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“Easy Rider” was a classic biker movie that came out in 1969. If you were a young person during this era, you probably remember it well. The movie’s target audience was the young, counterculture, hippie generation who were struggling to identify with America.
The movie was about 2 bikers, Wyatt, “Captain America” (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) who took off on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles for a cross-country adventure of a lifetime. Ultimately, they wanted to reach New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
They left everything behind, except for a stash of money they scored from dealing drugs. The money was hidden in the gas tank of Wyatt’s Harley chopper for safe keeping. The money represented their version of the American dream. The plan was to find acceptance and tolerance in America. Along the way, the pair met a very diverse group of people. They met everyone from farmers to truckers to hitchhikers to prostitutes to rednecks to people living in communes, having multiple sex partners and the list just goes on and on.
LSD, Cocaine, marijuana and alcohol were free flowing, and the party was never ending. The bikers had intended life to be easier and just wanted to be accepted for who they were and to live a carefree life.
After they landed in jail, Wyatt and Billy met a Texas lawyer (Jack Nicholson) who, after getting them out, decided he wanted to tag along on the trip. Along the way, though, they experienced violence, bigotry and hatred. In the end, they never realized their dream.
Both Wyatt and Billy were ultimately gunned down and killed by redneck bigots after being targets of their taunting. Billy retaliated by giving them the finger, prompting the shootings. They had lost their way, their dream, their money and ultimately their lives. The movie’s famous tagline is, “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.” Fonda’s line, “we blew it,” is open for interpretation but is, by some, thought to mean that the American dream just might be unattainable.
What you have just read is the “bones” of the story, in a nutshell. If you remember the movie, you can probably fill in many of the blanks yourself. There are, however, things most people don’t know about the movie. Read below for a little bit of “Easy Rider” trivia.
• The movie idea was conceived by Peter Fonda while he was drinking and smoking marijuana.
• The marijuana that was smoked in the movie was authentic. They were actually getting high.
• The plot of the movie is representative of how people lose themselves in the process of pursuing the American dream.
• Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda argued over profit-sharing of the “Easy Rider” movie proceeds. They reportedly started the project as friends and ended it being enemies; which was ironic since they ended up being a real-life example of the moral of the story they made.
• Rip Torn was originally supposed to be cast as the Texas Lawyer, but was later fired for pulling a knife on Dennis Hopper. Torn sued Hopper for defamation and was awarded a judgment of $475,000.00.
• Jack Nicholson (not well-known at the time) was almost passed over for being cast as the Texas Lawyer in the movie because he didn’t have an authentic Texan accent. He was paid $392.00 per week.
• The redneck with the goiter that shot Wyatt and Fonda was discovered at a gas station.
• The movie budget was, at least partly, funded by profits from the formation of “The Monkees.” The entire budget was a modest $360,000.00. Profits from the movie had surpassed this amount in about 1 week. It eventually grossed over $60,000.00 worldwide.
• The motorcycles were not shown in the last campfire scene because they had been stolen, at gunpoint, before the end of filming.
• During the acid-trip scene in the cemetery, Hopper used the suicide of Fonda’s mother to incite his tearful outburst, “I hate you so much!”
• The movie took over a year to edit because Hopper just couldn’t decide what to cut. At one time, he was prepared to release a version about 4 hours long.
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