Gazing At Garrett Hedlund

“Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac / I can tell by the way you smile he is rolling back / Come wash the nighttime clean / Come grow the scorched ground green” — The Grateful Dead, “Cassidy”

I first meet Garrett on an astroturf lawn; the posh sort that only divulges its costly counterfeit by being too perfect. The “grass” skirts Gannon’s restaurant in Wailea—the area used by the Maui Film Festival for celebrity arrivals and interviews—and it’s aglow under Fresnel lights and umbrella reflectors competing with the setting sun.

For the first time in my life, I’ve shown up early to something. So I spend my idle time toeing the turf and scribbling in my notebook about what the word “real” might mean. But I do not get far in my musings because with the coming of Garrett Hedlund (of Country Strong and TRON: Legacy fame), began a Rising Star Award pre-ceremony press junket, and I’ve got a living to make.

A punctual man, Garrett shows up early, too. Handler-free, mind you. This is very confusing to me and my fellow journos, who are accustomed to waiting for Hollywood elite (who, I believe, are responsible for the phrase “fashionably late”). As for handlers, I’m privy to their hovering and swatting of my silly questions like the ass of a kolohe toddler (meanwhile I’m guilty of caving unctuously).

Garrett may be on time, but he’s still quite fashionable. While his style is effortless, it seems part and parcel of his upcoming role in the screen adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat bible On The Road, playing Dean Moriarty (i.e. Neal Cassady, driver of the bus called Further, who’s immortalized by Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, among others, and who—across generations—has infected countless with the wanderlust disease). Black sports coat over a black T-shirt. Slender black jeans. Leather boots I’d shank him for if we were in prison.

“I know we’re at a film festival,” I ask, “but have you read any good books lately?”

Yes, that’s my actual opening question. No, I don’t know why, either. Maybe because I’m a bibliomaniac. Maybe because of On The Road. Maybe because I’d overhead his conversations with preceding reporters, and knew I was in store for uncommonly erudite candidness.

He tells me about a book called Little Princes (by Connor Grennan), and I ask if he’s finished it.

“Sorta,” he says coyly.

From here—because charming boys ruin me—my maundering tongue dribbles nonsense about favorite notebook brands (he hearts legal pads and Moleskines) and my captious desperation for yellow-out. (“You shouldn’t express this without copyright,” he nudges. I explain my name’s Anu, not NDA.)

We talk about this because he tells me he’s been writing a lot, hoping these reflections are “so that one day I’ll be proud of the path.” He adds, “I spent seven days in London last week [with Cassady’s widow Carolyn] and wrote over 70 pages.”

“Seventy Moleskine pages or 70 regular pages?”

He cuffs my arm and says with a smile, “Oh, you! Seventy Moleskine pages.”

Great, now I can’t wash my jacket.

Garrett also tells me about how, until the age of 14, he grew up on a farm in Minnesota. “It was peacefulness in the years when I didn’t want peacefulness,” he says.

“You just broke my heart a little bit, just then,” I tell him. “I hope that’s written down in one of your Moleskines.”

He beams. “No, no,” he says. Sure, he’s a good actor, keen to be kind to reporters, but I think he might have broke a little, too. His face is all sunshine yet his countenance is sweet Cimmerian shade. “I’ve never written it before,” he says. “It was because of your question that I was able to answer that answer.”

Everything is quickly rhapsodic, if it wasn’t already. Ah, star quality.

“But then also, when you get away, everything that pushed you away is everything that pulls you back,” he adds. “Once you get to the city, all you want to do is get back to that.”

“Have you been able to go back?”

“Oh, yeah. Plenty of times. I just haven’t been back lately.”

“Yeah, but do you feel like you were back?”

“You. Now you’re asking me these deep questions!”

“Deep questions? What deep questions?” I put on a hokey voice and do a little jig, “Where’d you grow up? What d’you like t’do? C’mon—”

“Yeah, but you said (it) in a much deeper way.” A step closer. His gaze is direct and batting a thousand. “There’s a lot of home I take with me. And a lot of home I take with me in certain roles… Then I always gotta get somewhere else. To try to revamp, or recreate, to get way further away from everything.”

“Revamping? Is that because it’s because it’s part of your personality? The essence of being an actor?”

He smiles. I’ve had just seven minutes with Hedlund, but someone tells me I have time for only one more question.

I’m flustered. “Hey, I couldn’t find you on Twitter?”

Garrett says he’s not—nor cares to be—on Twitter or Facebook.

I’m sorta jealous, but it’s my turn to be coy. “But this is The Tweet Generation!” I giggle and scuff the astroturf, embarrassed. Poor John Clellon rolls in his grave.

Garrett Hedlund hugs me, my friendly heart flitters, then he’s golf carted away to accept his award before an audience of thousands. The sun’s almost gone, and I can’t help but think that tonight the stars will be out.

“Well, a travelin’ man’s affliction makes it hard to settle down / But I’m stuck here in the flatlands while my heart is homeward bound” — Patrick Simmons (Mauian!) / The Doobie Brothers, “Neal’s Fandango”