"I'm still going to keep training horses": 'The Riders' star Brady Jandreau on his new film and reliving his cowboy life

After being involved in a tragic, life-risking accident Brady Jandreau on the brink of releasing a full-length feature film based on his true story of inspiration and courage.


                            "I'm still going to keep training horses": 'The Riders' star Brady Jandreau on his new film and reliving his cowboy life

The word 'rider' isn't the only thing that can be can be used to describe Brady Jandreau. He trains horses, rides them, has been involved in a tragic, life-risking accident and now, is also on the brink of releasing a full-length feature film based on his true story of inspiration, courage and overcoming fear.

Titled 'The Riders', the film — directed by the remarkable filmmaker Chloe Xhao — is based on the true story of how the "once-rising star of the rodeo circuit" was "warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for a new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America."

As promising as the tale sounds, the fact that the film has played in many top film festivals including Sundance, Telluride, Toronto and New York, as well as the Cannes where it won the Directors’ Fortnight, Best Picture award only amps up the expectations from it. But at the core of it all, Brady still happens to be "a real Lakota cowboy and member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where he grew up." In a casual chat with Meaww, he spills it all.

The Riders - directed by the remarkable filmmaker Chloe Xhao - is based on the true story of how the "once-rising star of the rodeo circuit" was "warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident."
The Riders - directed by the remarkable filmmaker Chloe Xhao - is based on the true story of how the "once-rising star of the rodeo circuit" was "warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident."

What was your reaction when you first learned that Chloé Zhao wanted to make a film about your remarkable journey?

I met Chloe about a year and a half before the beginning of the shoot. We played around with different ideas for my head injury and after the incident, Chloe found out I was training horses again just month and a half after my injury and she said "Brady, you could die!" and I said "Well, Chloe, I don't feel alive not being able to ride." And that's how it started.

When the story was being meshed out into a script, were you consulted over it?

A little, yeah. I had a little bit of say but not too much. I trust Chloe; at first, I chuckled about it (the idea) but I was always pretty excited about it. Like, Chloe came out to the rach and she rode horses with us so why should I be scared to act!?

Was there anything that was left out of the final iteration because of time constraints?

Oh, no... We actually had a ten-day extension on the film so that we could cover everything we needed to.

Was it surreal to act out your life in front of the cameras? I can imagine it must have been difficult reliving some of those life-changing incidents once again.

No, I never really cared about what people thought about me, you know? As long as I was good by myself - it never really mattered is everybody could be happy or not.

Was there any particular scene you found especially hard to act out?

It was a little weird, but it wasn't too bad. In some ways, I would say it was therapeutic. It helped me get through it, to actually see myself there. The most difficult scene was probably the rodeo scene, just because it was so hard to control the environment going on around us. There were people who were joking around. Just the public, basically.

Chloé has developed a reputation as an incredibly talented upcoming director. What was it like working with her, especially considering you've been acquainted with her since she shot 'Songs My Brothers Taught Me' at the reservation?

It was just awesome! Chloe's one of the coolest people to be around. She's got such a positive attitude, she's very direct, very straight up. And very real. She holds back nothing. Chloe and I have got along really great ever since we met!



 

What was your experience like seeing your story being told at these prestigious film festivals such as Sundance, and the Cannes? How did you feel when you learned it won the Directors' Fortnight Best Picture award?

I felt pretty honored! I had seen the movie just once until that point and it was online on a laptop. But I always had pretty high expectations, honestly, after I'd seen it. I was so impressed, I was blown away by the way it all came together, with the editing and all the technicalities, you know...

Could you detail us the incident that very nearly ended up costing you your life? 

It almost cost me my life, yeah it did. I almost died. Even to this day, if I were to hit my head right and cold, I would die because I would have to straighten my head and that would cause about three times the size of the initial injury!

Was there any part that audiences did not get to see play out?

There's plenty of deleted scenes, and of course, due to time constraints a couple of scenes had to be taken out, but other than that, between the hour and a half or two hours, it's all there.

Tell us a little bit about your life growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

It's pretty tough, honestly. I'm the white kid, not an Indian kid so there's not a lot of hope or guidance there. So you either grow up fast or you don't grow up at all.



 

Despite knowing it would pose a risk to your life, you decided to get back on your horse once again? Did you consider the possibility of seeking out other means of livelihood?

I might have thought about it, but I wasn't ready to consider it.

This was your first major role as an actor, was there anything you found particularly difficult to grasp? 

How it all came together, of course. Like Chloe would shoot a whole scene and then she would go "No no, we gotta do this again." And then we'd shoot for like five seconds, and she'd be like, "Cut!" and then we'd be moving on. And that's would leave me asking "What do you mean? Aren't we doing that scene? Don't we have to do it again?" and she'd be like, "We got it, don't worry about it." And it's the first time I ever acted so I didn't know how it all worked, the movie-making process.

What was it like being on the film circuit, compared to say, the rodeo circuit?

It's similar, we're still all out there meeting people and metaphorically it's all alike. But the film work is a lot less physical, I'd say.

And now that you've ventured into acting, would you consider working on future projects if directors approached you or is life on the reservation too alluring?

I'm still going to keep training horses but I'm not going to be opposed to doing a film!