Wild Hogs In Theaters
Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy hit the road in "Wild Hogs," a rollicking comedy-adventure about a group of middle-aged friends who decide to rev up their routine suburban lives with a freewheeling motorcycle trip. Taking a long dreamed-of breather from their stressful jobs and family responsibilities, they can t wait to feel the freedom of the open road.
When this mis-matched foursome, who have grown far more used to the couch than the saddle, set out for this once-in-a-lifetime experience - they encounter a world that holds far more than they ever bargained for. The trip begins to challenge their wits and their luck, especially during a chance run-in with the Del Fuegos, a real-life biker gang who are less than amused with their novice approach.
As the "Wild Hogs" go looking for adventure, they soon find that they've embarked on a journey they will never forget.
STARRING: Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei, Jill Hennessy, Ray Liotta
DIRECTOR: Walter Becker
STUDIO: Touchstone Pictures
RATING: PG-13 (For crude and sexual content, and some violence)
Wild About Movies Grade: C+
Behind The Scenes
OF HOGS AND MEN:
ABOUT THE STORY
Back in the “Easy Rider” heyday of the Harley, hitting the road on a motorcycle, destination unknown, was considered the ultimate outlaw act of freedom, rebellion and “cool.” Today, however, the average motorcycle rider provides a rather different picture—because the average motorcycle rider is a suburban male on a weekend cruise around town! These are the so-called “weekend warriors,” who jump on their “hogs” at the end of the workweek, hoping to find even a flash of that free spirit that still burns beneath their everyday roles as daddies, bosses and breadwinners.
But what would happen if a group of suburbanites actually fired up their growling engines, donned their leathers, straddled the gleaming chrome and truly tried to hit the open road—ready for whatever outrageous situations that might come their way?
It was this question, with all its comedic potential, that inspired writer Brad Copeland to come up with the concept for "Wild Hogs." Copeland has become known as one of television’s hottest comedy minds, serving as a writer on two of the funniest and most acclaimed shows in recent years—the Emmy®- and Golden Globe®-winning dysfunctional family show “Arrested Development” and the Emmy®-winning “My Name Is Earl,” the comedy hit about a petty crook trying to make amends for all his wrongdoings, one by one.
The story of "WILD HOGS" was sparked when Copeland became fascinated by the new subculture of guys who wear suits and work in offices during the week, only to transform into leather-bound Harley riders on the weekend. “I thought, why isn’t anyone making a movie about all these suburban biker guys?” says Copeland. “I became intrigued by these guys who lead the usual 9-to-5 businessman’s existence, but then they have this whole other life where they try to leave that behind and go out into the great outdoors to ride. It felt like a sweet set-up for a very fun adventure.”
As he began to write, Copeland developed four foible-filled yet uniquely relatable suburban characters from Cincinnati—who share in common only a feeling of being stuck and a Harley hobby: Doug (ALLEN), a dentist with such an inferiority complex, he always introduces himself as a doctor; Woody (TRAVOLTA), the group’s seeming “golden boy,” a wealthy, charismatic businessman who looks like one of life’s big winners—but whose secret troubles are about to catch up with him; Bobby (LAWRENCE) a hen-pecked husband and plumber-on-hiatus who just took a year off to try, unsuccessfully, to become a writer; and Dudley (MACY), a computer-geek bachelor with a knack for always finding himself in embarrassing situations.
Copeland explains: “The idea is that these guys are all kind of living their own version of the white-collar, suburban life, except that on Sundays, they put on their leathers and head to the Harley-Davidson hang-out, where they feel kind of like poseurs. And then one day, they look at each other and say, ‘Why don’t we truly do this and take a real road trip?’”
The idea soon led to all kinds of hilarious and hair-raising situations and also revelations for the characters. For Copeland, it was the notion that one can still have a mind-blowing, perspective-altering adventure, even in the middle of middle-class suburbia, that makes the story of "Wild Hogs" so compelling.
He explains: “I think it comes down to the fact that nobody wants to feel too safe in life. These guys love their jobs, love their wives, love their children, but they also feel like maybe they need something else to tap into that cut-loose craziness, go wild and live on the edge, even for just a few days. They just want to see how that would feel—but they have no idea where this journey is going to take them, either on the map or emotionally.”
The laughs and thrills of Doug, Woody, Bobby and Dudley’s journey quickly attracted producers Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin of Tollin/Robbins Productions to the screenplay. Tollin and Robbins have produced a dozen films together, including the recent #1 box-office hit “Coach Carter.” When they read "Wild Hogs," they knew they had found not only a great vehicle for an ensemble of great comic stars but a joyful experience for moviegoers.
“This was an opportunity to make a movie that is fun with a capital F,” says Tollin. “We’ve made a lot of dramas, we’ve made a number of movies with a sports backdrop and movies that are specifically for a family audience. Of all the movies we’ve made, though, "Wild Hogs" probably has the broadest appeal.”
He continues: “The story is hilarious with an enormous amount of heart, and it speaks to universal themes. On one level, it’s a midlife crisis story, and on another, it’s a male-bonding movie. It’s four grown men discussing things in honest, intimate ways, which doesn’t happen as much as it should in the real world. But most of all, it’s just plain funny.”
With the screenplay as their calling card, Robbins and Tollin began almost immediately to search for a director. The bill they were trying to fill was a bit unusual: someone with both the chops for comedy…and a personal knowledge of choppers. They found exactly that combo in Walt Becker, who made his debut with the runaway hit “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” an outrageous campus comedy that updated the raucous “Animal House” tradition. Becker also came with an intriguing background: he financed his entire college education by buying and selling Harleys.
“Walt Becker was not only coming off the wildly funny ‘Van Wilder,’ he had also spent most of his life with motorcycles and brought a fresh, youthful perspective,” says Tollin.
Given his background, Becker wanted to hit the gas the minute he read the script for "Wild Hogs." “The second I finished it, I was in,” he recalls. “It was a story that was not only very funny but hit very close to home.”
In an amazing coincidence, Becker’s own father, also a lifelong Harley aficionado, had taken a trip quite similar to the one Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy would soon find their characters on. “He was going through a bit of a midlife crisis, so he and some friends flew from Los Angeles to Wisconsin, bought new Harleys and rode them across the country for two weeks,” Becker explains. “He was a Baptist minister and now he had a pierced ear and a skull bandana! Basically, it was the same journey as our four characters in "Wild Hogs" go on. So this was one of those scripts where you just know that you’re supposed to do it because you’ve lived it.”
Becker also admits to another reason for taking on "Wild Hogs."“What better way to confront my own mini midlife crisis than to take on an ambitious comedy adventure with a cast of great actors and hundreds of motorcycles,” he laughs.
SADDLING UP THE HOGS:
CASTING ALLEN, TRAVOLTA, LAWRENCE AND MACY
"Wild Hogs" would ultimately attract a cast made up of four remarkably diverse yet distinctly compelling Hollywood stars: the popular comedian Tim Allen, whose work has traversed from no-limits stand-up to hit family films; the Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominee John Travolta, who has been seen in some of the most monumental films of our times, from “Saturday Night Fever” to “Pulp Fiction”; the major comic star Martin Lawrence, who began as a groundbreaking young stand-up performer and went on to become the star of such blockbuster franchises as “Big Momma’s House” and “Bad Boys”; and William H. Macy, the oft-lauded Oscar® nominee who is a prolific star of prestigious film, television and theater projects.
“It was beyond our wildest dreams to attract a cast like this all together in one movie,” says director Walt Becker.
From the beginning, the filmmakers knew they wanted a quartet of stars who could hold their own with each other, and proceeded from there. “We always approached the film as an ensemble piece,” says Mike Tollin. “We didn’t want it to be one big star and three supporting actors, so we came up with the notion of going after these four world-class actors—and they all responded exactly the way we hoped.”
Tollin adds: “They created not only great characters but a great dynamic between the characters where you really feel like these guys have been friends all their lives.”
Tim Allen joined up in the role of Doug, the dentist who is sick of being “just a dentist” and a man in search of something that will catalyze a change in his life. His character has both some of the most thoughtful and some of the most outright slapstick scenes in the film. “Having Tim in this role was a thrill because he’s one of those actors where you put him in the part and he makes what’s on the page at least ten times as funny,” says Becker.
Allen, who had just done several family films in a row, was especially attracted to the idea of working at long last with a cast past pubescence. “The thought of working with four adult males was inspiring. I hadn’t really done an adult film since ‘Galaxy Quest,’” he explains.
He also felt an immediate connection with all the Hogs. “These guys feel a little stuck because they never did everything they wanted to do with their lives—and now they’re trying to change all that,” Allen says. “My character, Doug, is a little anal and a little fed up—in some ways like me, in some ways not like me—but in the course of the film, he learns to stand up for himself.”
And then, of course, there was the undeniable lure of the Harleys themselves. “I’ve ridden bikes before but mostly sport bikes and English bikes, like Triumphs and BSAs, but this is the first time I’ve ever really spent time on a Fat Boy,” he muses. “I like to customize cars, and I even had the chance to customize my own bike for the film, so that was a lot of fun.”
Most of all, Allen was drawn by the chance to work with three major stars so unique unto themselves. He observes: “Martin is such a soulful, calm, nice guy, and plus he’s a comic, so we have that same brotherhood. Macy’s a theater pro who is so skilled and knowledgeable, but he’s also got a great sense of humor. And Travolta is just the funniest, most genuine guy around. And when you put the four of us on bikes, it’s hysterical.”
For John Travolta, who, in an eclectic career, has moved fluidly from comedy to drama to icon and back again, the role of Woody would allow him to do a little bit of everything—even dance. As a lifelong motorcycle fan, he was initially compelled by the story’s concept. “I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t already done this story, because motorcycles have become one of the most common hobbies in the U.S.,” he notes. “The idea grabbed me right away.”
Even while reading the script, Travolta’s favorite character was Woody—precisely because he’s the one guy who’s not at all what he seems. “The character is very funny and appealed to my comic sensibilities,” says Travolta. “Woody appears to be the very successful businessman who has the best house, the prettiest wife and the coolest toys—the ‘lucky guy who’s got it all.’ But what the others don’t know is that he’s taking this trip to avoid the true disaster his life has become. He’s got some secret personal baggage that is going to make things very, very complicated.”
Things really heated up for Travolta once he found himself on the set with Allen, Lawrence and Macy in what he says became a constant, but friendly, daily battle to see who could be funniest. “You have two actors who began their careers as stand-up comics, then you have Bill Macy and me, who have done both comedies and dramas—so the balance of those energies added up to a natural competition for laughs,” Travolta recalls. “There was non-stop banter, and we were all trying to prove we could be equally as clever at between-takes humor. It was kind of like having two jobs—the one on screen and the stand-up gig between takes!”
Having Travolta in the cast was a major coup for director Walt Becker. “Travolta was an idol of mine back in the day,” he admits. “I grew up during his heyday with ‘Grease’ and ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ so just having someone from Hollywood royalty was a blast. Then, to find out what a great guy he is behind the scenes was even more of a treat. He’s a very talented, funny guy who brings every scene he’s in to life. He plays Woody in a way that went above and beyond what I expected.”
Mike Tollin also recalls that Travolta, like the other cast members, contributed key ad-lib lines to the final film. “When the four guys are sitting around at the table and Woody says, ‘How many summers do you think we have left?’ that wasn’t in the script—that came from John Travolta talking about why the script resonated with him. When we heard John say that, we all just looked at each other, and Brad Copeland immediately scribbled it down. We all brought things from our own lives and experiences to the film.”
Meanwhile, Martin Lawrence came to "Wild Hogs" because he loved the idea of joining a “team,” going back to his improv roots and riffing off other creative talents, with each star bringing something different to the mix. “Working with such an incredible ensemble cast gives you a certain freedom, so you can have even more fun with the role,” he observes. “I also love doing physical comedy, so when the bull scene came up, I knew that was going to be especially fun for me. I just tried to squeeze as much out of it as I could!”
Lawrence describes his character, Bobby, the plumber who wants to be a writer much to his overbearing wife’s chagrin, as “someone who doesn’t have much of a say-so in his life—but this journey gives him a chance to finally let it all out.”
Walt Becker can remember the precise second when Lawrence’s name came up for Bobby. “It was like a ‘Hail Mary’ moment,” he recalls. “I was so hoping he would do it, and when he called to say he was in, it was like a turning point. From there, we gave him free reign to take Bobby to places no other actor would even think of. His ad-libs are phenomenal, and I think he’s created some of the best moments in the movie.”
Finally, rounding out the foursome is perhaps the least expected one of them all: critically acclaimed stage, television and screen star William H. Macy, best known for his unforgettable, Oscar®-nominated role as a Minnesota car salesman in the Coen Brothers’ classic “Fargo.” In "Wild Hogs," he plays Dudley—the quartet’s lone bachelor and an unabashed, albeit adorable, nerd.
Walt Becker thought putting Macy among the mayhem would have interesting results. “I was dead-set on having him in the movie and pursued him like a pit bull,” notes Becker. “He was the only guy I could see playing Dudley. And not only is he fantastically funny and gives the character a lovability factor, but he brings a sense of realism that really grounds the comedy.”
While reading the script, Dudley stood out immediately to Macy. “He’s naïve and clueless and bookish, but he’s not a coward and he’s not a dork,” the actor says. “He’s a variation on a theme I’ve played before, but here he actually gets the girl, so yeah for Dudley.”
Macy recalls that the story of the film really came together for him when he first sat down with Allen, Travolta and Lawrence to talk about who these Cincinnati hog-riding suburbanites really are. “We talked about why these guys are going on this trip and what they mean to each other,” remembers Macy. “And what we realized is that the movie is the story of four men who come to see that if they don’t go after what they want right now, it’s never going to happen.”
As for joining up with his cast-mates on the set, Macy calls the experience “grand,” but admits “there was a lot of testosterone on this set. If you wanted to be heard, you had to speak up quickly and be very loud!”
The volatile mix of personalities could, at times, be daunting, especially for Walt Becker, who tried to ride the line between letting these talents go off in their own comically wild directions and keeping some control of the chaos. As Tim Allen jokes: “When you think of it, Walt was up to his neck in a beehive of egos.”
Still, Becker wouldn’t have it any other way. “These guys had such great chemistry together, it was exciting to watch,” he muses. “At times, I was pinching myself just realizing that I had all these wonderful talents together in one film.”
REVVING THE ENGINE:
AN AWARD-WINNING SUPPORTING CAST JOINS THE “HOGS”
With such an amazing lead cast lined up for "Wild Hogs," the filmmakers found themselves in the enviable position of being able to recruit an equally illustrious supporting cast, including Golden Globe® nominee Ray Liotta and Academy Award® winner Marisa Tomei, as well as M.C. Gainey, Jill Hennessy, Tichina Arnold, Kevin Durand and Jason and Randy Sklar.
Liotta came on board in the key role of the Hogs’ villainous rival, Jack, the fearsome leader of the Del Fuego biker gang—and the kind of man for whom the Highway to Hell is home sweet home. Liotta, whose roles range from the offbeat comedy of Jonathan Demme’s classic “Something Wild” to the searing intensity of “Narc,” brought with him the rare ability to mix menace with humor.
Comments Walt Becker: “When we were brainstorming about who could play Jack, I kept thinking back to Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ and trying to think of who that actor would be today. Who could create the most awesome adversary possible and be the greatest juxtaposition to our four Hogs? Ray was the only actor I could envision pulling this role off. I also thought it would be fun to have him play things very straight in this big comedy. His chemistry on screen with the rest of the cast has been fantastic. He’s made Jack more than just intimidating—which was exactly what we wanted.”
Liotta had a great time embodying such a hard-core character in a realistic way. “We went to great lengths to keep an authentic air about the Del Fuegos, because for someone like Jack, biking is not a hobby. It’s a way of life,” he explains. “Jack loves what he believes real bikers represent. So when these yuppies come into his bar, it definitely rubs him the wrong way.”
Aside from the incredible cast, there was another major draw for Liotta. “I’d actually never rode a motorcycle before,” he admits, “so I thought it would be cool to learn—and that turned out to be very fun.”
Then there is the film’s primary female character, Maggie, the small-town café owner who gets ahold of Dudley’s heart in the middle of the Hogs’ journey. Once again, Becker couldn’t believe his luck in getting one of the screen’s most talented actresses to take on the role. “Marisa Tomei brings a sweetness to every single role she’s been in, and she does an incredible job selling the love story between Maggie and Dudley,” he says.
Tomei jumped in with typical fearlessness. “I couldn’t be happier being the only girl amidst these four male leads,” laughs the actress. “Everyone took good care of me, and they’re all hilarious.”
As for her character’s attraction to Dudley, she says: “I’d venture to say it’s really love at first sight for Dudley, but for Maggie, who’s seen a lot of guys pass through town, it takes, y’know, that spin on the dance floor to convince her that Dudley might be the man for her! Bill is just so adorable in this character.”
It was just as fun for Tomei to stand back and watch the comic sparks fly as it was for her to get into the fray. “Maggie is written in a more straight manner,” she notes, “so I was always trying to find my little corner of funny and ride that line between the romantic and the comic. Mostly, I loved hearing what the guys were coming up with off the top of their heads. They all have such strong takes on comedy, and watching the four of them work with one another’s rhythms and give each other the space to do their thing was wonderful.”
Further rounding out the cast on the female side are the Hogs’ wives: Jill Hennessy, best known for her dramatic work as a medical examiner on “Crossing Jordan,” portrays Doug’s loving wife, Kelly, while Tichina Arnold, who plays Rochelle Rock on the acclaimed sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris,” has the role of Bobby’s no-nonsense wife, Karen.
“Jill Hennessy adds another layer of realism with her ‘down-home’ quality. She’s also extremely witty, and it was great watching her go head-to-head, improvising with Tim. As for Tichina Arnold, I’m still laughing about her audition tape,” allows the director. “The fact that she and Martin had a relationship from his television show and ‘Big Momma’s House’ was an added bonus. They knew each other’s timing, and she was perfect as the woman that keeps Bobby on lockdown. She ruled him with an iron fist, and watching her do that was great fun.”
Sums up Jill Hennessy of the experience on the "Wild Hogs" set: “It was just so exciting to work with people who I personally respect and who have always entertained me. Everyone was so professional and generous. It was one of the best times on a film I’ve ever had.”
TRAINING THE CAST TO HANDLE HARLEYS…AND ANGRY BULLS
Before the story of "Wild Hogs" could roar to life, the cast would first have to learn to ride the roaring chrome machines with which their characters are so in love. But riding a Harley is no quickly acquired skill and comes with a big risk—as all experienced riders know, it’s not a matter of if you’ll ever wipe out, it’s just a matter of when.
To make things even more complicated, each of the film’s four stars started in completely different places—John Travolta was an experienced rider who knew Harleys like a pro, Tim Allen had ridden sport bikes but not Harleys, which have a flavor all their own, while Bill Macy was a gung-ho novice, and Martin Lawrence had never so much as straddled a bike in his life and had no idea what was in store! To get everyone equally up to speed, the filmmakers brought in stunt coordinator Jack Gill to run a pre-production training camp. Gill started the crew out on dirt bikes to hone their handling skills, then moved up to cruising Harleys around the twisting roads of Malibu Canyon, which served as a testing ground for the newbies.
Tim Allen admits the learning curve did occasionally lead to meeting with the road. “With cars, I know where the limit is, but I don’t really know bikes, so when you get going fast and you try to put on the brakes, they don’t stop very well—which I found out a couple of times!” he laughs.
Adds Bill Macy: “These are big-ass bikes, and when they start to tip over, they’re going. I don’t care if you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger—you’re not going to be able to correct it when it hits the tipping point.”
Still, like his cast-mates, the newbie Macy quickly discovered just why so many men develop a Harley habit. “They’re big motorcycles, but Lordy, what a feeling. Only people who have ridden understand that feeling of freedom and lawlessness and living on the edge. It’s irreplaceable. It’s legal and non-narcotic and fun as all get out,” he enthuses. “I am seriously hooked.” Indeed, Macy notes that he regrets not putting in his deal memo that he be allowed to keep his bike!
Although Allen, Travolta and Lawrence were each allowed to select the bikes they ride in the movie, Macy’s Sportster was given to him to further establish character. “You have to be a Harley person to get the joke, but the bike I’m riding is a Sportster, which is known as a chick bike. I’m on a 1,200cc Sportster, so if it’s a chick bike, I don’t want to meet the chick,” he laughs.
Real-life bikers were also called in to educate the cast on the history of the biker lifestyle—and how it turned from being feared by all but the most rebellious Americans to being revered by so many today. Once on the set in New Mexico, the cast were further submerged in leather-clad biker culture, especially after an open casting call for extras turned up 1,300 devoted bikers in full regalia and attitude.
At any given point during the filming, up to 100 motorcycles were simultaneously roaring on the set. Bike aficionados will recognize the broad diversity of motorcycles that were used—and especially three very special bikes that veteran riders and customizers Paul Teutul, Sr., and Paul Teutul, Jr., who also make cameos in the film, lent to the production from the popular show “Orange County Chopper.” Says Teutul, Jr.: “They’re what we call ‘old school’ bikes. Ray Liotta is on a bike that we built a while ago called the Greeny, and there’s an orange old-school 1974 Sunshine that is seen on a pedestal in the Cincinnati Byker’s Island bar. That was the first Harley that my father customized. And there’s another hot-rod-looking chopper, an old-school Paul 2, with ape-hanger handle-bars that’s also in the film. They’re very nostalgic-looking bikes.”
In addition to learning to handle Harleys, the cast had another fierce and powerful beast to worry about—the 2,000-pound bull who forms the centerpiece of one of the film’s funniest scenes, in which the Hogs try their hand at bull wrangling. Once again, Jack Gill was called in to coordinate the daring stunt, using both the real actors and experienced rodeo performers, in case all hell broke loose. The latter are used to stampeding animals, but the former were in for quite a surprise.
“Slapping the bull was one of my favorite sequences,” says director Becker. “We wanted the actors to do most of the stunts themselves, but talking them into going in there with a live bull was interesting. We had a so-called ‘docile’ bull, but of course, animals can be unpredictable. I’m certainly glad we got everybody out in one piece, because the second ‘docile’ bull we used turned out to be not so docile after all. He actually stampeded through the corral at one point, sending stuntmen and camera crew flying over the railing!”
For the cast, the scene proved truly memorable. “Part of the fun of this movie is the way the action and the comedy meld together—but trying to be funny while a 2,000-pound bull is chasing you is a lot of pressure!” laughs John Travolta.
THE HOGS HIT THE ROAD:
Once the actors were ready to ride, the entire cast, crew and hundreds of Harleys were shipped off to New Mexico, the famed Land of Enchantment, where "Wild Hogs" would be shot entirely on location. Albuquerque was used to double for the Hogs’ hometown of Cincinnati, while New Mexico’s scenic mountains and forests were able to stand in for areas throughout the entire United States.
But as “enchanted” as New Mexico might be, it wasn’t all bliss, especially when it came to the state’s notoriously mercurial weather. “Since this was essentially a road picture, we were out in the elements for three months,” notes Walt Becker. “Along the way, we dealt with dust storms, mini-cyclones and rains of biblical flood proportions. At times, it felt like we were shooting ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ with the temperature frequently over 100 degrees and the 40-mile-an-hour winds which came up each afternoon. I take my hat off to all the cast and our crew who suffered right along with me.”
While much of the film was shot on the open road, there were also a number of key interiors, starting with the Hogs’ cozy homes in Cincinnati, and especially when the Hogs roll into the dusty Western town that has been overrun by the Del Fuegos. To help forge the story’s visual atmosphere, Walt Becker tapped the creativity of production designer Michael Corenblith, a two-time Academy Award® nominee for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Apollo 13.”
Corenblith brought his imagination to the task by forging highly contrasting worlds for the suburbanite Hogs and the bad-to-the-bone Del Fuegos. “Michael created such a sense of realism on which to pin our comedic story,” sums up Becker. “His sets never ceased to amaze me.”
For Corenblith, the project promised to be too much fun to resist. “I loved the idea of mixing elements of a kind of ‘Easy Rider’ motorcycle movie with a Western feeling. And I was also drawn to the challenge of visually depicting a journey of thousands of miles, while shooting entirely in one state,” he says.
Key to Corenblith’s vision for the film’s design was subtly revealing how the characters are being transformed as their cross-country trip ensues. “The palette goes from muted in the beginning to very vivid and alive,” he explains. “We begin with fairly bland, institutional colors in Doug’s office and hospital room, and that develops into the cacophony of color in the Madrid Chili Festival at night.”
He continues: “The contrast between the two worlds was also expressed in the creation of two biker bars. The first, the Hogs’ hang-out in Cincinnati called Byker’s Island, was intended to be the typical suburban idea of a biker bar: cool choppers on display, a distinctive logo and the usual assortment of merchandise for sale. It was more about the T-shirts than the beer. The Del Fuegos’ bar is the opposite of the Cincinnati experience and is a ‘real’ biker bar. It’s more like a clubhouse, most about celebrating their customers and the beverages to be found.”
The Del Fuegos’ bar set was created on historic Bonanza Creek Ranch, which has been seen in dozens of Western-themed films, including “The Lone Ranger,” “Silverado,” “Young Guns,” “Wyatt Earp” and “Lonesome Dove,” among others. “I knew Walt was interested in iconic imagery, so I pitched a ‘Wild West saloon meets Route 66’ kind of architectural hybrid, complete with double-swinging doors for the Hogs’ entrance,” Corenblith explains.
The core of the shooting took place in Madrid (spelled like the capital of Spain, but pronounced Made-Rid)—once a booming mining village in the 1800s, then an abandoned ghost town, and today an artists’ colony replete with charming shops and galleries—which stands in for the town where the Del Fuegos hold sway.
“We wanted the town to feel real, which meant neither too cute and small nor too big, and it also had to have a sense of history and community to it—you had to believe that a motorcycle gang could actually take it over. We stumbled through lots of small towns throughout New Mexico before we finally discovered Madrid,” recalls producer Mike Tollin.
In Madrid, Michael Corenblith created another key set: Maggie’s Diner. He explains: “The heart of the town is Maggie’s Diner, where much of the action takes place. This was built from scratch on a vacant property, using the forms, archetypes and vocabulary of old Route 66 diners: cozy booths, a prominent counter with stools and tin ceilings. In every way, we transformed this old mining town into something evocative of small-town life.”
Corenblith even invented a Town Square for one of the film’s climactic moments, the Madrid Chili Festival, turning an empty parking lot into an inviting space complete with gazebos, gardens and carnival rides. The festive effect of hanging Chili Festival banners throughout the town even inspired local Madrid resident to propose actually starting a Chili Festival in the future!
Invention was par for the course throughout the production of "Wild Hogs." When Corenblith couldn’t find a New Mexico location to simulate the Arkansas Ozarks, he crafted the scenery from scratch. Starting with a basic outcropping of rocks in the pristine Jemez Mountains, he began sculpting with foam until he had created an idyllic vision of a little hot springs. “On a creative level, to see what Mike accomplished on this movie was wonderful—he is a genius at sheer movie magic,” says Tollin.
Further adding to the visual fun of "Wild Hogs" is the work of cinematographer Robbie Greenberg, who previously shot Robert Redford’s “The Milagro Beanfield War” in New Mexico and already had a deep affinity for the state’s natural beauty, not to mention the lighting skill to deal with its ever-shifting weather. For Walt Becker, Greenberg’s contributions were indispensable.
“I really think this is one of the best-looking comedies you’ll ever see thanks to Robbie, who is so meticulous,” comments Becker. “We did not want the film to look like your typical blown-out American comedy with that big, comedy lighting. His photography is lush and beautiful, so that it not only plays up the humor, but also captures the drama of the story. Also, he makes everybody look fantastic in every scene.”
Rounding out the film’s design team was Penny Rose, the costume designer who came to the film on the heels of her exuberant designs for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” Although there was definitely a big difference in dressing bikers rather than pirates, she sees a connection: “It’s all about boys and their toys!” she jokes.
Kidding aside, Rose wanted to emphasize the reality of "Wild Hogs'"characters. She explains: “What I felt about the script was that even though it is a very funny comedy, there is also a lot of hidden depth to it. Your heart breaks for each of these characters in a way, and I wanted to really make them as individual as possible.”
To do that, Rose worked in very close collaboration with Allen, Travolta, Lawrence and Macy, talking at length with each of the four stars to fit the character’s clothing options to the actor’s visions of their personalities. “We had a lot of fun together, and they were each brilliant,” she says. “The four of them really know what they’re doing.”
Rose especially had a good time with William Macy’s memorable bike costume. “Dudley inspired a definite look,” she says. “I sent William a load of helmets and he pounced on the 1940s Outrider helmet. That set the tone for the rest of Dudley’s look. Also, he had these weird glasses that you put on from behind your head and they snap together with a magnet at the front. I insisted that he wear them in the film because they were so hilarious.”
Macy loved his outfit but did fail to anticipate one thing. “In retrospect, it might not have been such a good idea to wear black leather pants in New Mexico in July!”
Rose went through a wide range of bike clothing, ranging from vintage to current, in dressing both the Hogs and the far larger band of Del Fuegos, and gives lots of credit to Harley-Davidson, who kept the production supplied with some of the company’s most iconic items through the years. “The people at Harley-Davidson were phenomenal,” she relates. “They sent jackets, trousers, helmets, you name it. They were extremely generous.”
For Walt Becker, the entire production was filled with a treasure store of riches. “When you have a film with a half-dozen or so world-class actors and such a wonderful, amazing crew, the real challenge becomes just giving everyone their time in the sun. There was just such an overflow of talent, every morning I would wake up and feel like I was having an out-of-body experience.”
But as fun as the production might have been, its biggest effect was to spark a thirst for adventure among almost everyone involved. Notes Mike Tollin: “By the end of the movie, we were all kind of talking about going on our own "Wild Hogs" trip!