HELL RIDE's long, dusty road to the screen began when one of the film's stars had a serendipitous encounter with her future executive producer.
"Five and a half years ago I get a call from Laura Cayouette, who plays Dani in HELL RIDE, at around midnight," Larry Bishop, HELL RIDE's writer, director, producer and star remembers. "She says she's standing next to Quentin Tarantino, and that he says he's my biggest fan. She says: 'He loves those motorcycle movies that you did decades ago.'"
Cayouette handed the phone over to Tarantino, and a friendship and working relationship were born. (Tarantino later wrote a memorable role for Bishop as Michael Madsen's employer in KILL BILL.) After their initial conversation, Tarantino organized a screening of THE SAVAGE SEVEN, one of Bishop's most notable biker films. The get-together led Tarantino to suggest that Bishop write his own ultimate motorcycle movie. The title of the movie, the involvement of HELL RIDE star Michael Madsen and even character names were discussed in that first meeting, long before Bishop wrote a single word: "Quentin gave me my name," Bishop recalls. "He said, 'You should be called Pistolero in this.' So I am Pistolero."
The films that enticed Tarantino were part of a wave of independently financed and distributed motorcycle sub-genre that brought the rebellious counter-cultural antics of bikers to b-movie enthusiasts. These low-budget, quickly-produced films helped launch the careers of many actors, including Larry Bishop, Bruce Dern, who toplined CYCLE SAVAGES, Dennis Hopper of THE GLORY STOMPERS and EASY RIDER, and even Tyne Daly, who starred with Bishop in ANGELS UNCHAINED.
"I was under contract to AIP -- American International Pictures," Bishop says of the roots of his impressive career. "I did about twelve movies for AIP, and about half of them were motorcycles movies. Relatives stop talking to you when they heard that you were doing these movies. Your parents stopped talking to you. They didn't want to know anything about these motorcycle movies."
Though a biker role might cause an actor to be ostracized, there were advantages to the extensive publicity tours that accompanied motorcycle fare: "I actually used to tour with these movies. AIP used to shoot these things in four weeks, and then you would tour for about six months, going to all the drive-in theaters. And it was a big kick to do that because I was only about eighteen or nineteen years-old. It was a ball."
The few details discussed at the fateful screening of THE SAVAGE SEVEN became the beginnings of Bishop's intense, dedicated screenwriting process. With the help of producers Michael Steinberg and Shana Stein, Bishop developed and wrote his script over the course of several years, long before and long after his role in KILL BILL had been filmed and released. "I've known Larry for about twelve years," Steinberg says. "We've stayed in touch over the years. I ran into him at a party that Quentin had thrown. He mentioned that he was interested in doing a biker movie. I told him that's one that I would definitely come on board for. I thought the idea of bringing the biker genre back was too good of an idea to pass up." Steinberg later brought in Stein to produce HELL RIDE with him.
Bishop's process even involved writing this story as a novel before turning it into a screenplay. "I decided to write a four hundred page novel," Bishop says. "It pleased me while I was writing it, but when we got into the actuality of the movie, I had to turn a lot of the wordplay into visual action."
"It was kind of a design piece. It was really cool," Steinberg says of HELL RIDE's first incarnation. "I went through the book and circled the stuff that would be good for the screenplay. We worked on developing a screenplay from this book."
"The first script we had was a massive epic with big battle scenes with 600 guys on bikes pulling up on bikes. We got our budget and said, 'OK, it'll be six guys," Stein jokes. "Larry measured every word and every description, almost like a poet. You have to be careful because if you take one line out of one place, the whole thing can fall apart. He understands every element, almost like an architect. His writing is definitely informed from the place of being an actor first."
Inspired by the work of his executive producer, Bishop blended influences and genres when crafting his script for HELL RIDE. "I love Sergio Leone's trilogy. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST influenced me quite a bit," Bishop says. "In fact, when I started writing HELL RIDE, I wanted to make an amalgamation of a biker movie and spaghetti western. It was an odd thing to hear but Quentin's take on it was that he saw me as kind of the John Wayne of motorcycle movie people."
Bishop also placed an emphasis on sexuality in his film, largely in part because of the limitations placed on the motorcycle sub-genre in the late 60s: "I definitely wanted to up the ante with the sexual quotient. When I made these films in 1967 through 1972, there was only a hint of sexiness. I thought that this was one of the things I always felt like could be improved upon given the nature of the movies that have been made since like 1972, prior to LAST TANGO IN PARIS."