On The Road To Awards Season? Kerouac Book Finally Makes It To The Screen After 55 Years – Cannes

Critics may have been mixed after this morning’s press screening,  but the World Premiere audience at Wednesday night’s Cannes gala of director Walter Salles’ long-gestating film  On The Road was highly enthusiastic giving the film about the Beat Generation a 10 minute standing ovation. Co-producer Rebecca Yeldham said it was sweet justification for the 8 years she has been shepherding the picture with Salles. I caught up with her and the cast at the ultra-crowded after-party next door to the Palais at the oddly-named club, Magic Garden Meets LeBaron.  The film based on the famous 1957 classic book by Jack Kerouac (actually written in 1951) has had several people attempt a film version with no luck and it has taken 55 years to get to the screen. Kerouac himself even sent it to Marlon Brando right after publication  but never got a response. Francis Ford Coppola eventually secured the rights over 30 years ago but couldn’t come up with a way to make the complex film work. Finally Salles and his The Motorcycle Diaries screenwriter Jose Rivera cracked the code and after some false starts finally got the job done (Roman Coppola is also a producer on the film for American Zoetrope). IFC and Sundance Selects will distribute the film but it won’t be part of their VOD platform, but rather a major theatrical release. IFC’s and Sundance Selects President Jonathan Sehring, also at the party , said he couldn’t be higher on the film and they plan to open it in December and mount a major awards campaign. “We are going for it in a big way,” he said. “And initially I was skeptical about the whole thing. I didn’t know if it could work. I had never really seen a good Beat film done right before but Walter has done a magnificent job and all the actors are great. “She’s great,” he said pointing to Kristen Stewart  who was standing in a nearby corner of the party talking with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson (RPat is in Cannes for his own premiere on Friday, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis). Sehring’s been busy here. He is also high on the acquistion title, Sightseers, a wickedly dark and clever British comedy I saw today in Directors Fortnight. It’s one of the more entertaining films I have seen here this year and should find an audience. Director  Ben Wheatley has a following. Sehring just viewed the film this week and quickly snapped it up for release in 2013. ” We had handled Kill List, a film he wrote, but a  lot of people were after this one,” he said. Sehring sees so many films so quickly at film fests he always chews gum thoughout each one so he doesn’t doze off. He said he got the tip from a journalist. I think I will try it. Some of these films are real endurance tests.

When I got my chance to chat with Stewart who is here (with her mother too)  for her first Cannes ever, she told me she didn’t know what to make of the visible glowing reaction from the Grand Lumiere crowd after the film ended. “It was a very surreal experience for me. I didn’t know what to think. But if they had all roundly booed us I believe everyone in our row would have stood up and said ‘yeah, you go!’,” she said in the counter-cultural spirit of the film’s characters who behave in anything but conventional ways. Stewart has some topless nude scenes in the film which epouses sexual freedom even in the uptight era of the 50’s in which the beatnik story is set. For her playing Marylou (based on Luanne Henderson who at age 15 married Neal Cassady – known in the film as Dean Moriarty) was a challenge and one she was eager to take. Salles had seen her in Into The Wild and cast her in 2007 before Twilight turned her into a pop culture icon. Like most of the cast members she had to hang in there for a while before it finally came to fruition. Her agents urged her to drop out. “They kept saying ‘don’t do it’. It’s not on the page’ but I disagreed and I am so glad we all did it. I do relate to her in some ways but I am nothing like Marylou at all. I internalize everything. She’s the opposite,” she said. It certainly worked out. Stewart delivers here and audiences will see a side of the star they haven’t seen before.

Sam Riley plays the Kerouac character Sal Paradise and told me he actually first got the role right down the street here in Cannes when his wife Alexandra Maria Lara was a juror for the festival in 2008, the same year Salles had a film in competition, Linha De Passe. Salles told Lara he really liked Riley in Control, the movie in which they co-starred the previous year and so a meeting was arranged. Riley said the role was quite challenging because he has to listen a lot. Quite frankly it is never easy getting the essence and passion of a writer on film but this one, particularly in the kinetic final scene in which he starts to write his book , gets it right. Writers should eat it up. Riley obviously had been to Cannes before but he too was totally perplexed by the power of the ovation they all got. “I stood there wondering, ‘Do they pay these people to clap like that?’.” he asked.

Garrett Hedlund, previously best known as Jeff Bridges’s son in Tron Legacy and for the musical , Country Strong, plays the most flamboyant of the characters  Dean Moriarty (based on Cassidy), a free loving and living Beat poet who often travelled with Kerouac. This is potentially a real breakout role for him. He dominates every scene he’s in. There’s one killer breakup sequence with wife Camille played with bite by Kirsten Dunst who also is back in Cannes for this film after winning Best Actress here one year ago for Melancholia and of course that famous press conference where her director Lars Von Trier said he sympathized with Hitler “a little” and caused an uproar. No such controversy this year.


  1. Good luck with that. It’s currently sitting with the 3rd worst reviews of all the films that have screened in competition at Cannes.

      1. ON THE ROAD is the worst reviewed movie at Cannes. The only Oscar hopes it has are for adapted screenplay, cinematography, and best actor Garrett Hedlund.

    1. The hell it did. No one panned it. Overall the reviews were mixed, but those that loved the book were into it. No matter what they thought of the movie the performances of the actors, especially Stewart and Hedlund were widely praised.

      1. It’s sitting at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes (not scientific, I know), but I can safely say that equals “panned” status.

    2. Yes and no. The reviews were tepid…general consensus seemed to be that it was just okay…not a great film, but not a terrible film either. Many of the critics thought the acting and the cinematography was superb despite the film being subpar…so I could see it getting some awards love from the indie spirits (obvs. not Oscars).

    3. Not true at all. The reviews so far are mixed. No one panned it. Even those that didn’t like it praised the performances especially Hedlund and Stewart. Everything I’ve read makes me want to see the film. Frankly my favorite critics were into it and it wouldn’t matter to me if they didn’t like it I’d still see it.

    4. It has not been panned by any stretch. Read around, it’s not hard.

      The film has received mixed reviews. Some are mildly appreciative, some love it, and some don’t.

      Frankly, if a film doesn’t do that — there is a problem.

  2. There is no way. If Mr. Fassbender can’t even get a nomination for a critically acclaimed film such as Shame, there is no way that this film will receive nominations apart from maybe cinematography. This film has had more unfavorable reviews, than actual good reviews.

  3. WHAT are you talking about???? It got a 4 minute standing ovation and the reviews are mixed to bad! Why are you pushing this for awards??

  4. I knew this would get mixed reviews. The book is very difficult. But it was a favorite of mine as a teen and I have a lot of faith in Walter Salles so I’ll check it out. From the reviews so far it seems like there are some good performances atleast.

  5. Wonderful! Long, crazy journey and sounds like it paid off for everyone even with mixed reviews. Can’t wait to see it!

    1. The reactions for the book were pretty mixed too so there is no surprise here .Really looking forward to see it

  6. Come on?! I know you weren’t gifted in any form and trust this site immeasurably but my 1st response to reading this was, “Did their production promise to underwrite your hotel bill?” And/or “Are you friends with someone who worked on this?” Glaringly favorable to a film most ppl on the ground are not gushing Oscar about. Really, that heading has such an unfitting-bizarre push to it.

  7. Delusional is an understatement. The movie is currently the lowest rated movie at Cannes. It has a 29% and the only performance all the critics are raving about is Garrett Hedlund’s. Everyone kept saying “ph this movie is going to get Kristen Stewart an Oscar” but she’s been getting very negative reviews. So far critics have been saying she’s lacking expressions, she’s too awkward, the threesomes were too awkward, and she didn’t have chemistry with Hedlund or Riley.

    1. BS. She is getting good to great reviews. You clearly have an axe to grind.

      Where is this 29% thing, btw?

    2. LOL. What reviews are you reading? Kristen has received favorable reviews. I get some people don’t like her but damn what’s the point of posting lies when reviews can be so easily googled.

    3. She has got rave reviews for that movie what reviews did you read exactly ? The movie got good reviews from US critics the ones from UK didn’t like it but most of them had a problem with the book in the first place. The movie can still make it into award season it was not bad it was just long but so was the book

  8. Oscar campaign? I know someone who saw a screening of this and he was disappointed and the film has been getting negative reviews. See if Shame couldn’t get any oscar recognition what makes him think this movie will?

  9. Seriously? The film is getting mixed to AWFUL reviews. Everyone is saying Garrett might be nominated for best actor but that’s all. Sam and Kristen have been getting pretty bad reviews.

    1. Actually Sam and especially Kristen are not getting bad reviews, of course there are some bad reviews but most of them are saying that Kristen was really good.

    2. Sam Riley has been getting mixed reviews which is the big surprise here. Kristen Stewart has been getting nothing but great reviews so far. Heldund gave a star making perfomance good for him .

    3. Garrett has NO chance. Best Actor is packed to the rafters this year. We’re going to see guys like Brad Pitt, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Bill Murray snubbed. And they’ll have better reviews and more money behind them.

  10. I know Moonrise Kingdom and Lawless have some early Oscar buzz but so far, you are the only one who talks about this movie for award season.

  11. seen it. Kristen was amazing, Garrett was great,but others weren’t and it was so boring, so slow, with nothing happening… Walter Salles made it so bad.

  12. All performances have been received well. Especially Stewart’s. I’ve yet to see one that isn’t.

  13. jay, what are u talking about? you’re being a hater is just so obvious… the common positive denominator of the reviews is Kristen and Garrett’s acting is magnificent… state facts not jealous tirade..

  14. I really think that this will be a very amazing film…. critics don’t know s***…. lets be honest critics also hated ~Citizen Kane ~ and look how that turned out….let the people decide…

  15. Obviously Fassbender’s and Shame’s treatment shows that – for better or worse – critics don’t rule the Awards Universe. But On the Road’s prospects are going to be limited since it appears to stay true to the original material, which leaves readers alternatively enthralled, or scratching their heads, or generally disgusted. I’ll watch it regardless.

  16. If they go hard on this campaign i can see some GG nods for Heldund and Eric Gautier for cinematographie. Stewart will probably get some little awards nods i am surprised of the amount of great reviews she has been getting for the movie. Good for her and Heldund too

  17. Kristen Stewart & Garrett Hedlund were beyond great. The chemistry between those two could start a fire. Brilliant

  18. I guess after Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close .. a movie doesn’t have to get most of good reviews to get nominated on something.

    I guess Kristen has a small chance to get a nomination as well sine her perfomance’s been praised but since she gets a lot prejudice because of Twilight I think her chances get smaller. She might have more chance on a BAFTA nomination since she got one before for rising star. I think Sam Riley might get a little chance as well.. but Kristen’s perfomance is been more praised than his so far.

  19. There are some people who can’t stand the idea of Kristen perfomance been praised, lol .

    This is not the first time, she’s been praised before for Welcome to the rileys and The Runaways.

  20. Go on RT and yes Kristen has the worst reviews and Sam got mixed reviews. Kristen has like 3 or 4 good reviews and the rest go downhill. That is what happens when you hire a horrible actress.

    1. I don’t usually comment on these kinds of blatantly obvious posts, but you really need some help. You either have issues comprehending what is being written & said or you are being blatantly obtuse. Just because you wish something were true doesn’t make it fact. You don’t need to keep changing your username to spread your hate either.

    2. The movie has gotten mixed reviews. Garrett and Kristen are getting great reviews. I have seen negative reactions to Riley but I haven’t seen a single bad review for Kristen yet. You haters/trolls are pathetically transparent. Do you think if you post your BS on enough comment sections it makes it real?

  21. I absolutely loved the book and can’t wait for the film. Not everyone was a fan of the book so I can justify the mixed reviews for the movie. I have read many of the reviews from Cannes and 9 out 10 all praised Garrett Hedlund as Dean and Kristen Stewart as Marylou while there was some tepid reactions to Sam Riley as Sal.

  22. Neal Cassady is impossible to portrait. No one will ever get it right. He kept up 10 conversations at once, spoke a mile in minute in koan like riddles and had more drugged up energy than is even fathomable in this day and age. The kid in this movie did not do his homework. I’m not suprised.

  23. I guess the month-long bootcamp with the cast talking to surviving Beats and their family members, going over the material and history doesn’t count as “homework”?

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