Garrett Hedlund & Kristen Stewart Interview For ‘On The Road’
Directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), ‘On The Road’ is a feature adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s acclaimed novel of the same name – widley regarded as one of the most important novels of the 20th century. The story follows Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), an aspiring New York writer, whom after the death of his father meets Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a young and dangerously seductive ex-con. They hit it off immediately. Determined not to get trapped in a narrow life, the two friends burn their bridges and hit the road: thirsting for freedom, they discover the world, others and themselves. The Beat generation road trip film stars Hedlund, Riley, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Alice Braga and Elisabeth Moss. Since it was first published in 1957, Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ novel has sold over 10 million copies, but has never previously been filmed.
I know there was extensive research for this film, with the real-life people involved and the Beat generation. How was that process for you in playing Dean Moriarty, who’s based on Neal Cassady? I know you spoke to Neal Cassady’s son John.
Garrett Hedlund: Yeah. It was really important for me, the trip that Walter Salles and I took to San Francisco to meet with John, it was very beneficial because I’d went with a notepad full of questions. And you have Neal Cassady’s son there, for five hours. We also spent time with people like Michael McClure, beat writers who were very much within this realm. I also spent the day with Carolyn Cassady, who’s still going strong and has such a wonderful, vivid memory of who her husband was. Through their stories you got to understand a soul that’s maybe not portrayed as much in the book. John Cassady said, “Jack wrote this and Jack wrote that, but my dad was such a loving father.” He told us some great fun stories. He remembered riding with him in the car and Neal, his Dad, was smoking what he thought was a Camel cigarette, but it smelled a little bit funny (laughs). It was a wonderful thing having John around, with him and I becoming buddies. He was a wonderful sort of co-pilot for this adventure.
Kristen, playing Marylou, who’s based on LuAnne Henderson, how was that research experience like for you to build the character?
Kirsten Stewart: It was amazing. I spent a day sitting on a porch with LuAnne’s daughter. It wasn’t so much about finding out things about this woman that people don’t know to sort of “unlock” her, it was so there. It was very emotionally stimulating, it connected me to her as a real person. Obviously I loved Marylou, the character is so vivid, and she jumps right off the page and slaps you in the face – with her tongue, not in a bad way (laughs). She never sold herself, that was one thing about her that was really very different about her to everyone involved in that movement. She wasn’t rebelling against anything, she was just being herself. It wasn’t her priority to be a part of something that was moving other people, it was just about the people that she loved. She was so completely human. She never made herself a commodity. If I have to choose one character who really, truly embodied the spirit of this book, it was her. I had these tapes as well, hours and hours of tapes of her. She was so infectious. With the tapes I genuinely felt like I could look up and feel her. I would have never had that without her daughter and the tapes. She really is this amazing link between the two boys. It’s a grand statement to make but it might not have happened without her. Also, the transcription of the tapes we had is now a book, Gerald Nicosia put it together and Anne Marie Santos also wrote a little bit in the end. It’s called ‘One and Only,’ and it is so important, I can’t believe it exists now after we were able to rediscover those tapes. The book is absolutely amazing.
Other than reading Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road,’ was there any particular material from Neal Cassady that helped inform your performance?
Garrett Hedlund: Neal Cassady had written this book called ‘The First Third,’ which was very helpful because it’s kind of like his diary in a way. It gave so much of his self. You got to see this rare, visceral spirit. That was a big help. Plus with the Scroll version of ‘One The Road’ that came out after the books 50th anniversary, that was a wonderful help because it was sort of a raw version of the book. The one that came out was cut down in terms of censorship, but the scroll version was very honest. That was very helpful.
Kristen, I felt like Marylou is a lot stronger in the film compared to book….
Kristen Stewart: I think it’s a lot to do with realising who she was in reality. There was this really great story that she‘d always tell when she first read the book. And Jack Kerouac was so worried about all the details, LuAnne was like, “I’m just happy to be in it!” I think that says everything about her. I think we were privy to so much untapped information about LuAnne that to ignore it….it somehow had to find its way in. I mean, I think we stay very true to the scroll, but all of the history, all of the truths of who she really was and why she did what she did, we don’t know from reading the book. But because we knew, I think it found its way in somehow.
Look out for in-depth interviews with the cast and crew closer to the films release date.
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