Garrett Hedlund may not have been picked to play Captain America, but he could play another iconic American role: “Dean Moriarty,” the main protagonist of Jack Kerouac’s literary classic On the Road. The Tron Legacy star is in talks to play the character, according to a Production Weekly Tweet. The film, which will be produced by Francis Ford Coppola and maybe directed by Walter Salles (Dark Water), is also said to be shooting this summer.

For those who weren’t forced to read the book in high school, On the Road is an autobiographical novel based on Kerouac’s travels around the U.S. in the late 1940s. Moriarty is modeled after fellow writer Neal Cassady and is the catalyst for the road trip, which also involved renamed versions of Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and other members of the circle of writers labeled by Kerouac as the Beat Generation.

Hedlund, who has previously starred in Friday Night Lights, Four Brothers and Eragon, will not be the first actor to personify Cassady (below, left, with Kerouac) on screen. Nick Nolte portrayed him in the 1980 drama Heart Beat, Thomas Jane took on the role for the 1997 film The Last Time I Committed Suicide and Tate Donovan played him ten years later for the simply titled biopic Neal Cassady. In the upcoming Ginsberg biopic Howl, soap star Jon Prescott will be seen as Cassady, while Gus Van Sant’s long-in-the-works adaptation of Ken Kesey’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test will surely feature him as a character, too.

Van Sant was at one time also attached to helm On the Road, as was Joel Schumacher, apparently. The most recent director linked to the adaptation is Salles, who made the wonderful Oscar-nominated Brazilian film Central Station (I highly recommend it) and The Motorcycle Diaries, which is also based on an autobiographical odyssey — that of a young Ernesto “not yet Che” Guevara, through South America. This latter film is what supposedly got Coppola to hire the filmmaker.

However, according to The Playlist, Salles and his co-writer, Jose Rivera, may no longer be involved. If so, I wonder if it has anything to do with past comments from Salles implying that his version would be a modernization. Fans of On the Road would probably hit the road themselves to stage production-halting protests if any change were made to their beatnik bible. If he is off the film, though, we can at least look forward to his On the Road-based documentary, In Search of On the Road (a Work in Progress), which is finished and set to screen at the San Francisco Film Society later this month.

If On the Road is truly going before cameras this summer, we’ll probably hear more definite news on the directorial situation, as well as who is officially playing Kerouac alter-ego Sal Paradise — Sam Riley has been rumored for some time — and the rest of the Beat bunch.

Source: Production Weekly, The Playlist