‘The Bikeriders’ star Jodie Comer, director Jeff Nichols explain ending

For a movie about a violent motorcycle gang, The Bikeriders has a surprisingly moving love story at its center. 

Based on Danny Lyon’s acclaimed 1967 book of the same name, the film follows the unlikely whirlwind romance between Kathy Bauer (Jodie Comer) and the hottest guy in the local biker club, Benny (Austin Butler). Kathy falls for Benny almost immediately when she spots him sticking out like a beautiful sore thumb among the rest of the riffraff at the neighborhood biker bar. Kathy knows nothing about bikes or gangs; she comes to the bar accidentally while looking for a friend. But not long after Benny sweeps her off her feet — literally stealing her away from the bar on his bike — she ends up marrying a man with a reputation for being the most reckless rider in the Chicago Outlaws. (The club’s name was changed to Vandals for the film).

Benny (Austin Butler) seeing Kathy for the first time in ‘The Bikeriders’.

Courtesy of Focus Features

In the movie, Comer narrates that fateful first meeting via voiceover, with the script borrowing heavily from interviews the real Kathy gave to Lyon (some of which you can listen to on BleakBeauty.com). But while the movie takes inspiration from Lyon’s recordings made during his four-year stint with the Outlaws, those interviews only tell pieces of the story from that time period. Writer-director Jeff Nichols filled in the blanks with his imagination, and he’s quick to note that the movie is a work of fiction. 

While we don’t know exactly what became of the real Kathy and Benny, the movie seems to give them a happy ending — at least on the surface. After years of fights, ultimatums, and a lengthy absence on Benny’s part, the duo leaves Chicago and the gang life behind them in favor of regular jobs and apparent suburban bliss. In a final interview, Kathy tells Lyon (played by Mike Faist) that Benny has even given up riding and doesn’t miss it. Whether she believes this herself is as ambiguous as their lingering smiles at one another before the credits role. 

Benny (Butler) speeds away with Kathy (Comer) after they first meet in ‘The Bikeriders’.

Courtesy of Focus Features

Asked if he thinks Kathy and Benny stay together in the world of the movie, Nichols says, “Probably not. The truth is, that’s why I like the ending. He’s smiling. She’s smiling. I don’t think she believes everything she’s saying at the end of the film. And he’s definitely hearing that call of those motorcycles. The truth is you don’t know, and I’m good with that, but I think they know, and probably we know as an audience that is tenuous ground that they’re standing on.”

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Still, Nichols insists that’s just one man’s opinion. “The film very much leaves it open to interpretation, and if people want to walk out of the theater and think, ‘Oh, she got Austin Butler and now they get to live happily after,’ if that’s what they need in their life, then that’s what they can have,” he says. 

Jodie Comer, Jeff Nichols, and Austin Butler filming ‘The Bikeriders’.
Kyle Kaplan

Comer agrees they couple doesn’t have an easy road ahead. Asked the same question about their fictional future, she says, “My feeling is probably not. But I think that the film gives people hope.”

While it seems Benny is most in danger of returning to his old ways, Comer points out that Kathy didn’t leave the gang life the same person she entered it. “Something that really stuck with me when I watched the film the other night at the L.A. premiere was this line where she says, ‘You hang out with these guys enough, it changes you. You start acting like them.’ And you know what? That really stuck with me because I thought, ‘Oh wow, I wonder where she went?’ Because I think that’s true. There was so much violence and disruption and heartache and crying, that felt like a very honest moment for her. So, I’m curious to know where that led.”

How it turned out for the real couple remains murky, but thanks to the movie, answers may be forthcoming. “Kathy and Benny had a son, and he showed up to the box office when we were going to premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival and gave us a letter,” Nichols says. “We gave that to Danny Lyon and he’s gone to interview him. So the story is unfolding and it’s going to be pretty fascinating, I think, to see who does come out of the woodwork.”

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