British actor Sam Riley is due to play Sal Paradise in the film of On The Road, the narrator of possibly the most cult novel of all time.

 Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

The real Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

Riley, was last seen playing Ian Curtis the lead singer of the Manchester band the Joy Division in the highly acclaimed biopic Control. With so many big names attached to it, this film marks a step up for the actor.

Written by Jack Kerouac, On The Road was a largely autobiographical work published in 1957 that came to define the beatnik culture of jazz, poetry and excess that flourished in the fifties.

Alongside the young Brit, Viggo Mortensen will play Old Bull Lee (the character based on author William Burroughs) and Amy Adams will play his wife Jane.

The book tells the story of Sal Paradise who meets a charismatic young drifter called Dean Moriarty, the pair then team up for several epic journeys that zigzag across the United States in search of kicks.

While ‘on the road’ they listen to wild jazz in subterranean bars in San Francisco, meet pretty farm girls in the mid-west, dance the mambo in Mexico and meet the irascible Old Bull Lee.

The key character Dean Moriarty, described by Kerouac as “the holy con-man with the shining mind” is to be played by Garrett Hedlund (of Eragon and soon to be seen in TRON: Legacy).

Moriarty is introduced in the book by Sal Paradise like so: “My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry- trim, thin- hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent- a sideburned hero of the snowy West.”  From the looks of Hedlund this is quite apt casting, what’s more the actor even grew up on a farm.

Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund

Do the actors playing Sal Paradise and Dean Moriaty fit the bill?

Dean Moriarty had quite a complicated love life, and in the film Kristen Stewart (of Twilight fame) will play his first wife Marylou (the real life Luanne Henderson, who Cassady married when she was 15). Kirsten Dunst will play his second wife Camille (the real-life Carolyn Cassady, who now lives in the UK).

The film will be directed by Walter Salles, the Brazilian best known for The Motorcycle Diaries about the communist revolutionary Che Guevara’s motorbike trip around South America when he was a young man.

Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to the book in 1980 and will act as executive producer, as will Gus Van Zant, who is currently working on The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, another cult book that also happens to include Neal Cassady.

So far it all looks quite promising – a Brit who has proved he can do a pensive brooding Sal Paradise, a wild-eyed mid-westerner to play Dean Moriarty and a host of other interesting talent.

What do you think? Will they do such a well-known and much-loved book justice?

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