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Austin Butler in 'The Bikeriders' (2024)

INTERVIEW: ‘The Bikeriders’ Austin Butler Reveals the ‘Tearjerker’ Movies That Made Him Cry

Even steel horse cowboys get the blues. In an exclusive interview ahead of the release of his new drama The Bikeriders, Hollywood superstar Austin Butler has revealed his softer side. The actor, who plays the stoic and often emotionless Benny in the film, shed a little light on his favourite tearjerker flicks and there is a surprising name at the top of the list.

“I talked about this the other day, but that Adam Sandler movie, Click, that made me cry a lot,” he revealed to Man of Many. “Also, the movie About Time – That movie crushed me. It’s got Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Margot Robbie; so many great actors, and it’s wonderful. If you like a tearjerker, that one will rip your heart out.”

For Austin Butler, an actor who is on an absolute tear right now, there isn’t much to cry about. The 32-year-old star has just come off a string of blockbuster projects that include Dune: Part II and the Apple TV+ hit Masters of the Air, not to mention his Academy Award-nominated turn as the King of Rock ‘n Roll himself. For his latest role, Butler has taken a far more grounded approach, and the result is nothing short of transcendent.

In The Bikeriders, Butler tackles middle America in the 1960s, playing the charismatic Benny, the newest member of the burgeoning Vandals motorcycle club. Led by the enigmatic club head Johnny, played by Academy Award-nominated actor Tom Hardy, the gang starts off with the best of intentions, but cultural divides and a rising middle-class threat see The Vandals fall into a dangerous underworld of violence and brutality. Throw in a chance encounter with Jodie Comer’s strong-willed Kathy, and suddenly, Benny’s allegiance to The Vandals begins to wane.

Directed by Jeff Nichols, The Bikeriders captures a unique period in American history. Set to a backdrop of confusion, civil unrest and wartime, Nichols’ film embraces the notion of rebellion in much the same way Elia Kazan did with his 1954 blockbuster, On the Waterfront. Only this time around, Austin Butler is his Marlon Brando.

We caught up with the Hollywood superstar ahead of The Bikeriders‘ Australian premiere to talk motorcycles, stoicism and going toe-to-toe with Tom Hardy. It was an insightful peak into the mind of an actor at the top of his game, with Butler revealing the secrets behind the set and what he learned from his on-screen counterpart.

MoM: Congratulations on the film and more importantly, welcome back to Australia!

Austin Butler: It always feels like it feels like coming back home. I was here for a long time, and for a very particular time when COVID kicked off and then our film shut down. I have a lot of memories here, so it always feels good to be back.

MoM: Benny is such a complex and nuanced character. Are there any traits of his that you particularly admire? 

Austin Butler: What do I admire? His loyalty, his fearlessness; he’s not afraid of pain, he’s not afraid of confrontation, and he’s such an individual. You know, he’s not doesn’t care what people think about him. He doesn’t need anything from anybody. It’s empowering, getting to sort of step in his shoes for a bit. 

Austin Butler in 'The Bikeriders' (2024)
Austin Butler in ‘The Bikeriders’ (2024) | Image: Universal Pictures

MoM: In an interview that I watched earlier, Jeff Nichols said that he had to tell you to stop smiling, just to get into that stoic face.

Austin Butler: He said that? I think he’s probably referring to when I was on the bike because it was so fun being on a motorcycle I had to continually remind myself, don’t look like you’re enjoying this as much as you are.

MoM: And speaking of the bikes, how did it feel riding those 1960s motorcycles?

Austin Butler: It was incredible and with no helmet on. You’re not allowed to do that in California. It was exhilarating.

MoM: Was there much training that you had to do? 

Austin Butler: Yeah, I had months out there (training). This image behind you; one of those guys is Jeff Milburn, most of the motorcycles are his own, and he was the head of the motorcycle stunt department. He and I, many months before we started shooting, got together, and we rode every day. There were days when we’d be on a motorcycle for 12 hours riding together, and I rode so many different bikes and just learned all the different nuances. They each have their own personality, these old bikes, and so it was like dating all the different motorcycles.

MoM: Anything that surprised you about the bikes, in particular? 

Austin Butler: With a new car or a new motorcycle, when you touch the brakes, it’s smooth; the brakes listen to you. With these bikes, they don’t really want to listen. So you really gotta grip down. They don’t have ABS, so you can lock it up. You have got to be more careful. The clutch doesn’t really want to work, you feel the gears clicking into place, but in a way, you end up feeling more. It feels more like an extension of you because you feel every element. So that’s that’s great.

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler in 'The Bikeriders' (2024)
Jodie Comer and Austin Butler in ‘The Bikeriders’ (2024) | Image: Universal Pictures

MoM: Benny’s character in the film is known never to cry. Do you relate to that anyway?

Austin Butler: No, I cry more than Benny. I often find I need a good cry, sometimes.

MoM: Really? When are we likely to catch you crying?

Austin Butler: I don’t know, I mean, I talked about this the other day, that Adam Sandler movie, Click, that made me cry a lot. The movie About Time, that made me cry. You seen that movie, About Time? Oh, my God, have you seen that movie? Nobody’s seen this? That movie crushed me. It’s got Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Margot Robbie; so many great actors, and it’s wonderful. If you like a tearjerker, that one will rip your heart out.

MoM: That unique brand of stoicism that we see in the film is powerful in its depiction, but that’s not always how it is perceived in real life. In your eyes, do you see stoicism as a strength or a flaw?

Austin Butler: I think it absolutely can be a strength. It depends on how you use it, I guess, because I do think vulnerability is a strength, but there’s definitely a benefit and a strength in being able to hold space for somebody else. To be able to be a mountain in the face of somebody else’s extreme emotion; I think that that’s an admirable trait, for sure. 

MoM: Tom Hardy is incredible in this film and it was mesmerizing to see him play Johnny. What it was like working with him? 

Austin Butler: He’s a dynamic, amazing person to work with. As a human being, he has such an open, deep heart, and a surprising sense of humour. He’s made me laugh more than almost anybody else in my life. When he tells a joke or he tells you a story, he’ll have you in stitches, which I wasn’t expecting, because in so many of his performances, he’s so intense and has such a strength about him. He has all that in spades, but I think that’s what makes him such a dynamic actor is that there is this tornado of energy inside of him and then when he channels it, it’s remarkable to witness. His relationship with the cameras is something to learn from.

Tom Hardy in 'The Bikeriders' (2023) | Image: 20th Century Studios
Tom Hardy in ‘The Bikeriders’ (2024) | Image: 20th Century Studios

MoM: Is there a particular scene between you and Tom that stood out?

Austin Butler: There are many, but the one where we’re all about a campfire and Michael Shannon’s telling his story, and Tom and I go off, and he offers me the club – that that was initially, in Jeff’s mind, that was going to be a scene where we were separated, six feet apart or something, and we’re having this conversation. 

Tom got up, and he got close, and then he got closer and closer until he was in that range where…in day-to-day life, you don’t feel that, that level of intimacy to where you don’t know if somebody’s gonna headbutt you or they’re gonna kiss you and that creates this incredible tension. 

It was amazing to feel that, to feel his presence in that way, and then to hold that space and to push back on it and to not back down. To feel that tension and not need to necessarily do anything about it, that intensity, it was that’s something that Jeff and I didn’t expect, and that’s something that Tom brought. It was incredible.

MoM: In the film, you are covered in these amazing tattoos. Were any of those real?

Austin Butler: I wish. I only have one tattoo, but I almost got that peacock tattoo that I have on my arm and the film. When you wear them for months at a time, and then you finally have to take them off; suddenly, your arms feel so naked. 

I just wore tattoos in another film as well, and every time I think I’m gonna end up with sleeves. But then you have to spend so many hours in the makeup chair covering them up for other films and you have to get there three hours early to cover up your tattoos. So that’s the thing that’s held me back from it, but maybe there will come a day, I don’t know.

Hitting Australian cinemas on July 4, The Bikeriders stars Austin Butler, Tom Hardy and Jodie Comer. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, the latest flick takes viewers into the underground world of motorcycle gangs in 1960s middle America. You can watch the official trailer for The Bikeriders above