‘The Rider’: An Interview With Brady Jandreau

Jandreau stars in a film based on his real-life experiences.

Many horse-centric movies suffer from an extreme lack of realism. So often, long shot competitors with underdog horses that for some reason only they can handle beat incredible odds to emerge victorious. Don’t get me wrong: these types of scenarios can make for an entertaining story, but they rarely ring true to the horse world we have come to know. To say the latest Chloé Zhao creation, The Rider, doesn’t suffer from this common flaw would be a gross understatement. It feels. so. REAL! And after learning more about the film I understand how she was able to accomplish this truly authentic feel.

The Rider was inspired  by the true story of saddle bronc rider, Brady Jandreau, as he deals with the aftermath of a catastrophic fall. We watch as Brady struggles to find a path forward, and define his role in the world after this life-changing event. The story takes place and is filmed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, with the beautiful backdrop of the South Dakota Badlands framing this gut wrenching tale.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons this film is able to capture a truly authentic feel is that the cast features none other than the real life saddle bronc rider, Brady Jandreau, and his family, people who have already lived through a similar experience on which they can draw for their performances. I recently got the opportunity to chat with Brady and ask him about his recent foray into acting. During this conversation I  learned about a few more details that greatly added to the film’s sense of realism.

Within the first minute of speaking to Brady, it became clear that he is still more cowboy than actor. He was direct, concise, and really excited to talk about the horse-related aspects of the film. There are several key scenes where actual horse training appears to take place, and Brady’s sixth sense with horses, something that is nearly impossible to fake, is quite evident. When asked about his background with horses, Brady said “I’ve always connected really well [with horses]. It’s all I knew growing up. I could ride on my own at two. Ever since I was I was expected to take on horses others had trouble with.”

Brady training a troubled, young horse in The Rider. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Brady and his wife currently train quarter horses at Jandreau Performance Horses and the horses used in the training scenes were horses Brady actually had in for training. Brady, with his years of experience, was able to help director, Chloé Zhao, expertly capture the more nuanced aspects of training, leading to some of my favorite scenes in the film.

While Brady now trains horses for a living, just like his character in the film, he had to deal with the aftermath of a bad fall and the question of whether or not he would ride again. “It was more the fear of not riding than of riding,” Brady said. Motivated by his fear of not being able to ride, two weeks after returning home from the hospital Brady found himself on the back of a horse once again.

The filming of The Rider required Brady to revisit a traumatic period in his life, a task many would find overwhelming. “I already lived it once so I knew what it was gonna be like,” Brady said. “It was therapeutic.” Along with him, providing support on this journey, are his father and sister who also star in the film. “[Everyone was] always happy, having fun. Everybody worked hard,” Brady said when asked what it was like having his family on set. The chemistry between characters is the icing on this authenticity cake and gives the film some real emotional weight.

Brady’s sister, Lilly Jandreau. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The Rider is now playing in select cities and will soon be coming to a theater near you.

Go Brady, and go riding!

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