Rivera said one of the reasons they made that decision was because it would distinguish themselves from the previous eight versions of the screenplay that had been written -- one by Coppola, one by his son Roman Coppola, authors Russell Banks, Michael Herr, Barry Gifford, and so on. But the main reason was the scroll, in their minds, was much more definitive of Kerouac’s intentions, and much less sanitized than the published version. “The scroll was far edgier, it had a darker side to it, it was sexier,” he said, noting that some of the voice-over in the film comes straight from the original version. “Both the gay and straight sex in the scroll was far more intense than the published version. The drug use was more. Walter and I felt the scroll was the key into this whole thing.”
There was also the personal edge of the death of Sal Paradise’s father, mostly absent in the published version. “The scroll began with the death of his father, the known version began with a divorce and we thought the father [story] had a much more compelling emotional energy to it," he explained. "So in a lot of ways, when we were constructing the film -- the search for fathers, what fathers meant, Dean is looking for his literal father, Sal looking for a surrogate -- we thought that was the stronger emotional hook into the story."
Though the public only knows ‘Diaries’ and now “On The Road,” Rivera said he’s written three screenplays for Salles that have not been produced. One of them is an adaptation of Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" for producer Scott Rudin. “I know, I know,” he said with a laugh when some of the audience sounded audibly wowed. “Please write to Scott Rudin and tell him to make the fucking movie.” The other two unproduced screenplays were an adaptation of Philipp Meyer's "American Rust" (announced in 2009) and a continuation of the Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid story.
"One of Walter's big dreams was to tell the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in their South American years," Rivera said. "They fled the law and went to South America and were in Argentina in Patagonia. And so for five years or so they tried really hard to go straight. No bankrobbing, they raised cattle and chilled out in Argentina." But hardships forced them to change their plans, including the economic collapse of the cattle trade in Agentina (still a big part of that country's infrastructure) and the fact that Sundance's wife Etta Place was stricken with cancer. "So suddenly they needed money and they started robbing banks again," he said. "So my screenplay was about a U.S. Marshall [Martin Sheffield] who goes to Argentina to arrest them and bring them back."
Another obstacle to getting the movie made, might be that the story was very recently brought to the big screen in "Blackthorn" starring Sam Shephard (our review here).
As for "American Rust," Rivera compared it to a Cormac McCarthy novel and said it's set in depressed steel-town in Pennsylvania that's now full of meth labs and trailer trash. "Walter is very interested in examining the underbelly of the American dream, the rotting of the dream," he said. "And that book really captured that."