DID YOU READ

“On The Road”: From Page To Screen

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Director Walter Salles impressed audiences and critics alike with his 2004 film about a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara coming of age in South America, so when the Brazilian filmmaker was chosen to direct “On The Road” – the road-trip story by Jack Kerouac that defined counter-culture youth in the ’50s – it seemed like a perfect match of project and filmmaker. Still, the process of bringing Kerouac’s seminal novel to the screen has left the last five decades littered with scrapped drafts and a long list of actors and directors attached to the project at one point or another – making this weekend’s premiere of Salles’ long-awaited film all the more impressive.

For Salles, the making of “On The Road” has been both a literal and figurative journey that’s occurred in fits and starts over much of the last decade, with the film proceeding along, then stalling out, then beginning again numerous times since he was named as director. The experience has involved multiple cross-country road trips, a revolving cast of actors, and more than a few obstacles that threatened to derail the project entirely despite the perseverance of its director and stars.

IFC spoke with Salles, screenwriter Jose Rivera, and stars Garrett Hedlund (Neal Cassady / Dean Moriarty) and Sam Riley (Jack Kerouac / Sal Paradise) about the process of bringing On The Road to the screen and how they approached the characters and narrative of the story in the film.

“It was a very unique process – one that allowed us to have access to the scroll, the original version that Kerouac wrote in 1951,” said Salles. “That version was so different from the published one. It started in the following manner: ‘I first met Dean not long after my father died.’ But in the published version, it started with the line, ‘I first met Dean after I divorced my first wife.’”

And it was that small but important difference, said the director, that formed (and informed) his particular vision for the film.

“It was a completely different starting point for that character [in the scroll],” he explained. “In one case, you have a more innocent, younger narrator who has gone through a loss that will propel him forward, and it creates the possibility of these young men who meet at the beginning of the story to have a common territory: their missing fathers.”

“And as the story unfolds and the scope is developed over that five-year span, the resonance of this motif only grows, to the point where at the end of the story they’re confronted with the necessity of themselves being fathers,” he continued. “Dean is becoming a father in a very literal standpoint, but his restlessness continues. And on the other hand, Sal is trying throughout those four or five years to father a book.”

And it was that father-and-son motif that became the core of the film, according to Salles – along with a focus on the original “scroll” version of the story that Kerouac had written on pages of paper taped together rather than the published version of the book, which gave pseudonyms to many of the real-life literary figures named in the book (i.e., Neal Cassady became “Dean Moriarty” and Kerouac became “Sal Paradise”) and changed various other elements, too.

“When I read the scroll version, it became clear that Kerouac’s original version of this story had more of an edge to it,” said Rivera. “It was more dangerous. It was more sexual. There was more drug use, and they were experimenting and living in a way more passionately in the scroll. And that felt like the right tone for the story.”

Arguably one of the most important – and tricky – elements of any successful adaptation is capturing the right tone for the characters that brings them to life without straying too far from what exists in the source material. With an adaptation of On The Road, however, the waters become even more difficult to navigate due to the characters’ status as fictional stand-ins for real-life people. The availability of countless photographs, audio and video recordings of Kerouac, Cassady, and the rest of the story’s real-world counterparts proved both good and bad for the film’s cast and creative team.

“I read everything I could on Neal and watched all the videos I could,” said Hedlund. “I watched video of him and Allen Ginsberg hanging out, and all of the footage from the Merry Pranksters. But what we really used from all of that research was the stuff from Neal’s childhood more than anything else. Walter made a huge point when he told me, ‘You’re not playing Neal Cassady. You’re playing Dean Moriarty.’ He told us to strip it all away, because when Kerouac wrote this, he wrote it half through personal experience and half through imagination. We had to understand everything and then tear it apart so that we could keep the spontaneous style of the book and live these moments and be able to improvise every day while we were filming.”

“I needed to be Sal, and not think of myself as Jack Kerouac,” agreed Riley. “That would be quite a burden on me psychologically. But it helped that there’s not nearly as much out there of these people when they’re in their early 20s, which is when the story takes place. Walter sent me CDs of Jack talking later in life, and there’s a lot of that, which helped. But this story comes before the fame and the alcoholism and the Jack Kerouac we all know.”

For Rivera, the distinction between writing for the real-life characters and their fictionalized counterparts manifested in a screenplay that had elements from both versions of the figures mingling in the film.

“With Neal Cassady, I felt that Jack had been so conscientious about capturing his voice that all I had to do was allow Jack to speak for himself,” said Rivera. “So for Neal’s character, I relied on the character Kerouac had written.”

“For the Kerouac character, however, I felt like Jack had diminished himself as a character in the story,” he explained. “The Sal Paradise we find on the page is more passive and more of an observer than I imagine the real Kerouac was. From what I understand, the real Kerouac was more intense and loved to talk and things like that. So when I did my research, I focused more on the historical Kerouac and the fictional Neal Cassady.”

No stranger to bringing the lesser-known years of famous figures to life, Salles found more than a few similarities in the experience of making “The Motorcycle Diaries” and that of “On The Road,” and he wasn’t alone.

“[With ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’] we tried to forget the mythological figure of ‘Che’ and focus on the young Ernesto,” he explained. “And Gael García Bernal did that brilliantly. He was an example for Garrett to find his own voice in this very charged terrain and be truthful to it.”

“The only way to be truthful to those young men is to feel the questions they were feeling,” Salles told IFC. “They had no certitudes at that point and were rambling in different directions in order to seek all the possible forms of freedom that would allow them to find a future for themselves at a time when it was difficult to do so.”

”On The Road” hits theaters December 21. The film stars Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart, and is directed by Walter Salles from a screenplay by Jose Rivera.

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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

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It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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