Has any other Hollywood movie taken this long to get made? I wonder if the upcoming Walter Salles film of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road will set the world’s record for years in development when it finally hits the screens sometime next year.
Yes, my friends, after 15 years of planning, On The Road: The Movie is actually happening. It now has an IMDB listing. It’s shooting in Montreal. Some actress from some movie called Twilight is apparently the star attraction (strange, since it’s a story about the friendship between two men).
But, then, it’s probably good that big stars aren’t going to play Dean Moriarty (the character based on Neal Cassady) and Sal Paradise (the character Kerouac based on himself). These actors will have a hard enough time trying to appear natural in these iconic roles.
Longtime readers of Literary Kicks will remember that I tried to audition for this film myself back in 1995, and met Francis Ford Coppola and Allen Ginsberg on the set (we didn’t get much time to chat, since there were five thousand other hopefuls also trying to get Coppola’s attention). Back then, I was skeptical of the film’s chances for cinematic greatness. Today, I’m sorry to say I’m even more skeptical, because the long gestation isn’t likely to have helped. It’s the slapdash casual offhandedness of On The Road that makes the novel seem so fresh and alive, and 15 years of preparation isn’t likely to set a tone for slapdash casual offhandedness.
Any film version of On The Road at any time would have had to deal with this problem. It’s part of the book’s legend, and certainly part of its appeal, that the story is an unstructured mass, a stream of experience, an unfolding scroll. A satisfying plotline or an artificial characterization will pop the bubble. On The Road: the Movie should feel like cinema verite, or else it will lose its most essential attribute — spontaneity.
That’s the challenge that lead actors Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley face, and I truly wish them well.
It’s interesting to imagine other pairings for the Dean/Sal parts. Back when I first heard about (and auditioned for) this film, I suggested Woody Harrelson and Rob Lowe to play Dean and Sal. Back when Kerouac was alive and the possibility of the film was first discussed (Kerouac was eager to see it happen), Paul Newman and Montgomery Clift (see photos above) were considered a possible pairing. Marlon Brando’s name came up in these discussions too, but I don’t see how he could have fit: he was too cocky to play Sal, and not cheerful enough to play Dean.
I don’t know much about Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Amy Adams or Kristen Stewart, but I do know who Kirsten Dunst is, and I hope she’ll make a great Carolyn Cassady. I’m also psyched that Viggo Mortensen, who was great in History of Violence, will be playing Old Bull Lee, the character based on William S. Burroughs. The IMDB listing doesn’t say who the excellent character actor Steve Buscemi will play, but Buscemi knows Beat literature and will certainly be an asset to the film. I suspect Mr. Pink will show up as Elmer Hassel, or maybe Denver B. Doll.
It will be a while before we’ll get to see this film, but meanwhile there’s a new film about Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl coming out soon. A well-written piece by James Franco in Vanity Fair about his experience playing Allen Ginsberg is an encouraging sign for this one, and it’s opening in October. I’ll certainly be reviewing it here.
Are you looking forward to either or both of these movies?