The Daily Beat: One of the pictures you shared – the one taken by Lu Anne Henderson’s (Marylou in On The Road) daughter, Anne Marie Santos – shows you on the set of the movie. How much time did you spend on the movie set, and what was your role?
Gerald Nicosia: Well I was at Beat Boot Camp, the first drill instructor, in a big loft in Montreal, in July 2010, but that was before shooting started. I was working intensively with the actors Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, and Sam Riley, as well as talking with Walter and answering questions from various members of the crew, such as the cinematographer Eric Gautier—one of the sweetest men I ever met—and the wardrobe guy, Danny Glicker, who was also very sweet and carried his little dog (it might have been a Pomeranian) with him everywhere. That was three days and nights of solid work. Then I was on the set for a day in December in San Francisco, just before they wrapped the shoot. But I talked with Walter several times on the phone in between, exchanged emails with him, and gave him several pages of detailed notes on the script.
The Daily Beat: Tell us about your working relationship with Salles and with the actors.
Gerald Nicosia: Well, it was playing tapes, showing photos, answering questions, and just rapping with them. Some of the best stuff took place in the bar of the St.-Sulpice Hotel in Montreal, where we were all staying. Everybody let down, and I really got to know Kristen, Sam, and Garrett—or at least got to know little pieces of them. I liked them all very much—thought they were all very real people, with very real connections to Kerouac and ON THE ROAD. Sam and Garrett drank pretty heavily, and they all smoked heavily—it might have been Gauloises. I was a little bit of a Dutch uncle with them, telling the “kids” they better take care of themselves, and of course they disregarded me and thought I was talking nonsense about adverse health effects many years down the line. Old age versus youth. But seriously, they all had serious stuff in their heads. Kristen was concerned about the plight of veterans—the current crop from Iraq and Afghanistan—and wants to play a disabled female vet. We talked about my book HOME TO WAR. Sam talked about how hard it was to transition from being a good-time music man in a rock band to having to be a heavy-duty lead actor, all because he auditioned for the role of Ian Curtis in CONTROL. Garrett made clear that he was still breaking away from that Minnesota farm he’d grown up on.
The Daily Beat: Can you tell us how accurately the script and the actors interpreted Kerouac, Cassady, and Marylou?
Gerald Nicosia: I don’t know—I haven’t seen the film yet, but they really wanted to do a good job. In fact, they were worrying too much about getting their parts with complete accuracy. I told them to lighten up, to take some of that pressure off, and just to try to convey the hearts, the open-heartedness, of those characters, to a public who didn’t really know them—and that would be enough.