‘The Bikeriders’ recreates heyday of 60s

Film pays homage to motorcycle clubs

REUTERS June 14, 2024
The film recounts the rise of the “Vandals,” a fictional Chicago motorcycle club. Photo: File


Actors Austin Butler, Jodie Comer and Tom Hardy immersed themselves in 1960s American motorcycle culture for their new film The Bikeriders. The drama’s writer and director Jeff Nichols was inspired to make the movie after becoming obsessed with photojournalist Danny Lyon’s photography and oral history of ‘60s Midwestern biker subculture.

The Bikeriders recounts the rise of the “Vandals”, a fictional Chicago motorcycle club, and its evolution from a family-oriented outfit to a band of outlaws. The story of the club and its colourful members is told through the eyes of Comer’s Kathy, who narrates her first encounter and relationship with the wild and mysterious Benny, played by Butler, and the club’s founder Johnny (Hardy).

Experienced motorcyclists Butler and Hardy did their own riding in the movie but operating vintage motorcycles from the era was a novelty for both. “We had months beforehand to get used to the particular motorcycles we were riding because new bikes are very different from these old bikes,” said Butler at the film’s premiere in London on Tuesday.

“There was an orientation with the bikes so you understood that they’re a piece of machinery that will do what it wants, when it wants. They were difficult to operate when they wanted to be,” added Hardy. All of the motorcycles used in the movie were period-correct, said Nichols, but staying committed to authenticity while shooting the riding scenes was a challenge, he said.

“It was incredibly scary because the truth is, there’s no way to entirely make a human being without a helmet on, riding at speed on a 60-year-old motorcycle safe, in a pack, no less,” he said. Arkansas-born Nichols, 45, whose previous films include Loving and Mud, said the subjects of Lyon’s work were at the heart of the movie.

“Danny had a beautiful gift for getting people to open up and talk about themselves, people that maybe a lot of people don’t want to talk to, maybe people that some people don’t feel need to be talked to,” he said. “And I really wasn’t obsessed with motorcycle culture, I was obsessed with the people that Danny recorded in 1965.” The Bikeriders begins its global cinematic rollout on June 19.


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