One of the most highly acclaimed works of 20th-century America literature and a perennial bestseller, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, has been tipped for a movie adaptation for decades. So one might assume reports that cameras had finally begun rolling on the project, as well as the recent pictures of actress-of-the-moment Kristen Stewart in costume playing the love interest Mary Lou, would have sent pulses racing in the worlds of literature and movies.
But news that filming had begun in Montreal was overshadowed by the deafening chatter of online gossip sites. There had been a rare sighting of Stewart with her Twilight co-star and the other half of the are-they-aren't-they Hollywood couple, Robert Pattinson, in one of the city's most exclusive eateries. The online hysteria began when Montreal entertainment reporter Herby Moreau wrote in a tweet that he had spotted the pair at Le Club Chasse et Peche. He claimed that within 20 minutes People magazine had begun frantically calling the restaurant. Before long, his blog posts about the encounter had been translated into several languages by Twilight fans around the world. Web sites then began to speculate that the pair looked particularly intimate in the pictures and claimed they provided rare evidence of romance between the teen icons.
"Pattinson is not in the movie, but was - and perhaps still is - up here to spend quality time with Stewart, who may or may not be his real-life gal-pal," wrote Brendan Kelly, on the Montreal Gazette. "What bothers me is that the two Twilight stars are hogging all the attention at the expense of what just might be the most exciting film shoot of the year happening anywhere on the globe." While speculation about Stewart's personal life is unlikely to harm On the Road's commercial chances (quite the opposite), Kelly is not the only commentator to complain that news about the momentous film adaptation is being wrongfully overshadowed.
The gossip industry's attention returned to Montreal upon the unexpected arrival in the city of British actor Tom Sturridge, equally well-known for being one of Pattinson's closest friends for starring in the 2008 comedy The Boat That Rocked. Some reports even suggested a romantic link between Stewart and Sturridge, until it was revealed he was there to work after all, having also been cast in the film.
As well as Stewart, On the Road will star Garrett Hedlund (of the upcoming Tron: Legacy) as her wildly rebellious husband, Dean Moriarty. Playing Kerouac's alter-ego, Sal Paradise, in the semi-autobiographical tale will be another Brit, Sam Riley, who won widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in 2007's Control. Published in 1957 but written six years earlier, the novel sees Paradise hitchhiking his way across the US and Mexico via a series of seedy jazz clubs, dingy apartments and back-breaking manual jobs. His cast of colourful but damaged companions, many of whom were well-known members of the literary Beat Movement, helped the story reach a cult status around the world, influencing not just other authors but entire artistic and cultural movements.
The Godfather filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola bought the film rights to the story in 1979 for just $95,000 (Dh349,000) and is producing the movie. Although the Milk director Gus Van Sant was attached to helm the production for some time, Coppola enlisted the acclaimed Brazilian director Walter Salles after seeing his 2004 movie The Motorcycle Diaries about the life of a young Che Guevara. Despite a modest budget of just $25 million, the film adaptation of On the Road already has an impressive line-up of stars. Joining the younger names will be Viggo Mortensen, who has signed on to play Old Bull Lee, the character based on William S Burroughs, while Amy Adams will play his wife, Jane, a drug-addicted mother. Kirsten Dunst will also star as Camille, one of Dean Moriarty's many romantic interests.
Coppola has attempted to film On the Road several times since the mid-1990s, with Ethan Hawke and Brad Pitt originally attached to star as Paradise and Moriarty. However, script problems stalled the project. Another planned adaptation was rumoured to star Billy Crudup and Colin Farrell. On the Road will continue filming in Montreal, New Orleans and Mexico until November and is expected to be released in 2011.