Friday, 26 April 2013

How Easy Rider Brought The Biker Dream To The Silver Screen

Back in 1968, filming began on a movie that would be enjoyed time and time again in the future while also laying down a marker in modern cinema. The Wild Angels star Peter Fonda wanted to create an updated Western with the storyline of two bikers setting out across America and he discussed the idea with The Sons Of Katie Elder actor Dennis Hopper. The vision for Easy Rider was put into motion and it remains a firm favourite with many film enthusiasts and those who are part of the motorcycle culture.
The quest for the American Dream
Aside from the stunning scenery, the memorable soundtrack and the great performance of an up-and-coming Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider has gained such immense favour in no small part due to the themes that are delved into in the film. It is the quintessential road movie and the concept of freedom that is explored is such a strong one for bikers.
The two protagonists are Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), a duo with markedly different elements to their character. Together they set off from California to New Orleans with the target of reaching their destination in time for the Mardi Gras festivities. Their voyage is interspersed with meetings with unique individuals including record producer Phil Spector's character, the hitch-hiker played by Luke Askew, and of course George Hanson, the young alcoholic lawyer portrayed terrifically by Jack Nicholson. Billy wears Native American-style clothing whereas Wyatt favours an outfit including a jacket and helmet emblazoned with the US flag. After being held in jail for disturbing a parade in a Southern town, the two meet the aforementioned Hanson who gets them freed before setting off on the journey with them.
A fiery end to the voyage
Many feel that Nicholson, while admittedly providing a supporting role, is the standout performer in the Easy Rider cast. His part is cut short after he is the fatality in an attack on the three men by angry locals while sleeping in rural Louisiana. When Billy and Wyatt make it to New Orleans they meet two prostitutes played by Karen Black and 'Mickey' singer Toni Basil before taking LSD at a cemetery. Billy and Wyatt's opposing personas are highlighted again as they disagree over whether their journey has been a successful one. On the way to Florida the duo are confronted by two rednecks, one of whom shoots Billy. Wyatt goes to put his jacket over his stricken companion and as he rides to find help the rednecks shoot his gas tank, leading to an explosive ending for Fonda's character.
A classic that will live forever
There are many reasons for bikers to love Easy Rider and the film's anthem 'Born To Be Wild' by Steppenwolf has become synonymous with the entire culture in the decades since. The themes include drug experimentation and free love and the concept of freedom is scrutinised. Nicholson's character comments on how America beats the drum for freedom but fears those who go in search of it. Easy Rider had a budget of just $360,000 but took a huge $41.7 million at the box office and it is still as strongly revered as ever.

Anthony Garber is a film fan who rides a Suzuki B-King and he bought his Dainese boots from thebikerstore.co.uk.

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