`Easy Rider' rides again

Dennis Hopper is recreating his famous role as a wild biker in an ad for the Ford Cougar. Jason Barlow was the only reporter allowed on set to meet him

The man who accidentally detonated Hollywood, who became more of a raging bull the further away he got from Easy Rider, is sitting patiently on a windy Californian mountain. There is no sign of the demonically supercharged laugh that has lifted many of his best films, even in the midst of the fluttering ministrations of a make-up person.

And while Dennis Hopper once claimed to have personally introduced cocaine to the streets of America, these days herbal tea is as far as he's prepared to push the boat out. Like so many other retired hellraisers, he no longer even smokes.

Hopper's sober reformation is signalled by his involvement in the television ad for Ford's new Cougar coupe, which has just gone on sale in the UK. And while many superstars simply sign up for lucrative adverts in a desperate act of creative bankruptcy, the 60-second Cougar commercial is an unusually witty and clever vehicle for a new, er, vehicle.

"Wild at heart, that was the starting point," says Leighton Ballett, one of the creatives at Young & Rubicam, the agency responsible for the campaign. "The Cougar is a car for people who once liked to race around but have grown up. We needed someone who had been like that, someone like, say, Dennis Hopper.

"Then we thought about Easy Rider and decided if we didn't ask we'd never know. You do things like this as a piece of magic and hope you get away with it."

As television ads for cars go, the Cougar Easy Driver film is magical, not least because Hopper agreed to do it, but also because it proved to be a massive technical challenge. Remember the Steve McQueen ad for the Ford Puma (the work of the same ad agency)? Well, that was a doddle in comparison, and its star was dead.

On set today, the crew is shooting film that will eventually blend seamlessly with footage lifted straight from an original print of Easy Rider; the seminal hippy biker movie Hopper made with Peter Fonda in 1969. The technical trickery extends to the presence of both a mobile editing suite and a special effects facility to ensure that camera angles and lighting are checked and perfected immediately.

Hopper, in effect, will be acting alongside his most demanding co-star ever - himself - and you simply will not see the join. Steppenwolf's hoary old classic "Born To Be Wild" has even been revved up once again for the soundtrack.

Hopper seems to be enjoying the process enormously. "Oh it's great. Paul Street, the director, is a master, and we're doing technical stuff that has never been attempted before.

"I'd like to work with Paul when he starts making feature films. It's great to look over your shoulder and see the young you there - it's like a dream."

Turns out he loves Fords too: "When I was a young man in Dodge City I was raised by my grandparents. They had wheat farms in Garden City so we had Ford trucks, we had Ford products, and we've used them all my life."

What about the legacy of Easy Rider? There's definitely a degree of self-parody here, isn't there?

"Well I'm very proud of it. It was the first film I wrote, directed and starred in. Through the years Peter [Fonda] and I have had a lot of fights over the picture, but we're all proud of it.

"The motorcycle represented the horse to me, it was like making a Western, stopping at campfires and strangers coming into town, you know they could take your wife and kids and run off with them."

Not exactly the sort of people that Ford believes will be buying its stylish new Cougar coupe, but that's pre-millennial marketing for you.

And menacing Dennis? Well a Ford Cougar would suit him just fine: "It's great. It's got a proper stick shift, five forward gears and is real comfortable."

Hellraising - it just isn't what it used to be.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Chris Froome pulls out of the Tour de France
tour de france
Arts and Entertainment
Leena McCall's 'Portrait of Ms Ruby May'
art.... because it features a woman’s pubic hair
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

    Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil