Film inspired by Jack Kerouac’s leave home and find yourself classic

LOS ANGELES — To make On the Road, director Walter Salles and star Garrett Hedlund had to go on the road.

Based on the classic novel by Jack Kerouac that inspired generations of young people to leave their homes and find their own paths, a lot of the film involved tooling around the country in a 4,500-pound 1949 Hudson.

Principal photography was in Montreal, San Francisco, Louisiana and Mexico from August to December 2010. Then Salles and Hedlund and a film crew started traveling the blue highways of America.

“We took only back roads and shied away from cities where the architecture had been homogenized, says Salles, who earlier made another try-to-find-yourself road movie with The Motorcycle Diaries.

“We did this for two and a half weeks. We didn’t have a deadline and didn’t know where we were going to sleep at night.”

Hedlund, who plays free-spirited Dean Moriarty in the film, can vividly recount the trip in a stream of consciousness that would make Kerouac proud:

“Through the Adirondack Mountains, down to Utica. Drove through a blizzard with our heads out the window (which is shown in the film *) to Erie, Pennsylvania. Drove down to Cincinnati, from Cincinnati to Lexington, Kentucky, with no brakes. Flatbedded the car from Lexington to Nashville. Tried to find some parts on a Saturday in the Bible Belt, acquired some, left on Sunday. Spent eight hours on back roads from Nashville to Memphis, stayed there one night and went to a jazz club just like in the book where we were the only white cats in the place. Broke down in Texarkana, Arkansas. Broke down in Lubbock, Texas. Broke down in New Mexico for three days. Met some of the greatest mechanics along the way. Broke down in Mississippi. Had a guy named Corndog repair our car in his front yard. He became such a friend he would call us afterwards and ask us where we were.”

Bringing On the Road to the screen was a long haul itself.

Francis Ford Coppola has owned the movie rights for around 30 years but for one reason or another could not get the film made. There were screenplays by novelists Barry Gifford, Russell Banks and one by Coppola’s son Roman. But studios also wanted established stars to play Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise (Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac in real life), and Coppola wanted unknowns.

Then after the success of 2004’s Motorcycle Diaries, Coppola felt he found the right combination to make On the Road in Brazilian director Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera, who had received an Oscar nomination for the film about Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara’s young days.

Still, there were a number of breakdowns ahead for the film, the financial crisis of 2008 being the biggest one.

“It actually took twice as long as The Motorcycle Diaries to finally crystallize into a film. Diaries was three or four years in the making. This was almost seven to eight years,” says Salles.

In 2007, though, Salles zeroed in on Hedlund as Dean and Kristen Stewart for the key role of Marylou, Dean’s child bride.

Both were relatively little known at the time. The pre-Twilight Stewart was coming off an eye-catching performance in Into the Wild, while the now 28-year-old Hedlund had made his screen debut in Troy, as cousin to Brad Pitt’s Achilles. Since then he has drawn praise as a soulful singer-songwriter in Country Strong (playing guitar and singing himself) and starred in Tron: Legacy. (A sequel was recently announced.)

Despite the delays in making Road, both actors remained committed to the project because the novel had meant so much to them when they read it as teens.

“Seeing somebody who completely paved their own path when format was being shoved down your throat and seeing somebody who cut the cuffs with a spontaneous prose kind of changed the way I looked at literature,” says Hedlund.

In fact, the novel inspired the actor to compose his own “non-editing writing with no hesitation.” (Kerouac actually wrote On the Road on one long taped-together roll of paper.)

Source

 

*Actually that part was filmed in Paraguay – I asked Garrett if any of Pennsylvania was in the final film since that’s where I live and he said it was dark when they drove through PA  - Laura

Long haul to On the Road
Laura
27 Dec, 2012



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