The Producers of That ‘Easy Rider’ Remake Explain Themselves: ‘Challenge Accepted’

When it was announced last month that a remake to the 1969 classic “Easy Rider” was in the works, some cinephiles reacted, well, badly. To some, the news that Hollywood was taking this generation-defining piece of filmmaking and remaking it seemed akin to treating the original film much like its own iconic, tragic ending, leaving “Easy Rider” in a flaming ditch on the side of the road.

The producers of the new film, Maurice Fadida and Eric B. Fleischman of Defiant Studios, knew going in to the project that some fans would scream that an “Easy Rider” remake would be treading on “sacred ground.” And in speaking with IndieWire, they explained they don’t want to touch the original or even directly “remake” it, but rather find a new spin on the story that would speak to a contemporary audience.

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But even they have to laugh at the immediate reactions.

Fans online said it was something no one asked for and laughed off the idea that the counterculture themes could be so simply updated for a modern generation. Fleischman said others assumed that, somehow, original star Peter Fonda’s sibling Jane Fonda would be involved in the project (no, she’s not). One Twitter user suggested a tag line: “They blew it…again.” It even got a mention on MSNBC and got an unusual “Brand Up” grade from Donny Deutsch.

“Somebody wrote me an email that says, ‘for the love of God, don’t make this movie,'” Fadida told IndieWire in a recent interview. “It’s exciting to us that people care about it and they don’t want it to be ruined and they don’t want to taint that name. But the intention is not to touch that movie.”

“Some people have said this is amazing and are excited, and some people have said this is sacrilege, and I’ll let you guess the age range of those two groups of people,” Fleischman added, saying that in meetings with agencies and managers, some haven’t been shy to to tell the duo, “please don’t call back.”

Rather than a straight “remake,” Fadida and Fleischman compared their film to a “re-quel,” as defined by 2022’s “Scream” reboot, echoing films like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Creed” that can call back to the original but also appeal to a modern generation. Of course, Fonda and original director and co-star Dennis Hopper are not around to reprise their roles, and the producers are adamant you won’t be seeing a hologram or ghost of either star on screen. (They joked that they got the rights to Orson Welles’ ghost and that he might be in talks to direct.)

But you should expect a new “Easy Rider” to feature a killer modern day soundtrack, young characters riding or traveling cross country exploring “what America looks like today,” and that the Captain America motorcycle will return in some form, even if Fleischman hesitates to distill the film to those three elements.

“‘Easy Rider’ is about an exploration of what America looks like under a microscope and the freedoms that exist in America. So in essence, if ‘Easy Rider’ was a brand, and the brand is just an exploration during the time in which you make the movie, then America is ripe right now for an exploration of what it means to be free and what does America look like,” Fleischman said. “We want to create something that at the end of the day a younger generation can say, ‘This is my anthem.’ The same way it was for people in their 20s and 30s and their teens when they saw it in 1969. We want the same reaction, just a different demographic.”

Defiant Studios’ Maurice Fadida and Eric Fleischman - Credit: Photo by Ben Abarbanel/Courtesy of Kodiak Pictures
Defiant Studios’ Maurice Fadida and Eric Fleischman - Credit: Photo by Ben Abarbanel/Courtesy of Kodiak Pictures

Photo by Ben Abarbanel/Courtesy of Kodiak Pictures

Fleischman and Fadida are currently meeting with writers and directors on pitch ideas for the reboot. Those ideas have ranged from everything to following Fonda and Hopper’s grandkids to post-apocalyptic scenarios, but they’re still searching for the right take. Given how the writer(s) approaches the material will determine whether the film is produced on a super, micro-budget with first-time filmmakers and fresh talent or something that aims for something in a mid-budget range and wider distribution.

But once they do find someone and have a script in hand, they’ll be prepared to quickly take the film to market and won’t have an issue with financing. That’s because after years of lawsuits and changing of hands, the outright owner of the remake rights (the rights to the original film itself still rests with Columbia Pictures) is Jean-Raymond Boulle and his Jean Boulle Group. His company curiously deals with mineral exploration and mine development, as well as medical technologies, agriculture, renewable energy, and ecological conservation.

Boulle is decidedly not a filmmaker. But he is a big fan of “Easy Rider” and has fought for years to own the rights to produce a reboot. He then tapped Fadida and Fleischman for the job, as the two have some indie pedigree thanks to backgrounds at Paramount’s Insurge, Blumhouse, and as producers or executive producers of films like “Sleight,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Witch Hunt,” and more. For them, the appeal of taking on an “Easy Rider” reboot was specifically based on the “excitement and challenge” that’s baked into it.

“We wanted to find IPs that are meaningful for a lot of people. Obviously we found one that is very challenging, but I think that Eric and I feel like it’s challenge accepted,” Fadida said. “We know that there are many ways that you can make this movie, and some people don’t like it, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to find that special filmmaker who’s going to handle this thing with care, and again, respect what the original was and create something that is also exciting for this new generation.”

“I think at the end of the day, everyone can rest a little easy,” Fleischman said. “I’m happy that that we got the opportunity and not other producers who might not have the same rebellious mentality that Maurice and I have, which I think lends itself to a more honoring version of this reboot.”

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