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Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : ‘Bikeriders’ Maneuvers Through 60’s Chicago Motorcycle Gang Life

US actor Austin Butler attends the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features' "The Bikeriders" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
US actor Austin Butler attends the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features' "The Bikeriders" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
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‘Bikeriders’ Maneuvers Through 60’s Chicago Motorcycle Gang Life

US actor Austin Butler attends the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features' "The Bikeriders" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
US actor Austin Butler attends the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features' "The Bikeriders" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California on June 17, 2024. (AFP)

For Austin Butler, getting into his role as the stoic bike rider named Benny in the Focus Features film "The Bikeriders" meant learning everything he could about riding a motorcycle.

"Just riding for so many hours that it feels like second nature and then by the time I'm there I'm not having to think about the motorcycle or anything," the "Elvis" actor said.

The film is based on photojournalist Danny Lyon's 1968 book of the same name, featuring photos and interviews with members of the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club.

Jeff Nichols, who wrote and directed "The Bikeriders," believed it was important to reimagine Lyon’s work through a feature film.

"You can't pick that book up and not be captivated by these photographs and these interviews," he said.

"The people in it, they just feel honest, and they also feel really cool. You're looking at their hair, you're looking at their bikes and their clothes and the detail work that they put in their clothes, it really is a compelling thing," Nichols added.

The drama movie takes place in the 1960s and follows the lives of local outcasts in a Chicago motorcycle gang called Outlaws MC that become like family.

Their lives suddenly change when the club becomes a hub for violence that forces Benny to choose between his family and a life of crime.

"The Bikeriders" arrives in theaters on Friday.

Tom Hardy plays the leader of the gang named Johnny while Jodie Comer portrays Benny’s wife, Kathy.

Hardy appreciated how immersive the world of the 1960s biker gang was in the film.

"You could sense how beautifully laced it was in nostalgia of the period and the attention to detail was really specific, that it was hard not to be drawn in by the evocation," he said.

Part of the authenticity of the film was Nichols accessing some of Lyon's interviews with his subjects on reel-to-reel tapes to share with all the actors, which was very helpful for Comer.

"It just became very important for me not to worry about doing a generic Chicago and then worry about people judging me on that," Comer said.

Both Comer and Hardy had the task of taking on the unique pacing and Midwestern dialects of their characters based on Lyon's interview recordings.

"She is larger than life and she has some interesting stresses and inflections but it's such an insight as to who she is," the "Killing Eve" actor added about her character Kathy.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
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Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)

Richard Simmons, television's hyperactive court jester of physical fitness who built a mini-empire in his trademark tank tops and short shorts by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, died Saturday. He turned 76 on Friday.

Simmons died at his home in Los Angeles, his publicist Tom Estey said in an email to The Associated Press. He gave no further details.

Los Angeles police and fire departments say they responded to a house — whose address the AP has matched with Simmons through public records — where a man was declared dead from natural causes.

Simmons, who had revealed a skin diagnosis in March 2024, had lately dropped out of sight, sparking speculation about his health and well-being. His death was first reported by TMZ.

Simmons was a former 268-pound teen who became a master of many media forms, sharing his hard-won weight-loss tips as host of the Emmy-winning daytime "Richard Simmons Show" and author of best-selling books and the diet plan Deal-A-Meal. He also opened exercise studios and starred exercise videos, including the wildly successful "Sweatin' to the Oldies" line, which became a cultural phenomenon.

"My food plan and diet are just two words — common sense. With a dash of good humor," he told The Associated Press in 1982. "I want to help people and make the world a healthier, happy place."

Simmons embraced mass communication to get his message out, even as he eventually became the butt of jokes for his outfits and flamboyant flair. He was a sought-after guest on TV shows led by Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue. But David Letterman would prank him and Howard Stern would tease him until he cried. He was mocked in Neil Simon’s "The Goodbye Girl" on Broadway in 1993, and Eddie Murphy put on white makeup and dressed like him in "The Nutty Professor," screaming "I’m a pony!"

Asked if he thought he could motivate people by being silly, Simmons answered, "I think there's a time to be serious and a time to be silly. It's knowing when to do it. I try to have a nice combination. Being silly cures depression. It catches people off guard and makes them think. But in between that silliness is a lot of seriousness that makes sense. It's a different kind of training."

Simmons’ daytime show was seen on 200 stations in America, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan and South America. His first book, "Never Say Diet," was a smash best-seller.

He was known to counsel the severely obese, including Rosalie Bradford, who held records for being the world's heaviest woman, and Michael Hebranko, who credited Simmons for helping him lose 700 pounds. Simmons put real people — chubby, balding or non-telegenic — in his exercise videos to make the fitness goals seem reachable.

Throughout his career, Simmons was a reliable critic of fad diets, always emphasizing healthy eating and exercise plans. "There'll always be some weird thing about eating four grapes before you go to bed, or drinking a special tea, or buying this little bean from El Salvador," he told the AP in 2005 as the Atkins diet craze swept the country. "If you watch your portions and you have a good attitude and you work out every day you'll live longer, feel better and look terrific."

Simmons was a native of New Orleans, a chubby boy named Milton by his parents. (He renamed himself "Richard" around the age of 10 to improve his self-image). He would tell people he ate to excess because he believed his parents liked his older brother more. He was teased by schoolmates and ballooned to almost 200 pounds.

Simmons told the AP his mother watched exercise guru Jack LaLanne's TV show religiously when he was growing up, but he wasn't crazy about the fitness fanatic. "I hated him," Simmons said. "I wasn't ready for his message because he was fit and he was healthy and he had such a positive attitude, and I was none of those things."

Simmons went to Italy as a foreign exchange student and ended up doing peanut butter commercials and bacchanalian eating scenes for director Federico Fellini in his film "Fellini Satyricon." He told the AP: "I was fat, had curly hair. The Italians thought I was hysterical. I was the life of the party."

His life changed after getting an anonymous letter. "One dark, rainy day I went to my car and found a note. It said, 'Dear Richard, you're very funny, but fat people die young. Please don't die." He was so stunned that he went on the starvation diet that left him thin but very ill.

After the crash diet he gained back 65 pounds. Eventually, he was able to devise a sensible plan to take off the pounds and keep them off. "I went into the business because I couldn't find anything I liked," he said.

When Simmons hadn’t been seen in public for several years, some news outlets speculated that he was being held hostage in his own house. In telephone interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" and the "Today" show, Simmons refuted the claims and told his fans he was enjoying the time by himself. Filmmaker-writer Dan Taberski, one of his regular students, launched a podcast in 2017 called "Missing Richard Simmons."

In 2022, Simmons broke his six-year silence, with his spokesperson telling the New York Post that the beloved fitness icon was "living the life he has chosen."

One of the online tributes after Simmons’ passing was from actor-comedian Pauly Shore, who previously developed an unauthorized biopic of Simmons, which Simmons objected to at the time.

"I just got word like everyone else that the beautiful Richard Simmons has passed," he began in an Instagram post. "You’re one of a kind, Richard. An amazing life. An amazing story."