Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gerald Nicosia talks about Kristen & 'On the Road'


We all know where the best-laid intentions lead, and I must admit that once I met with all those stars in Montreal, I got as seduced by all that movieland glamor as any Catholic, workingclass Midwesterner normally would. I told myself that these were just ordinary people, like I was, but finding myself a few feet from Kristen Stewart's cleavage in an unbuttoned shirt, or from incredibly handsome Garrett Hedlund lounging James Dean-like in T-shirt and motorcycle boots, I would begin to stumble over my words, falter, blush, and stare like a five-year-old. Hollywood has done this to us--given us these beings larger than life, who never fail to intimidate us and make us feel small. I would have to keep reminding myself that I was the teacher and they were the students. Which is to say, it was a little hard to push the spiritual qualities of On the Road in that situation.

And yet eventually I did become friends with all the major actors, and we hung out together in our hotel bar in Montreal. I came to like Garrett, Kristen, and Sam Riley immensely, and to feel as if they had as good a chance as anyone to portray the intense and driven threesome of Cassady, Lu Anne, and Kerouac. To know them was to learn that they all had great gifts as well as great insecurities to match up with the people they were playing. Sam had been a small-time rock-'n'-roll musician who got drafted into being a movie star--he actually had some trepidation about what it was going to be like to be famous like Kristen, for whom we always had to enter the hotel through the secret underground entrance to keep from being mobbed by her fans. In that, he was not unlike Kerouac himself, who wanted to create beautiful prose but not to be mobbed as the King of the Beats. Garrett, though physically bigger than the real-life Neal, had likewise followed a similar trajectory to that of his character; he had grown up on a hard-scrabble Minnesota farm, where he calloused his hands in the summers and froze his ass off in the winters--and was drawn as if by a magnet to the dream of year-round pleasure in sunny California, much like Cassady leaving behind the snows and skid-row streets of Denver for the jazz, women, and illicit substances of North Beach. And Kristen--though again, physically quite different from her character, who in real life was large and blonde--had a lot of Lu Anne/"Marylou" inside her. She kept her high intelligence well-concealed beneath her sexuality and good manners; she cared enormously about people, both the ones she knew personally and those whose urgent need seemed to demand that she reach out to them; and, perhaps most like Lu Anne/"Marylou," she had learned to be utterly self-reliant even in her teens, prizing independence above men, money, power, or any of the other lures that Hollywood actresses are known to covet.

The amount of research they had all put in--from director Salles to the lowest members of the crew--was phenomenal. Salles arranged for other instructors to come to the boot camp; and although Lu Anne Henderson herself had died recently, I connected him with Anne Marie Santos, Lu Anne's daughter, who came to Montreal and shared memories, photos, and a great deal else with all of them, but especially of course with Kristen, who has many times acknowledged how much she benefitted not only from Annie's help as consultant, but from her spiritual guidance and encouragement as well. In fact, everything seemed on track for a great movie to be made.

But I remember one incident during Beat Boot Camp that left me more than a little queasy. Among the tapes I had brought for them to hear was a very rare tape of pure, drunken, off-the-cuff Kerouac. It had been recorded in 1964 in the studio of Kerouac's artist friend Stanley Twardowicz in Northport, New York. Originally, the interview, conducted by Miklos Zsedely, whom Kerouac called "Mr. Funny Hungary, was intended for deposit at the Northport Public Library. But Kerouac had said so many shocking and even libelous things on the tape that the library had refused to touch it, and gave it back to Stanley Twardowicz for safekeeping. Twardowicz, a close friend, later gave me a copy of the tape shortly before his death. For those (including myself) who get Kerouac's wacky and confrontational sense of humor, it's hilarious. Think, Don Rickles on steroids, and with ten times the IQ. I started playing the tape in a small room at boot camp, where there was just myself, Sam Riley, Kristen, and Walter. Kristen seemed ill at ease with its crude sexual and racial humor; Sam Riley, ever intent on learning his part, listened intently, silently; but Garrett got all the jokes, laughed raucously, sometimes even wickedly, at everything Kerouac said. Garrett, who by far had led the wildest and most unconventional life of those three actors, was having the time of his life listening to it, and told me he wanted to hear the whole thing, as much as there was of it. None of that bothered me. What worried me was Walter getting up and walking out of the room. I think he left at the point where Kerouac was telling how--to get back at Robert Frank for making a movie called The Sin of Jesus--Kerouac had presented him with a Star of David made of pork sausages. Walter didn't want to hear the tape. When I asked him about it later, he said he wanted me to tell the actors about the world that On the Road and its characters came out of, and how the book changed that world. "I don't want to hear what he became," Salles said. "I know what he became. I don't want to hear the racism and anti-Semitism." When I tried to explain that Kerouac was like that all his life, to greater or lesser degrees, Walter turned away. This wasn't what he wanted to hear either.

Read the full & detailed article written by Gerald Nicosia at HuffingtonPost

Via @LutzElle via itsoktobeyou.org thank you.

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