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The Longest Ride: Robertson Learns About Bull Riding

PUEBLO, Colo. – During the summer filming of “The Longest Ride,” Britt Robertson took her seat on the 20th Century Fox set in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at a makeshift PBR Touring Pro Division event.

Up to this point, Robertson had never seen a live bull riding event and director George Tillman Jr. (“Men of Honor”) wanted to capture a natural reaction from Robertson on camera.

Robertson plays Sophia Danko in “The Longest Ride,” which hits theaters April 10. Sophia is a college student from New Jersey that is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world before falling in love with Luke Collins, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback.

Sophia is a stranger to the Western world, especially bull riding, and Tillman wanted to take advantage of the fact that Robertson had never been to a live bull riding before.

Therefore, as the cameras began rolling with Robertson sitting in the stands, the 24-year-old actress was about to get her first taste of a live PBR bull riding.

“The first ride I saw, the guy got bucked off and the bull stomped on his arm,” Robertson said in August. “It sounds so cliché to say, but it is so much more terrifying when you see it up close. These guys put themselves out there every time knowing something crazy will probably happen.”

Tillman added, “What we did is I really kept the Sophia character, played by Britt, completely away from the PBR. I wanted her to be completely outside of it so that when she came in and did Scene 8 where she goes to visit a bull riding event for the first time (and) she sees the actual bull riding she was actually shocked. She saw a rider get thrown off for the first time. That was very shocking and it really worked for the movie.”

The PBR served as technical advisors to 20th Century Fox to produce all of the bull riding scenes in 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.

Robertson could not express enough thanks to all of the bull riders that risked their lives to help film the bull riding scenes for “The Longest Ride.”

“It breaks my heart because they go out there and ride these bulls literally for our movie. I try and go say thank you for risking your life for our movie. That is a huge thing. I don’t think they understand how grateful we are for them.”

PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com will broadcast live from the “The Longest Ride” premier on April 6 at 9 p.m. ET from Hollywood Boulevard. Tune in to see some of the movie’s top stars walk the red carpet, as well as an exclusive bull riding exhibition.

Robertson, who starred in the CBS TV series “Under the Dome,” admits she was bummed that she wasn’t a part of the trip that Tillman, Eastwood and others from 20th Century Fox took to the 2014 Last Cowboy Standing event in Las Vegas to get a first-hand account of the PBR prior to filming, but she understood Tillman’s thinking.

She eventually attended her first live PBR event during the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“George is really passionate about capturing real moments and capturing real people,” Robertson said. “He wants the audience to live in the movie. He doesn’t want you thinking about anything other than what is happening on the screen in that moment.”

Producer Marty Bowen (“Fault in Our Stars”) said Robertson was natural in her role.

“She is comfortable in her craft – she loves it,” Bowen said. “It doesn’t intimidate her. It excites her. She just likes to light things up and get into character. She is just amazing. Everything is on a Britt scale. For Britt, what Britt would judge herself as a B, everybody else would think she knocked it out of the park.

“We are going to be talking about Britt Robertson as an actress for the next 20 years. If people are not familiar with her television work and some of her other film work, you better get used to it fast because she is not going anywhere. She is really good.”

Robertson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and said her unfamiliarity with bull riding helped in her role as Sophia. She was able to treat the role just as she was learning more and more about the sport as time went on throughout the filming process.

“Because she is so naïve and so absent from this world, it is not what she knows,” Robertson said. “It is so foreign to her. You just play it for what those moments are. You play everything single thing as if it is me.

“I am from South Carolina and am pretty country myself. Playing this girl from New Jersey, you sort of put yourself in this mindset. Even me from South Carolina, I had never seen this before. I can relate to that very much even though I am from the south and it may be more typical in my culture. But it is still really easy to tap into (the character) because for a lot of us this has been really exciting and terrifying.”

A self-described “goofball” that really likes talking to others, Robertson relished the opportunity to not only be able to see what goes into producing a live PBR event, but to also hangout with a variety of the riders during the filming.

“What I love about it is they are bringing their PBR to our movie,” Roberston said. “They are not trying to be a part of our movie in our way. They are being themselves and living their lives in this experience and involving us at the same time.

“I like that.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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