Do Austin Butler and Tom Hardy Ride Motorcycles in Real Life?

Motorcycles and bike culture form the central heartbeat of the crime drama film, ‘The Bikeriders,’ which exposes the outlaw gangs that sprung to prominence during the 1960s through the eyes of the Vandals Motorcycle Club. Austin Butler and Tom Hardy play the two central characters within the group – Benny Cross and club president Johnny Davis – who embrace the life of a nomad on the back of their custom-fitted bikes that are central to their core makeup. As such, the authenticity of their portrayal comes into question as the actors’ real-life links to motorcycles prompt an intriguing discussion of their love for the film’s primary subject matter.

Austin Butler is a Lifelong Motorbike Enthusiast

Before being cast in ‘The Bikeriders’ as Benny Cross, Austin Butler had experiences of growing up in the same kind of lifestyle surrounded by bikes, although not the niche extremes depicted in the film. When he was still in his teens, the actor was taught how to ride motorcycles by his father, who was an avid biker himself, when he took him down to a parking lot and made him ride for the first time. Butler expressed his fascination with the lifestyle, adding that the movie’s subject matter allowed him to delve into discussions about motorcycles with his father. The only difference between his biking past-time and the narrative, which delves into the 1960s, was the type of motorbikes he rode. As the film portrays a lot of vintage machines, he had to learn to ride these older bikes from scratch.

In an interview, he elaborated upon the intricacies he found while riding for the film. “I knew a bit but nothing like this,” he said. “When I was 15, my dad took me to a parking lot and taught me how to ride a motorcycle. So, I’d ridden a bit but never on an old bike like this. I was on a 1965 Harley, and I found each bike had its own personality. It was about learning the idiosyncrasies of each bike and understanding the broader spirituality of motorcycle culture.” After Butler had his initial discussions with director Jeff Nichols, he started riding all the time. He even managed to procure some old Harleys while shooting ‘Elvis’ in Australia, capitalizing on learning to ride the machines as prep work for ‘The Bikeriders.’

Jeff Milburn, the motorcycle stunt coordinator, supplied the entire cast with period-correct bikes, which aided in the film’s immersion. Butler described the experience of riding the bikes during filming as a sublime affair. “To get to ride motorcycles through Cincinnati, through these cornfields, it was just amazing,” he said. “You know what that feels like, where the wind is in your hair. You feel like you’re mainlining god.” However, it wasn’t without a few scares, as the actor had a couple of brushes with near-accidents. One time, during a night shoot, his bike hit a patch of wet leaves, and he went down, which thankfully didn’t result in an injury. The other was stray rocks flying near his face while riding without a helmet.

Tom Hardy Rides Bikes in His Downtime

As ‘The Bikeriders’ depends so heavily on its depiction of authentic bike culture, the actors were made to go through some form of training to prepare for their roles as members of the Vandals. “To be honest, all of them had to go through training,” director Jeff Nichols told ReelBlend podcast. “Now, some guys took to it better than others.” In the case of Tom Hardy, who plays Johnny Davis, the actor is a bike rider himself, although not to the extent his character exhibits in the film. He elaborated on his level of competence in an interview with the Irish Examiner. “I ride, and I can appreciate that world – I’m competent enough to ride a bike, and I have bikes,” he said.

“But what it means to these gentlemen and women is quite different. I think it’s a completely different study for them, and a lifestyle … And then the lifestyle goes on its own journey from fun to hell,” he added. The actor has his personal bike collection and can be seen occasionally taking them for a spin out in the neighborhood, particularly his Triumph Thruxton R 1200. Thus, there was an affinity between his character’s love for bikes and his own, although there is a discrepancy in their single-minded focus on their riding passions. In the case of Johnny, he puts his life and soul into the Vandals, something the actor isn’t inclined to do.

Nichols felt that despite whatever familiarity the actors had with regard to motorcycles, it took a whole new level of appreciation and training to get them to ride the vintage vehicles obtained for the film. Talking about the challenges faced by Hardy, the director said, “To Tom’s credit, he’s sitting on a bike that doesn’t have real brakes, in front of 40 other bikes that don’t have real brakes. So, already, you’re troubleshooting … You need to understand how it works, really, to get it back up and running. So at a very basic level, if it stops, then you’re kind of out of the shot.”

Read more: The Bikeriders: Is Stoplight Bar an Actual Bar in Chicago?