The long, difficult journey from page to screen for Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" has been well-documented over the years, and one thing that has been consistent throughout is the passion and love evinced for the novel by all involved --particularly the godfather of it all, Francis Ford Coppola, who acquired the novel's rights back in 1978 at the height of his success.
Now, fifty-one years after the novel was first published, we're on the eve of the film adaptation's unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival. Little word has spilled about the final product, however, the cast and crew's experience is seemingly personified (for better or worse) by an email sent by Walters Salles when things had wrapped, which explained that "being in a movie is like being in a war: when you come back home, it is difficult to tell that story to others."
Perhaps most indicative of just how long the journey for this movie has been, is that actress Kristen Stewart signed onto Salles' film before her successes with the 'Twilight' franchise. By the time production was ready, she was about to start filming the last installment(s) of the series 'Breaking Dawn' and was going from a healthy $20 million paycheck to, as THR reports, about $200k for "On The Road" (or to to put it another way, a little less than how much AMC paid for The Beatles song on "Mad Men" on Sunday).
With Cannes around the corner, THR have further detailed Salles' film and its production, which we've summarized below as five things we learned about the making of the movie:
During preliminary dicussions with Coppola about adapting Kerouac's novel, Salles had one single request: that he be allowed the resources and time to make a documentary on Kerouac, the novel and the Beat Generation to assimilate himself (a South American) with the culture and the era. "He immediately understood that making 'Searching For On the Road' was necessary for me to grasp the complexity of the jazz-infused prose and the sociopolitical climate that informed the period," Salles explained.
The doc details Salles' journey as he travelled "thousands of miles for months and months" hunting down Kerouac locales and characters. Among those who were interviewed and will hopefully appear in the final product? Carolyn Cassady (wife of Neal, the inspiration for Dean Moriarty), Al Hinkle (the inspiration for Ed Dunkel), Johnny Depp, Gore Vidal and Wim Wenders. A work-in-progress cut was screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2010.
"On The Road" saw Salles reunite with his "The Motorcycle Diaries" scribe Jose Rivera who based his writings on the legendary scroll by Kerouac (he wrote the book on one long uninterrupted piece of paper) rather than the novel. The scroll was notably different from the subsequent published book. For instance, Rivera revealed that it begins with "I first met Neal not long after my father died" rather than "I first met Dean [the Neal Cassady surrogate] not long after my wife and I split" which "helped [him] realize that this was in part a search for a spiritual father for Jack and an actual father for Neal."
There were arguments to be had, but between Salles/Rivera and Coppola and his son Roman, who evidently had significant involvement in the project when it came to the script. Rivera originally took a lean approach to the story, which didn't sit well with Roman Coppola, who intervened and requested certain elements such as Sal's romance with migrant Mexican Terry (played in the film by Alice Braga) be added. Other elements, meanwhile, had to be removed, including a scene where "Ginsberg has oral sex with Kerouac" which the Coppolas "weren't comfortable with."
It seems like Salles and Rivera had the last laugh. The final cut is reportedly just over two hours long with several scenes cut including one where the protagonists run into Jesuit hitchhikers and scenes involving Braga's Terry.