EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. Peter Biskind. Simon and Schuster; 1998.
To the sub-title of this book could have been added the words “and destroyed themselves in the process.” This excellent book studies the lives and works of the major directors who came into their own in the seventies and afterward, when directors and not the studios seemed to become the prime power in Hollywood. The directors – Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, William Friedkin, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Bob Rafelson, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Altman and others – are depicted as being just as egomaniacal and domineering as any movie star – in fact, they come off as a bunch of major assholes. Biskind chronicles how Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider began a youthquake in Hollywood that tried to capture the waning audience by making films that were hip and irreverent, full of sex, drugs and violence, and once in a while achieved quality. It also documents how many of the decade's most famous directors imploded on their own egos and self-destructed on drugs and alcohol. [In one of the book's funniest anecdotes we learn how Dennis Hopper stopped mixing his gallon of rum a day -- he also imbibed several beers and consumed drugs daily -- with coca cola and switched to rum and cranberry juice because he thought it would be healthier for his liver!] Directors such as Friedkin and Bogdanovich became so successful so soon that they believed their own publicity and thought there was no production that was beyond them, no idea they couldn't turn into a money-making Oscar contender [boy, were they wrong!]. Some of the people give very frank interviews to Biskind, and – surprisingly – put the blame squarely where it belongs – on themselves. Just about everybody agrees that most of today's movies – sequels, prequels, remakes, and big-screen adaptations of awful old TV shows -- stink.
Verdict: A riveting read. ***1/2.