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Trivia / Easy Rider

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  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • The Cast Showoff: Peter Fonda was an experienced motorcycle rider and the bike he rides in the movie is seriously stretched and raked and has tall "apehanger" style handlebars. Dennis Hopper was not as experienced a rider, therefore his bike is less radically chopped.
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  • Creator Breakdown: Not only was Dennis Hopper going through drug-induced paranoia, but also a divorce. As part of the divorce, it was within his wife's right to claim half of his profits from the film, but she decided against it, because "I didn't want him coming at me with a shotgun".
  • Cut Song: Stephen Stills wrote the song "Find the Cost of Freedom" at Dennis Hopper's request, for use with the final scene (when the camera pans up into the sky). Hopper ended up not using it, and the song was eventually released as the B-side to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's single "Ohio". CSN&Y often used it to close their concerts.
  • The Danza: Karen Black as Karen.
  • Deleted Scene: There are various reports about exact running time of original rough cut of the movie; Four hours, four and a half hours, or five hours. All deleted footage is believed to be lost. Some of the scenes which were in original cut but got deleted are:
    • The original opening showing Wyatt and Billy performing in a Los Angeles stunt show (their real jobs).
    • Wyatt and Billy being ripped off by the promoter.
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    • Wyatt and Billy getting in a biker fight, picking up women at a drive-in, cruising to and escaping from Mexico to score the cocaine they sell.
    • An elaborate police and helicopter chase that took place at the beginning after the dope deal with police chasing Wyatt and Billy over mountains and across the Mexican border.
    • The road trip out of L.A. edited to the full length of Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild with billboards along the way offering wry commentary.
    • Wyatt and Billy being pulled over by cops while driving their motorcycles across the highway.
    • Wyatt and Billy encountering the black motorcycle gang.
    • Ten additional minutes for the volatile café scene in Louisiana where George deftly keeps the peace.
    • Wyatt and Billy checking into a hotel before going over to Madam Tinkertoy's.
    • An extended and much longer Madam Tinkertoy sequence.
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    • An extended versions of all the campfire scenes including the enigmatic finale in which Wyatt says We blew it, Billy.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Dennis Hopper made his directorial debut.
  • Doing It for the Art
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • For the famous soliloquy that Wyatt does in the cemetery while tripped on acid, Dennis Hopper asked Peter Fonda to talk to the statue as if he were talking to his mother, who died via suicide when Peter was 10 years old. Peter didn't want to do it, as he had never confronted his feelings about his mother. But Hopper insisted, which is why you hear Peter call the statue "Mother", and he states that he both loves her and hates her, which expresses his conflicted emotions.
    • Apparently, to get the right reactions from the rednecks in the diner, they were told that Fonda, Nicholson, and Hopper's characters had raped and killed a girl just outside of town.
    • And they smoked real marijuana, too.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper quarrelled continually during the shoot. As the film's producer, Fonda did his utmost to have co-star and director Hopper fired.
    • A paranoid Hopper demanded that cameraman Barry Feinstein hand over all the footage he'd shot, so he could keep it safe in his room. An enraged Fernstein hurled the film cans at him, and the two got into a brawl and fell through the door of one of the motel rooms. They got up and stared at the sight of Fonda in bed with Karen Black and Toni Basil (though Black denied this). Fernstein wasn't distracted for long, and threw a television set at Hopper.
  • Inspiration for the Work: Peter Fonda got the idea for this movie after seeing a picture of he and Bruce Dern on their motorcycles in The Wild Angels. He got Dennis Hopper (who was planning to get out of the acting business and become a teacher at the time) involved when he promised him he could direct the film.
  • Real-Life Relative: Peter Fonda's children Justin and Bridget Fonda play hippie children.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In an interview with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, Hopper claimed Rip Torn was fired and replaced by Nicholson (see What Could Have Been for more) because he pulled a knife on him at a bar during pre-production. Torn later sued Hopper, stating that Hopper pulled the knife and not him. Torn won the suit and Hopper was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands worth of damages.
  • Sleeper Hit: A No Budget psychadelic biker movie made by a bunch of stoners and B-actors not only made its money back, but helped shape American independent cinema.
  • Star-Making Role: For Jack Nicholson. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda got more exposure as well.
  • Throw It In!:
    • During Jack Nicholson's "UFO" speech, Dennis Hopper was intent on getting him very stoned on marijuana. The laughing that eventually broke up his speech was not planned, and when Nicholson repeats the line "it ... it ... would be devastating ..." it was the next take.
    • Some of the weird lighting effects in the LSD scene came about because a can of film was accidentally exposed when it was opened before being developed.
    • George's ni-ck, ni-ck, ni-ck gesture after taking a swig of booze was ad-libbed by Jack Nicholson. It was stolen from a friend of his who was nicknamed Reddog.
  • Troubled Production: Mostly due to the aforementioned Hostility on the Set, along with things such as the bikes getting stolen. Dennis Hopper turning out to be a Prima Donna Director also helped, with the studio even having to send him to a paid vacation to cut his abusive 220 minute cut to a manageable length.
    • Terry Southern had written the George Hanson part for his friend Rip Torn. However, after Torn and Hopper nearly came to blows one night before production at a restaurant in New York, Jack Nicholson got cast instead, and the rest is history. Nicholson declared about the shoot that "Everyone wanted to kill one another and put one another in institutions", while Karen Black described production as 'insane'.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The main characters receive (murderous) persecution for being counterculture bikers in the Deep South. In more modern times, "outlaw" culture has become embraced in the South, and bikers dressed like them wouldn't be seen as anything particularly noteworthy.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Rip Torn was to be cast in this movie instead of Jack Nicholson, but Torn got into a fight with Dennis Hopper during pre-production and left, resulting in his replacement by Nicholson. See Role-Ending Misdemeanor above for more. Bruce Dern was also considered for the role.
    • Roger Corman turned down the chance to produce the film. He cited this as the worst decision he ever made.
    • Peter Fonda wanted Crosby, Stills & Nash to write an entirely original soundtrack for the film, but this failed to materialize for two reasons. For one, cutter Donn Cambern edited the footage much more closely to what were only meant as temporary tracks than was customary at the time, which led to everyone involved finding them much more suited to the material than they had originally thought. On the other hand, Dennis Hopper increasingly got control over every aspect over the course of the project and decided to throw CSNY out behind Fonda's back, telling the band as an excuse, "Look, you guys are really good musicians, but honestly, anybody who rides in a limo can't comprehend my movie, so I'm gonna have to say no to this, and if you guys try to get in the studio again, I may have to cause you some bodily harm."
    • Bob Dylan was asked to contribute music, but was reluctant to use his own recording of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", so a version performed by Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn was used instead. Dylan was also asked by Peter Fonda to contribute a theme song, but instead scribbled a few lines on a napkin and handed them to Fonda, telling him "Give this to McGuinn. He'll know what to do with it." McGuinn used those lyrics to pen "The Ballad of Easy Rider".
    • According to Terry Southern, the original ending had Billy and Wyatt use the money from their deal to buy a boat in Key West and sail into the sunset. It was then decided to go with the darker ending, which Dennis Hopper was initially hesitant about.
    • While editing the film, Dennis Hopper considered running the credits upside-down.
    • The drugs that Billy and Wyatt transport was originally marijuana, until it was pointed out a motorcycle couldn't carry enough to score big and Dennis Hopper ruled out heroin, so it became cocaine.
  • Working Title: The Loners.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda did not write a full script for the movie and made most of it up as they went along. They didn't hire a crew but instead picked up hippies at communes across the country, and used friends and passersby to hold the cameras and were drunk and stoned most of the time.
  • Written by Cast Member: Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda wrote the script with Terry Southern.


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