New movie ‘Ride’ examines family, community and thrill of rodeo

Dallas native Jake Allyn co-wrote and stars in the new film set in Stephenville, TX.

By Kristen CabreraJune 14, 2024 3:30 pm, ,

Rodeos in Texas represent an economic necessity of the state’s past and an important cultural aspect of its present. And with such high stakes, the rodeo riding community is a close-knit one.

It’s the heartbeat of a new movie co-written and starring Dallas native Jake Allyn called “Ride.”

Allyn spoke with the Standard of the importance of setting it in Stephenville, working with the rodeo community, and of how, though he trained in the more dangerous part of rodeo, he proudly let the professionals do it. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

Courtesy of Polaris PR

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: So did you have a personal connection to ranching, riding or rodeo, or just kind of an interest from afar?

Jake Allyn: You know, it’s funny. It’s so relative. Because when I’m in Los Angeles, I might as well be Kevin Costner, John Wayne, you know? I’m Joe Cowboy out there. And then I go to the Fort Worth rodeo, and I’m the city slicker, you know?

But I grew up in Dallas, and I think, more so than cowboys, it was stories of the west and cowboy stories that I was kind of born into and born with. You know, I always say I was named after Kevin Costner’s character in “Silverado” – Jake. So it’s kind of like when you’re born with that, you can’t help but love all things cowboy your whole childhood.

And when I started to get into screenwriting in particular, I very quickly found that both my passion and where I felt that I had a point of view was anything with a cowboy hat.

That’s so interesting. So “Ride” is your directorial debut. You also co-wrote it and star in it. That’s a lot of a cowboy hats to wear, I guess we can say. How was that?

Well, luckily cowboy hats are big. So you just wear one hat for all the job that you do.

You know, it’s funny how our art imitates life and vice versa. And, you know, if you’re a cowboy, you have to do so many different professions under the term “cowboy.” And I really felt the same with making this movie – a lot of different jobs, but it was all in service of one thing, and that was just to make a good film.

Courtesy of Polaris PR

Alongside starring, Jake Allyn also co-wrote and directed the film.

Well, you mentioned you have tried your hand at writing before with your brother, actually, and you two, as you said, have sort of focused your careers honed in on Texas. Are these just the stories that you have sort of been bursting to tell your whole lives, or what do you think?

I think absolutely. I mean, I’ve been saying recently, people have asked me, “when did you write this film?” And it took me about eight years from kind of initially writing the script with my best friend and co-writer Josh Plasse, to actually talking to you. But “Ride” specifically is a story that I’ve had in my heart, like, my entire life.

I mean, there were countless moments on set where I was saying, “I’ve been truly waiting my whole life for this shot, for this scene, for this piece of dialog.” I have been waiting and wanting to tell this story forever.

And one of the things I’m most proud of with the film is it is definitely a rodeo movie in terms of having that sports-movie quality to it. It is definitely, you know, “Friday Night Lights” at the rodeo. People have been calling it the “Rocky” of bull riding. You know, it totally has those elements.

But what I love in the film and what we really aspire to, is that rodeo and bull riding is really just a metaphor for life in the movie. And while there is a game being played in terms of this young rider – this character that I play – trying to win the rodeo, he is trying to ride the toughest pool of all, which is life.

C. Thomas Howell, Forrie J. Smith and Jake Allyn star as three generations of bull riders in “Ride.” Courtesy of Polaris PR

How much did you work with the community of Stephenville? I mean, you have these big shots of crowds of people. You must have interacted quite a bit.

I mean, most of my Texas research was in Stephenville, and the our stunt coordinator on the film, a guy named Jody Stelzig, is based just outside of Austin and Lockhart. And so I spent some weeks on end there at his ranch, and he kind of did all my bull riding training there and got to meet a lot of his cowboy friends and rodeo friends and really just soak up that world.

And then we were lucky to partner with a rodeo company called Lone Star Rodeo. So we shot rodeos in Tennessee and Kentucky, actually, and we integrated our film into a live rodeo. It was very important to us that we didn’t, you know, make a fake rodeo and shoot it. We were much more interested in going into their world as opposed to them coming into ours.

And that was a huge part of why it was so important to cast. You know, the movie is about three generations of bull riders – myself, C. Thomas Howell and Forrie J. Smith – and those two dudes especially, I mean, they are as cowboy as it gets. You know, C. Thomas Howell, there are pictures in the movie that are just of him as a kid winning buckles at 12, 13 years old riding bulls.

Forrie J. Smith’s mom was a barrel racer. You know, we premiered the film over Memorial Day weekend inside Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum. And Forrie was like getting the shivers when we were there because, I mean, that was an arena that he rodeo’d in in 1981. So to come back after that many years as an actor with this rodeo film, you know, you can imagine how special that was for him.

Well, you mentioned training and also stunt men. You got me curious. How much riding did you actually do? I mean, wearing all those cowboy hats, or that one big hat, I can imagine the insurance company would have been real stressed out about having you be in that position.

Yeah, I mean, we tried to create kind of some organized chaos to it all, if you will. And we really tried to find the balance of letting me do some of those stunts without putting the film in jeopardy. Because there does become a point where, you know, every actor wants to do their own stunts and all that, but at some point your ego is getting in the way when you do that and it isn’t courageous to put the film in jeopardy.

So most of the riding that I did was more in preparation for the film, just to be able to embody those guys in between the shoots, in between rides. Just how they walk… you know, bull riders even have a specific walk, I think, and it was as important to get that right as it was to know how to rosin a rope, you know?

There’s one scene in the movie early on where I’m kind of practicing, and in that scene I did ride a bull. But all the big rodeo scenes, I proudly let my stunt riders. Total badass, Reid Arnold, did all the stunt riding for my character, and he was awesome. He was so cowboy that in the rodeo that we shot at, he was also competing in the rodeo while also doing my stunt riding. So he would go make his first ride in the actual rodeo, run over, put my wardrobe on, get on a bull, ride the bull for the movie, go back, have a beer, hang out for 30 minutes, and then go ride another bull for the rodeo.

It was insane. Like it made me feel a lot, you know, any time I got cocky about all the hats I was wearing, I would see a guy like that and be like, “you could do more.”

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