Peter Fonda recently said that he wrote the script for Easy Rider without the aid of drugs between 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. in a low-rent Toronto motel.
Q You wrote Easy Rider in Toronto?
A I was sitting in Toronto on Sept. 27, 1967, and I started at 1:30 in the morning and finished at 4:30 a.m. I was at the Lakeshore Motel — pretty seedy then and something tells me it’s still pretty seedy now.
Q What were you doing in Canada?
A I was in the middle of promoting The Trip, which Jack Nicholson had directed, and figuring out what my next film would be.
Q Did you know how big that film would be?
A I like anything that rocks the boat and makes people want to see the movie again. That’s good repeat attendance, and I knew Easy Rider would rock the boat. I remember when it was finished, 4:30 a.m. at the Lakeshore Motel, I called Dennis Hopper. It was 1:30 in the morning L.A. time.
Q What’s Dennis Hopper doing at 1:30 a.m. in 1967?
A Dennis was asleep! I remember his wife answered and I told her to go wake him up.
Q What do you miss most about your friend? (Hopper passed away last May.)
A He introduced me to so many things in the art scene. He was such a creative person and early on, Dennis said, “I’m going to take this young man under my wing.” He was only a few years older than me, but I’ll always miss our connection.
Q I have to ask you: it’s 4:30 a.m. in Toronto at the Lakeshore Motel in 1967 and you’ve just finished Easy Rider. Are you high?
A I don’t think I would’ve been able to write a story on LSD! I was promoting The Trip, but no, I wasn’t doing LSD at the time. Drugs have been a ribbon attached to the chest of the ’60s, but it’s the battle ribbon of the ’80s — all that cocaine — that brought the roof down.
Bob Fisher (MM): Do you recall your first reaction when Dennis Hopper contacted you?
Laszlo Kovacs (LK): My first instinct was to turn him down, because I had had my fill of biker films. I went to the meeting, and Dennis tossed the script aside and acted out all the parts. It was a story about two hippies, played by Dennis and Peter Fonda, who search for freedom by making money selling dope. They travel to New Orleans by motorcycle and meet Jack Nicholson, a small-town lawyer. I realized it was a great story about my adopted land. At the end of that meeting, I asked Dennis when we were going to begin.