Jack Kerouac's classic 1957 novel On the Road put the Beat Generation on the map and became a generational touchstone that fired the imaginations of young readers yearning for adventure. The book's detailing of a hyperactive physical and spiritual odyssey across America always seemed tailor-made for the ultimate road-trip movie, and indeed, Kerouac originally wanted Marlon Brando to buy the rights to On the Road and co-star in a movie version of the book with Kerouac himself. Francis Ford Coppola ended up buying the rights in 1979, but a film project never quite got off the ground.
Acclaimed Brazilian director Walter Salles (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) finally began production on the film in the summer of 2010, and we now have a trailer proving that this thing, at long last, is finally happening. And the clip looks promising, suggesting that it will hew faithfully to the spirit of the novel. The movie was filmed in San Francisco and Montreal, among other locations, and the cinematography looks gorgeous, with dark, moody interiors contrasting with bright outdoor shots. That opening transition from the typewriter to the limitless expanse of the open road is also pretty neat.
The film stars British actor Sam Riley (who played Ian Curtis in the Joy Division biopic Control) as Kerouac's fictionalized alter ego Sal Paradise, and Garrett Hedlund (Country Strong, Tron: Legacy) as the charismatic Dean Moriarity, based on the real-life Neal Cassady. Kristen Stewart, presumably being used to put the butts of Twilight fans in seats, plays Dean's sixteen-year-old wife Marylou, and we also get an Allen Ginsberg who's neither James Franco nor David Cross. Viggo Mortensen is an interesting choice to play a decidedly non-cadaverous-looking Old Bull Lee (based on William S. Burroughs), and the cast is rounded out by Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Steve Buscemi, Alice Braga, Tom Sturridge, Elisabeth Moss, and Terrence Howard getting down on a sax. The movie has no release date yet, but will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival later this year.