Billy Crudup
Credit: Billy Crudup: Jemal Countess/

This would be cool if it’s true: After years of trying to bring Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to the screen, Francis Ford Coppola may finally have found the ideal director: Dark Water‘s Walter Salles, whose 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries was a spiritual cousin to the classic 1957 novel. gossip Roger Friedman reports that Salles and his Motorcycle screenwriter Jose Rivera are writing a script for Coppola to produce, with Billy Crudup to star as Sal Paradise, the character based on Kerouac.

I have strong doubts about this report for several reasons. First, Coppola has been trying to make this movie forever, but the Beat novel is a hard book to adapt; it’s full of incident and character but not plot. A writer as great as Russell Banks reportedly took a crack at the screenplay, and if his version wasn’t suitable for filming, who could do better? Second, Crudup’s name has also been attached to this project since forever, and now that he’s 37, he’s about 15 years too old for the part. (So is Brad Pitt, whose name was once mentioned to play Dean Moriarty, Sal’s traveling companion, based on Beat wildman Neal Cassady.) Finally, Friedman speculates that the filmmakers could cast Scarlett Johansson or Chloë Sevigny as Joyce Glassman, Kerouac’s girlfriend at the time the book was published. But Glassman’s not a character in the book, which Kerouac wrote years before he met her (though she does appear as Alyce Newman in Kerouac’s Desolation Angels). If Friedman’s got that detail wrong, I’m not sure whether to buy the rest of his report.

Still, the dream of an On the Road movie dies hard. How about, say, Benjamin McKenzie as Sal and James Franco as Dean?

addCredit(“Billy Crudup: Jemal Countess/”)