Sunday, November 6, 2011

The film of "On The Road" gets closer to the multiplex

Garrett Hedlund, Stellar, and Sam Riley at The Beat Museum, San Francisco

After decades of dream-casting games (Brando and Dean and Hopper and Fonda and Depp and ... ), and generations of fans and film directors sitting around talking about it, a film version of On The Road will be completed this year for arrival in theaters this December.

The Beat Museum's webpage carries some coverage, with photos, of the film's final shooting days last December, complete with a bit of old-school Hollywood gushing by young star-struck fans ("we just saw Kirsten Dunst at City Lights ..."). The excitement there seems all very heart-felt and genuine -- as genuine as a film fifty years in development nearing completion can be -- and in the midst of the latest Beat boom, one can only imagine Neal and Jack and Allen and Bill ( ... and ... ) asking each o
ther "gee, what took ya so long?"

Maybe it's just been long enough now to forget George Peppard and Leslie Caron in The Subterraneans (1960). For the record: On The Road is directed by Walter Salles, the screenplay is by Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries). Featuring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen.

There's probably a behind-the-scenes book about the entire fifty-year On The Road movie-making legend that would make a final volume to the whole Vanity of Duluoz saga. In any event, here's an excerpt from Joey Cimino's attempt at channeling Hedda Hopper. As they used to say, from on-the-scene reports in San Francisco:

It started three weeks ago when we got an unexpected email from the director of On the Road, Walter Salles. He mentioned the cast and crew would be in San Francisco for the final filming of On The Road in December. After a 68-day shooting schedule and 50,000 miles of travel they'd be wrapping up the final scenes here in the city.

In the email, Walter explained how everything had come together for this movie very quickly. As many of you know, Francis Coppola gave the green light to Walter and screenwriter Jose Rivera six years ago. I have already related previously how John Allen Cassady and I met Jose Rivera in 2005 in LA and then again at John's house in 2006. And then in 2007, we discovered Garrett Hedlund was the first person to be cast (as Neal Cassady) for the film when he stopped into The Beat Museum.

Garret Hedlund and Sam Riley ... and '41 Pontiac Torpedo

Walter explained how, as they shopped the project around in 2008 and 2009 to secure funding for production, they were simply unable to obtain any commitments. The economic climate had obviously changed with the recession and even with a modest budget request for $25M (a pretty small budget for a high profile story like On the Road) the project was going nowhere. Finally, a French company named MK2 made the commitment and Walter and company were off to the races! ...

It was a rainy week in San Francisco. We knew the relatively small crew team and cast for On the Road would be arriving any day. We didn't know how the weather might affect their shooting schedule or if they were doing interior or exterior shots. Plus, Walter had mentioned how the weather had not been cooperating in Montreal and things were taking longer than they'd planned.

We first got wind something was about to happen on Tuesday, 12/7/10 when we hosted a group of 70 students from Windsor High School. After explaining how The Beats became The Beatniks and then The Beatniks became The Hippies, we talked a little about "Howl" and the obscenity trial and then
On the Road and Neal Cassady. A couple of the kids spoke up: "They're making a movie out of On the Road now, right? Are they shooting in San Francisco this week?" "Yeah, how did you know?" "Because we just saw Kirsten Dunst at City Lights." ...

(Photographs from The Beat Museum, San Francisco)

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