Coppola Drives Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ To Big Screens

Walter Salles ('The Motorcycle Diaries') directing film adaptation of the Beat classic.

Fittingly, it’s been a long journey. After years of wandering, Beat writer Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is finally jumping from the page to the screen. Francis Ford Coppola — whose American Zoetrope production company has owned the film rights to the classic road-trip novel since 1979 — will begin production of the film with “The Motorcycle Diaries” director Walter Salles behind the camera, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“The book is inherently difficult to adapt to the screen, and we’ve never quite found the right combination of director and writer to do it justice until now,” said Coppola, who will executive produce the film. The screenplay for “On the Road” will be written by Jose Rivera, who collaborated with Salles on “Diaries,” which told the story of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s political awakening during a motorcycle journey through South America in the early 1950s. Salles recently released his English-language debut, the thriller “Dark Water,” starring Jennifer Connelly.

Kerouac’s 1957 novel is not only his most famous work, but also the book that helped to launch the Beat movement in American literature. The fictionalized autobiography is narrated by one of Kerouac’s alter egos, Sal Paradise, whose journey across the country is accompanied by a colorful cast of characters based on the writer’s real-life circle of friends, lovers and fellow road warriors.

Nearly 50 years after its publication, the classic tale of a journey into the unknown in search of personal freedom continues to inspire new generations, which is one of the reasons Salles said he was interested in taking up the tricky job of transferring it to film.

” ‘On the Road’ is a seminal book that gave voice to a whole generation — capturing its hunger for experience, unwillingness to accept imposed truths and dissatisfaction with the status quo,” Salles said. “It is as modern today as it was four decades ago.”

Casting and production of the movie is expected to begin next year.

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