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Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood [Paperback]

Peter Biskind
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 4 1999
When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented young filmmakers such as Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including De Niro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the '70s -- an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (both onscreen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme. Based on hundreds of interviews with the directors themselves, producers, stars, agents, writers, studio executives, spouses, and ex-spouses, this is the full, candid story of Hollywood's last golden age.
MARTIN SCORSESE ON DRUGS: "I did a lot of drugs because I wanted to do a lot, I wanted to push all the way to the very very end, and see if I could die."
DENNIS HOPPER ON EASY RIDER: "The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me. There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street. After Easy Rider, it was everywhere."
GEORGE LUCAS ON STAR WARS: "Popcorn pictures have always ruled. Why do people go see them? Why is the public so stupid? That's not my fault."

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Not only is Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls the best book in recent memory on turn-of-the-'70s film, it is beyond question the best book we'll ever get on the subject. Why? Because once the big names who spilled the beans to Biskind find out that other people spilled an equally piquant quantity of beans, nobody will dare speak to another writer with such candor, humor, and venom again.

Biskind did hundreds of interviews with people who make the president look accessible: Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Geffen, Beatty, Kael, Towne, Altman. He also spoke with countless spurned spouses and burned partners, alleged victims of assault by knife, pistol, and bodily fluids. Rather more responsible than some of his sources, Biskind always carefully notes the denials as well as the astounding stories he has compiled. He tells you about Scorsese running naked down Mulholland Drive after his girlfriend, crying, "Don't leave me!"; grave robbing on the set of Apocalypse Now; Faye Dunaway apparently flinging urine in Roman Polanski's face while filming Chinatown; Michael O'Donoghue's LSD-fueled swan dive onto a patio; Coppola's mad plan for a 10-hour film of Goethe's Elective Affinities in 3-D; the ocean suicide attempt Hal "Captain Wacky" Ashby gave up when he couldn't find a swimsuit that pleased him; countless dalliances with porn stars; Russian roulette games and psychotherapy sessions in hot tubs. But he also soberly gives both sides ample chance to testify.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is also more than a fistful of dazzling anecdotes. Methodically, as thrillingly as a movie attorney, Biskind builds the case that Hollywood was revived by wild ones who then betrayed their own dreams, slit their own throats, and destroyed an art form by producing that mindless, inhuman modern behemoth, the blockbuster.

When Spielberg was making the first true blockbuster, Jaws, he sneaked Lucas in one day when nobody was around, got him to put his head in the shark's mechanical mouth, and closed the shark's mouth on him. The gizmo broke and got stuck, but the two young men somehow extricated Lucas's head and hightailed it like Tom and Huck. As Peter Biskind's scathing, funny, wise book demonstrates, they only thought they had escaped. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A former executive editor of Premiere on 1970s Hollywood.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars SHOW BIZ IS NOT BUSINESS June 25 2004
Like Bob Evans' "The Kid Stars In the Picture", "Swimming With Sharks", and Bob Altman's "The Player", Peter Biskind's book is one of the best and most exemplary works describing this crazy "business" called Hollywood.
It is very, very engaging and informative. What the book centers on are two things, mainly, which is the growth of new talent coming out of the four big film schools of the 1960s (USC, UCLA, NYU, Columbia) and the development of the blockbuster, which eventually degraded character development as the staple of winning screen formula.
Descriptions of parties at Margo Kidder's Malibu beach pad are awesome. Here all the young Turks gathered - Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Paul Schraeder, Francis Ford Coppola, Marty Scorsese, etc. These SC, UCLA and NYU minds formulated "The Godfather", "Star Wars", "Apocalypse", "Taxi Driver", "Jaws" and so many others.
While the sex and drugs got out of hand at Margo's, John Milius would repair to the beach and fire his weapon. Considered the best and the brightest of all of them coming out of SC, Milius was the lone conservative, who tried to stay clean. He would write great movies like "Dirty Harry" and "Apocalypse", and direct "Red Dawn" and "The Wind and the Lion". His stuff is just fantastic, but he never went on to the fame of his contemporaries.
Eventually, blockbusters like "Jaws" and "Star Wars" contributed to the so-called "cartoonization" of Hollywood. The comparison of psychology, dialogue, structure and symbolism as seen in "Marathon Man" and "Chinatown" are replaced by graphics, as seen in "Star Wars", or by a giant mechanized shark.
The end of the era is the failure of "Heaven's Gate", which brings down its studio and leads eventually to the rise of independent films.
This book tells the story of the integral American art form in all its glory and ugliness.
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I'm very puzzled by the purpose and intent of this book. The author seems to have a genuine appreciation for the revolution in extraordinary, personal filmmaking in American film in the 1970s. Yet the book itself is filled with the nastiest, pettiest, disgusting portrayals of the remarkable filmmakers, writers, actors, and cinematographers who made those films. The basis of the entire book appears to be extensive interviews with hundreds of people in the industry -- all of whom have personal vendettas and scores to settle (because they are all ex-husbands, ex-wives, ex-lovers, or bitter competitors). The result is that the portrayal of every director, producer, filmmaker, and actor is that of a loathsome, arrogant, egotistical, infantile monster. Personally, it was no pleasure for me to see Robert Altman, Warren Beatty, Pauline Kael, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorcese, Terry Malick, and dozens of others presented as inhuman, venal, insane, and vicious. Some of the gossip is no doubt true, and I imagine the world of producing and making movies is quite unpleasant. But there is no balance, or insight, to counter the ugly gossip that Biskind exclusively relies upon. Most surprisingly of all, there is no appreciation of the greatness, the sensitivity, the richness of the films that were made. At the very least, the book would have been much more fascinating if Biskind demonstrated how out of all the Hollywood self-indulgence, back-biting, arrogance, and egotism arose the sensitive, powerful, complex, humane, and moving, and often funny works of art, like The Godfather films, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Chinatown, Cabaret, Nashville, Taxi Driver, Days of Heaven, Five Easy Pieces, Bonnie & Clyde, Reds, The Last Picture Show, and The Deer Hunter. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gossipy look at 70's Hollywood May 2 2003
While Easy Riders/Raging Bulls is a very interesting book, and does tend to keep you turning the next page, it may not appeal to everyone. Someone looking for an in-depth analysis of the film industry in the 70`s may be a little disappointed. Biskind`s main point is that a new group of directors temporarily destroyed, or at least disrupted, the Hollywood studio system of the previous decades, and were able to make a handful of classic movies in the process. They then basically handed the power back to the studios in the 80`s due to overblown egos and budgets to match. There does tend to be a lot of gossip-like material in it and the detail sometimes verges on lurid.. So, if you want to know the various girlfriends of some director, look no further. A little more technical information here and there might have been nice to sate the film student readership. However, that`s not what this book is about. It really is a good indication of the atmosphere of Hollywood in the 70`s and does show up some of these big names to be quite un-likeable characters. And that is quite an understatement. You may find yourself never wanting to watch some of these directors' movies again, based only on their personalities.
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4.0 out of 5 stars We blew it Billy March 19 2003
This appropriately titled expose`places both the praise and blame for the glorious Hollywood renaissance on the brilliant, creative and fearless but ultimately selfish, self absorbed, debauched and decadent 60's generation that burned themselves out before they really could build a lasting empire. To quote Peter Fonda's drug addled psuedo-anti-hero in the beautifully misshapen but stunningly and ironically prophetic "Easy Rider": "We blew it Billy".
Biskind does much to certainly promote the cult of the most overrated generation in history. But he does so by articulating and defending his point in a fast paced entertaining manner. Filling his pages with gleefully geeky tidbits of juicy bad behavior, Biskind edifys his position by balancing praise with vicious criticism. He calls the players all on the carpet and takes them to task for burning out in their own pathetic yet arrogant fires of ego-centric excess while managing to celebrate their true works of ground breaking film art.
Biskind appropriately bookends his journey with the equally self centered and no less destructive Jake LaMotta in Scorsese's brilliant film "Raging Bull". Biskind makes a fascinating point that Wyatt and Jake form a symbollic summation of a decade that could have been.
"Easy Riders and Ragin Bulls" pulls few punches and makes for an excellent summer read for anyone interested in Hollywood History.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I asked Coppola about it
I was at the Niebaum-Coppola winery in Napa, CA in Spring, 2002; and Frances Ford Coppola was there receiving visitors in the wine bar. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2002 by David M Nichols
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a supermarket tabloid newspaper come to life....
Whether it be scathing or scandalous, Peter Biskind's book is a definitive chronocling of the wild 70's decade, when the importance of the blockbuster finally hit an all time high,... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2002 by "mystic80"
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great
This is just the best book I've ever read. It's fast paced,
tremendously entertaining (full of gossip) and, you also learn
(quite) a lot about the american movie industry... Read more
Published on May 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great
This is just the best book that I've ever read. It's fast paced,
tremendously entertaining (full of gossip), plus, you also learn (quite) a lot about the movie industry in the... Read more
Published on May 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Why The Godfather couldn't even get made nowadays.
Although the notion of the degradation of the movies from The Godfather to Star Wars is a familiar one. This book is an absorbing examination of that process. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2002 by David H. Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Cinephilic Bible of Greatness
This book changed my life! Peter Biskind's unparalleled chronicle revels in joy once forgotten, that of creating movies that were not afraid to change chances, to go the limit to... Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2001 by Michael A. Deluca
4.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Do Not Learn From History...
In Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, author Peter Biskind puts the filmmaking of the 1970s in perspective in a way that wouldn't have been possible in the 1980s (or even early '90s). Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2001 by Kathy Fennessy
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, engrossing, but should you be viewing this.....
Don't quite understand the critics of the gossip in the book. It is obviously salacious and a selling point of the book. Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2001 by VERONICA DEUTSCH
1.0 out of 5 stars Please, for the love of God, read something else...
I hate this book with a passion. Haven't we had enough 'intellectuals' whose only area of expertise seems to be the history of the entertainment industry of the last 50 years? Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2001 by Martha Leon
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