On the Road Screening at Skywalker Ranch

December 7, 2012

by Jerry Cimino

The publicity machine for the US release of On the Road is starting to kick into full gear. Walter Salles, Garrett Hedlund, and Kristen Stewart have been making the rounds along with Executive Producer Francis Ford Coppola. It’s a thing of beauty to witness because, in my opinion, these folks are doing it for all the right reasons. Certainly their efforts may boost box office revenues, and any buzz about Academy Award nominations doesn’t hurt either. But from my perspective, the real reason these good people are working so hard to get the word out (they’re all flying coast to coast to coast, making appearances, doing TV and print interviews, going to screenings) is because they all have a true love of Kerouac and the movie they created together. Any true Kerouac fan can see they enjoy their friendships, and find strength and support in each other.

We caught up with them Friday night (December 7th) at an On the Road screening sponsored by Vanity Fair and Hugo Boss at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Marin, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Man, talk about a magnificent facility! It’s like walking on to a fantasy land. The state of the art 300-seat movie theater is one of the greatest movie theaters I’ve ever been in. There was a reception that began at 6pm, but everyone was late because traffic was brutal on the 101 on a Friday night. Normally a 25 minute drive for me from North Beach it took an hour and a half to get there – and I left early!

Passing the magnificent grounds, with Shetland ponies and other exotic wildlife, we all found ourselves ensconced inside the facilty—myself, John Allen Cassady, his two sisters Cathy and Jami, Al Hinkle with his daughter Dawn, and Gerry Nicosia, author of Memory Babe. The first person I spotted was Garrett Hedlund, who had apparently just concluded a press photo-op with Kristen Stewart. After handshakes and hugs I said, “Garrett, introduce me to Kristen tonight when you get a chance, will you? I’ve never met her.” “Sure, man, sure,” he assured me. I was able to spend a few minutes with Walter Salles. I turned around to talk to Al Hinkle, and saw he was at a table deep in conversation with Francis Ford Coppola. It was obvious that Francis didn’t want to be disturbed, he was enjoying his time with Al so much. A few people barged in and asked for photos and Francis was gracious in taking them but you could tell he just wanted to talk to Al.

Three hundred people walked into the movie theater as the show was about to commence. Francis started things off, explaining to the audience (made up mostly of movie people) how the making of On the Road had been a long and arduous journey, and how for decades he had been trying to figure out exactly how to make the film. Then, he explained, he saw The Motorcycle Diaries and arranged to speak to Walter Salles about it. Francis then brought Walter up on stage to continue the discussion, explaining how even though he loved the book as a young man, he knew he wasn’t ready to attempt its adaption, so he embarked on his own multi-year journey across the USA to see and learn and talk to people about Kerouac and On the Road. Just before he brought Garrett and Kristen up on stage, Walter graciously gave a shout-out to Al Hinkle, the three Cassady kids, Gerry Nicosia, Anne Marie Santos (Luanne Henderson’s daughter) and then me and The Beat Museum, saying how we were all so important in the making of the film. That’s the kind of guy Walter is, so generous in sharing all the glory.

So, the audience responded in all the ways you’d hope during the screening, laughing at the right places, giggling, even gasping. When the film was done, Kristen, Walter, and Garrett came on stage for a Q & A that lasted about 45 minutes. Then 300 people made a beeline for the restrooms. When our crowd finally made our way back inside the theater after most everyone else had left, we were a little disappointed our celebrity friends were nowhere to be found. So me and John, his sisters and Gerry talked amongst ourselves, and then a few people asked to get photos of the Cassady kids together, and a few minutes later Walter Salles walked out to say hello, followed by Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund.

Francis Coppola had left early, I was sorry to see, as I’ve never met him, and he’s been a hero to me for thirty years. The rest of us all started talking in one big circle, Cathy and Jami giving their impressions, having just seen the film for the first time, and then we all broke into little groups of 2 or 3 and discussed various issues. I kept looking at Garrett with a “when are you going to introduce me to Kristen?” look, but he wasn’t reading my mind, and at a certain point when I was talking to Walter about something to do with Howl (I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even remember what!) I noticed Kristen Stewart was standing alone for a moment and I said, “Excuse me Walter, I’ve got to introduce myself to Kristen.” (Why I didn’t ask Walter to introduce me, I don’t know.) So, I walked over and said, “Hi Kristen, I’m Jerry, we’ve never met, and I want to take the opportunity to introduce myself.” And she was great. “Oh, Walter and Garrett talk about you all the time. I’ve been wanting to visit The Beat Museum for the longest time.” She was very gracious and kind, and I reached in my pocket and gave her a promotional museum business card that happened to be stamped “Two for One Admission” to The Beat Museum. “Well, we normally charge an admission but I’ll make sure you get in for free,” I joked to the girl who is one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses. She posed for a few photos and was very patient, even after the flash miscued in the dark theater. In all, a delightful young person who carries herself extremely well for being only 22, and whose every action and word is reported by tabloids the world over. I think I like her because she seems very genuine and authentic, two traits Ginsberg, Neal, and Jack would admire.

On The Road premieres in New York and Los Angeles on December 21st. General release in the US is in January.