On The Road
2012 adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic novel, On the Road.
This was the official website for the 2012 adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic novel, On the Road.
Content is from the site's 2012 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.
On The Road  Official Trailer
After the death of his father, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), an aspiring New York writer, meets Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a wild and infectiously charismatic ex-con. They hit it off immediately. Determined to avoid the pitfalls of a narrow, prescribed life, Sal hits the road, joining Dean on what evolves into a life changing physical and emotional odyssey. Thirsting for freedom, they discover the world, the ecstasy of experience, the connectedness of humanity and ultimately themselves.
A cult novel
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
A myth of American literature
Inspired by the wild years that writers Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady – Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the novel – spent crisscrossing America, the largely autobiographical pages of On the Road are the most cult chapters of American literature. Nearly fifty years after it was first published, On the Road sells more than 100,000 copies a year, is read on the roads of every country in the world, is dissected in college classrooms, and is venerated by teenage readers.
Everyone is captivated by the epic of the two main characters. From 1947 to 1951, flanked by colourful girlfriends, Jack/Sal and Neal/Dean zigzag across the American landscape in a headlong quest for freedom, punctuated by outsized encounters with jazzmen, hobos, workingmen, poets, muses, and more. But their adventure masks another one: that of the miraculous writing of a manuscript that was to change the American counterculture.
A prodigious manuscript
Written in one draft, in three weeks, on a 120-foot roll of paper in long sessions of spontaneous prose, On the Road launched a free and innovative writing style, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s love of jazz and improvisation. Typed on sheets of Japanese calligraphy paper taped end to end, the original manuscript was sold at auction in 2001 for 2.2 million dollars.
The manuscript was written in 1951, but acceptance by publishers would have to wait. Only in 1957 was the book finally published by Viking Press, after being reworked. A dazzling success. Jack Kerouac became – against his wishes – the figurehead of the emerging beat generation, a literary movement that positioned itself beyond the consumerist ideal of the 1950s. Yet the book’s admirers forget that it was about events that had taken place ten years earlier, at the end of the 1940s, and more important, the leaders of the beat movement read the work ideologically, exactly counter to Kerouac’s initial intentions: far from being a political novel, On the Road is first and foremost the tale of an intense, exalted, absolute experience – a sensual and reckless trip as well as a vibrant call to freedom.
While the book escaped its author, its timeless and universal dimension moved effortlessly across eras and borders. There are many artists in the last fifty years who have, in the wake of On the Road, claimed Jack Kerouac’s legacy. In letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Pynchon and, more recently, Haruki Murakami. In music: The Beatles, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Kurt Cobain…
But it is certainly in film that the influence of On the Road remains most evident. Some even see the novel as the origin of the road movie. Stéphane Benaïm, a specialist of the genre, considers that the American “cinema of wandering” is directly descended from Kerouac’s masterpiece. Easy Rider, Paris, Texas, Thelma and Louise and Into the Wild cruise through its pages. The proximity between the book and the seventh art is so extensive that one might wonder why it took so long for it to be brought to the screen: alas, the history of the adaptation of On the Road rivals, for convoluted mythology, the writing of the novel itself…
Overlong, overwritt en and over-elaborate. Erratic, fragmented, dated and expensive with too many roads : impossible to adapt. Below Hollywood’s lettered hill, pages upon pages have been inked with synopses, exclusive contracts, projects scribbled on paper tablecloths … all of them torn up in the end. On the Road’s opening credits wouldn’t roll for another 60 years. Not until The Motor cycle Diaries by Walter Salles made it possible to write the end of the story at long last . The producers give their account of this final chapter.
Text by Étienne Rouillon. Translated by Audrey Concannon
He wrote to Neal Cassady, “I’ll revolutionize American letters and drink champagne with Hollywood starlets.” He delivered on the first part but was stuck with plain water for the second. Yet, it wasn’t for lack of trying from the outset. With copies of On the Road hot off the press in 1957, Kerouac confidently put pen to paper in a letter (found in 2005) addressed to Marlon Brando.
He has a great idea for him: Brando buys the rights to On the Road to make a film. Marlon plays Dean and Jack plays Sal. In fact, Kerouac is bored: “writing novels is getting too easy, same with plays, I wrote the play in twenty four hours. Come on now, Marlon, put your dukes up and write!” And he already has clear ideas on directing it: “I visualize the beautiful shots that 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.” The tone is certainly pretty gutsy, but this is no wonder writer’s faddish whim puffed up by the recent publication of his novel.
As a child, Kerouac had a passion for theatre and loved staging backdrops. That’s why he immediately took care to reassure Brando on the big black cloud that cast a long shadow on the adaptation projects to come: this book is a real pain to adapt. “Don’t worry about structure, I know how to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give perfectly acceptable movie-like structure: making it into all one-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book.” Roman Coppola, head of the American Zoetrope production company with his sister Sofia, has seen a lot of people struggle with it: “Ah yes, the famous letter to Brando! But isn’t that a myth? You managed to get hold of it? It’s just that there are so many myths about On the Road and beat culture.For instance, I heard about a project with Montgomery Clift. In my opinion, Hollywood was fascinated by the idea of making a movie from the start. The book was very popular there. But there was a catch. Movies are usually built around the classic ‘beginning-middle-end’ plot structure. On the Road is famously absolutely unconventional in this respect. Most of the adaptation projects contemporaneous with Kerouac focussed on that and the results have never been satisfying.” Indeed, Roman admits that he too tried to develop a screenplay of the book with himself slated to direct. In fact, the book and its adaptation to the big screen haunted the Coppola family for decades. “We set to work in 1979,” resumes Roman Coppola. “My father, Francis Ford Coppola, was very interested in the story and bought the movie rights to the book. In most cases, when it comes to rights in Hollywood, in actual fact, you’re really buying an option. Meaning that you buy exclusive adaptation rights on the project for two or three years. So the longer a project drags on the more you have to pay. I don’t exactly know how it happened, but my father was actually able to buy the book. No business about options. It was his. Otherwise, he would eventually have dropped the project. He always believed that it would make a wonderful film. Everything was just a matter of timing and meetings. And then Walter Salles came along eight years ago.”
Walter Salles recalls, “An adaptation of On the Road? I had never thought about it before the end of The MotorcycleDiaries. The book had such an iconic quality to me that the idea of adapting it never even crossed my mind. It was only after The Motorcycle Diaries was presented at Sundance in 2004 that the idea started to take shape.” Following the screening, Francis Ford Coppola spotted the element that was missing from his project in Waller Salles and decided to meet him. On the Road has passed through many illustrious hands over the years. In the late 1970s, Francis Ford Coppola suggested to Jean-Luc Godard that he direct it, with no follow through. Later, Gus Van Sant was in the running, as the writer and screenwriter Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart) tells us: “Francis hired me to write the screenplay for the movie in 1995. The director was Gus Van Sant. For a variety of reasons we were in the dark, we weren’t able to finalize the project. I’m delighted that Walter Salles has been able to pull it off. We’ve become friends as we have a lot in common. He called and invited me to be a consultant on his movie, which I accepted with pleasure. Walter used my book Jack’s Book like a bible. It was the first object of its kind, a written chronological documentary, constructed like a video, a ‘bookmovie’ as Kerouac said. There are obviously many ways to adapt a novel to the screen. What I know for sure is that Walter’s version is true to himself.” Salles’ profound personal commitment is key to understanding why this project at last came to fruition.
The project was still missing a company able to engage wholeheartdly in what for any executive producer constitutes a nightmare project: the period road movie. The MK2 producer Charles Gillibert, who is credited with accelerating the main production process, describes how he was taken over by Walter Salles’contagious enthusiasm. “In early January 2010, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz and I had a meeting with Walter Salles at MK2 headquarters in Paris to discuss another project he was working on. After a good hour of discussions on the screenplay, directing, cinema… we were just about to leave. Walter pulled out a manila envelope with the title hand-written in pen: ‘On the Road.’ He handed it to us, saying, “And there’s that too. On the Road, like the book? Yes!” The tone of his voice betrayed the fact whilst saying goodbye that we’d moved on to a subject that was of a whole other magnitude. Walter took off for the airport to fly back to Brazil. We called him back the next day.
He returned to Paris two weeks later with all sorts of documents accompanied by Carlos Conti, the production designer. We began by viewing screen tests of Garrett Hedlund, who’d refused all the roles he was offered for two years for fear of missing out on On the Road, as well as tests with Sam Riley. We also talked to Kristen Stewart, whom we’d met before the release of the first Twilight film. Miles and miles of location scouting, photos, videos, script meetings, gathering the technical crews and so on. Walter had already traveled the route taken by Kerouac and met all the figures involved in the Beat adventure and the book. He was completely possessed by On the Road. The film already existed, we just had to find it.” They did find it in California. “Ten days later, Nathanaël and I arrived in Los Angeles to discuss the film rights with Roman Coppola and Rebecca Yeldham, Walter’s producer (who worked with him on The Motorcycle Diaries and One Brazilian Family, ed.) We gave ourselves one week to reach an agreement as shooting was due to start in the summer.”
“Profoundly harmonious,” recalls Rebecca Yeldham, in every possible way – rapturous, amazing, nostalgic, and poetic – when asked to tell us about this summit meeting after five decades of thwarted adaptations. “I knew of MK2 as I am very involved in the promotion of foreign films in the United States. When we met them, we’d already been working on the project for six years. We’d already struggled with the notion of adapting the quintessential American novel as a foreign crew – Walter is Brazilian, I’m Australian, Jose Rivera is Puerto Rican, Éric Gaultier is French and Carlos Conti is Argentine. This led us to seek increased legitimacy on the project, which is why we did all this research, the interviews and the trips. So when MK2 came onboard, we already had this sense of trust in the universality of the book’s resonances. Nathanaël and Charles were on the same page as us. Their enthusiasm and courage gave us such a boost that it soon became clear that they were the ideal partners. Sometimes the fact that a film gets made is a sheer alchemical miracle.”
Then, after the first six days everyone’s ok and its all systems go. “I don’t think Walter ever wondered: ‘How would Kerouac have shot it?’ On the other hand, I do think he was conscious of another question: ‘Would Kerouac approve of what I’m doing?’ He also knew that it had to be his adaptation, faithful yet creative too. Throughout this eight-year adventure, Walter worked hard to learn all about everyone and everything associated with On the Road and the culture surrounding it. I think the film is the fruit of these efforts and our shared dedication to honor this beloved text. And with respect to Kerouac, I think that we can be confident about how he would have received our movie, given what he wrote in the letter to Marlon Brando, ‘…it’s going to be the beginning of something real great’.”
|Garrett Hedlund||Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady|
|Sam Riley||Sal Paradise / Jack Kerouac|
|Kristen Stewart||Marylou / Luanne Henderson|
|Amy Adams||Jane / Joan Vollmer|
|Tom Sturridge||Carlo Marx / Allen Ginsberg|
|Danny Morgan||Ed Dunkle / Al Hinkle|
|Alice Braga||Terry / Bea Franco|
|Marie-Ginette Guay||Ma Paradise|
|Elisabeth Moss||Galatéa Dunkle / Helen Hinkle|
|and Kirsten Dunst||Camille / Carolyn Cassady|
|with Viggo Mortensen||Old Bull Lee / William S. Burroughs|
Garrett Hedlund Kristen Stewart Sam Riley
Tom Sturridge Alice Braga Kirsten Dunst
Elisabeth Moss Danny Morgan Amy Adams
|Directed by||Walter Salles|
|From the novel by||Jack Kerouac|
|Produced by||Nathanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert|
|Produced by||Rebecca Veldham, Roman Coppola|
|Executive Producers||Francis Ford Coppola, John Williams, Jerry Leider
and Tessa Ross, Arpad Busson
|Associate Producers||Peter Cavaney, Marin Karmitz|
|Director of Photography||Eric Gautier (AFC)|
|Production Designer||Carlos Conti|
|Music by||Gustavo Santaolalla, featuring Charlie Haden and Brian Blade|
|Costume design by||Danny Glicker|
|Casting||David Rubin, Richard Hicks|
|Re-recording mixer||Patrick Rousseau, Jean-Paul Hurier|
|Music Supervisor||Lynn Fainchtein|
|Co-executive Producer||Michael Zakin|
|Line Producer||Benjamin Hess|
|1st assistant director||Myron Hoffert|
A Jerry Leider Compagny production – In association with Vanguard Films, Film 4 – In co-production with France 2 Cinema – With the participation of France Télévisions, Canal+ and Cine+ – A French-Brazilian co-production MK2 in coproduction with Videofilmes
Walter Salles Director
Walter Salles was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1956 and spent his childhood in France and the United States before returning to Brazil at a teenager. In the late 1980s, he began his career as a filmmaker with musical documentaries (Chico – O País da Delicadeza Perdida, Marisa Monte…), before turning to fiction in 1991, with the thriller A Grande Arte. After this first feature, about a photographer’s search through the seediest parts of Rio for the murderer of one of his models, Walter Salles co-directed Foreign Land (1996) with Daniela Thomas, a tale of a young Brazilian orphan’s exile in Portugal.
The director’s reputation was established in 1998 with Central Station, winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. The poignant relationship between an old woman and an orphaned little boy is at the heart of this road movie, inspired by his 1995 documentary Socorro Nobre, that shows the often miserable living conditions of the Brazilian population. That same year, he teamed up with Daniela Thomas again for Midnight, one of the segments of Arte’s 2000 Seen By…
With his 2001 tragedy, Behind the Sun, the story of a young man condemned to avenging his brother’s death, Walter Salles turned his attention to the blind respect for tradition. The following year he produced Fernando Meirelles’s City of God, an unpretentious chronicle of the daily life of two friends in the Rio favelas. Then he directed another itinerant film, The Motorcycle Diaries, a generous portrait of the young Ernesto Guevara, following him through his formative years on the roads of South America. Hailed by the critics, nominated for several Oscars, the film was presented In Competition at Cannes in 2004 before its hugely successful worldwide release. His next film, Dark Water (2005), a remake of a Japanese horror film with John C. Reilly and Jennifer Connelly, was a successful incursion into the genre, after which he made one of the short segments for Paris, je t’aime. Walter Salles returned to a more intimate vein in 2008 with Linha de Passe, which once again earned him the honour of a presence at Cannes.
Walter Salles and the road movie
There are already three road movies in Walter Salles’s filmography: Foreign Land, Central Station, and The Motorcycle Diaries. A genre that drove him to directing: “Road movies brought me to the cinema,” explains the Brazilian. “I couldn’t understand why movies like Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger or Wim Wenders’s Alice in the Cities moved me so deeply. Little by little, I realized that it had to do with the unique narrative form of the road movie, based in the unpredictable.”
The same unpredictability we find in the pages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Which makes sense, since the novel inspired emblematic road movies like Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969), Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973) and Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984). Walter Salles is confronting the origins of his love for a film genre with the literary foundations of that genre. A road movie as a vibrant plea to rediscover the blacktop and the American territory, at a time when geographic networks are dematerializing.
TOMATOMETER: CRITICS 44% | AUDIENCE 34%
*** ½ Grey S
Dec 13, 2012
I'm excited cause this is based on Kerouac's novel. I just hope the movie doesn't disappoint.
**** Steve M
Dec 13, 2012
This is one of my favorite books of all time and although (no surprise here) it wast as good, it was still a valiant effort. Overall I can't imagine they could have done any better because the source material isn't very adaptable.
** ½ Anna C
Dec 13, 2012
I've read Kerouac book when i was young so I don't remember it very well, but I don't think that director Salles should have used this title, because this is the story of Dean Moriarty, just one of the carachters of Kerouac... and it seems that he chose to tell this story just because it's about sex and drugs, only a small part of Kerouac thoughts... the cast is quite good, but some of them, like Mortensen, could have been used more
**** ½ Ariella M
Dec 13, 2012
I am an avid Jack Keroac fan.. I think that people who have read the book are going to understand it.. The people who haven't might be a bit confused.. Either way, its a brilliant movie! :)
* Aline R
Dec 12, 2012
Shamelessly soulless. Sam Riley, you're good.
*** ½ Beer A
Dec 11, 2012
I found this movie to be true to the letter and spirit of the book, walking a tight rope of not glamorizing any aspects of Beat living, while also reveling in the reckless abandon of their wild lives. Excellent acting, beautiful cinematography and one of the freshest period soundtracks in a long time.
** ½ Jonathan H
Dec 08, 2012
Jack Kerouac's seminal mission statement for the Beat Generation has always been deemed unfilmable. It's a period piece without an easy-to-follow narrative, whereby the characters' quest for self-discovery and meaning are captured in Keraouc's descriptive, free-flow writing style more than any identifiable plot point. Francis Ford Coppola bought the film rights in 1979, and for 25 years, seemingly every A-list actor and director were attached at various points, but the project always fell through. After enlisting Walter Salles (no stranger to "the road movie") and scribe Jose Rivera, we finally have the long-awaited film adaptation -- and, as one might expect, it's largely directionless and unfocused.
There are plenty of reasons why this story is so hard to adapt (one being that it's so personal to so many, that it's probably difficult to tell it from an objective point of view without smacking of self-adulation) is the same reason why The Catcher and The Rye will never be made into a film: the problem with depicting these existentially provocative iconoclasts (your Dean Moriarty's, Holden Caulfield's, Christopher McCandless', etc.) is that without a strong commitment to contextualizing the sociopolitical climates of their plights, these characters, from a cinematic perspective, can come off as bored, snotty adolescents just looking to have a good time, rather than intelligent, insightful young men who are bound by their commitment to reject the conformity of middle-class values and societal norms that suffocate us all. Instead, the aim tends to be trying to get inside these characters' heads to capture their streams of consciousness as a means of development.
It's a justifiable approach, but how long can a film sustain itself without allowing adequate time to reveal WHY these characters feel this way? For example, the film does an admirable job of depicting the relationship between Dean (terrifically played by Garrett Hedlund) and Sal (Sam Riley) and their coming of age, but this is post-World War II America -- there's little to no mention of the Cold War, of McCarthyism, of the Truman Doctrine -- a pivotal time in America's history were rigid conformity was not only encouraged, it was required. For a group of kids to commit to debunking and challenging these ideals, at a time in life where one is supposed to graciously let go of one's adolescence in the name of maturation is quite astonishing. Here, in the film, you'll see lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not enough fleshed out ideas. There are moments in Kerouac's novel that are existentially provocative, even profound. Salles and company clearly poured their hearts into the film, and while there are a few bright spots (Hedlund's performance comes to mind), a book of this magnitude deserves better. On The Road, the novel, is a landmark of American literature. On The Road, the film, falls short.
*** Chad N
Dec 08, 2012
Kristen Stewart Topless :)
* ½ Tobias G
Dec 04, 2012
** ½ Andrew M
Oct 14, 2012
** ½ Palmer R
Oct 14, 2012
I don't normally watch indie flicks, much less ones based on one of the most popular books of the 1950s. I have not read the book, nor do I plan to, because I'm at once admiring how well made the film is and yet how bizarrely disgusting it can get. It shifts from people walking to sexual deviancy to people walking to people sitting in cars into some really twisted stuff. Essentially, we have a guy who spends the film as basically the voice-over guy, the blond dude from that crappy Tron movie screwing everything that moves (literally), and Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortenson, Terrence Howard, Amy Adams and Kristen Stewart all inexplicably being in the movie. All the others are barely on screen for ten minutes, essentially a bunch of extended cameos just to say "Hey look, we got famous people too!" Stewart is the only one who's given anything to do, which is the classic "Strip Naked in hopes for an Oscar" character.
Nude scenes are always a little weird in movies (there's never any reason to include them, and if they go viral, like the one in "Titanic," it follows you), and Stewart's character is either naked, humping the two male leads, or doing her trademark blank look while staring into space (which this movie proves is not her fault; it's obvious that she keeps getting told to do it).
Technically there's nothing wrong with the movie. It's shot beautifully, the acting is fine enough, yet something is so very off about the film. I would have to blame the blatant sexism that goes throughout the film. It's actually so 50s about women's rights that it's pretty obvious that this is not just the "period film bigotry" you see in most period flicks. Tron guy at one point "assigns" one of his regular hookups to his friend, voice-over guy, and then ends up having sex with her as the voice-over guy and the Obligatory Gay Character sit awkwardly at the couch.
Voice-over guy casually leans over and says, "She was supposed to be my woman," in the same tone you would use if someone stole your Pop-Tart. So feminist organizations, this film is not for you, or for anyone who respects women. It's one of those heartfelt letters to a time of racism and McCarthyism, and it should be avoided for that reason. Poor poor Stewart, though.
**** Barry T
Oct 14, 2012
never read the book but the film was realy good - well cast and looked good
*** ½ Luke S
Oct 14, 2012
Was never going to enjoy this as much as much as the classic novel, Very similar feel to The Motorcycle Diaries.
**** Julien T
Oct 14, 2012
Beautifully shot, and a great performance by Garett Hedlund (quite the underrated actor of the season). The movie doesn't want to be compared to the book from the beginning, even if a lot of the scenes manage to capture the tension between characters in a very subtle and beautiful way. All in all Walter Salles signs a great love letter to the old america, and to a generation which clearly fascinates him.
** Tey Z
Oct 14, 2012
Gorgeous cinematography and above average acting. Unfortunately... That's about it.
*** Jiao J
Oct 14, 2012
Sam Riley has this pair of eyes they can be so cold and determined, only when he smiles or laughs that break the ice a little. Then frozen again. Too cool for school, Sam, well done. Overall with the story goes along and odd appearance of some big names, surprisingly, a salty film to watch.
*** Nathan J
Oct 13, 2012
1) Whenever Allen Ginsberg turns up as a character in a film (and there has been a few of them) he always comes across as a world class pretentious fuckwit. 2) Garrett Hedlund is going to be a star 3) Bonus point for Kirsten Stewarts' tits
** Cedra W
Oct 13, 2012
overly long and severely underwhelming (but I didn't really get the book when I read it either)
**** Adam K
Oct 13, 2012
A very faithful adaption with several great performances and wonderful cameos.