‘Biker’ boys coast through production woes

Paul Benedict

With Reggie Bythewood’s “Biker Boyz” finally hitting theaters today, a lot of people’s hopes and expectations will be put to the test, especially those of the three young up-and-coming cast members that make up the titled gang of the movie: Derek Luke, Brendan Fehr and Rick Gonzalez. Not sure who these guys are? Chances are you’ve probably seen or heard of each of them somewhere. And if not, I can bet that you will very soon. Derek Luke takes on the lead role of Kid, the perilous golden boy of the Southern California motorcycle scene. Luke’s been everywhere lately thanks to his critically acclaimed film debut starring opposite Denzel Washington in the latter’s directorial debut, “Antwone Fisher.” Kid’s sidekick, “Stuntman,” is played by Fehr who you may have seen in such teenybopper thrillers as “Disturbing Behavior,” “Final Destination” and “The Forsaken,” or perhaps from his role as Michael on the television series “Roswell.” And then there’s the third original member of the Biker Boyz, Primo (Gonzalez), the slang-spitting, trash-talking funny guy with an afro. Gonzalez made his feature-film debut in 2002’s surprise hit, “The Rookie” with Dennis Quaid, and has made several appearances on Fox’s popular high school drama, “Boston Public”. All three are about to land on the Hollywood radar in a colossal way with significant roles in big movies coming out soon along with the expected hype of “Biker Boyz.” Luke with another big role in this year’s Sundance hit, “Pieces of April,” Fehr as a skateboarder in the indy mystery, “Paper, Scissors, Stone” and Gonzalez in Will Ferrell’s comedic romp, “Old School,” due out in late February. The Villanovan had the opportunity to sit down with Derek, Rick and Brendan to discuss their new movie.

Paul Benedict: So how much training on bikes did this film require?Rick Gonzalez: About three weeks.Derek Luke: Thirty-six hours total on a bike in that span. I enjoyed it, but it was a challenge. Coming from the East Coast, I never drove stick before, and everyone who rides a bike says it’s easy if you know how to ride stick, but I don’t know how to ride stick. It really helped me working with Kid Rock, he’s a real sweetheart (laughs). But yeah, I loved the experience. It was incredible.

PB: Rick, I read that your bike was the toughest to train on …RG: You put the slowest learner on the most difficult bike … you got problems. It was kinda tough, but Derek’s right, you get on a bike, you feel good after a while, and you build confidence.

PB: How do you feel about all the comparisons to “The Fast and the Furious”?RG: “Biker Boyz” has this uniqueness. But if that’s the slot that they choose, well then let ’em. But I believe it has much more, but let someone else say it, not me.Brendan Fehr: I guess that’s something for the moviegoers to decide. It’s an obvious comparison for obvious reasons. Nothing against the cast of “F&F.” They did a great job, but in terms of our cast, we had a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds.

PB: [Reggie Bythewood, director] doesn’t have an extensive professional background. Was it still a smooth shoot despite that?RG: There were a lot of problems on the set, but Reggie knew what he wanted and he stressed a lot about time management and working around the clock. It was basically on his shoulders to make this film work.BF: For what we were trying to achieve, it was a very limited budget, time and money-wise. It might look like more than a $30 million movie, though, which was probably quite a challenge for him, but we didn’t feel the sting of that.DL: There was such a bond on the set, always somebody to talk to. Somebody’s doing push-ups in one, listening to music in another and always a grocery line in the makeup room.

PB: How did you guys break into acting?DL: I moved from New Jersey to L.A. in 1995 and was trying to break into the business for years before I met Mr. Washington while working at a Sony Pictures gift shop. “Antwone Fisher” welcomed me to the whole film world that I really had no idea about. From there, it’s history. I’ve really been blessed.RG: I always knew since I was young. It’s that sappy cliché story, “he knew when he was young,” but I have actual footage to document that I knew when I was young! Footage from when I was like 4 years old with a camera that was bigger than me saying “I’m gonna be a movie star!” So I knew from an early age, and I always pushed my Moms to put me into acting classes.BF: I didn’t choose it, I guess it chose me. I never wanted to be an actor, had no intention of being one. To put a long story short, it’s a story where a guy comes up to you and says “Alright I can put you on T.V.” And here I am…

PB: So are you guys satisfied with the final product?DL: I’m happy man, [although] I understand people have their own opinions. But I am so happy because we believe that it was a story that was untold. I believe Laurence Fishburne, not to take kudos away from anyone else, but for him to be involved — I felt like he didn’t have to, and again the cast, you know Orlando Jones, Rick and Brendan, we had fun and we really believed in this project. Those stripes mean something to someone, its like tribal marks, every mark has a meaning. Those things on the side of a lid could be the trophies you won, they represent victory, so much more.RG: The film represents the whole culture, yesterday when we saw it with the bikers it was insane, they loved it.

PB: If all goes well, can we expect to see a “Biker Boyz 2”?DL, RG, BF- Yes!