`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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

    £18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

    £16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen