On the Road adaptation highlights trio of newcomers

From left, young actors Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, and Garrett Hedlund star in On the Road, directed by Walter Salles. (Photo by Gregory Smith)
By Olga Verkhotina

While Jack Kerouac’s famous Beat Generation novel “On the Road” has existed since 1957, its newly adapted movie version offers something new.

Producers of the film, which competed for the Palme d’Or prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, weren’t scared to put industry newcomers Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, and Garrett Hedlund up front, leaving the supporting roles to the already famous Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, and Viggo Mortensen.

The young choices look promising.

Some viewers might be tempted to not take Sam Riley seriously because of his early appearances on episodes of TV drama “Law and Order” in 2006-2007. But Riley, age 33, has already proven himself.

Riley won a British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer for his role as Ian Curtis, the troubled singer of British post-punk band Joy Division, in the 2007 drama “Control,” which started his big-screen acting career. With experience playing an artist in turmoil, Riley should do well playing an adventurous writer like Sal Paradise.

(Filmworks audiences might also recognize Riley from his lead role in “Brighton Rock,” the 2010 crime thriller that Filmworks screened in November 2011.)

Garrett Hedlund, age 28, who most recently co-starred with Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2010 country music drama “Country Strong,” has also hit several high points before playing Dean Moriarty in “On the Road.”

Most notably, Hedlund took the leading role in the 2010 science fiction movie “Tron: Legacy,” and he co-starred with Mark Wahlberg in the 2005 action crime film “Four Brothers.” Hedlund earned a Teen Choice Award for Male Breakout Movie Star for his early role in the 2004 war epic “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt.

Perhaps the most pressure on the young stars of “On the Road” falls upon teen-favorite Kristen Stewart, age 22, in the role of Marylou Henderson.

Stewart, the star of The Twilight Saga film series and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” probably has the longest filmography and award nominations list compared to her co-stars. But she has also been a favorite target of critics who say that she acts the same way in different roles.

Stewart mentions in multiple interviews that Kerouac’s “On the Road” is one of her favorite novels, so maybe she’ll transform the role.

We’ll soon see for ourselves whether Brazilian director Walter Salles made the right casting decisions when the film plays at the Fresno Film Festival.

Olga Verkhotina studies journalism at Fresno City College. She is the Filmworks media relations and communication intern.