Jack Kerouac's On the Road was the bible of the lonesome voyager, the gospel of the in-transit existentialist. It sent successive waves of beatniks, hitchers, dreamers, hippies and easy riders on coast-to-coast road trips ("Man, you gotta go") and more problematic journeys inside their heads. Since it was published in 1957, many people have longed to film it – including the author, who wrote to Marlon Brando, praying that he'd buy the rights and star in it as Dean Moriarty, with Kerouac as the narrator, Sal Paradise.
He didn't make it sound like box-office dynamite ("What I wanna do is redo the... cinema in America: no plot in particular, no 'meaning' in particular, just the way people are") and Brando never replied, but the book's reputation for jazz'n'drug-fuelled "wildness" and freewheeling inconsequence continued to excite producers – especially Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, who, after trying for 30 years, bought the rights in 2002.
His film, out next month, is directed by Walter Salles (of The Motorcycle Diaries) and baggy with stars: Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Steve Buscemi. It has a well-scrubbed, heritage-industry gleam about it that's a million miles from the scrubland grot and street realism of the book – and fatally casts pretty boy Garrett Hedlund, best known for Tron: Legacy, as Dean Moriarty. Dean is meant to be a crazy roustabout, a chronic jailbird, fighter, rampant seducer and gleeful bad-ass. In Salles's film he looks like the British comedian Russell Howard having a really stressy afternoon. Man, you gotta (not) go.
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