Kerouac At The Movies

Big SurHollywood’s recent fascination with beat writer Jack Kerouac, which began with last year’s adaptation of On the Road, continues this year with two movies that portray the artist before and after he became famous.

Kerouac’s Big Sur is about his mental breakdown after the success of On the Road and his retreat to a cabin in the woods, to try to recuperate.  It is getting a big Hollywood film adaptation, starring Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac. Kate Bosworth also stars in the film which is directed by her husband, Michael Polish.

Kill Your DarlingsA younger Kerouac is portrayed in Kill Your Darlings, subtitled A True Story of Obsession and Murder, which stars Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg when he was a student at Columbia University. One of his classmates died mysteriously and Ginsberg, Kerouac (played by Jack Huston of Boardwalk Empire) and fellow beat writer, William Burroughs were all arrested as part of the investigation. The story inspired Burroughs and Kerouac to collaborate on a hard-boiled crime novel, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks(Grove, 2009), which was not published in their lifetimes. That doozy of a title is based on a horrible story — it seems the authors were fixated on a news report about a fire in a circus (or perhaps a zoo) that included that phrase.

The best thing that the NYT‘s Michiko Kakutani could say about the book when it was finally released, was that it gives “the reader a sense of the seedy, artsy world Kerouac and Burroughs inhabited in New York during the war years … semi-autobiographical glimpses … of the two writers before they found their voices and became bohemian brand names”

The movie is faring better, with The Telegraph stating, “Unlike Walter Salles’s recent adaptation of On The Road, which embraced the Beat philosophy with a wide and credulous grin, Kill Your Darlings is inquisitive about the movement’s worth, and the genius of its characters is never assumed.”

Big Sur — Opens wide, Nov. 1

Big Sur: (Movie Tie-In), Jack Kerouac, (Penguin, 10/9/13)


Kill Your Darlings — Limited Release, Oct. 16


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