Trophy Talk

The Bikeriders Director Jeff Nichols on His Filmography and How He Lucked Out with Jodie Comer and Austin Butler

Check out the latest episode of our Awards Tour Podcast.

by | June 27, 2024 | Comments

On this week’s episode of The Awards Tour Podcast, writer-director Jeff Nichols takes us on a cruise of his stellar Certified Fresh filmography and describes how he’s been contemplating his current release, The Bikeriders, for the better part of two decades. The Take Shelter director, whose other credits include Loving, Mud, and Midnight Special, has been a beloved auteur of critics and audiences since his debut in 2007 with Shotgun Stories. Join us as Nichols details how picking a 1968 non-fiction picture book about the early days of Chicago motorcycle clubs led to an incredible film about friendship, motorcycle culture, and how the quest for community can save or destroy a life. We also discuss how his love affair with art was first cultivated by his family, his scrapped Aquaman project, and why he thinks humanity is the most exciting part of superhero adaptations.

Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: It has been a long road to getting The Bikeriders to the screen — over 15 years, correct? Tell us about it.

Jeff Nichols: It’s funny because I’ve been working with Michael Shannon my entire career, so I’ve been talking about this film for my entire career. I found the book in 2003, the book of photographs that inspired it, and I’ve been talking to Mike about it for that long, and literally, he’s like, “You’re never making that movie. Stop talking about that movie.” And I showed him. So this was me getting back at Michael Shannon to prove that I could make this movie.

It’s been a thing that has been intimidating for probably 15 of the 20 years I’ve carried it. It was a book of photographs, so there’s no narrative to it. There were interviews in the middle of the book, which are fascinating, but again, there’s no bigger story there. So it was challenging to craft that and figure it out. And then, it’s also not in a voice I’m used to, growing up in Arkansas, attending North Carolina, and now living in Texas — it’s the Midwest. It wasn’t an accent that I was super familiar with, and I take accents very, very seriously. But I got some recordings of the original interviews, so I had a path, and I’m not in a biker gang. It was a subculture I wasn’t familiar with or comfortable with. So there were many things that I had to work through in order to sit down and feel confident enough to write this film. So I think that’s part of the reason I carried it for so long.

Austin Butler and director Jeff Nichols filming on location for The Bikeriders (2024)

(Photo by Kyle Kaplan/©Focus Features)

RT: Did you pitch it with Shannon in the same role the whole time? What did you see in him that made your collaboration last this long?

Nichols: It would be better to say he saw something in me, because he keeps saying yes. So there’s something wrong with him. But the truth is, there is an earnestness to how Mike approaches acting. He is very, very intelligent. He knows the script backward and forward when he arrives on set. And he’s really thinking about his character and how that character services the story. And I would have to say probably every actor doesn’t do that. He’s thinking about how that character contributes to the story being told. And quite often, he elevates the thing that’s on the page. Certainly, he’s done it in all of my films.

Watch the video for the full interview with director Jeff Nichols.

81% The Bikeriders (2023) is currently playing in theaters.

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