Gerald Nicosia, second from left, and the cast of “On the Road,” Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart at boot camp.
By SCOTT JAMES
Many consider Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” sacred text. The novel was, after all, originally typed on a scroll.
Translated into 40 languages, millions of copies of the Beat generation classic have sold worldwide since the novel was published in 1957, placing it among the 20th century’s most influential books.
When it comes to the big screen, however, “On the Road” has faced a Kerouac curse. Past efforts by Hollywood to adapt the author’s work have been failures.
Now, somewhat quietly, “On the Road” has finally been made into a movie. The $25 million production, shot in San Francisco, Montreal and other locales, is scheduled for release this fall.
The movie is expected to be of keen interest in San Francisco where the Beats and their old hangouts are a cottage industry. Each year, thousands of people flock to North Beach to visit the City Lights bookstore and the bar Vesuvio or to gawk at Kerouac artifacts in The Beat Museum.
But with so much interest comes anxiety.
Adapting any beloved book for film is perilous and apt to irk fans, especially when it’s a literary classic where the language itself played a starring role — something not easily translated onto the screen. “On the Road” is particularly daunting since the provocative ideas that defined the novel — casual sex and drug use and a rejection of materialism — are unlikely to raise eyebrows with today’s multiplex audience.