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Austin Butler on ‘The Bikeriders’ Chicago Accent, Voices After ‘Elvis’

Austin Butler on ‘The Bikeriders’ Chicago Accent, Voices After ‘Elvis’

The Bikeriders, which follows 1960s Midwestern motorcycle club The Vandals as it evolves from a group of local outsiders into a violent gang, features not only a lot of bike riding but also a lot of accents.

At the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Monday, star Austin Butler, who plays Benny — a member of the club who begins a romance with Kathy, played by Jodie Comer — said that when approaching his character’s Chicago accent, “I spent some time thinking about it beforehand; I wanted to figure out where Benny fits into the tapestry of the film, how thick to go with the dialect.”

With their characters based on real people, inspired by the 1967 photo-book by Danny Lyon depicting motorcycle club Outlaws MC, Butler added that, “Once I’d heard Jodie’s audio of the real Kathy, then I tried to find something that felt suited to that. So I feel like I went subtle with it, but I worked with a dialect coach just to kind of do that work.”

The star famously did extreme voice work to portray Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 Elvis film, but he said in doing a film like this, “the difference is when you’re playing someone that everybody knows, there’s the pressure to where you know that people can watch interviews with that person, so it puts a different kind of responsibility on it.”

Writer-director Jeff Nichols said each member of the main trio — Butler, Comer and Tom Hardy — had a different approach to their voices, with Comer having a 30-minute recording of the real woman “and so she went really deep into bringing this woman’s voice back to life; not just an accent but her voice.”

“Austin’s character there were no audio examples of, so I gave him examples of other people talking and he kind of had to absorb the world around him and come up with a voice that kind of fit his own body and his own character,” Nichols continued. “Tom, on the other hand, has a direct inspiration of the film from Marlon Brando. He’s actually watching The Wild One when he got the idea for the club, which is something that was out of Danny Lyon’s book; it’s based on a real incident. So he really took the idea that OK, this is a guy that is pretending to be a club leader; he’s really acting the part because the truth is he’s a truck driver, he’s got a wife and kids and a house; he’s not actually a biker gang leader. And so it made sense that he would be kind of impersonating James Cagney, be impersonating Marlon Brando, so his voice kind of became an affectation of all of those things.”

Comer said she did two months of prep work on the accent “so when I got to set it wasn’t something that was at the forefront of my mind and I could be a bit more free with it,” but “shook it very quickly” after wrapping.

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Of forming her bond with Butler, Comer said the two went to dinner with Nichols a few days before filming and “he’s a very lovely, down to earth, cool person so it was very easy. I think we work in a very similar way, we’re both very focused but kind of playful and open so when you meet someone who kind of has that same work ethic it’s so nice.”

The actress also joked that while many of the stars went through motorcycle training and spent much of the shoot riding, “I was so happy to watch. It’s a lot of pressure; those bikes had a mind of their own.”

The Bikeriders, which also stars Norman Reedus, Mike Faist and Beau Knapp, hits theaters on Friday.

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