Interview: Brady Jandreu Talks “The Rider”

Brady Jandreu as Brady Blackburn Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

What will happen to a bird with clipped wings or locked in cage? Disabled bird or being kept indoor won’t have a positive impact on it, the same as with a cowboy if similar things were to happen.

Brady Blackburn has suffered a serious head injury that could have easily claimed his life if he were not so lucky. After going through difficult recovery, rather emotional than physical, a young cowboy realizes he might not be able to do anything else other than attend rodeo or ride horses. But as it always happens in life, the choice should always be made to move on from wherever you are stuck. And Brady makes this known to those he loves the most that have already gave him a serious sign to stop and make his life more stable and free from any type of injuries…

During the last year’s Toronto International Film Festival a real American cowboy and actor Brady Jandreu kindly agreed to talk about his first experience in “The Rider”.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about yourself, how the cowboy side of life is like?

Brady Jandreu: Well, there’s a lot that goes into being a cowboy. The perception of a cowboy usually is an uneducated, kind of rough, tough, almost insulting … I would say that cowboys aren’t necessarily like that, especially the way they’re portrayed in films and movies and stuff. Basically, there’s no behind the scenes kind of deal in a Western, I guess.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you to talk about your involvement in The Rider and how you and Chloe Zhao found each other?

Brady Jandreu: Well, the guy who buys Gus in the movie, that’s Todd O’Brien. And Todd, he … That’s the ranch I worked on, he owns the ranch. He owns quite a few cows, registered Angus. Muleshoe Angus is the name of his ranch. Chloe shot part of her first movie on Todd’s ranch, and I worked on Todd’s ranch when she came back.

She came back to research cowboy lifestyle because she wanted to make a movie about cowboys, especially Indian cowboys, in the heartland of America. And I was just working for Todd, and she actually come out and she rode horses with us and she helped us gather cows and learned how to ride and stuff and learned about ranch life. And through that, I was able to get to know Chloe very well. Me and her connected very well from the beginning.  We trusted each other, you know, kind of thing. She was willing to ride horses and stuff.

MOVIEMOVESME: I wonder how was it for you to stand in front of camera when you were acting because this was a new thing for you as well.

Brady Jandreu: Yeah, I’ve never done anything like this, not even like a drama or anything. I think I did a play or something for school when I was, like, in middle school or something. But other than that, I mean, when you’re working with a horse, you have to present yourself in a certain way; and it’s usually different based upon each horse. Just like every person is different, every horse is very different. And you have to be able to click with that animal just like how you’d have to be able to click with audience, so to speak. And I’ve always bought and sold horses.  I’d buy a horse that was going to go to slaughter and train it and make it into a good horse and then resell it to a good home or a family that’s going to appreciate it or something. And in order to sell the horse, you have to present the animal in the way, you know, you present yourself in a certain way. So, through that I guess I’ve learned to basically act.

MOVIEMOVESME: Now regarding the character that you portrayed, which is probably not too far from you, there’s one thing I realized, the fear Brady has that he will lose the opportunity to ride. He was willing to do the risky thing to ride the horse or go to rodeo, where he knows he might die. Is that fear something you kind of had in your life?

Brady Jandreu: I will tell you the truth, I have much more fear to never ride again than I do to die. Literally, I rode Gus two weeks after the initial injury. I was in a coma for around five days and left the hospital two days after I awoke from the coma because they couldn’t legally hold me. And I quit the medication they were giving me, once I got home. And after a week, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ride Gus, like in the movie. And within a month and a half, I was actually training horses again for outside clients, horses that had never been worked with.

MOVIEMOVESME: Regarding the perception of cowboys you said people have, why don’t you talk about the best part of being a cowboy and perhaps make people change their perception because, you see, you men are educated people, way more educated than those cowboys that we used to see in the films of yesteryears?

Brady Jandreu:                Well, I’m not saying that I’m very educated or anything. I did go to college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University for a semester, but then left there to pro-rodeo where I sustained my injury at Fargo pro-rodeo. Just because you’re a cowboy or just because you’re a lawyer or a doctor or whatever it is you are, I mean, we’re all the same. We all still have hopes and dreams and feelings and emotions; and, basically, wherever you’re at in the world, everybody has their habitat, you know.

MOVIEMOVESME: I wonder if you could share that kind of feeling with the newcomers and other actors who will probably think the same thing. I’d like you to talk about that.

Brady Jandreu: Well, I got to give a lot of that credit to Chloe. I’m a horse trainer. I call Chloe the actor trainer, you know, because none of us had hardly ever acted before. Derrick, who plays Victor in the film, was in Chloe’s first film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, and so was Catlin. But other than that, they both acted for Chloe, other than that, none of us had ever acted before. And Chloe was able to get to us in the way … I mean, to reach us, I should say; and basically pull these emotions and different things out of us, get us to where we needed to be to present ourselves in a certain way.

MOVIEMOVESME: Between Brady and you there’s probably many similarities, but there’s also differences. Is there something you needed to bring from yourself to make him more real?

Brady Jandreu: The written Brady … like I typically don’t really express my emotions unless I’m like close with somebody. The written Brady expresses his emotions a little bit more. I wouldn’t say I’m completely rough. I’m pretty sensitive, for the most part. It’s pretty close. But the written Brady, he’s different in certain ways. Like, I would say there’s certain times when I was more firm than I typically would be, and there are times when I was, like, more emotional than I typically would be. I guess I can’t really say that either because I cry when I’m sad just like anybody else.

MOVIEMOVESME: I wonder for a cowboy and now as an actor, what is it that you liked most about your first time acting experience?

Brady Jandreu: Honestly … Well, as I was teaching Chloe about riding horses, she would teach me about making movies, you know, things like that. And the first time I started acting … like we were shooting the scenes at the end at the beginning, and vice versa; and I didn’t understand how it was all going to come together. I didn’t understand the way movies are made in the editing room and things. It was just weird to me. But the more days we shot, the more used to it I got. And once we started doing more complicated scenes with a lot more monologue and emotions, and things like that, I really did enjoy the challenge of it. I’m a person who … I wrestled and played football and stuff, and I always liked challenges.

MOVIEMOVESME: I wonder if there were any particular scenes that you found most challenging, especially where you needed to display lots of emotions.  Because there is one, in my opinion, and you did a great job – the one in the end where he literally walks away from his dream… It was a big decision to make, wasn’t it?

Brady Jandreu: To actually decide not to rodeo anymore was a big thing. I hope someday to get a customized helmet built into my hat with a chin strap so it doesn’t come off so I actually can ride broncs again at rodeos, some day I hope to do that. But I don’t see that in the near future, seeing as now I’m married and have a daughter who’s eight weeks old. So I think I’m going to stick to training horses for a while.

The difference between training horses and rodeo … I mean, they’re both very dangerous. Honestly, when I’m at a rodeo, I’m typically in a town where there’s a hospital, and there’s an ambulance at the rodeo, and there’s pick up men in the arena just in case something were to happen. But when I’m training horses at home, a lot of times there’s nobody even out there with me. I could bump my head and my plate could cause my skull to … If I were to hit my plate hard enough, it would cause an injury. Basically, my injury was a comminuted skull fracture, that was in to my … It was three and a quarter inches wide and an inch and a quarter deep into my brain. And if I were to hit my plate, it would cause an injury about four inches wide and … four inches long and about two and a half inches wide, and it would go as deep as … If there was a lot of pressure in the blow, it would cause a very catastrophic injury about three times the size of my initial injury,

MOVIEMOVESME: Sometimes we find it difficult to find a connection with people, and then you have horses. I would like you to probably talk about that part of you where you are able to connect with animals.

Brady Jandreu: I connect better with horses than I do with people. Horses are so pure, and they’re so honest, and it’s really hard to find very many people who are truly pure and honest in this world anymore; truly, you know. Horses you can see everything in them, and I believe that horses can see everything in a person. They have the ability to sense aggression, anger; any type of impurity in your heart, I believe horses can see, you know, just from being around you. Like if somebody’s really aggressive. Even if I’m having a bad day, that horse is going to react different to me than he did the day before when I was having a good day.

MOVIEMOVESME: This is your first acting role and it’s something that you’ll like to continue, I guess? So I would like you to maybe talk about your future plan in terms of acting.

Brady Jandreu: Well, I never did go work at the grocery store, where like in the movie I work at the grocery store, you know. And I wasn’t wearing my normal clothes, and that was the only time where I was really able to see myself. It was different, basically, when I saw the grocery store scenes. Because I would forget that was me on screen, you know. And in those, I had to completely act in those scenes because that was nothing I was familiar with. And when I watch those scenes, I see myself as an actor.

MOVIEMOVESME: How was the feeling the first time you saw the film yourself?

Brady Jandreu: I mean, there were certain things I laughed about because I would remember what we had to do to, you know … There were things that I chuckled about. The first time seeing myself on screen, I was a little bit, you know, I don’t know … couldn’t take it seriously the first time. But after the more times I watched the movie, the more I was able to appreciate it. There’s a big part of my heart on that screen.

MOVIEMOVESME: Is there something you took away from the film for you as an experience or perhaps something else because you taught something to Brady, the character, and he probably did the same to you in your role?

Brady Jandreu:  Yeah, definitely. Seeing that actually helped me … like you talk about the scene me walking away from my dreams. When I seen that scene, it was like … It touched me inside like I really did walk away from this. I really did come to terms with myself, you know, I’m seeing myself do this. Yeah, it was pretty powerful, especially things like the re-creation of my injury. It really helped me come to terms with that. That I was injured, and even though I’m riding horses again, I do have to let go of this big dream to be a world champion saddle bronc rider, you know.


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