In Big Sur, out November 1, Kate Bosworth takes a turn as Billie, the long-suffering mistress of Josh Lucas’ Neal Cassady and mistreated intended of Jean-Marc Barr’s Jack Kerouac. Billie doesn’t catch many breaks. Bosworth, on the other hand, got exceptionally lucky in love on the film; she married Michael Polish, the director, earlier this year.
Big Sur tells the story of Kerouac, famous for writing On The Road, attempting to escape life in the limelight by stealing away to a friend’s California mountain retreat. The author’s sojourn doesn’t turn to be particularly tranquil, but it makes for a fascinating (and visually stunning) look at life for some of America’s most notable literary talents.
DuJour spoke to Bosworth about the appeal of the Beats, falling in love on set and why Hollywood’s got nothing on the nightlife in Montana.
The Beats are popular fodder for movies lately. How interested in them were you before this film?
I think that, like most Americans, I had read On The Road and had been mildly informed about Kerouac, but I didn’t know much about the Beat Generation and their place in history.
It’s an especially odd time for women. Did you look into works by Carolyn Cassady or Joyce Johnson, who wrote the memoir Minor Characters?
I read pretty much everything on the women of the Beat Generation. They had some really interesting things to say about that whole game. But because there’s not a whole lot of information on Billie—or Jackie, that was her real name—I did research quite a few different women and pulled a little bit of as many of them in to her. Ultimately it was this reflection of a yearning for traditionalism—meaning a family environment—and also having a fascination with experimenting and becoming more liberal.
In the film, Billie has the unfortunate fate of being in love with someone kind of terrible to be around.
I think we’ve all been there! Whenever I take a role, I have to have an affiliation with character. I can understand having been with someone you love and yet they’re impossible to love and impossible to have a healthy relationship with. It came down to understanding her on that emotional level, and there was something quite heartbreaking about her that I wanted to explore.
Luckily you walked away from the movie with slightly better luck, having met your now husband, Michael Polish.
I identified the project wanting to work with Michael, and I want to work with him the rest of my life. I feel very fortunate that we’re secure in that area!
What’s it like getting involved with your director?
We weren’t romantically involved on the film set, but I was enamored with him on set thanks to his directorial ability and then it blossomed into wanting to work together on different projects.
And to continue working together, like in the forthcoming Unconscious.
Our work is so much a part of our lives and our lives are so much a part of our work that it all flows together every day from one end to the other, and I think that’s a great aspect to our relationship.
Had you signed on for Unconscious before you were a couple?
No, we were together at that point and I think people were starting to identify us as a couple. We were submitted to that project together, for him to direct and for me to be in. Both of us read the script and he thought it would be something that would be a lot of fun and would be unexpected for people to see from me. I thought it was so rare to get a beautifully compact female villain role, and how fun is it to be able to do this together.
Big Sur is based on Kerouac’s 1962 book. What is it about the mid-20th century that has people so captivated these days?
There is so much of Kerouac that’s self-expressionism that it almost reads as one long blog. There was no Internet in those days and you couldn’t connect in a fast, easy way as you do now. I think that’s why people really love Kerouac—there was this really open, vulnerable quality.
There’s also the idea of truly getting away. The characters in this film all go to a tiny cabin in the mountains and leave the world behind.
There was a reason why Michael and I got married in Montana. It’s one of the last standing places where one can find solitude, and it’s our second home now. We have property there together and his father has property with us, so we have a family compound where there’s no cell reception and very little email. That’s where we go when we want to disappear.
Can you see yourself being there permanently?
Let’s just say that his father has a bar in his basement. It’s a real bar, it has kegs, any kind of drink you want and he has pinball machines. Michael and I stay up until about four in the morning trying to win this incredibly difficult pinball machine. Also his father also restores jukeboxes; it’s really our haven. Would I move there permanently? We’ll talk in a few years and see.
Big Sur hits select theaters November 1. Watch the trailer below: