When Jack Kerouac penned the classic novel, “On the Road,” libraries across the country started banning it. Kerouac used the book as a way of telling his own story, adding details from a cross-country trip that he took with friends. The references to drugs and the homosexual undercurrent of the novel turned Kerouac into a superstar among his generation. As the book lacks dialogue and a clear plot, many thought a film version was impossible.
All that changed when director Walter Salles took the helm. Though the director is best known for his foreign movies, he did direct the American remake of the Japanese horror movie “Dark Water,” starring Jennifer Connelly. Salles shot the film over several weeks in October and August of 2010, using sets in Canada and the United States. Despite the fact that the film is not yet available in the United States, it’s already a hit, and Salles earned a nomination for the Palme d’Or at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. Part of the reason for the success might relate to the stellar cast that he assembled.
Sam Riley is relatively unknown to American audiences, but he stars as Sam Paradise in the film, the character based on Kerouac. Riley previously had roles in movies like “13,” “Franklyn,” and “Brighton Rock.” The 2007 film “Control” made him a name in the United Kingdom, as he received a BAFTA nomination and nominations from other prominent groups. Though he originally signed a contract for the movie in 2007, it took several years before filming actually began.
Playing his right hand man Dean Moriarty is Garrett Hedlund. Hedlund is well known to American audiences because the actor appeared in a number of blockbusters, including “Eragon” and “Troy.” Most fans will recognize him as Sam Flynn in “Tron: Legacy,” as he played the son of the main character from the original movie. Moriarty brings a depth to the character because he has experience acting in melodramas like “Country Strong” and “Four Brothers”.
On their journey across the country Sam and Dean meets a variety of characters. Kerouac wanted to include his close friend and fellow writer Carolyn Cassady in his novel, but he decided to change her name to Camille. In the film version, Kirsten Dunst plays the Camille character. Dunst is something of a mystery because she can play dramatic roles and comedic roles effortlessly, but she seemingly disappeared off the radar in recent years. Previous roles in films like “Interview with a Vampire,” “Melancholia,” and “Marie Antoinette” show that she has the acting chops to play a poet struggling with her place in the world.
Dunst isn’t the only star in “On the Road” with acting chops. The role of Old Bull Lee, based on William S. Burroughs, went to Viggo Mortensen. Though some fans might remember him best from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, he has a long history of choosing dark and dramatic roles. He played a lothario who wooed a married woman in “A Walk in the Clouds,” a mobster in “Eastern Promises,” and a man the world cannot stop watching in “A History of Violence.” When his character comes onscreen, it’s clear that all eyes will be on him.
One of the most talked about characters in “On the Road” is Marylou. Marylou married Dean and accepts him for who he is, but she is also willing to do anything that he asks. In one particular scene, she offers to sleep with his best friend and let him watch. One of the reasons why people keep talking about the film version of Marylou is because Kristen Stewart played the character. Stewart acted in a number of movies over the years, but most fans know her from her work in the “Twilight” movies. Stewart began a relationship with her co-star Rob Pattinson, which increased the fandom around the movies. When a tabloid published photos saying that she cheated on him, the two broke up and Stewart received some death threats. Though the studio counted on her fan base to help the movie along, Stewart recently told reporters that she wouldn’t do any press for the film.
“On the Road” plays host to a number of big name starts beyond Stewart. Amy Adams (“Enchanted”), Tom Sturridge (“The Boat That Rocked”), and Elisabeth Moss (“The Hunger Games”) all have prominent roles in the film. Other stars include Alice Braga (“Predators”), Terrence Howard (“The Brave One”), and Steve Buscemi (“Ghost World”). The big names and famous faces attached to “On the Road” make it clear that this movie will be a hit and have people talking about it for years in the future.