The term Beat Generation was introduced to the mainstream by the writer of the novel, Kerouac, who expanded on the adjective ‘beat’ to include connotations of being lively (upbeat) and also being ‘on the beat’. These elements are found within the plot that centres around Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), laced with Kerouac’s personal experiences and influences that further add to the context and a time when conformity was expected and praised and the idea of the ‘outsider’ was suspect and unwelcome. The story follows Sal, after the death of this father, as he embarks upon his journey of self-discovery with Dean Moriarty (Garret Hedlund).
Joining Sam Riley, who was sighted as one to watch in 2007 by Variety, are silver screen heavy weights Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund. It is Hedlund who will be playing Dean Moriarty, the man who changes Sal Paradises life and becomes his accomplice during his personal quest for meaning and belonging. Dunst steps in as Camille, Dean’s second wife and mother of his child that periodically changes the dynamic of Sal’s relationship with Dean. Mortensen stars as Old Bull Lee, a morphine-addicted novelist and fellow Beat writer, who Kerouac sights as a teacher. Those that are nervous about the silver-screen overhaul of the novel can have piece of mind, knowing that the cast consists of critically acclaimed talents.
Walter Salles, the director, was drafted in after Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the rights to the film in 1979, saw ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ (2004). Before filming began, Salles made the documentary ‘Searching for On the Road’, taking the same road trip as Sal Paradise and talking to Beat poets and novelists who knew Kerouac. Coppola obviously felt that Salles was the right choice as previous attempts have been started and stalled since purchasing the rights, having tried pairing Ethan Hawke and Brad Pitt (yes, my heart fluttered at the thought, too) playing the parts of Sal and Dean. Years later he also tried with Billy Crudup and Colin Farrell but, again, nothing came of it. Finally, with Salles behind the camera, Coppola felt that he had found the right person with the right vision and filming began in Montreal Canada in 2010.
Kirsten Dunst in Dolce&Gabbana at the On the Road Premier at Cannes Film Festival with Viggo Mortensen
Since it’s debut at Cannes Film Festival, ‘On the Road’ has been making those who love the novel nervous about its on-screen representation as it has received mixed reviews, but this was expected. But what about our thoughts?? For now, you can catch the trailer after the jump to get a taste of what you can expect…
Written by Ben Taylor