After his forced haitus, Salles decided to put the cast -- which grew to include Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Elisabeth Moss and Steve Buscemi -- through an intensive four-week "beatnik boot camp," which got under way before production proper began in Montreal, where some of the New York scenes were shot.
"'Look no further,'" Walter Salles remembers the director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu telling him of Kristen Stewart. "'I've just seen the first cut of Sean Penn's Into the Wild, and there's this 16-year-old girl you'll fall in love with.'"
Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) was so devoted to the project after he was chosen to play the wild, untrammeled Moriarty that he refused to take potentially conflicting jobs for two years while financing was secured.
On the Road began its troubled progression to film with an unanswered prayer to Marlon Brando. "Dear Marlon," wrote Beat novelist Jack Kerouac in a 1957 letter, "I'm praying that you'll buy On the Road and make a movie of it.... You play Dean, and I'll play Sal. … Come on now, Marlon, put up your dukes and write!" Brando never responded.
'On the Road'
Warner Bros. was the first studio to try to make On the Road, offering Jack Kerouac $110,000 to option the novel. Much to his chagrin, his agent, Sterling Lord, turned it down, hoping for more money, which never materialized.
"We danced, we listened to a lot of music," says Kristen Stewart of the preshoot beatnik boot camp. "We had to learn to be comfortable losing ourselves."
"There is something scary and unpredictable and animalistic about Marylou," Kristen Stewart explains about her attraction to the character.
Sam Riley, Tom Sturridge
"Some of the best moments in the movie were ones where things went wrong," reflects Sam Riley.
On learning how to type to play his character, Sam Riley calls the process "difficult, because I am dyslexic."
Britain's Sam Riley (Control) was all in to play Kerouac's alter ego, the writer-protagonist Sal Paradise, whose multiple journeys with Dean Moriarty across America formed the spine of the book.
Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund
"We never stopped shooting," says Kristen Stewart. "They could have made a 20-hour movie."
Sam Riley, crew
"For years, nothing happened," says Jack Kerouac's former girlfriend Joyce Johnson, author of the upcoming The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac. She notes that Kerouac wrote screenplays (Pull My Daisy) as well as script coverage for film companies, but he never adapted Road. The writer died broke in 1969.
Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund
Garrett Hedlund recalls how sad he was to leave everyone just before the wrap party for the premiere of Tron. Remembering his final moments, he cites his character's beloved Marcel Proust and his sad "farewells exchanged beneath an unfamiliar lamp."
Knowing Viggo Mortensen (as the William S. Burroughs-inspired Old Bull Lee) was well read, Sam Riley was "terrified during improvisation that he might ask me something about Nietzsche, like, 'What do you think about the Ubermensch?' The night before he arrived, I spent hours Wikipedia-ing Jean-Paul Sartre and others just in case he threw me a curveball." (He didn't.)
Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund
For Garrett Hedlund, one of the toughest moments came when Salles flew a skeletal team to Argentina to capture a real-life blizzard, and he had to drive while sticking his head out the window. "It was freezing, and I couldn't see a thing," says the actor.
Kirsten Dunst plays Camille, based on Jack Kerouac's friend and fellow Beat writer Carolyn Cassady.
Viggo Mortensen, Walter Salles, Sam Riley
Walter Salles was struck by "the utter brilliance of Coppola's mind, his capacity to cut corners and go directly to the points that mattered." He accepted Salles' primary request: that, as a Brazilian unfamiliar with the American heartland, Salles should helm a documentary about Kerouac's book before commencing the feature.
'On the Road'
"We were about to be greenlit when the American financial system imploded," says director Walter Salles. French financier Pathe wanted to drastically cut the $35 million budget for his adaptation of Kerouac's generation-defining novel.