Jack Kerouac finds new life on the movie screen
Posted December 10, 2012
The beat is getting louder in Hollywood.
Jack Kerouac, the prolific writer and Beat Generation pioneer, is at the center of three upcoming movies, including the film version of his famous 1957 novel. On the Road hits screens on Dec 21 with a cast that includes Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart.
January's Sundance Film Festival will feature Kill Your Darlings, centered around the 1944 summer when the New York Beat movement coalesced. Kerouac (Jack Huston), Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and William Burroughs are all portrayed in the drama.
Sundance will also premiere the film version of Kerouac's novel Big Sur.
"This is his time," says Hedlund. "More than 50 years after he published On the Road, Jack Kerouac is finally getting this kind of recognition."
"Things have been pretty exciting around here," says John Sampas, Kerouac's brother-in-law and executor of the iconoclastic author's estate. "Jack would love all of this. Unfortunately he isn't here to see it."
The hard-drinking Kerouac died in 1969 at age 47 from acute liver damage.
Walter Salles, who directed On the Road, recalls that there were years after Kerouac's death where it was hard to find Kerouac's works on bookshelves. Now the writer's works have found a new popularity with the Internet generation.
"Certain writers are ahead of their time," says Salles. "But there will always be a question mark - why do the works of certain musicians or poets regain synchronicity many years later? There are parts of the answer that will always remain a mystery."
Big Sur almost serves as a sequel to On the Road. The novel is so "personal" that screenwriter-director Michael Polish changed the characters' names to their real-life counterparts (for example Jack Dolan in Big Sur is portrayed as Jack Kerouac and played by actor Jean-Marc Barr).
"I wanted to unveil who all these people were. So I gave them their real names," say Polish. "Big Sur is the closest novel to being autobiographical in the way it was introspective of how he felt after having so much success. On the Road is about being youthful. This is more about being at the edge of a cliff and doing a reflection before he jumps. It's heavy stuff."
In addition to his own film, Salles also worked intermittently on a documentary about Kerouac's famous road trip, which served as the basis for On the Road. Salles will preview the documentary In Search of On the Road in New York this week and continue to edit it for a spring television airing. So the beat will go on.
"It just makes complete sense to see these different films inspired by his work and life," says Salles. "It's just interesting that this didn't happen sooner."
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