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DID YOU READ

“On The Road” cast and director talk road trips, jazz, and the American dream

Film Review-On the Road

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Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking 1957 novel On The Road defined a generation when it first hit shelves, and 50 years later the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty’s wild journey across postwar America will finally make it to the big screen.

While some have questioned whether Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical account of his travels with Neal Cassady can possibly resonate with modern audiences, the film’s supporters – including executive producer Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the rights to the story in 1979 – have long argued that the themes of music, drugs, sex, and self-discovery that fuel On The Road are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published. For director Walter Salles, the book’s enduring qualities became clear when he embarked on a cross-country road trip of his own prior to filming.

“I tried to immerse myself in the world that these guys had lived in,” Salles told IFC of the years he spent traveling back and forth across the country before and after filming – a series of trips he chronicled in the documentary “Searching for On The Road.”

“We did that for six years intermittently, criss-crossing America,” he said. “We met the characters of the book that are still alive and talked to the poets of that generation who ended up changing the cultural landscape of America.”

Widely regarded as one of the most important novels of the 20th century, On The Road tells of Kerouac’s introduction to Cassady in the late 1940s and the years of near-continuous traveling across North America that followed their initial meeting. While Kerouac’s original draft of the book identified Neal and himself by name – as well as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and various other literary figures of the time – the characters were renamed in the first published edition of the book. Kerouac became Sal Paradise, Neal became Dean Moriarty, and so on.

For Salles, practical research for “On The Road” continued long after principal filming was completed, with lead Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady) joining the director on yet another cross-country road trip just after shooting wrapped. The pair made their way from one coast to the other in the 1949 Hudson used during filming of the movie – the same make and model that carried Sal and Dean on their wild adventure.

“We must have broken down about nine times, but we met some of the best mechanics in the country,” laughed Hedlund. “We drove through a blizzard where I actually had to drive with my head out of the window from Utica to Erie, Pennsylvania, because we didn’t have window-wipers, a gas gauge, or a speedometer. I think we drove without brakes from Cincinnati to Lexington, Kentucky. We broke down in Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Las Vegas, New Mexico… [Laughs] We drove backroads the whole way, trying to retrace the path of Kerouac.”

British actor Sam Riley, who plays Sal Paradise in the film, found that his connection with Kerouac’s novel had as much to do with the music of the time as the highways.

“On one hand, there was a connection because I didn’t know very much about America – like Jack, it was still new to me,” he explained. “But the music, that was one of the things I really threw myself into.”

Riley told IFC he immersed himself in the early jazz that fascinated Kerouac and his companions and provided a soundtrack for many of their adventures. A musician himself, Riley soon found that his phone’s library of ’40s and ’50s jazz tracks became a valuable resource during filming.

“Before some scenes, I’d play something in the car, and that would very much help us feel a part of the place and the time,” he said. “Walter would have me pick something for us, and I really began to enjoy it. In a way, that was one of my roles throughout everything. I was the one with the phone with all the bebop on it.”

And whether he was speeding down a country road with Hedlund or looking to Riley for musical inspiration, Salles insisted that these were more than just helpful, atmosphere-creating experiments – they were absolutely, positively necessary to understand Kerouac’s story and inhabit the characters of the novel.

“We needed to do that in order to be completely faithful to the free-form, jazz-infused narrative that is at the heart of this book,” he explained. “We also needed to do that to fill it with improvisation and moments that are unexpected.”

“We went from New York to the West Coast, criss-crossing America and taking those backroads trying to find unpolluted Walmart territory in order to capture the last American frontiers these guys were trying to find in their own travels,” he added. “And at some point I realized that the question isn’t whether those frontiers still exist today, but whether they even existed in Kerouac’s time. I think that maybe they were witnessing the beginning of the end of the American dream.”

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

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…