Marlon Brando turned it down, Mexican drug wars nearly derailed it, and Francis Ford Coppola never got to direct it — but the “Twilight” superstar trimmed her fee to less than $200K for director Walter Salles, and Jack Kerouac’s beat-generation novel finally made it to the screen.
On the Road began its troubled progression to film with an unanswered prayer to Marlon Brando. “Dear Marlon,” wrote Beat novelist Jack Kerouac in a 1957 letter, “I’m praying that you’ll buy On the Road and make a movie of it. Don’t worry about structure; I know how to compress and rearrange the plot a bit … making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book.” He added: “You play Dean, and I’ll play Sal. … Come on now, Marlon, put up your dukes and write!”
Brando never responded.
Fifty-one years later, at the end of 2008, Walter Salles had his own On the Road dream shattered.
“We were about to be greenlit when the American financial system imploded,” says the director. French financier Pathe wanted to drastically cut the $35 million budget for his adaptation of Kerouac’s generation-defining novel.
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