Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund Discuss Their Revealing On the Road
Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund are in the middle of a game of Q&A chicken. They’re sitting in a courtyard at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons on a hot November morning, staring at each other over a small table, waiting for the other one to crack first and answer my question. The only movement comes from the smoke wafting off his cigarette and the slowly forming half-smile on each of their faces.
All I’ve done to provoke this battle of wills is to ask, “Which of you is most like your character in On the Road?” In the new film adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac–penned road trip novel (which opens today in limited release), Hedlund plays the charismatic bohemian Dean Moriarty, and Stewart is cast as Dean’s carnal free spirit of a girlfriend, Marylou. Neither actor wants to brag that he or she closely resembles an iconic literary character, so it becomes obvious to both that a round of mutual compliments is the only way out of this question. But who will be brave enough to suck it up and go first?
“He’s got a lot of Dean in him,” Stewart finally says.
“He’s got a lot of teeth in him?” Hedlund replies, in mock-confusion.
“Dean!” she insists, as they both start laughing. It isn’t hard to coax a smile from Stewart and Hedlund, even if their screen personas would suggest otherwise. Both are best known for their straightforward, sullen work in big-bucks franchise roles — she in Twilight, he in Tron Legacy — and you can see what drew them toOn the Road, a film populated not by computer programs but flesh-and-blood people, where the characters aren’t undead but instead, really living.
In truth, Hedlund and Stewart are both closer to their roles than they’d readily admit. Like Neal Cassady, the Beat figure whom Dean is based on, Hedlund grew up in the heartland, spending his childhood on a farm so remote that you have to fly into Fargo and drive three hours away to find it. To win the part in On the Road, Hedlund channeled the vibe of the novel and wrote several soul-baring pages about his own life, offering them to director Walter Salles after his first audition by asking, sincerely, “Can I read you something I wrote?” It worked.