Tom Hardy “tries to chain” Austin Butler in The Bikeriders

Aside from the tight jeans and leather chaps, upcoming crime drama The Bikeriders seemed to be in the running for most hetero film of 2024. But star Tom Hardy has us sat after describing the “objectifying” relationship between the two male leads.

The Bikeriders, inspired by the 1967 photobook of the same name, is about a motorcycle gang becoming a chosen family in 1960s Chicago. The official synopsis reads, “The Bikeriders follows the rise of a midwestern motorcycle club, the Vandals. Seen through the lives of its members, the club evolves over the course of a decade from a gathering place for local outsiders into a more sinister gang, threatening the original group’s unique way of life.”

Hardy plays Johnny, the leader of the gang, who takes newcomer Benny (Austin Butler) under his wing. The relationship between the two becomes close and fraught, all while Benny’s girlfriend Kathy (Jodie Comer) urges him to leave the gang.

In an interview with Variety, Hardy reflected on his character and how the friendship affects him. “Johnny, bless him, kind of missed the cool boat,” he said. “I think Benny, for Johnny, presents an element of wish fulfillment: vitality, freedom — whatever that is — and this guy’s got no responsibility. He’s pure. He’s beautiful. And what does he do? He tries to chain it. He can’t.

“There’s an addiction element to it. A compulsion, like a moth to a flame. It’s like Icarus to the sun. It’s very clear that Johnny was into Benny, way more than Benny was into Johnny.”

Over the course of the film, Johnny repeatedly clashes with Kathy over Benny. “Both Johnny and Kathy are, to some degree, guilty of objectifying Ben,” Hardy explained. “Benny is his own person. The question is, what did Benny want?”

While it sounds like any queer element to the film is all subtext, The Bikeriders aspires to delve beyond its romanticized photographic inspiration to poke holes in the masculine biker image. “You look straight away at a biker movie and think, ‘Oh, it’s leather. It’s sexy. The music’s great. The hair’s great,’” Hardy said. “The obvious choice is to play to all of these. So the obvious choice for somebody like me is to go to the counterpoint of all those. This guy is a tragic clown.”

The Bikeriders opens in theaters on June 21.

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