Features

Jeff Nichols Receives Career Achievement Award at CIFF

The Bikeriders screened as the closing film of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 22 at the Music Box Theater with a presentation of the Artistic Achievement Award to Writer/Director Jeff Nichols. It was inspired by the 1967 iconic photographs and tape recordings of photographer Danny Lyon. Writer/Director Nichols gave praise to Lyon, saying, “He really was supportive, but without being prescriptive.”

Nichols had access to hours of tape recordings of the gang members, made by Lyon in the sixties. The Bikeriders recounts the evolution of an actual Midwestern motorcycle club, called the Vandals in the film. (The Outlaws, originally). The photos are what drove the film. The interiors in one of the bar settings seen in the movie were actually reconstructed from Danny Lyon’s photo.

As Nichols (“Take Shelter,” 2011; “Mud,” 2012; “Loving,” 2016) told Jack Giroux 5 years ago, “And what I’m talking about making a movie about is its transition from this golden age of where it was less criminal and it was more just a place for outsiders to gather. But then how that kind of morphed and turned into somewhat more of a criminal organization.” He described the film this night as “A complete portrait of a subculture. Maybe none of these guys needed to feel like outsiders, but they did.”

CAST

Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon onstage at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The cast is top-notch! It features Austin Butler, Oscar-nominated for “Elvis” as Benny, and Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve,” “The Last Duel”) as Kathy. Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant”) is Johnny, the leader of the motorcycle club, which originally existed for the members to race their choppers.

Michael Shannon—a close friend of Director Nichols who has made five films with him—is featured as Zipco. The breakout star of the “West Side Story” remake Mike Faist appeared as the photographer Danny Lyon.  Of Faist, Nichols said, “We were lucky to have him. I think he’s gonna have a great career.” Norman Reedus, from “The Walking Dead,” portrays Funny Sonny, and Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”) is Cal.

Jodie Comer’s character Kathy is the central character. Kathy tells the story of the rise, and fall, of the motorcycle group from 1965 to 1973. She’s quoted as saying “I used to be respectable”. She details how the club went from a place where motorcycle enthusiasts could get together and talk about their choppers to something far more sinister.

Comer has been mentioned for a potential Oscar nod. The struggle between Kathy and Johnny for Benny’s allegiance is a central conflict in the film. Describing some of the crazy things that Austin Butler’s character of Benny does, she says, “It can’t be love. It must just be stupidity.” Describing her time riding with Benny, she says of the Vandals, “The whole point of these guys is they can’t follow the rules, but as soon as they formed, they started making up rules.”

 

JEFF NICHOLS ASIDES

Jeff Nichols

Writer/Director Jeff Nichols on October 22, 2023, receiving the Career Artistic Achievement Award in Chicago on closing night of the Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Jeff Nichols has a way of exploring the inner rage of a character, as with Michael Shannon’s star turn in “Take Shelter.”  (Shannon told me in 2017, when I asked him at the Red Carpet for “The Shape of Water,” that “Take Shelter” was his favorite role.) In the case of Austin Butler’s character, Benny, we are told “That kid’s fucking crazy.”

He is also extremely handsome (Nichols says even more so, in person) and comes across as iconic in the book. Nichols said, “I didn’t know Austin Butler even existed when I wrote this. ‘Elvis’ hadn’t come out yet. There is calculus beyond me just thinking he’s pretty.” (laughter from the crowd). Nichols secured Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”) after meeting him while serving on a jury at Cannes and is friends with Tom Hardy’s manager, Jack Whigham, who is the younger brother of actor Shea Whigham (“Take Shelter,” “Waco,” “Boardwalk Empire”).

At the beginning of the evening, commenting on his nervousness, he remarked, “I know this is Mike’s town,” referencing his close friendship with Chicago native Michael Shannon (to audience approval.) Nichols shared that the projectionist at the Music Box Theater in Chicago where the film screened was Danny Lyon’s daughter Rebecca. He also told the audience that he had only learned last week that the characters Benny and Kathy, in real life, had a son who was present for this screening.

Shannon, who heard Nichols talk about making a movie from The Bikeriders for years. He once said, “You’ve been talking about that damn idea for so long. You’re never gonna make that s***.”

Nichols acknowledged that he had, indeed, been trying to make this film for a long time and described it as his “most ambitious” project. Five years ago he told interviewer Jack Giroux (Oct. 19, 2018), “There are just a lot of things that intimidate me about it, but I truly hope one day I’ll get my s*** together and do it.”

Well, he has, and The Bikeriders is very good. References to 1953’s Marlon Brando picture “The Wild One” to 1969’s “Easy Rider” to television’s “Sons of Anarchy” aside, this is an-depth look at the characters in a Midwestern motorcycle club. It is a 116-minute study of the outsiders who started the club.

Although Chicago is prominently featured, the actual shoot took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October of 2022, completing filming in December of 2022. It premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on August 23rd. It is totally compelling.

 

Share this Story
Load More Related Articles
Load More By Connie Wilson
Load More In Features

Check Also

Chicago Rolls Out Red Carpet for Sundance X Chicago 2024

o Logan Center for the Arts on the ...

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com