Mike Faist has been making waves for the performances he has been delivering since his breakthrough role in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. His recent work in the Zendaya-starrer Challengers has also been well-appreciated by fans and critics. However, in addition to the romantic on-screen interaction with the Euphoria star, the behind-the-scenes relationship influenced Faist’s career more.

Zendaya and Mike Faist in Challengers
Zendaya and Mike Faist in Challengers | Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Zendaya’s influence extended beyond their work on set, and the actress has successfully transferred her hobby of photography to her co-star, which eventually landed him his next role in Jeff Nichols’ movie The Bikeriders.

Mike Faist’s On-Set Hobby Became a Career Opportunity

Mike Faist in The Bikeriders
Mike Faist in The Bikeriders | Credit: 20th Century Studios

Through Zendaya’s influence, Mike Faist started photography as a hobby in the sets of Challengers. However, as time went by, his hobby grew into a passion, which ultimately led him to play the role of a photographer in The Bikeriders. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Faist talked about how Zendaya played around with her camera on sets and used to ask questions to directors and DPs.

Toward the tail end of Challengers, Zendaya got me into photography. She had her cameras on set and was always playing around with them and whatnot. So I got interested and played around [with them], and I ordered a camera of my own.

Little did Faist know that this casual interest would soon transform into a big career break. After filming Challengers, he got a call from the director Jeff Nichols asking him to act in the movie The Bikeriders for the character of Danny Lyon, who was an acclaimed photographer who documented a Chicago-area motorcycle club in the mid-1960s.

Moreover, it was not just a coincidence for Faist. In the interview, he mentions the moment when Nichols called him as the sign from the universe to pick up the project. Later, Faist prepared for the role with Lyon himself, where he traveled to his place to spend time and analyze his work for the preparation of the role.

Is The Bikeriders Based On a True Story?

The Bikeriders
The Bikeriders | Credit: 20th Century Studios

The Bikeriders movie is not completely a true story, but it is not entirely fictitious either. It has many similarities to real-life events and real-life characters. The movie is based on a photography book with the name of the movie by photographer Danny Lyon, played by Faist. This book is a photo memoir by Lyon where he documented the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle gang members in the 1960s Midwest.

The movie story is based on a motorcycle gang called the Vandals MC from Chicago. Apart from Faist, the main cast of the film consists of Tom Hardy as the leader of the gang, his apprentice Benny, portrayed by Austin Butler, and Benny’s wife Kathy, portrayed by Jodie Comer. Other notable cast members include Michael Shannon, Norman Reedus, and Boyd Holbrook.

The plot of the movie shows how the motorcycle club transforms into an underworld gang, with Benny struggling in the middle of his loyalty to that gang and the feelings he has for Kathy. Jeff Nichols has mentioned how important Lyon’s book was in the production of the film. In an interview with Screen Rant, he said,

You have these photographs which are super romantic and compelling, but then you have these interviews that Danny [Lyon] did and that kind of strips the veneer away. They’re less romantic, they’re more realistic, and you start to see how people’s brains were working, why they were attracted to a group like this and a lifestyle like this.”

Nichols went quite far to capture the essence and realism of Lyon’s photographs, as he mentions in the interview that there was a dedicated crew member whose work was to hit the cast members with a bag of dirt just to align with the real photos. The movie was initially premiered for the first time at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2023, but the SAG-AFTRA strikes delayed the movie. 

The Bikeriders was released on June 21, 2024, and is exclusively available in theaters currently.

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