A scene from "Easy Rider."
'Easy Rider' Rides Again. Or Does It?
Ever since the cult favorite "Easy Rider" rode onto the big screen in 1969, filmmakers have dreamed of firing up Captain America's chopper again, and the fact that he and Billy, his fellow biker, were both killed at the end seemed to be no impediment to a sequel.
In the 1980's, there was talk that Dennis Hopper, director of the original, and Peter Fonda, his co-star, would collaborate on a follow-up to be set a century after the first bike trip. In the 1990's, the actor Martin Landau spoke of a version his company was working on that would have the sons of Captain America and George, the lawyer played by Jack Nicholson in the original, teaming to track down their killers and in the process retrace the original journey. Now comes another attempt, which has gone farther than its predecessors. Philip Pitzer, a lawyer from Ohio and a neophyte producer, bought the sequel rights, commissioned a script and hired a crew. But after he started to shoot in the summer of 2004, the wheels came off.
The script for "Easy Rider: The Search Continues" called for scenes using outtakes from the original, including one of Mr. Hopper and Mr. Fonda buying drugs from a Mexican dealer. Mr. Pitzer and his partners in the Malibu Movie Company and Easy Rider New Millennium Productions say that when they bought the rights, they were also buying clips and outtakes from the original that had not been seen before. But after shooting began, they couldn't get their hands on the clips. Making matters worse, they say, the film's original producers, Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, suddenly told them they had no rights.
Now Mr. Pitzer has gone to court to get the project moving again. He and his partners filed suit in January in Santa Monica Superior Court against the original producers, claiming fraud and deceit in the sale of the sequel rights. The suit also maintains that Mr. Pitzer and his partners fear the outtakes have been seriously damaged and unusable.
Calls for comment to both Mr. Rafelson and Mr. Schneider went unanswered. Last year, Mr. Schneider told The San Francisco Chronicle that he and Mr. Rafelson owned the rights and that a new film "could never happen without us. That's just the truth."
In the end it is possible that the fate of a sequel to a counterculture symbol will rest in the hands of a judge, the ultimate establishment authority. But it's also possible that this is just the latest detour on a long, strange trip.