Hell Ride is a grindhouse throwback directed by Larry Bishop, in partnership with executive producer Quentin Tarantino, which follows a band of rebellious bikers hell-bent on maintaining power in the dusty, sun-baked deserts of the western U.S.
Bishop stars as bad-ass biker boss Pistolero, who along with The Gent (Michael Madsen) and Comanche (Eric Balfour), hits the road to avenge the 1976 slaying of Pistolero’s former love Cherokee Kisum (Julia Jones), by the Six Six Sixers, a rival motorcycle gang.
Billy Wings (Guy Ritchie vet Vinnie Jones) and bike riding legend Deuce (David Carradine) also star as members of the satanic biker gang the Six Six Sixers. Dennis Hopper also joins in the fun as former Victors member Eddie Zero.
Hell Ride should be very familiar to anyone old enough to remember the biker flicks of the 1960s. Bishop is a veteran of the genre, with a notable role in ‘68s The Savage Seven, which follows a rowdy motorcycle gang as they tear through an Indian reservation looking for nothing more than a good time.
Bishop gave Monsters And Critics a few minutes of his time to discuss the origins of the motorcycle genre and the production of Hell Ride.
M&C: Larry, how have you been, man?
Bishop: I’ve been really good! We just been stopping by our local Blockbusters and, like a shmuck I’m checking everything out, but it’s really cool that I didn’t see any other movies with all the rentals checked out.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t only ten copies, where Indiana Jones has an entire wall. But still, I didn’t see any of the other movies…we were the only one completely rented out!
M&C: I watched the movie a couple of nights ago, and I’ve gotta say I was impressed. It was really enjoyable.
Bishop: Great and I thank you for that.
M&C: How did you get involved with Hell Ride, and how did you and Tarantino hook up?
Bishop: In August of 2001, I got a call from Laura Cayouette, who plays Dani in the movie, who said that she was standing next to Quentin Tarantino. That was a total surprise for me…it came out of nowhere. And she said, “Larry, Quentin is your biggest fan!” and I started trying to figure out what he knew me from, since I had only done a few things in a while, some acting, directing and writing. And she told me that he was a huge fan of the motorcycle movies I did back in the sixties and seventies – The Save Seven and such. It totally caught me off guard, man. But that was so totally Quentin.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about him. When this initial conversation happened, it came from the three movies of his that I’d seen. Up to this point he had only done Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown and liked all three very much, but I didn’t know anything about him. I had read the articles about him, but as you know, a lot of articles are more about the writer than who they are writing about. A lot of it is fan geek…fandom, manifesting itself in the interviews.
So I had no clue what to expect from Quentin. Laura told me that he had all of my movies, as well as prints and posters from the premieres, up in the theater in his house. Then he asked me to come over and watch The Savage Seven, which is one of his favorite movies of all time. He had a mint condition of the print.
So, I get up to his house, and we talked for hours…probably four or five. He reminded me of some of the people from the Beat generation. He just has this awareness. When I visit people, I like to go through their book shelves to see what kind of person they are, and sure enough, he had a lot of Beat era stuff. His awareness really took me by surprise, because I didn’t really know anything about him. He was really fast – the conversation was like BAM, BAM, BAM – and it went on for hours.
When I walked in – it was so surreal – he had framed all of the posters from the movies I had been in, and had them lining the walls of the theater as you go in. They say if you did a lot of drugs in the sixties that it’ll eventually come to you in your later years in a sort of strange event, and that’s exactly what this felt like.
I just kept wondering – though I didn’t say – about whether he took the time to hunt down these posters and put them in himself, or if he paid someone to do it. But either way, it really spoke of the enormous generosity of spirit that Quentin has. He actually strung together six or seven trailers before the movie, just for this conversation!
In the end, he really just wanted to see what I was going to do. He didn’t want to get too hands-on with the process, either the writing or the directing. He said, “I’ll see you in the editing room when you’re all done, and you can just give me a peek.” He really left me alone. It was a beautiful situation because I had him on my side, and so nobody fucked with me during the entire time. Bob Weinstein was really cool about everything and the company was, too.
M&C: What sort of tools did working on those sixties bike movies allow you to bring to the table.
Bishop: I had agreed to do the Hell Ride on a set budget, and we did all of the shooting within about 20 days. That is the amount of time we used to spend shooting those old movies, and even though I only starred in them, I knew the rhythm of the whole thing. It was good to have tucked away, but I never really thought it would be.
Quentin was the first person in forty years that had even said anything even remotely a compliment of any the motorcycle movies. He really likes that aspect of the movies, that nobody really cared for them, because he’s into that whole outlaw aspect of cinema.
Motorcycle movies didn’t have an actual fan base, although I used to tour with American International Films. It wasn’t a huge audience, but it was a good audience…a group of people that didn’t want to be a part of the mainstream.
M&C: Women play a huge part in Hell Ride, not only in the plot, but also in the biker ethos that is portrayed. Was this intentional?
Bishop: Back in the sixties, doing these tours I got to meet a lot of cool people, but the ones I really admired were the chicks. It’s one thing for a guy to tell his parents that he’s leaving home to do his own thing, but for a young girl to do that, at the time, that was really rebellious.
It might’ve been better for them to even join the mafia or whatever, because then they would at least be in some money. But I really admired them because they were really independent. You would have to be to run off with a motorcycle gang.
M&C: Is there any truth to the rumor of a Hell Ride trilogy?
Bishop: Actually, I just got word that they want to offer up a Hell Ride Vol. 2, so I’m just waiting to hear where, when and how we’re going to do it. I’m actually working on putting together a movie called Sweating Bullets. I’m doing the whole thing again – writing, acting and directing – Richard Dreyfuss is a part of it. We did Mad Dog Time together a handful of years ago.
M&C: How did you balance Pistolero’s rebellious attitude with your role as a director, having to care about every little thing?
Bishop: With the guys it was easy. I mean, with Madsen, who I’ve known for years and is a veteran at this stuff…I was very careful with the actresses, because I wanted to be sexual and sensual.
They needed to be comfortable with what was going on, and so I started every conversation off-camera saying, “Look, I’m talking to you as a director now, but when the film starts rolling, I’ll be Pistolero.” You have to care about that, because when I show up on the set, I’m that guy.
M&C: In the scene where Cherokee Kisum is murdered, the camera never cuts away. Was that a conscious directing choice?
Bishop: You know what happened? Julia Jones, who plays Cherokee Kisum, told me before we even shot the scene, how she wanted to act out the scene. She said, “I’m going to surrender.” I instantly knew what she meant, and I thought it was a beautiful choice. She’s not like Saint Louie, who fights it to the end. It was like a normal person would do.
Her choice was really cool, and I felt like it fit into the spirit of how Native Americans are very special. Sort of a wise understanding…she was going to accept it. I didn’t want to get away from that and lose focus.
I did that with a lot of scenes. A lot of movies really get cheesy and melodramatic when things happen, but I didn’t want to do that.
M&C: Thanks for your time, Larry!
Bishop: Thank you!