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‘Easy Rider’ celebrates anniversary: Fifty years ago, the iconic – and controversial – movie hit the big screen

“Easy Rider,” which was filmed partly in New Mexico, is getting released in theaters to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

In the opening of “Easy Rider,” viewers immediately see a piece of New Mexico.

It’s El Prado, near Taos, to be exact.

But, throughout the film, northern New Mexico is highlighted.

The iconic film hit theaters on July 14, 1969. And it’s making a way back to theaters on Sunday, July 14, and Thursday, July 17, for a special engagement.

The film follows two bikers – played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda – who travel through the southern part of the country carrying the proceeds from a cocaine deal.

They embark on their own personal journey.

During the trip, they encounter bigotry and hatred from small-town communities that despise and fear their non-conformism.

They also discover people attempting alternative lifestyles.

The feature was written by Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern.

Nile Southern, son of Terry Southern, recalls his father being missing in action toward the end of the 1960s.

The elder Southern was busy making a handful of films, including “Easy Rider.”

“It’s really interesting because Terry had a heavy hand in the films toward the end of the 1960s,” Southern says. “It was something he liked to do. Making ‘Easy Rider’ also slowed down his career. It’s been interesting to look back at the impact that he and the film have had.”

Southern was about eight years old when his father was in production with Easy Rider.

“I do remember seeing him after the filming of ‘Easy Rider’ when he came back to the farm in Connecticut,” he says. “He came loaded with gifts from Dennis Hopper. There were Native American blankets. Dennis gave Terry the buckskin shirt that he wore in the movie. It was also pungent. I also remember wearing the blankets that he brought back.”

After Terry Southern died, Nile Southern sold the buckskin shirt.

“The relics are disappearing from that era,” he says. “I was about eight years old when the film came out and didn’t get to watch it as a child. ‘Easy Rider’ was pretty controversial and it was something that would have gone over my head as a young kid. It was speaking to what was going on in the culture at the time. As a young kid, I was attending protests. I was more engaged in the more countercultural aspect of it all.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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