The director of the film was already quite familiar
with the book by Che Guevara when the producers approached
him to helm the film. He explains, "Ernesto Che Guevara's
book had had a real impact on me because it is about a journey
to discover not only one's identity and one's place in the world,
but also about the search for what I think we could call a Latin
To adapt Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries into
a screenplay, Salles and the producers selected José
Rivera. The screenwriter is an award-winning Puerto Rican-born
playwright who had studied with Gabriel García Marquez
at the Sundance Institute. Salles and Rivera conducted considerable
research together, reading all the existing biographies on Ernesto
Che Guevara. It would take Rivera two years of writing
and rewriting, coupled with ongoing research, before the script
was finished. To balance the film's portrayal of the two main
characters, Rivera drew from both Che Guevara's travel diary
and Granado's own account of the trip.
Rivera admits, "There were many challenges
in writing this screenplay. How do you even begin to approach
an iconic figure like Ernesto Che Guevara? I wanted to humanize
the myth, yet also honor the memory and serve history. It was
also important to give Alberto equal weight.The director found
he was able to reconstruct the adventure and discover the present-day
state of the places described in Ernesto Che Guevara's and Granado's
accounts. Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries should and would
be an Argentine film, all concerned firmly believed, so as to
honor the origins of the film's main characters. Once the script
was completed, the filmmakers began to prepare for filming.
For the role of Ernesto Che Guevara, Mexican actor Gael García
Bernal, whom the director describes as "one of the most
talented actors of his generation," was offered the role.
Drawn by the opportunity to incarnate a legend in his formative
period, Bernal instantly accepted.