PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said one of the toughest questions he would often be asked during his 10-year career was, “What is it like to ride a bull?”
It was always extremely difficult for him to try and put it into words for those who were unfamiliar with the sport of professional bull riding.
“Unless you have done it, it is hard to explain it,” McBride said.
That was one of the biggest challenges that awaited Scott Eastwood, who plays the role of Luke Collins, in the upcoming film “The Longest Ride.”
Collins is a former champion bull rider that is looking to make a comeback. During his comeback, he falls in love with Sophia Danko, a college student from New Jersey that is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world.
Eastwood had to spend months learning the physical techniques of bull riding, as well as the mannerisms and personalities of PBR bull riders for his lead role in the 20th Century Fox motion picture, which comes out in movie theaters nationally on April 10.
The 29-year-old son of Clint Eastwood picked the brains of various PBR bull riders and stock contractors, such as McBride, Troy Brown and Jerome Davis.
“It was really helpful,” Eastwood said during the filming in August. “What people don’t realize is these guys have been riding since they were little kids at junior rodeos and all the way up the ranks. Coming into it not being a bull rider, you just throw yourself into the fire and jump into the deep end.”
Eastwood would often call McBride to learn about the nuances of the sport and discuss certain lines from the script that he wasn’t sure seemed accurate.
He may not have been a bull rider, but he wanted to make sure Luke Collins was as authentic as possible.
“It makes you want to help them when they do ask you for advice,” McBride said. “You can see they are trying to get it right and they are putting out that effort. He is more worried about the role that he is playing – doing it justice – than him being the cool guy. I appreciate that and it does make you want to help him out.”
Eastwood said, “I got on the phone with Justin a bunch. They are all really good guys. They are just real gentlemen. They are outstanding guys.”
Producer Marty Bowen said one the early things he noticed about Eastwood was the actor’s desire and commitment to detail. Eastwood wanted to make sure he was overly prepared for the role.
“He is respectful of that world, which is really, really important,” Bowen said. “For him, he is more concerned with people in the world of PBR and bull riding. He wants to know he is doing a good job for them first. That desire for authenticity is what makes him perfect for this.”
The PBR served as technical advisors to 20th Century Fox to produce all of the bull riding scenes in the film. Various Built Ford Tough Series riders – including such current BFTS riders as Sean Willingham, Bonner Bolton and Reese Cates – PBR bull fighters, announcers and others associated with the PBR helped during the filming process with on-camera and off-camera roles.
The late Rango is one of the main stars in the movie, and serves as the nemesis to Collins in the bull riding arena.
Monday night kicks off a week of PBR content being streamed or broadcast across various channels. Following “The Longest Ride” premiere show on PBR Live on CarbonTV.com, the PBR will then be featured on CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do it” with Mike Rowe on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Then on Sunday the 15/15 Bucking Battle from Nampa, Idaho, will be broadcast on CBS network television at noon ET.
Brown was a stunt coordinator for “The Longest Ride” and invited Eastwood to his Moorpark, California, ranch to work on chute procedures as early as last May.
Brown is no stranger to Hollywood and has worked as a stunt coordinator for various television shows and feature films, such as “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Scream 4.” He also has served as a stunt double for Adam Sandler and Gabriel Byrne.
“(Eastwood) has been great,” Brown said. “He has put the time in, and that is why I think it is going to turn out great. We had Jerome Davis working with him on the Robo Bull and making sure he looks good. A lot of my job is for him to look at all the PBR guys and see how they warm up, how they rosin their rope and (what) their hats and their boots (look like). Everything should look like a real bull rider. He watches their mannerisms. I just want the PBR riders to look at it and go, ‘Wow, that was well done.’”
Eastwood added before laughing, “We did so much work beforehand. I have been working on that Robo Bull for three months or so (before filming). It was a pain in the ass. We worked on it with so many guys.”
He also learned a lot from watching how riders prepared and handled themselves when he attended Last Cowboy Standing last year in Las Vegas.
“Just the pre-chute procedure, everything,” he said. “It is a mental confidence getting into the chute too and being able to handle the livestock in the chute and not be timid or afraid of it.”
Eastwood has appeared in such films as “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Invictus,” “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and “Fury.”
Once filming for “The Longest Ride” was over, Eastwood went back to Brown’s ranch earlier this spring and attempted a practice bull.
“I can’t wait too,” Eastwood said in August. “I would love to do it one time and hang up the spurs as they say. Be one and done.”
“One of the proudest moments in my life!!!” Eastwood wrote on Instagram. “I rode a 1800 lb bull last week. Had to do it for real. Didn’t tell #Foxstudio they would have freaked out. Haha. This is a picture I will have forever. It’s important to face your fears in life. Whatever they may be. Makes us grow. Blessed to be alive. Ultimate respect for the real PBR guys.”
Eastwood is from Monterey, California, and his father owned a ranch in Northern California. He also attended the Salinas Rodeo when he was in high school.
Therefore, he is no stranger to being around livestock and, according to Bowen, “Scott is an outdoorsman, period.”
“I grew up around horse and livestock,” Eastwood explained. “I don’t really have that fear of animals. I have that respect, but I am not scared or timid around them. The animals sense that. They sense that alpha male swagger. If you are calm in the chute, and you are the man in the chute, they know. If you are timid or scared and you’re nervous, they know.”
In “The Longest Ride” there is a scene where Eastwood must demonstrate his fearless attitude when Collins stares down his nemesis in the arena, Rango.
“I was thinking I am going to be the man,” Eastwood said of that moment. “I am going to man up. This bull and this ride is mine.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.