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Easy Rider (1969) Poster

(1969)

Trivia

The 1962 1200 cc Harley's driven by the main characters in the film were actually purchased from the Los Angeles Police department. Harley-Davidson refused to provide free bikes for the film because "The protagonist were outlaws and they thought it was bad for their image." according to an article that appeared in the June 2005 edition of the History Channel magazine.
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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.
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.
Peter Fonda wore the Captain America jacket and rode his chopper a week around Los Angeles before shooting began to give them a broken-in look and to get used to riding the radically designed bike. The American flag on the back of the jacket and on the gas tank of the bike caused him to be pulled over several times by the police.
Dennis Hopper was going through a very bad time during production. He was in a state of drug-induced paranoia and he screamed at everyone. Crew members secretly recorded his tirades and sent the tapes to the production company in Los Angeles to explain why so many of them quit the film.
It was one of the first films to make extensive use of previously released musical tracks rather than a specially written film score. This is common with films now but was quite unusual at the time (the exception being The Beatles films and some other special cases).
The rednecks in the Louisiana coffee shop who taunt the boys, and the two in the pickup truck at the end of the movie, were all local residents recruited by the filmmakers. In the case of the coffee shop denizens, the filmmakers were preparing to audition a group of local theater people when Dennis Hopper saw Buddy Causey Jr., Duffy Lafont and several others watching them and making wisecracks and decided to use them instead.
Peter Fonda got the idea for this movie after seeing a picture of himself and Bruce Dern on their motorcycles. 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.
Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson were actually smoking marijuana on camera. LSD, however, was not actually used during the acid scene, as Fonda has stated.
Captain America's (Peter Fonda's) chopper was so "squirrely" to ride that at one point Jack Nicholson (who was on the back) squeezed his knees on Fonda's side to balance himself and broke one of Fonda's ribs.
The New Orleans cemetery is St. Louis #1, a Catholic cemetery. They didn't have permission to shoot there and Catholic audience members were shocked that the church had allowed it. Since then no other films have been allowed to shoot at St. Louis #1, unless it's a documentary and you have permission. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), Double Jeopardy (1999) and other films since then have all used the Lafayette Cemetery, which is Protestant.
Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson - huge fans of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni - invited their idol to the first screening of their film. Antonioni was sufficiently impressed to cast Nicholson in his next feature film, The Passenger (1975).
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.
For the famous soliloquy that Peter Fonda does in the cemetery while tripped on acid, Director Dennis Hopper asked Peter 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. This scene persuaded Bob Dylan to allow the use of his song "It's Alright Ma" in one of the final scenes, which contains lyrics referencing suicide. Peter told Dylan, "I need to hear those words", and he agreed to its use.
The swimming scene (Billy and Wyatt go swimming with two commune girls) was shot at two different times. When they shot the scene Peter Fonda was in the hospital. You can't see him together with Dennis Hopper or one of the girls in the entire scene. The legs you see are from a stand-in. The images of Fonda were shot separately, weeks later.
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.
Rip Torn was originally cast in the role of George Hanson. According to Torn, Dennis Hopper pulled a knife on him during a pre-production meeting. On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992), Hopper claimed it was Torn who pulled the knife. Torn sued Hopper for defamation and won.
According to Peter Fonda, four police bikes were customized for the film. One was burned during filming, and the other three were stolen before filming was completed.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #84 Greatest Movie of All Time.
While the actors smoked real marijuana, the cocaine seen at the start of the film is fake. According to Peter Fonda this is because they couldn't afford the real thing.
Dennis Hopper, Karen Black and cinematographer László Kovács all subsequently died of cancer at the age of 74.
After a preview screening, Columbia's chief executive Leo Jaffe stood up, hailing, "I don't know what the fuck this picture means, but I know we're going to make a fuck of a lot of money".
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper quarreled continually during the shoot. As the film's producer, Fonda did his utmost to have co-star and director Hopper fired.
Roger Corman turned down the chance to produce the film. He cited this as the worst decision he ever made.
During one meeting at Columbia, Dennis Hopper stood up and stuffed his finger in an executive's nose.
The final campfire scene was left out of the original shooting schedule and was shot after both motorcycles had been stolen.
Peter Fonda wanted Crosby Stills & Nash to do the soundtrack. Dennis Hopper refused, telling the band that anyone who drove around in limos as they did had no comprehension of the film, telling them, "If you guys try to get into the studio again, I may have to cause you some bodily harm".
A few years after the release of Easy Rider (1969) Peter Fonda appeared in and narrated a short educational film about motorcycle safety entitled 'It's Not So Easy.'
According to Jack Nicholson, he, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda went through 155 joints while filming the campfire scene.
Samuel Z. Arkoff at American-International Pictures turned down the picture. He later said that not doing this film and Night of the Living Dead (1968) were his two biggest regrets.
The Captain America jacket was designed by Peter Fonda and made by "two little old ladies" in Los Angeles. It was later sold at a charity auction.
The sign on the wall, 'Death only closes a man's reputation and determines it as good or bad," is a quote from 'The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, volume 4'.
Peter Fonda's character is only referred to by his real name one time in the movie. Billy (Dennis Hopper) does not refer to Captain America as "Wyatt" until the final campfire scene toward the end.
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;

Original opening showing Wyatt and Billy performing in a Los Angeles stunt show (their real jobs), two of them being ripped off by the promoter, getting in a biker fight, picking up women at a drive-in, cruising to and escaping from Mexico to score the cocaine they sell, 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 cop while driving their motorcycles across highway, two of them 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 in hotel before going over to Madam Tinkertoy's, extended and much longer Madam Tinkertoy sequence, extended versions of all the campfire scenes including the enigmatic finale in which Wyatt says ''We blew it, Billy.''
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". CSNandY often used it to close their concerts.
The original title of the film was "The Loners".
Jack Nicholson is in the film for 17 minutes.
Despite being filmed in the first half of 1968, roughly between Mardi Gras and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, with production starting on February 22, the film did not have a U.S. premiere until July 1969, after having won an award at the Cannes film festival in May. The delay was partially due to a protracted editing process. Inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), one of Dennis Hopper's proposed cuts was 220 minutes long, including extensive use of the "flash-forward" narrative device, wherein scenes from later in the movie are inserted into the current scene. But only one flash-forward survives in the final edit: when Wyatt in the New Orleans brothel has a premonition of the final scene.
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There is a quote from François-Marie Arouet better known by the pen name Voltaire, "If God didn't exist it, it would be necessary to invent him."
The bridge seen in the opening credits, the Old Trails Arch Bridge in Topcock, AZ, is the same bridge Peter Fonda's father, Henry Fonda, playing Tom Joad, crossed with the Joad family when entering California in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
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.
Karen Black described the shoot as 'insane'. According to Jack Nicholson, "Everyone wanted to kill one another and put one another in institutions".
While filming in the South, the crew were intimidated by locals. Dennis Hopper entered a bar and a man took a swing at him. Behind him was the sheriff. As a joke, Hopper said, "Hi there, I'm hitch-hiking to the peace march". Whereupon eight men jumped him.
Some graffiti on the wall of the jail cell reads "H D Stanton", likely a reference to Harry Dean Stanton, a good friend of Jack Nicholson.
Bruce Dern was also in line to play George Hanson but dropped out because of scheduling reasons.
In total, four former police bikes were used in the film. The 1949, 1950 and 1952 Harley Davidson Hydra-Glide bikes were purchased at an auction for $500, equivalent to about $3400 in 2015. Each bike had a backup to make sure that shooting could continue in case one of the old machines failed or got wrecked accidentally. One "Captain America" was demolished in the final scene, while the other three were stolen and probably taken apart before their significance as movie props became known. The demolished bike was rebuilt by Dan Haggerty and shown in a museum. He sold it at an auction in 2001. It now resides at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. Many replicas have been built since the film's release.
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Both the Captain America bike and the Billy Bike were designed and built by an African-American bike builder named Ben Hardy. Peter Fonda met Hardy when Hardy built the bike he rode in The Wild Angels (1966). Dennis Hopper is interviewed in the documentary "History of the Chopper" and confirms that it was Hardy who built the bikes. One of the people who worked on the bikes was Dan Haggerty, who later starred in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1977).
Dennis Hopper asked reclusive supermarket tycoon Huntingdon Hartford to finance the film. Hartford replied that he would give him the money on the condition that they levitate. He said, "A man with your kind of passion should be able to levitate". A dumbfounded Hopper stood there for a few seconds and briefly thought he could do it. He eventually turned to Peter Fonda and said, "Let's get the fuck outta here".
According to Peter Fonda's memoirs, Jack Starrett was Dennis Hopper's second choice for the role of George Hanson after Rip Torn dropped out.
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At the request of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, Henry Jaglom was brought in to edit the film into its current form, while Schneider purchased Dennis Hopper a trip to Taos so he would not interfere with the recut. Upon seeing the final cut, Hopper was originally displeased, saying that his movie was "turned into a TV show", but he eventually accepted, claiming that Jaglom had crafted the film the way Hopper had originally intended. Despite the large part he played in shaping the film, Jaglom only received credit as an "Editorial Consultant".
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It was Jack Nicholson who suggested that Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider finance the film.
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During test shooting on location in New Orleans, Dennis Hopper fought with the production's ad hoc crew for control. At one point he entered into a physical confrontation with photographer Barry Feinstein, who was one of the camera operators for the shoot. After this turmoil, Hopper and Peter Fonda decided to assemble a proper crew for the rest of the film.
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In an interview with Daily Camera, Peter Fonda described his father Henry Fonda's reaction to the film: "I had him come down and look at an early cut. We had to get Dennis out of the room to get it below four hours. My dad watched it and then I went over the next day to his house. He was very serious. He said, 'Look son, I know you have all your eggs in this basket. And I'm worried about it because the film is inaccessible. We don't see where you're going and why? I just don't think many people will get it.' Even after [it was successful] he thought I was just a loose cannon, until he worked for me for one day."
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Considered to be one of fifteen films that changed American cinema.
Some of the film was shot on 16mm film instead of 35mm. This was demo footage shot a year before production began.
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Allegedly, the characters of Wyatt and Billy were respectively based on Roger McGuinn and David Crosby of The Byrds.
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Jack Nicholson described the film as "the Stagecoach (1939) of bike movies".
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While editing the film, Dennis Hopper considered running the credits upside-down.
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The hippie commune was recreated from pictures and shot at a site overlooking Malibu Canyon, since the New Buffalo commune in Arroyo Hondo near Taos, New Mexico, did not permit shooting there.
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Bob Rafelson had previously encountered Dennis Hopper at a party, where he almost tripped over him as he lay perlaxed on the floor. He told Bert Schneider, "This guy is fucking crazy. But I totally believe in him and I think he'll make a brilliant film for us".
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The film was mostly shot without a screenplay, with ad-libbed lines, and production started with only the outline and the names of the protagonists.
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The production used two five-ton trucks, one for the equipment and one for the motorcycles, with the cast and crew in a motor home.
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Dennis Hopper wanted ownership of the writing credits, demanding Peter Fonda to take his name from it even though it was Fonda's idea and was responsible for most of the writing. Hopper then sued Fonda which was then thrown out of court.
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"All paths of glory lead but to the grave" is from the ninth stanza of the Thomas Gray poem 'Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard'.
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Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda previously co-starred in The Trip (1967), which was written by Jack Nicholson.
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Bob Rafelson, after agreeing to finance the film, wrote a cheque for $40,000 on the spot and told Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda to go to New Orleans and shoot the Mardi Gras sequence. If they could do it, he would bankroll the film.
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The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Jack Nicholson; and four Oscar nominees: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Karen Black and Carrie Snodgress.
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Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda hosted a wrap party for the movie and then realized they had not yet shot the final campfire scene. Thus, it was shot after the bikes had already been stolen, which is why they are not visible in the background as in the other campfire scenes.
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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.
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In an interview with The Guardian, Dennis Hopper claimed that Terry Southern wrote nothing in the film besides contributing the title, as he broke his hip in a fall. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Southern claimed, "Peter was to be the actor/producer, Dennis the actor/director, and a certain yours truly, the writer," Southern told Creative Screenwriting. "After they had seen a couple of screenings of it on the coast, I got a call from Peter. He said that he and Dennis liked the film so much they wanted to be in on the screenplay credits. Well, one of them was the producer and other was the director so there was no way the Writers Guild was going to allow them to take a screenplay credit unless I insisted." Not listening to the WGA, Southern allowed them to have their credits on the film, which was largely improvised. Peter Fonda said of Southern's contributions, "He gave us dark humour and a literary panache that Dennis and I did not have. "Having him with us as a writer on the script put it above periscope depth. People would say, 'Wow, Terry Southern co-wrote that. I wonder what that's about?'"
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Most of the film is shot outside with natural lighting. Dennis Hopper said that all the outdoor shooting was an intentional choice on his part, because "God is a great gaffer."
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In order to inspire more vitriolic commentary from the local men in the Louisiana diner, Dennis Hopper told them the characters of Billy, Wyatt, and George had raped and killed a girl outside of town.
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The 1949, 1950 and 1952 Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide bikes used in the film were purchased at an auction for $500, equivalent to about $3400 in 2016.
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The badge on Peter Fonda's jacket is the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge. It is worn by military personnel on the right pocket of their uniform when assigned to the US Secretary of Defense Staff.
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The motorcycles for the film, based on hardtail frames and panhead engines, were designed and built by two African-American chopper builders-Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy-following ideas of Peter Fonda and handled by Tex Hall and Dan Haggerty during shooting.
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Tom Mankiewicz was in New Orleans at the same time working on a TV music special. "I ran into Dennis and Peter by accident. Nobody had any idea that Easy Rider (1969) would become some kind of classic. But, my God, if I had the money, I wouldn't have given it to them. They were loaded all day long".
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Jack Nicholson doesn't appear until 43 minutes into the film.
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A short clip near the beginning of the film shows Wyatt and Billy on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona, passing a large figure of a lumberjack. That lumberjack statue-once situated in front of the Lumberjack Cafe-remains in Flagstaff, but now stands inside the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University. A second, very similar statue was also moved from the Lumberjack Cafe to the exterior of the Skydome.
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The demolished Captain America bike was rebuilt by Dan Haggerty and shown in a museum. He sold it at an auction in 2001. It now resides at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. Many replicas have been built since the film's release.
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The highly-prized Czech poster art by Joseph Vyletal depicts Peter Fonda in a surrealistic, Dali-esque setting.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Cameo 

Bridget Fonda, Justin Fonda: children of Peter Fonda appear as hippie commune children.
Phil Spector: the cocaine dealer.

Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

There were 2 bikes used for Captain America, one was stolen the other was burned in the end of the movie. The burned bike was later restored by Peter Fonda and was sold to John Parham and can be seen in the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa Iowa.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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