SXSW Film Interview – Brady Jandreau – The Rider

With all the films I’ve seen this year so far, The Rider is my favorite film of 2018. I saw the film as part of SXSW 2018 and had the pleasure of speaking with Brady Jandreau, who plays a partially fictionalized version of himself. The film is not to be missed, and it is now starting to be released nationwide.

Sarah: I learned from the press notes of the film, and I wasn’t aware of it until after I saw it that you are basically playing yourself.  How did you become involved with the film?

Brady: Chloé Zhao (the director/screenwriter) was researching the cowboy lifestyle in the heartland of America, especially the Native American cowboys, and she came to a ranch, Todd O’Brien’s ranch, where I was working to do her research, and that is where I met her. She told me she was a director. She’s from Beijing, lived in New York. And we were like, “Whoa, that’s cool,” because everybody’s seen movies. She actually wanted to come ride horses with us and move cows with us. We thought she was crazy. We got her a good, gentle horse and she started to learn how. After a while, she started talking about maybe putting me in a movie. She said I had a pretty good vocabulary for my part of the world, and I had a good face, the way I present myself at rodeos, selling horses, things like that, she knew I could do it. She talked to me about doing a movie. She was going to follow me around the rodeo circuit, the Professional RCA (The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). She was maybe going to do one where it was a documentary, maybe a romance one, or maybe one where I just train horses, and that’s what it is about. Nothing really quite fit. She would start writing, and she would say she doesn’t really like it. After my head injury, everything was put on hold because she did not know if I was going to be the same.

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S: So you met her before the injury?

B: I met Chloé on around March 15, 2015, and I sustained the injury on April Fools’ Day of 2016. So I had known her for over a year, and we started to shoot on September 3, 2016 and ended the shoot because of a ten-day extension on October 9, 2016. It was shot in a little over a month. So after my injury, a month and a half later, I started going broke. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, which was not working at a grocery store. That’s completely fiction. I went back to training horses for the public, horses that had never been worked with. Chloe found this out, and said, “You’re crazy. Why are you doing that?” She could not get over that I would risk my life to keep doing what I love and keep that sense of identity. So she says, “We got a movie here.”

S: At what point did you learn you were going to play yourself, rather than it just be your story and someone else is playing you?

B: She told me she wanted me to act in a different movie even if it wasn’t about me, prior to this. She said I had a good face and good words and stuff, the way I present myself at rodeos and selling horses, the way I present myself to the animals. She figured I could probably act, and then we decided to do it about my life after my injury, not giving up who I was, risking my life and everything.

S: Did you have any acting lessons?

B: No.

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S: Was it hard to memorize lines or did you ab lib a lot of it?

B: The lines… We could… Say the line was, “Hand me that lasso.” I’d say, “Grab me that rope.”

S: So you didn’t have to say specific lines?

B: There were some lines, like when I told my dad, “I don’t want to end up like you.” She said she wanted that word for word, very direct.  There were some things I really had to memorize. Most of the scenes with Lilly (Jandreau) were completely improvised. All that gold came from her (Lilly).

S: What was the hardest part of being in the film?

B: It was kind of difficult at the beginning of the shoot, reliving it. I was just so happy to be passed that. I was still recovering. They said the bones in my head wouldn’t finish fusing, because they had to take the bone out, and they put in a plate and screws. To calcify around those screws would take about ten weeks, and the fusing of my skull was going to take about six months. So after a month and a half, the calcification around the screws hadn’t even finished yet, and they said the blood was going to continue to reabsorb for a few years. I’m a little over a year in (the recovering process).

S: How did you come to terms with your fate, in terms of you not being able to rodeo anymore?

B: Rodeo is such a big, big part of my life. I was on a full-ride rodeo scholarship to Goodwill Oklahoma State University to ride bulls and saddle broncs. I went home, and I just decided to go all-in to the PRCA rodeo and try to go big, and that was where I sustained my injury at the Fargo PRCA Rodeo in Fargo, North Dakota. It was real tough to let go of it. I think about it every day; I still have dreams about it. But I have a family now; I have a wife and a seven-month-old daughter. So every time I see them, I know I won’t go that far.

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S: From reading the press notes, you are actually a member of the Lakota…

B: Lower Roule Sioux Tribes

S: You would never know that watching the film.  You see the reservation and the people in the film, but I did not assume you were part of it.

B: I’m going to be straight with you. Just like everyone in the city is a little bit this color or that color, I’m about 25%, Lakota Sioux. I’m enrolled in the Lower Roule Sioux Indian Reservation, Kul Wicasa Oyate. My wife is enrolled in the Oglala Sioux Reservation, which is Pine Ridge (South Dakota), and that is where all of the film is shot. My mother is also enrolled in Pine Ridge as well, and my dad is enrolled in Lower Roule, so I got enrolled in Lower Roule. I have blood from both.

S: Talk about having Lane Scott in this film and how that happened.

B: Lane was really excited. After my injury and realizing that the film was going to be partially about it, Lane was such a big part of my life, and he still is. It was only natural for her to put him in the movie with his head injury as well. He’s also a bull rider. Lane and I have been best friends since I was two and he was three. We were literally inseparable, playing the same sports, going to the same schools. If Lane was at his house, I was there, too. If I was at my house, Lane was there, too. That was how we grew up.


Sarah resides in Dallas where she writes about films and trailers in her spare time when she is not taking care of her animals at the zoo.

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