Jack Kerouac wanted Marlon Brando as Dean Moriarty


Not many people, not even the majority of my closest friends, know this about me, but I’m a huge fan of Jack Kerouac. I’ve read various iterations of On the Road at least five times since 2008 and am just in love with Kerouac’s stream-of-consciousness flow. A film adaptation began filming this past August with Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) at the helm, with a cast list including Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, and Steve Buscemi.

However, for anybody familiar with the novel know that this isn’t the first time the studios have attempted to adapt it. Now, word has come out that Kerouac himself made a first-hand attempt to turn the now classic novel into a movie. What’s interesting is that he lobbied one of his time’s greatest actors, Marlon Brando.

According to Collectors Weekly, the person who found the letter addressed to Brando has come out to tell her story about how she found it hidden amongst Brando’s property. While the letter (which is in the gallery below) is hard to read, I’ve gone ahead and transcribed the letter in its entirety below the jump. In a nutshell, Kerouac felt Brando would have been the perfect fit to his novel persona’s, Sal Paradise’s, crazy and full-of-life counterpart, Dean Moriarty (Kerouac’s real-life best friend, Neal Cassady).

Honestly, it’s really sad that a film about On the Road hasn’t properly been adapted until now. Reading the letter, Kerouac comes off more as a fanatic than as a prospective colleague of Brando’s, which is probably why Brando didn’t advance a potential film. Furthermore, while the letter isn’t dated, it could be estimated to have been written around 1957, right when On the Road was being released, which was known to be controversial with its depictions of sex and drug use. However, Kerouac’s vision of shaking American cinema and the idea of “situation” could have been amazing, but things never end out the way we imagine.

[via Collectors Weekly, letter courtesy of Christie’s]


Dear Marlon,

I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Dont worry about structure, I know how to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I’ll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I’ll show you how Dean acts in real life, you couldnt possibly imagine it without seeing a good imitation. Fact, we can go visit him in Frisco, or have him come down to L.A. still a real frantic cat but nowadays settled down with his final wife saying the Lord’s Prayer with his kiddies at night… as you’ll seen when you read the play BEAT GENERATION. All I want out of this is to be able to establish myself and my mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go roaming around the world writing about Japan, India, France etc. …I want to be free to write what comes out of my head & free to feed my buddies when they’re hungry & not worry about my mother.

Incidentally, my next novel is THE SUBTERRANEANS coming out in N.Y. next March and is about a love affair between a white guy and a colored girl and very hep story. Some of the characters in it you know in the Village (Stanley Gould [?] etc.) It easily could be turned into a play, easier than ON THE ROAD.

What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of “situation” and let people rave on as they do in real life. That’s what the play is: no plot in particular, no “meaning” in particular, just the way people are. Everything I write I do in the spirit where I imagine myself an Angel returned to the earth seeing it with sad eyes as it is. I know you approve of these ideas, & incidentally the new Frank Sinatra show is based on “spontaneous” too, which is the only way to come on anyway, whether in show business or life. The French movies of the 30’s are still far superior to ours because the French really let their actors come on and the writers didnt quibble with some preconceived notion of how intelligent the movie audience is, the talked soul from soul and everybody understood at once. I want to make great French Movies in America, finally, when I’m rich …American Theater & Cinema at present is an outmoded Dinosaur that aint mutated along with the best in American Literature.

If you really want to go ahead, make arrangements to see me in New York when next you come, or if you’re going to Florida here I am, but what we should do is talk about this because I prophesy that it’s going to be the beginning of something real great. I’m bored nowadays and I’m looking around for something to do in the void, anyway–writing novels is getting too easy, same with plays, I wrote the play in 24 hours.

Come on now, Marlon, put up your dukes and write!

Sincerely, later, Jack Kerouac