Walter Salles is getting ready to shoot “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac‘s classic 1957 novel/memoir. But despite Salles’s fine pedigree, Kerouac scholars are nervous and upset about how things are going.
For one thing, no one is pleased about the casting. Sam Riley, star of “Control,” the film about Joy Division, has been cast as Sal Paradise aka Kerouac. He’s not American, for one thing. And doesn’t look much like Kerouac. Garreth Hedlund is set to play Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady. Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst are signed to play their love interests.
None of this is winning over Kerouac experts. Plus, those who’ve read Jose Rivera’s script are fairly chagrined about it. “On the Road” is very much language and poetry. Reports on the script are that as one Beat expert says, They don’t get it.”
Salles and Rivera would do well to consult at least one Kerouac expeert, may Joyce Johnson, author of the award winning memoir “Minor Characters.” Johnson was Kerouac’s girlfriend when “On the Road” was published in 1957. She’s now writing a biography of Kerouac due in 2012.
Salles should take note: he’s got one shot at filming a book with 50 years of readers’ expectations. Getting it right is pretty important. And while I liked Sam Riley in “Control,” he does seem like an odd choice to play Sal Paradise.