‘The Bikeriders’ Star Norman Reedus Details His Insane Transformation: ‘I’m Going as Ugly as Possible’

Norman Reedus is in Jeff Nichol’s fuel-injected new drama “The Bikeriders,” although you might not know it’s him.

As Funny Sonny, a character based in real life (like the rest of the movie, the character is lifted from Danny Lyons’ photography book of the same name), Reedus is almost unrecognizable, with long, straggly hair, a patchy beard and teeth that seem more at home in Elizabethan England. He’s an enforcer, meant to crack down on the club that Austin Butler and Tom Hardy belong to, and he’s equal parts menacing and comical.

While you identify the character as being played by Reedus, it’s also impossible to think that anybody but Reedus could have pulled it off.

TheWrap spoke to the “Walking Dead” star about what that transformation was like, working with Nichols and why bikes have become such a huge part of his life. We also ask him about Scud, the character he played in Guillermo del Toro’s gonzo 2002 superhero movie “Blade II,” the stoner sidekick to Blade’s (Wesley Snipes) partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). You’ll also learn why Reedus always says yes to del Toro.

Riding bikes seems very important to you personally and professionally. Why is that?

There’s a certain sense of freedom. As a 13-year-old, when I first got introduced to bikes, I bounced around a lot as a kid. And it just became my thing, at a young age – my BMX bike. I would just ride that off into the wherever.

And then I met a kid in junior high school, would sit, sit in the back row with me in class and he’d blow these little spit bubbles in the air and catch him in his mouth. I’d sit there and stare at him for an hour. And then finally, I was like, “Can you teach me how to do that?” And then he and I would sit in the back and we blow bubbles in the air, just sort of daydreaming. And we became friends. And he had a little YZ80 dirt bike. And we take turns riding that bike and running from police and cutting the engine and going the other way and hide behind houses. We were little delinquents on this dirt bike blowing bubbles in the air. And that’s just became my thing.

I didn’t really get into other people riding motorcycles until later. It was just about me being solo on the bike. That was my personal thing. And then I got lucky on “Walking Dead” because, when I moved from New York to Georgia, I had a motorcycle, and I would ride it everyday to work. And then finally, one of the producer on Anthony Bourdain said “I’ve got an idea for a show. Do you think he would like do this, like we travel around the world and see different places on a bike with a guest?” And I was like, “Yeah.” I would shoot “Walking Dead” up until Christmas. And then on my Christmas break – December in January, February, I’d go shoot “Ride” and then I go back to “Walking Dead.” And it took up my year. You know, we’ve done seven seasons of “Ride” and 13 seasons of “Walking Dead “in Georgia. Now I’m doing the spin off in France. It’s just naturally happened.

So when “Bikeriders” came up were you like, “I’m the dude?”

I was shooting in Paris. And I went to Cannes. And I’m sitting at a dinner and Jeff Nichols is next to me. We’re talking and we’re having a good time. And I don’t know he’s Jeff Nichols. And then he goes, “Hey, I’ve got a movie I’m directing. I got a part in it, if you want to play it.” And I went, “Well, who are you?” And he goes, “I’m Jeff Nichols.” And I was like, “Wait, did you direct ‘Mud’?” And he goes, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Why didn’t you fuckin’ tell me you directed ‘Mud.’”

He sends me the script. Then I read the script and see who is playing what part. And I call Jeff and said, “Your movie? It’s got a lot of good looking guys in it. Can I try something that goes in the opposite direction?” And he’s like, “Sure, try what you want.” I had the special effects team from “Walking Dead” make me the teeth. And I would fly back and forth to Ohio to do the movie and I’d sit on the plane with the teeth and I try to talk to the stewardess to she if could understand me. And I walk around Ohio and I go to like Starbucks and I order a coffee. And I go to Target. For a week I just walked around talking with these teeth. And believe me, I was insane.

The cast hadn’t seen me made up like that yet. When they’re sitting on the bench, and I ride down the hill, it’s the first time they saw me. The first time I met them. And I’m up on this hill and I have a panic attack because I have this suicide shift, which is impossible because there’s a rubber ducky on top of it in bronze. And I’m not allowed to hold the duck because it’ll break off. So it’s my two little fingers under this duck I have the teeth and this hair is blowing. I’m waiting for them to saying “go” to come down and start the scene and I look over at the makeup lady and I’m like, “Can I borrow those pink glasses?” And she says, “Sure.” I put on these glasses. And I go, “Wait, are these prescription?” and she goes, “Yeah.” And I’m like, oh, fuck it. I’m surprised it didn’t run anybody over. But Jeff said I hit my mark first take, right on the dime.

And Jeff was supportive of everything you tried?

Yeah he let me go for it. He helped me with the costume and he knew I wanted to do. I wanted to wrap my teeth and put on the wig and beard. I didn’t want to look like Daryl Dixon in the movie. I didn’t want to look like a dirty biker, because I looked like a dirty biker in the show. And there were too many good-looking guys, so I was like, “Fuck this, I’m going as ugly as possible.” And Funny Sonny was nuts looking. I couldn’t look exactly like him but I tried to embody his spirit.

In my mind, you know, they sent him out there to go beat up the sky for not turning in his colors and his jacket … but in my mind, it was like, fuck, you’re in trouble. You go do it. It was like punishment. He drives all the way from California, like, these fucking assholes making me do this. And then he gets there and it’s a party, and he’s like, “They’ll never know, let’s party.” It was like that.

And then the campfire scene, it was written a certain way. I was watching Michael Shannon give his speech about not being able to get drafted and go to the military. And it changed my whole thing. I went to Jeff was like, “Can I do something different now? Because he just did that.” And I make that a thing where I’m listening to him and going, Damn, he’s just like me. He let me do that. And he brought it up in the press yesterday. Because somebody asked what was your favorite scene and everybody said the same scene – the campfire scene. Jeff is just really good at rolling and being in the moment and seeing what works. He’s really good at painting ambiance.

Did you know about the Danny Lyons photos beforehand?

When I was in Cannes, at the dinner with Jeff, he said, “Oh, I have a part in this movie, if you want to play it.” He goes, “It’s called ‘The Bikeriders.’” And I went, “The Danny Lyons photography book? Because yI have like four prints at my house. I have a signed book from Danny. I do photography shows all over the place.” I know all those people and he was like,” Wow, nobody really knew what I was talking about when I brought it up.” And so he was kind of like a match made in heaven after that.

Before we go, did you know they’re working on a new “Blade?” Could Scud return?

I don’t know, I exploded in the last one.

With the multiverse anything is possible!

I would love to. Scud was … I remember Guillermo del Toro give me my very first job in a movie called “Mimic.” It got me my SAG card. Guillermo wants to meet with you. I was like, “Oh, cool. I haven’t seen him in a while.” I go to his office. And he goes, “Look, I know you like to do all these weird little independent films that no one ever watches.” I’m like, “Fuck you.” And he’s like, “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” And I’m like, “Yeah, so? I love those films.” And then he goes, “You wouldn’t do this?” And I’m like, “What is it? and he goes, “You’re playing Scud.” I’m like, “Who’s Scud?” And he shows me all these vampire drawings and he’s like, “This is you.” He just kind of bamboozled me which is also how “Death Stranding” happened. He calls me and he goes, “Hey, there’s a guy named Hideo Kojimia, he’s going to call you, just say yes.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Just say yes. Don’t be an asshole. Just say yes.” And then I met Hideo at San Diego Comic Con. He flew out with a bunch of people and was showing me what he was working on. And I was like, “Yes, because you’re a super genius.” And Guillermo was right. Whatever Guillermo says, I’ll do.

“The Bikeriders” is in theaters now.

The post ‘The Bikeriders’ Star Norman Reedus Details His Insane Transformation: ‘I’m Going as Ugly as Possible’ appeared first on TheWrap.