On The Road...
August 29, 2002 7:48 AM   Subscribe

On The Road... coming to a theater near you (scroll down in link). Francis Ford Coppola is working on a film adaptation of Kerouac's classic (?), starring Brad Pitt. Genius? Heresy? I can see the Barnes & Noble tie-ins now...
posted by serafinapekkala (53 comments total)
Here's the blurb from Dark Horizons, in case that link has been updated: "On the Road: The Electronic Telegraph reports that Francis Ford Coppola's dream looks like its finally close to coming true. The film rights to Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel about the 'Beat Generation' have been held by Coppola for years and the story has been considered "unfilmable", but now things seem to be moving ahead with Joel Schumacher at the helm and American author Russell Banks adapting the novel into a script. Banks told the Edinburgh Book Festival audiences that pre-production is underway, with Billy Crudup tipped to play the Sal Paradise/Kerouac role, whilst Brad Pitt is linked to the second lead Dean Moriarty (a character inspired by Neal Cassidy). "
posted by serafinapekkala at 7:51 AM on August 29, 2002

I can see Pitt as Dean but I've grown a bit wary of Coppola over the last 15 years or so. I bet Jim Jarmusch would do a fantastic job. Too bad that won't happen.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:57 AM on August 29, 2002

i'd like to see somebody like Darren Aronofsky or Paul Thomas Anderson (though that would be about eight hours long). Robert Altman could be great. or hey, what about Spike Jonze, he's FFC's son-in-law for pete's sake!
posted by serafinapekkala at 8:02 AM on August 29, 2002

Joel Schumacher?....JOEL SCHUMACHER!!!!???...as in Mr. Plastic-nipples-on-the-Batsuit Joel Schumacher? Just shoot me now, please.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:06 AM on August 29, 2002

If the film is made, no worries about loss of outstanding writing.
posted by Postroad at 8:21 AM on August 29, 2002

I wish someone'd make a movie of Dharma Bums instead. But's that's just me. But really, Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder) would make a great screen character. I pick Mike Leigh to direct.
posted by ericost at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2002

The only thing keeping me from losing faith completely is Russell Banks, author of Rule of the Bone, The Sweet Hereafter, and Trailerpark. He's reported to be writing the script. His ability to nail certain solid, hard-boiled themes lends a modicum of credibility to this project. Of course, the evil of Brad Pitt might eventually outweigh the good of Russell Banks, so I guess I shouldn't get too excited.
posted by michaelbrown at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2002

PinkStainlessTail: Jarmusch would be great. Or... Hal Hartley?
posted by interrobang at 8:31 AM on August 29, 2002

Here's a BBC story (from June of 2001) also talking about it. Confirming Pitt/Crudup. I actually think Pitt could do well in this role. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth. The best part is, whenever movies such as this come out, it inspires more people to go out and read the book, which is a good thing.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2002

I vote for Darren Aronofsky or good old Spike.

This is a great idea. One of my favorite movies is Terry Gilliams Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 8:46 AM on August 29, 2002

Wait a second..."with Joel Schumacher at the helm"???
No, there is no hope, even with Russell Banks writing. Even Coppola, at this point, hasn't been at the top of his game for about twenty years now...

Now what about the rumor that has Terence Malick adapting "Catcher in the Rye." Did I actually hear that somewhere?
posted by ghastlyfop at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2002

serafinapekkala? now that's a good witch, if ever i saw one...

and based on the sweet hereafter's success as a movie adapted from a novel by russell banks, i would simply suggest that atom egoyan take the helm on this one.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:04 AM on August 29, 2002

I take Gilliam's Fear and Loathing as the perfect example of how this sort of film should be done. Hunter S. Thompson's FaL is a great book. Gilliam's FaL is a great movie. They're not really comparable, which is as it should be -- prose and film are, after all, wholly different mediums. Both works take the same narrative as their source, but focus on different elements (the film, for instance, primarily focuses on the drug experience and leaves out most of the "American Dream" theme elements) and should be appreciated on entirely different levels. A close translation is only feasible in plot-driven (rather than theme-driven) works like The Lord of the Rings -- for a work like On the Road the goal should be making a movie that's good, regardless of the source material it derives from.

Yeah, I would like Jim Jarmusch too.
posted by tweebiscuit at 9:04 AM on August 29, 2002

I've never understood why people make films based on books but then don't stay faithful to the books. I realize that certain alterations are needed to adapt a book to the big screen, but if a filmmaker is going to make extensive changes to the basic storyline, then isn't the filmmaker just trying to capitalize on the book's popularity?
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:12 AM on August 29, 2002

Didn't Brad Pitt already play Dean Moriarty in Fight Club?
posted by Ty Webb at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2002

If you're going to mention Fear and Loathing, you've also got to mention Where the Buffalo Roam with Bill Murray and Peter Boyle. Art Linson directed it, and I think it's every bit as good as FandL, if not better.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2002

The name that excites me most about this project is Billy Crudup, who seems to be perfectly suited for this role after playing a golden god and Jesus' Son.

I'm still waiting for HST's fine early novel "The Rum Diary" to come out of development hell. A while back, Harper's had an outrageously abusive memo the good doctor had inflicted on some poor Hollywood schmuck, but I can't find it online. Johnny Depp, Josh Hartnett and Nick Nolte are associated with that project.
posted by muckster at 9:26 AM on August 29, 2002

you're right: and there's also Cloudsplitter, another great book about a very interesting chapter of American History

urban legend, urban legend, urban legend

On the Road has already been shot as a movie: not page by page but in spirit, by the Beats themselves Robert Frank's amazing Pull My Daisy

But the Beats could care less about the movies: as Kerouac wrote,

Anybody doesnt like these pitchers dont like potry, see? Anybody dont like potry go home see Television shots of big hatted cowboys being tolerated by kind horses.
posted by matteo at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2002

Why does this HAVE to happen? It's one thing to see an accurate take on events that happened (and some that didn't) in such a powerful literary and cultural movement, but it's another to see something as powerful as that book sullied.

I don't care who directs or who stars, just leave this one alone and move along to something more banal for teens to watch, which is after all the big ticket.

Will they throw some computer animation into the movie? Have some superhero swoop down from the sky and rescue Sal and Dean and the rest of the gang from whatever adventure they're on or take them away from the cops?

How will they handle certain parts of the book? Drugs? Alcohol? All the homoeroticism? Trying to stay true to this book will be an exercise in frustration.

But the question is, what great books have been turned into suitable movies that don't make us turn the channel or walk-out or ask for that 1.5 hours of our lives back?
posted by fijiwriter at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2002

Johnny Depp as Old Bull Lee/WSB

posted by Domain Master 666 at 9:41 AM on August 29, 2002

I don't understand all the acclaim for the book in the first place. Unless you're a teenager, it's pretty clear that it's not a very good book.

It's as though all the editors were on vacation while it made its way to publication.
posted by rocketman at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2002

Did anyone see Tigerland? Joel Schumacher is not my fave but that was a pretty decent flick. The style and tone of it would suggest he could handle On The Road.

And let's not forget he is the director of Carwash!!
posted by cell divide at 9:51 AM on August 29, 2002

Didn't Brad Pitt already play Dean Moriarty in Fight Club?

How will they handle ... All the homoeroticism?

looks like it's covered.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:04 AM on August 29, 2002

rocketman = Beat troll. ;p
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:06 AM on August 29, 2002

I don't mind Brad Pitt as Neal Cassidy. I think he could pull it off. He is pretty underrated as an actor in my opinion. Just thank god that its not those 2 tools Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

One thing I'm going to hate about this movie coming out though is: All the people who ask "have you read the book" when talking about the movie. Yes, I read the book and I recognize that you would like to make yourself sound smart by declaring that you read "books". Like I'm supposed to be impressed that you read On The Road. Do you also brag about reading stop signs and street names.
posted by LouieLoco at 10:17 AM on August 29, 2002

matteo: Kerouac may have been disdainful towards TV, but he was a big movie fan. Though I can't find it online, I remember reading an essay of Kerouac's in which he effusively praises Murnau's Nosferatu.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:20 AM on August 29, 2002

I say forget Kero-hack and give us a good, modern treatment of Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion.
posted by rushmc at 10:36 AM on August 29, 2002

That would be great. Especially if Jack Pallance was Henry Stamper. I always thought that the grandfather in King of the Hill was based on Old Henry Stamper. You could have Macaully Caulkin play Leland Stamper.
posted by LouieLoco at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2002

Different era -- different values -- different sensibilities. If Ginzberg came back and wrote a "Howl!" for this current generation, he'd hafta call it "Whine!"

I don't think it can work, but far be it from me to discourage the attempt. At the very least, it'll put Kerouac's book (along with others) into the hands of kidlings whose hitherto foremost concern was last weeks boyband.

Good luck, Francis.
posted by RavinDave at 11:05 AM on August 29, 2002

But the question is, what great books have been turned into suitable movies that don't make us turn the channel or walk-out or ask for that 1.5 hours of our lives back?

The answer is highly dependent on what one considers "great books," but a Power Search for movies with the keyword "based-on-novel" that are in the IMDb's top 250 movies might be a good place to start looking. FWIW, I think Apocalypse Now, The Big Sleep, The Grapes of Wrath, The Maltese Falcon, and The Wizard of Oz top the list of great movies based on great books.
posted by hilker at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2002

Schumaker!!!! Joel Schumaker, the man I hate most, the man who ruined Batman, will be involved with "On The Road"? A book I dearly love?

He put nipples on Batman's suit, what's he going to do to Kerouac? Put a codpiece on Dean Moriarity?

This is an outrage....Where's that petition site? I'm going to start one....
posted by nyxxxx at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2002

As Truman Capote said of Kerouac: "It's not writing, it's typing" (paraphrasing). Add an extremely overrated book, a terrifically bad queer director, and a warmed-over, has-been director-turned-winemaker, stir vigorously, and voila! Crap ala Mode!

Perhaps if Coppola had gotten a really excellent filmmaker, he could have turned the book into a good film on its own merits, as some in this thread have suggested, ala "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". I always think of Kubrick's film of Steven King's "The Shining"- a dreadful novel (though one of King's less odious ones) that was turned into a spectacular work of art that was all Stanley and little Steven, though Kubrick was very good at turning relatively minor books ("A Clockwork Orange" notwithstanding) into his own masterpieces, like turning Thackeray's "The Memoirs Of Barry Lyndon, Esq." into the terrific Barry Lyndon.

But I expect nothing of the sort from Schumaker the Crapmaker.
posted by evanizer at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2002

"It's not writing, it's typing"

That was aimed at Kerouac? Bwahaha-ha ... all the times I heard that damn quote, I never realized. Sheesh, I miss Capote.
posted by RavinDave at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2002

I started a petition to have Joel Schumaker removed from this movie.

You can sign the petition here, Stop Joel Schumaker!

Ok, I feel better. I've done all I could.
posted by nyxxxx at 11:37 AM on August 29, 2002

Pssssst! Might have more luck if you spell it "Schumacher".
posted by RavinDave at 11:44 AM on August 29, 2002

"It's not writing, it's typing"

That was aimed at Kerouac? Bwahaha-ha ... all the times I heard that damn quote, I never realized. Sheesh, I miss Capote.
posted by RavinDave at 11:29 AM PST on August 29

I seem to remember him recycling it for Jacqueline Susann too.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:46 AM on August 29, 2002

Good quotes are multi-purpose, lightweight and durable.
posted by evanizer at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2002

Good quotes are multi-purpose, lightweight and durable.
posted by evanizer at 11:47 AM PST on August 29

Good quotes have so much in common with aluminum step ladders!
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:51 AM on August 29, 2002

Good films made from good books are few and far between, for obvious reasons. Movies generally just need a book to supply an efficient plot. Some auteur types will use a good book as an inspiration to make their own personal work. I'm sure Jarmusch or Hartley could do that with OTR, but I doubt they'd want to. Given Kerouac's repressed passion for Neal Cassidy, a gay take on the novel might work, but I'm thinking more Todd Haynes than Joel Schumacher.

"It's not writing, it's typing"
I've always thought that should be a compliment.
posted by liam at 12:26 PM on August 29, 2002


after the Godfather and Apocalypse Now, Coppola can shoot not very good films -- he is technically uncapable of cranking out real bad work -- and can make crappy wine, whatever. He still remains a legend of American cinema.

Unfortunately cinema is a young man's game -- with few exceptions.

I mean, 8 1/2 or City of Women?
Pierrot Le Fou or Detective?

For a 75 year old Kurosawa who makes Ran, you have scores of great directors who are washed up by the time they're 50. No matter how good they were

It's true even for the not-so-immortal but very proficient ones: Friedkin, Frankenheimer, Pakula
posted by matteo at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2002

And of course, he can also make bad mistakes as a producer -- I mean, Jack ?????
posted by matteo at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2002

94 year-old Manoel de Oliveira has a new film out. He directed his first, a silent, in 1931.
posted by liam at 1:00 PM on August 29, 2002

I've read the script, and I thought it was quite bad. I'm sorry, but it was about a year ago, and I can't remember the details, but I seem to think it had to do with an apparent lack of interest in weaving the content of the story into a narrative that would actually work as a film.

That being said, I liked the book, I like Pitt, Crudup is amazing, the script might have changed a lot since the draft I read, and the director may add a style and pacing that will justify the ramblings of the script (and the novel, where ramblings are generally more tolerable).

Batman Forever was ridiculous, but I quite enjoyed St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys, Tigerland, and Flatliners, and I thought Falling Down was decent. Schumacher is not the director I would expect on this project, but perhaps the fact that he was motivated to do it to begin with suggests that he wants to make a film of relative substance.
posted by bingo at 1:02 PM on August 29, 2002

For a 75 year old Kurosawa who makes Ran, you have scores of great directors who are washed up by the time they're 50. No matter how good they were

I suspect the opposite is true and that for every young burnout like Fellini (8 1/2 is my favorite film but his later stuff is really really bad) you have more Kurosawas and Bunuels and Antonionis. I suspect though that, as usual, the truth is somewhere in between. (source material for anyone who wants to research this)
posted by vacapinta at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2002

At least one director gets younger as he ages - 82 year-old DV convert Eric Rohmer (My Night At Rohmer's is a nice site).
posted by liam at 1:58 PM on August 29, 2002

rocketman = Beat troll

I wasn't trolling. I don't think it's a very good book.

I read a lot of Beat literature about seven years ago, but I was disgusted with the posture of irresponsibility. I guess for vicarious thrills, it's great, but then, so was XXX. And that didn't make it into a good movie.
posted by rocketman at 2:57 PM on August 29, 2002

Kerouac I can see as irresponsible, a young Ginsberg too. Burroughs' work, however, is full of risk, and attention to consequence is palpable in it. Corso's (of which I've read less) seems much the same.

I guess it depends on what you mean by irresponsible.
posted by mblandi at 7:31 PM on August 29, 2002


very sorry for misspelling your name in my last post...

posted by cup at 9:12 PM on August 29, 2002

Hunter's fax was previously discussed here

...misspelling a fellow poster's name and double posting a link...

Two faux pas in one day.

\ (-_-) /

*steps aways from the keyboard with hands above head where they can be seen*
posted by cup at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2002

That memo is (fucking) beautiful and brilliant. Kudos to Thompson, and thanks for the link, cup!
posted by evanizer at 9:33 PM on August 29, 2002

Required reading for 'Motivating Hollywood Executives 101' :)

Do we have any evidence that this letter motivated the executives?
posted by bingo at 3:41 AM on August 31, 2002

Thomspon hated Where the Buffalo Roam by the way. He called it a broken script or something funny like that.
posted by mblandi at 7:36 PM on September 7, 2002

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