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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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