norman reedus standing in front of a car in a field
(Focus Features)

Norman Reedus Had One Request for His Look in ‘The Bikeriders’

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed a beautiful film in The Bikeriders. When talking to him about it, you can tell how deeply he cares about the story being told and honoring motorcycle club culture in the process. It helps that he has a beautiful cast of men to work with.

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One of those men is Norman Reedus, known for playing motorcycle riding and crossbow welding Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead franchise. With a movie like The Bikeriders, the filmmakers and creative team had the chance to recreate the looks of these men from the images in Danny Lyon’s book. (Danny is also a character in the film, played by Mike Faist.)

I thought it was absolutely hilarious that everyone else in this movie is as beautiful as can be and then Reedus’ take on Funny Sonny has what seems like baby teeth and looks absolutely nothing like Reedus. And we know that Reedus himself rides motorcycles and knows a lot about this life. So it made me wonder how much of this film allowed for creativity in what the gang looked like and how much of it was pulled from the images in Lyon’s book.

“Every actor got kind of a care package from me,” Nichols said about the preparation of these character. “Which involved photographs, some of which directly related to their characters. Like if you look at Emory Cohen’s character Cockroach, there are couple very specific photos of him in the book. Cal played by Boyd Holbrook, there were specific photos and for each of those characters, we had real audio of the real people. So Cockroach’s speech about eating bugs or Cal’s speech about building choppers, they could really build their voices off of the real people. Certainly that was true for Jodi Comer playing Kathy. And Mike Shannon’s character, Zipco, we had audio of him and some photographs of him. So we’re really specific about that actually down to the grease under their fingernails. That’s how meticulous we got in terms of kind of rebuilding what these guys looked like.”

So what’s up with Funny Sonny?

According to Nichols, part of Sonny’s creation came from Reedus’ own desire to look different from his Daryl Dixon persona. Which, makes sense. He’s known for riding motorcycles in cut off shirts so why would he want that to be the same vibe he has for a completely different character?

“When it came to Norman, we had pictures of a real guy named Funny Sonny, who came out actually as a Hell’s Angel to the Midwest,” Nichols said. “But Norman was shooting his Walking Dead spin off in France at the time. And he was very clear. He was like, ‘Look, I don’t wanna look like Darryl Dixon. I just wanna look like anything else, so can we just confuse this whole thing?’ And so it started with the teeth and then the hair and the beard and the glasses, and we found kind of an amalgam of photos of guys and we’re like, ‘Let’s just put all this stuff together and stick it on your face.’ And he seemed quite, quite happy about that.”

You can see our full interview here:

The Bikeriders is in theaters now.

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.