Members of a younger generation who take in a new Super Bowl commercial from Mercedes-Benz this Sunday might get a lesson in the popularity of the seminal film “Easy Rider.” Peter Fonda doesn’t mind.
“Columbia maintains it only made like $20 million, but I’ve been cashing the checks, so I know how much it made,” the actor joked in a recent interview. When he appears in the Mercedes ad evoking the “Captain America” character he played in the 1969 movie, he thinks it will whet appetites for the film’s 50th anniversary, which will take place in 2019.
Fonda says he was excited to get an invite to appear in the commercial, which is directed by the famous director-producers Joel and Ethan Coen. The ad has quite a tableau: a biker bar called Tiny’s filled with bikers dressed to the very last detail. One stout fellow has the visage of Fonda’s movie character etched upon his arm in a tattoo. Another nods to an “Easy Rider” shrine in a corner alcove. A rough-and-ready assemblage dances to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”
He felt he was in good hands with the Coens. “I did not have any idea of what I was going to say. You don’t know what you are going to do in a commercial until you get there, even right down to the last second.”
Fonda wears an ensemble that matches what he wore in the film pretty closely – a black leather jacket with an American flag stitched on the back. It pleases him, because, after all, he had a hand in crafting his original costume. He also produced and co-wrote the movie.
He got the idea for the outfit from the 1942 World War II movie “Flying Tigers,” which showed members of the Chinese National Army wearing jackets with a Chinese flag design on their jackets. The idea wasn’t easy to put into practice, he recalled. “I had to cut it a little short and stitch it in a special way on a piece of white leather, and attach that to the jacket. We tried it first without that piece of white leather, and it got ripped right off. The wind tore it right off the back.”
The Mercedes-Benz AMG shown in the ad might create the same effect. “If you have the top down, it will rip you right out,” Fonda says. “At 200 miles per hour, you can take flight.”