January 2003
Biker Boys : An Interview with Laurence Fishburne

Interviewed by Godfrey Powell

LAURENCE FISHBURNE stars as Smoke, the undefeated motorcycle racer who is the undisputed 'King of Cali'.Biker Boys : An Interview with Laurence Fishburne

If there was ever an actor who could portray many different roles and be totally believable, it’s Laurence Fishburne. Most of us have grown up watching all of his films from his film debut in “Cornbread, Earl, Me” to subsequent roles in “Apocalypse Now”, “Rumble Fish” and “School Daze.” Back in ’93, he was good enough as Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do with it?” that he was nominated for an Oscar. From playing a father in “Boyz N The Hood” to playing “Morpheus” in “The Matrix”, this guy has had one heck of a good film career so far. In his latest role, Mr. Fishburne plays Smoke, the “King of Cali” in “Biker Boyz”. As I waited in a room in the offices of Dreamworks Pictures, Laurence Fishburne enters dressed in a grey sweater and a matching pinstriped grey suit. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Mr. Fishburne talks about the film BIKER BOYZ and his experiences riding on a bike.

GP: Thank you for coming to speak with me.

LF: Thank you for having me!

Queenie (LISA BONET) and Smoke (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) watch a race from the sidelines.GP: I thought this movie was incredibly refreshing and positive in its depiction of a black subculture that most people would be surprised to learn of. As a motorcycle aficionado, what were some aspects that surprised you?

LF: Wow—I was surprised at how diverse the clubs are. There are so many different clubs. These guys are from everywhere in terms of their culture makeup. They are everything and everybody. Like there are gay motorcycle clubs. There are so many different kinds. I belong to the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club. It’s like billionaires and movie stars. It’s surprising that the love for these machines cuts through all barriers.

GP: How does one become a member of the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club?

LF: You have to talk to one of the vice-presidents.


LF: I’m one of the vice-presidents. All you gotta have is a billion dollars. No, you gotta have love for the motorcycle, I think.

Members of the Black Knights, including (left to right) Soul Train (ORLANDO JONES), Half & Half (SALLI RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD), Rev. Maxwell (WREN T. BROWN) and their leader Smoke (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) revel in another victory.GP: Can you tell me about your first bike?

LF: Sure, I was doing a movie in Atlanta called Fled. They had me on a parking lot and thank god Stephen Baldwin (co-star) blew up. He said, “No,no! You’re going to get Mr. Fishburne an instructor. You’re going to rent some time at Road Atlanta and you’re going to teach him how to ride properly!” So I went out to the track with an instructor with a small 500 cc bike. Then they put me on the track on a GSXR and let me go around the track. I hit the back straight away at like 105 mph and thought Wow this is great!

GP: Can you do a rolling endo? (Putting the bike on the front wheel with the rear one in the air- A stunt in the movie)

LF: No, I don’t know how.

The leader of the Black Knights, Smoke (LAURENCE FISHBURNE, left) takes a moment between races with Soul Train (ORLANDO JONES) another member of his club.GP: Newcomer Derek Luke has a strong onscreen presence and in the scenes between the two of you the friction is real intense particularly during the bar fight scene. What guidance did you give him?

LF: I showed up, did my job. He was a little nervous at first. Derek is pure, man. He’s pure light and presence. He’s gonna do things that none of us can dream of. I was just happy to be playing with a great ensemble cast.

GP: How much fun was hanging with the cast off-screen?

LF: It was great! It was like a big cookout man. The extras in the movie were from the real biker community.

Smoke (LAURENCE FISHBURNE, center) leads a processional of motorcycle racers, flanked by two members of his Black Knights, Half & Half (SALLI RICHARDSON, left) and SOUL TRAIN (ORLANDO JONES, right), to honor a fallen member of their club.nGP: How do you feel about the influx of musicians such as Kid Rock in movies?

LF: I think all art is one and all art stems from the same source. If anyone has the impulse inside them to try and express themselves in another medium that should be encouraged and appreciated. Once upon a time you had people who did a little bit of everything—they sang, acted and danced.

GP: Your character, Smoke is the undisputed champ of racing, the King of Cali, yet he matures throughout the movie, how did you bring out Smoke’s conscience and maturity without sacrificing that champion’s ego?

LF: Thank you! …….I don’t know how…….It’s what I do. I’ve been doing this a long time. It was really important for him that the father and son thing came out. I just put a little something on it I guess.

Dogg (KID ROCK, center left) challenges Smoke (LAURENCE FISHBURNE, center right) to a race as Soul Train (ORLANDO JONES, far left) and Motherland (DJIMON HOUNSOU, center) look on.GP: Have you ever put down (jumped off) a bike?

LF: Oh yes, I was on Ocean Avenue in Venice, CA and I was riding a Suzuki 1100. It was nighttime. It was the classic left-hand turn guy. The guy turned left on me and I laid the bike down and let go of it. I got up. The bike was too heavy for me to pick up. Then some old guy came from across the street and said, “Do you know you’re a damn good motorcyclist?”

GP: With movies like Barbershop, Brown Sugar, Drumline and now Biker Boyz having been released within the last year, they each portray varying aspects of black life which are quite different from the usual depictions, why do you think this trend is and will it continue?

LF: Oh yes, there are a lot of stories to be told. If not now, later. There are a lot of stories. People are becoming more and more interested and more comfortable with our stories. Once upon a time, those stories that came out of the black community were all about anger and rage and pointing the finger at somebody else for our own misfortune. And more and more with movies like this it’s not about any of that, it’s about what goes on inside of our own world. Our lives, homes and families that we’ve created for ourselves. Those families are just like any other family. You look at our problems, desires, hopes and dreams. They may be more culturally specific but there is universality to them as well.

Laurence Fishburne in DreamWorks' Biker Boyz - 2003 GP: I was pleased with the lack of drugs and violence—

LF: Right! It was wonderful, great—nobody getting shot in this movie.

GP: What are your upcoming projects?

LF: The Matrix is going to be unstoppably watchable. You get to see how deep the Rabbit Hole goes. The technology is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before.

There are also cartoons called the AniMatrix that will soon be available on the web.

I’m also in a movie called Mystic River directed by Clint Eastwood. I play a detective named Whitey. I got to play with Kevin Bacon, Eli Wallach, Marcia Gay Harden and Tim Robbins. For me that’s really doing something!

Laurence Fishburne, Lisa Bonet, Derek Luke, Kid Rock and Djimon Hounsou in DreamWorks' Biker Boyz - 2003 GP: You have a tremendously diverse filmography—everything from sci-fi horror like Event Horizon, to drama like School Daze to action adventure like Biker Boyz, how do you choose your roles?

LF: Very intuitively. I let it come to me, man. And I never do the same thing twice for the same reasons. There’s no rhyme or reason just intuition.

GP: Thank you for talking with blackfilm.com!

LF: Thank you very much!