The movie is based on the 1976 autobiography "Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal" by Carolyn Cassady. Cassady, who died in 2013 at age 90. Reportedly, she was unhappy with this film version of her book, though she did like Sissy Spacek who played her. See more »
I am amazed that so many people on this forum rate this movie as the pan-ultimate film regarding the 'Beat generation'. One comment even goes as far to state that "to a Kerouac/Cassady fan and fan of that era ( late 40s early 50s ) this is pure gold".
Why, I wonder. Because as far as a depiction of reality goes (and reading the raving messages on this forum to many the essence of this film is a fair picture of what actually took place), this film is a travesty if ever there was one. In my files I have (the translation of) an article written by Kenneth Turan in 1979 which contains an interview with the then 55 year old Carolyn Cassady. She says that when she first read the script (by John Byrum), she was taken aback by the untruthfulness's of it. Facts were distorted, characters twisted, and reading some of the dialogues, she said to herself: come off it, this is a sham! However, she was paid 70.000 dollars plus 2,5 percent of the nett turnover, which was as good deal as she might have expected, and soon enough she took to the script, false as it may have been. And why? "If this had been my real life, I'd have been satisfied with it". Also, she loves what Sissy Spaceck did with her part: "I am the true heroin of the story, what more could one want?" So much for character.
Interestingly, Alan Ginsberg refused to cooperate with the film and forbade the producer even to use his name or quote from his poetry. So the Alan Ginsberg character in the movie is called Ira Streiker.
I am 60 years old and read On the Road for the first time in 1969. Last month, forty years later, I read it again. It was a weird experience... Kerouac's prose is baffling, he truly was a great writer, but the experiences he describes in On the Road have no meaning whatsoever. Actually, Neal Cassady is a low life (Kerouac more than once refers to him as "a rat"). And no biopic can change that.
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