Horror! Pass the Smelling Salts…


They’re making a movie of On the Road!!! NOOOOOOOO!!! This is BAD!! Look at the cast so far:

Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac). He’s a Brit, that’s all I know about him. Kerouac was American/French-Canadian, born in the same town I was (Lowell, MA).

It gets worse.

Kristen Stewart as Marylou. ACK! Yes, that one. The perpetually pouty, eternally stoned-looking, she of the bad red carpet look Bella Swan of Twilight fame. Give me strength.

Kirsten Dunst as Camille. Seems like the best of the bunch so far. I don’t know, I don’t know…

Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty. I know, who? Does not look promising from his little bio on IMDB.com. I’m all about putting unknown actors in what could become iconic roles, he just doesn’t fit the picture in my head of Dean. I realize everyone has their own picture of Dean (and the rest of the characters), I need to get the book back out and see how much actual description Kerouac gave of Dean. I had him pictured very tall, lanky, kind of spacey, high energy, rapid talker.

Is it just me, or does anyone else smell “travesty” here? Jack must be spinning in his grave like a turbine. I wonder if they’ll cut Terry (Teresa) out of the movie, and if not who’ll get the part? Quick, someone name some cute Latina actresses who could do this.

Executive producers are Francis Ford Coppola, Gus Van Sant, and John H. Williams (best known for the Shrek series). Van Sant I can almost get on board with here. Actually if he were the right age, he’d almost make a good Dean. He’s weird enough. It’s in pre-production right now, looks like they’re targeting a 2011 release. Van Sant has a talent for casting unknowns, hopefully he had a hand in casting the male leads at least.

I’m just having a hard time believing this could be translated to the silver screen, and done right.
:::wringing hands:::

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33 thoughts on “Horror! Pass the Smelling Salts…

  1. I’m with you – Van Sant and Dunst are fine, but I just don’t get the whole Kristin Stewart thing – she’s sullen-looking, radiates absolutely no charisma, isn’t even pretty by regular-people standards, much less those of movie stardom. I wouldn’t cast her as anything except somebody’s eye-rolling teenaged kid sister. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll bet that the film will come and go, as the book lives on.

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  2. I need to re-read it, I can’t recall much about Marylou but I think she was kind of a high-maintenance type (if I’m remembering right). Stewart might be able to pull that off, but as you said, she has no charisma. I can only guess she was chosen for the role because of her current cult status from the Twilight movies. Maybe they think having her on board will bring in the teeny-bopper set. I’ve never heard of the guy playing Sal Paradise. It’s just such an extraordinary book, I so wish it could be done right. Otherwise it will put people off reading it, and few enough people read it now anyway.

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  3. I feel your pain: there has NEVER been a decent movie made out of any of Philip Roth’s or John Updike’s novels – and yet the books themselves survive, I think because the crappy miscasting and other bad choices are done to attract an audience who wouldn’t read the book anyway. (BTW: Anthony Hopkins in “The Human Stain” – possibly the most inexplicable miscasting in film history. I mean, I really like Hopkins and all, but would you buy him as a Black guy passing for Caucasian???)

    Now, The Color Purple was a just-OK adaptation of an extraordinary novel, and I think it may have actually gotten a few people to read the book, who might not have otherwise done so.

    I’ll have to pick up On the Road at the library this week so we can discuss this at length.

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    1. Right? They can’t be seriously thinking this is going to be some kind of blockbuster. This is the kind of subject matter that should end up in indie/art films. I wonder how closely it will actually follow the book, and how much they’re going to change. :::shudder:::

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  4. Mostly they prefer casting famous actors to good ones. It’s why I love movies but spend a lot of time watching old ones.

    What film could you guys watch over and over? For me it’s “All About Eve” and more recently, “The Contender” with Joan Allen.

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  5. I usually tend toward comedies if I’m going to watch something I’ve already seen. I still love “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “City Slickers” when I want a good laugh. As a self-professed Jane-ite, I can watch the BBC/A&E 1996 production of “Pride and Prejudice” until the cows come home. 🙂

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    1. As comedies go, Fang & I are partial to “Animal House” (I’m cracking up just thinking about Dean Wormer’s wife saying “you can take your thumb out of my ass any time now, Carmine”) and “Trading Places” (ditto the look that Eddie Murphy casts at the camera when the condescending old white guys are explaining about commodities trading)

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    1. Yesterday I had to dispose of a squirrel that had met its demise in my back yard, and the first thing my husband thought of was “bring out yer dead …”

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      1. He didn’t say anything, but when I scooped him up with a snow shovel, his weight shifted and it looked as though he was movinging his little squirrelly paws – as if to say “I think I’ll go for a walk!” I almost shat a pill. Then this morning in the Catskills, I was minding my own business, driving the speed limit, when this big wild turkey just paraded out in front of my car – fortunately for both of us, we were the only ones on the road, so I was able to swerve & miss him (definitely a him, with a big fancy tail) without causing an accident.

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  6. DD,

    I read On the Road as a teen, and was rather disappointed considering its cult-classic reputation. Perhaps I’d appreciate it more now as an adult.

    Mary,

    I love All About Eve! But my fave Bette Davis film is Now Voyager. And Max Steiner’s score for that is to die for.

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    1. That could very well be, Tasha. And I realize not everyone will love Kerouac the way I do. But I will never get the Chicago jazz club scene out of my head. I swear when I read that bit it was like I was there with them, I could almost smell the sweat and cigarette smoke.

      And where are the Bette Davises of our generation???

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  7. The saddest thing is, some of the movies coming out today will someday be labeled ‘classics.’ When I think of some of the duds that got Oscars (“Crash” for instance) I just cringe.

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  8. Gypsy – I’m reading On the Road now, and although he is a good enough writer that I intend to finish it, I kind of agree with you (although granted, I haven’t gotten to the scene Didge described yet.) So far Sal Paradise seems like such a freeloader, and every time he encounters a situation or character that might prove interesting (like the French guy Remi) Sal gets antsy and takes off before anything really good develops. Or is that the whole point, and I’m not getting it?

    That being said, here’s how JK describes Dean’s “beautiful little sharp chick Marylou” : “a pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses … her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare” – I am just so not seeing Kristen Stewart. Hell, if they needed a big name, Scarlett Johannsen might’ve worked – she affected a very decent, very sexy retro look in “The Black Dahlia,” although the movie was not otherwise very good.

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  9. That’s what I thought about Marylou. I haven’t gotten the book back out and reread it, but something just sounded really wrong about Kristen Stewart in the role. Maybe IMDB has it backwards, and Dunst is going to be Marylou?

    Sal’s constant running was a symptom of the dissatisfaction with life, the ‘beat generation’ rejecting the status quo. A lot of it is autobiographical for Kerouac, too. Despite his writing he was constantly on the move, unable to have meaningful relationships. I believe he was married once, but like Sal at the beginning of the book, it didn’t last long. It is a different style of writing, certainly, but I loved it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could take off and live like that, living for the moment, the pure experience.

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  10. I think that’s what bothers me – I, too, have more than once been driving to work on a sunny day and thought to myself “there’s so much world to see – what if I were to just keep driving??” – but Sal seems to be running from pure experience, rather than revelling in it, and so far I just don’t get his fascination with Dean, who just wants to sleep with woman and talk to men – does he get more interesting as things progress? Is there any indication that Kerouac used to swing both ways?

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  11. I don’t think there’s anything that definitely shows he was homosexual, but based on what I know of Dean (Neal Cassady) I’d say it’s a really good probability Kerouac and he had a sexual relationship. His relationships with women were short-lived and apparently unsatisfactory. I think part of Dean’s problem was he was always stoned. I don’t think the book comes out and says that, but he acts like it. Sal seems to look up to Dean as some kind of guru. Kerouac was an alcoholic, which is ultimately what killed him.

    Dean was based on Neal Cassady, who was either bi or gay, so it’s possible there was more to their friendship than the book goes into. Cassady married women, but also had a long-standing affair with Allen Ginsberg. Cassady was also a drug user (no surprise) as was Kerouac.

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  12. yah, they only touch on it briefly, but I’m sorta under the impression that Dean’s a speed freak.

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    1. Yeah, the all-night talking jags are a good indicator. If it was taking place today I’d say it was meth, but I don’t think that stuff was around back then.

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  13. Kerouac mentions benzadrine, which if I’m not mistaken was the preferred amphetamine of that era.

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  14. Aha, you could be right. I don’t really know what benzadrine is/was (bennies?). Sure fits Dean’s behavior. I believe he’s described as very thin/slender which would fit as well.

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  15. This is as accurate a description of a speedster as I’ve ever read:

    “He had become absolutely mad in his movements; he seemed to be doing everything at the same time. It was a shaking of the head, up and down, sideways, jerky, vigorous hands; quick walking, sitting, crossing the legs, uncrossing, getting up, rubbing the hands, rubbing his fly, hitching his pants, looking up and saying ‘Am,” and sudden slitting of the eyes to see everywhere, and all the time he was grabbing me by the ribs and talking, talking… His laugh was maniacal; it started low and ended high, exactly like the laugh of a radio maniac, only faster and more like a titter.”

    What’s missing, though, is Sal’s reaction to this: does he know Dean’s tweaking? How does he feel about it? Is he more naive than he lets on, and doesn’t notice, OR is he so impressed w/Dean that he thinks it’s cool, or does he notice, but he’s one of those beatnik wannabes who thinks drugs automatically make everything cooler, or is JK purposely dropping this at the reader’s feet, as if to ask “here – what do YOU make of this?” I like a narrator to participate a little more by sharing his response.

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    1. p.s. – Didge, maybe if you get a minute, you could edit the last 3 lines of the previous post so that it says “purposely” instead of “urposely”, and “I like A narrator” instead othe caveman-ish “I like narrator…”

      THANX 🙂

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    2. When authors do this, just tell you what’s happening without any kind of judgement, I think they’re leaving it up to the reader to decide for themselves how they feel about it. I got the impression as I read it, and there was no shock, horror, condemnation from Sal, that Sal accepted this as part of Dean. I took away from it that Sal thought it was what made Dean Dean, so to speak. He was just sitting back, watching the show. It was just all part of life for him, just another experience. They were trying all kinds of stuff, although there is no talk in OtR of his foray into Buddhism. Maybe his laissez-faire attitude comes from his Buddhism studies.

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  16. Having finished the book, I agree that Kristen Stewart is ALL WRONG for Marylou, but I don’t think the character was all that high maintenance, except inasmuch as she felt she deserved better than she got either the narrator or the male characters. The guys were all so selfcentered; all they seemed to want from any of the women was some sort of of confirmation of their (the menz’) sexual appeal – it bothered me, all those references to “fags” and “queers” and “fairies,” when Deal and Sal seemed so blatantly gay for each other. Honestly, I sort of liked Ed’s wife Gaeta, who put up with a lot of crap, but finally told Dean off in very clear-eyed terms – I’d love to hear the story from HER point of view. If I were reading this for a class, I’d bug the teacher to let me examine the female characters. If I were one of those post-modern character-borrowing writers (I’m not – it seems like freeloading) I’d write a novel in the voice of Marylou and/or Gaeta, and/or Sal’s aunt, and/or all those young, young girls Dean kept leering at.

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  17. p.s. The guy cast as Dean is from that TV show Friday Night Lights – I think they are trying to turn this into a teen movie, which is both stupid and inaccurate, since those guys were mostly young veterans, returned from WWII and horsing around. You have every right to be furious!!!!

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