Check out the new ‘On The Road‘ featurette below, plus be sure to watch the film on SundanceNow!
ON THE ROAD is now available to watch on SundanceNow! Based on the iconic novel by Jack Kerouac, the film features an all-star cast including; Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), the film was an Official Selection at Cannes and Toronto Film Festival. Check out ON THE ROAD and watch as Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and Marylou continue to inspire wonder for a new generation.
The folks over at popmatters.com have written up their review for Kristen Stewart’s On The Road.
In adapting Jack Kerouac’s famously skittish book On the Road, Walter Salles has conjured a movie that’s raging and serene, always looking over the horizon while grooving on the beauty of the here and now. This is no small feat. Salles made The Motorcycle Diaries, the only other great road film of recent memory, but still, there are many ways for a Kerouac film to go bust (see The Subterraneans), and this one avoids nearly all of them. Maybe it leaves too much of the book’s kinetic language on the floor; this is a story about words almost as much as it is about movement, the road. But as these burning, dreaming, and frustrated wanderers blast back and forth across postwar America in search of what they don’t know, the smoky poetry of its wide vistas and clangorous urban buzz provide a kick, a true kick.
Kerouac’s stand-in is Sal Paradise (Sam Riley, finding a nice variation on the doomed artist he previously inhabited as Ian Curtis in Control), a would-be author living in his mother’s apartment in Queens at the end of the 1940s. He pals around with his alternately effusive and panic-stricken poet friend Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge), a not-at-all veiled portrait of Allen Ginsberg. And together, they’re entranced by the volcanic presence of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a bottle rocket of a guy who blows in from Denver and is described by Sal’s raspy and mannered narration (which sounds affectedly be-bop-ish, but is actually a decent take on Kerouac’s speaking voice) as having spent “a third of his time in the pool hall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library.”
Dean—Kerouac’s handle for his real-life obsession, Neal Cassady—is already looking to get out of New York and back to San Francisco with one girl in tow, Marylou (Kristen Stewart, getting out of her comfort zone just slightly), and a girl to marry on the other side, Camille (Kirsten Dunst). Sal hitchhikes out West with his notebook, starting the film’s racketing volleys of cross-country travel and bleary-eyed Benzedrine nights.
The sheltered and shy Sal (a Canadian who speaks a reedy French with his dour and disapproving mother, lurking powerfully in his subconscious) is wholly ready to latch on to a scrapper like Dean. Sal doesn’t care that Dean is all about the hustle (“He was conning me and I knew it, and he knew that I knew it”). It helps his appeal that Dean drives like a bat out of hell, and in lengthy scenes on the road, Salles does some of his best work, creating little visual poems out of the patter of rain on the windshield and the chatter inside.
Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund are in the middle of a game of Q&A chicken. They’re sitting in a courtyard at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons on a hot November morning, staring at each other over a small table, waiting for the other one to crack first and answer my question. The only movement comes from the smoke wafting off his cigarette and the slowly forming half-smile on each of their faces.
All I’ve done to provoke this battle of wills is to ask, “Which of you is most like your character in On the Road?” In the new film adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac–penned road trip novel (which opens today in limited release), Hedlund plays the charismatic bohemian Dean Moriarty, and Stewart is cast as Dean’s carnal free spirit of a girlfriend, Marylou. Neither actor wants to brag that he or she closely resembles an iconic literary character, so it becomes obvious to both that a round of mutual compliments is the only way out of this question. But who will be brave enough to suck it up and go first?
“He’s got a lot of Dean in him,” Stewart finally says.
“He’s got a lot of teeth in him?” Hedlund replies, in mock-confusion.
“Dean!” she insists, as they both start laughing. It isn’t hard to coax a smile from Stewart and Hedlund, even if their screen personas would suggest otherwise. Both are best known for their straightforward, sullen work in big-bucks franchise roles — she in Twilight, he in Tron Legacy — and you can see what drew them to On the Road, a film populated not by computer programs but flesh-and-blood people, where the characters aren’t undead but instead, really living.
In truth, Hedlund and Stewart are both closer to their roles than they’d readily admit. Like Neal Cassady, the Beat figure whom Dean is based on, Hedlund grew up in the heartland, spending his childhood on a farm so remote that you have to fly into Fargo and drive three hours away to find it. To win the part in On the Road, Hedlund channeled the vibe of the novel and wrote several soul-baring pages about his own life, offering them to director Walter Salles after his first audition by asking, sincerely, “Can I read you something I wrote?” It worked.
As for Stewart, “You wouldn’t be attracted to a project if you had to fake it,” she says. Though Marylou is more impetuous and sexually assertive than the other roles she’s played, Stewart claims, “I don’t feel like I’m stepping outside of myself when I’m playing parts. Even if it’s really different from the apparent version of who I am, I’m always somewhere deep in there.”
It isn’t jarring to go from green-screen blockbuster work like Snow White and the Huntsman to something this intimate and sweaty? Again, Stewart half-smiles; she’s spent most of her career alternating juggernaut Twilight films with barely budgeted indies like The Runaways and Welcome to the Rileys. “I don’t mind making big movies, ‘cause you get to sort of bitch and complain with the other actors about what’s keeping you from being able to really feel it,” she says with a self-deprecating chuckle. “But then at the end of the day, you could be in a white room; the whole thing about being an actor is you have to have an imagination.”
A lack of inhibition helps, too. In On the Road, Hedlund plays a cool character full of Beat bravado, but he’s still asked to do things that might make other young actors flinch, like shedding his clothes, dancing with wild abandon in long unbroken takes, or simulating rough sex with Steve Buscemi. Ask him about finding the freedom to go to those places, and Hedlund surprises by daring to quote not a venerated literary icon like Kerouac but Ethan Hawke, whose book Ash Wednesday, he says, made a big impression on him as a teenager.
“‘The only thing in life worth learning is humility,’” quotes Hedlund, who vaguely resembles Hawke with his brown goatee and earnest literary bent. “‘Shatter the ego, then dance through the perfect contradiction of life and death.’” His explanation: “It encourages you not to walk with your head down and your hands in your pockets and be closed off to life, but to be open and nonjudgmental and accessible to experience a lot of wonderful journeys within this short life of ours.”
Do those inhibitions come down permanently after simulating the envelope-pushing sex scenes of On the Road? Stewart says yes and acknowledges that in general, she’s perceived to be a closed-off person, but that she’s working on it. “It’s funny: By putting up walls, you think you’re protecting yourself, but you get to live less,” says Stewart. “If you’re hiding behind a wall, then you can’t see over it. You’re depriving yourself of so much if you’re trying to be too aware of what you’re putting out there, you know?”
She adds, “If you feel someone breaking those walls down, let them. Those are the people that you need to find in life, rather than people that you’re just comfortable with.”
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Hedlund and Stewart want to end our conversation by discussing Just Kids, Patti Smith’s book about her artistically enriching and culture-defining friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. “It had a very similar effect on me as reading On the Road did when I was 15,” says Stewart, who’s currently reading the novel for a second time. “I had a serious urge to create shit after I read it, to go out and find people, and travel.”
When I bring up the recent report that Smith is a fan of Stewart’s — suggesting that maybe one day, she could find herself starring in another adaptation of a bohemian coming-of-age book — Stewart demurs and meets eyes with Hedlund again. “I will never be the type of person like Patti Smith who has that compulsion to be constantly creating,” she laughs, confessing, “You feel diminished somehow [after reading it]! You’re like, ‘God! I gotta build myself back up again! I need to actually use every second! Why am I sitting around, ever?’”
In honor of Kristen Stewart‘s role as Marylou in On the Road, Ben Lyons and Josh Horowitz from MTV News talk about the multiple non-Twilight films she has starred in over the years including Adventureland, Welcome to the Rileys, The Runaways and Snow White and the Huntsman.