Cannes 2012: ‘On the Road’ preview

Finally emerging at this year’s 65th Cannes Film Festival after half a century in development hell, Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic On The Road (2012) – starring Sam Riley, Garret Hedlund and Twilight lead Kristen Stewart – will certainly be worth a look when it’s released here in the UK in late September. Riley and Hedlund play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty respectively, two friends who embark on a series of spontaneous road-trips across America fuelled by drink, drugs, jazz and lashings of poetry.

Along the way, the pair get into various scrapes and meet a number of colourful characters including morphine-addicted sage Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen) and eccentric political poet Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge). Their complicated and often tempestuous relationship with women is also a key feature and with the likes of Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Amy Adams on board, it’s fair to say that the film’s casting director deserves a medal for managing to attract such a talented ensemble.

The original novel, essentially a semi-autobiographical account of Kerouac’s adventures with buddy Neal Cassady, was a major influence on a raft of post-war creative types including the likes of Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson and Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola has held the rights since 1979 and made several attempts to get the project off the ground, with Ethan Hawke and Brad Pitt at one point attached to play the lead roles – sadly, it never materialised. In 2001, Joel Schumacher was set to direct with Billy Crudup and Colin Farrell starring, but for one reason or another the idea was shelved.

It was Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) that inspired Coppola to have another crack at adapting the book for the big screen, and although Salles has produced a mixed bag of films since his big 2004 hit, he’s clearly more than capable of delivering the goods.

On The Road has all the trappings of being one of this year’s must-see American indie hits, and if it’s only half as inspiring and influential as Kerouac’s novel, then anyone who is a stranger to the story is in for a treat.

On the Road is due to be released in UK cinemas on 21 September, 2012.

The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Lee Cassanell