Veteran stunt coordinator Troy Brown expected the phone call. Part of him dreaded it, but an even bigger part of him would’ve been disappointed had the call never came. Scott Eastwood, the 29-year-old son of Clint Eastwood, had taken his role as a champion bull rider in The Longest Ride extremely seriously—but being one of the film’s stars prohibited him from actually riding a snorting beast that could snap his neck or gore his face. Months later, however, with the film complete, Brown’s phone finally rang: “Troy, now can I ride the bull?”
“You’ll hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh yeah, I want to get on a bull,’ but they’re not going to go through with it,” says Brown, a former bull rider who’s become a go-to Hollywood stunt man. “But I knew that Scott would come back. I knew he wasn’t just B.S.-ing me about it. So it didn’t surprise me when I got a call a month ago, saying, ‘Hey, I want to get on that bull now.'”
From the day Eastwood was cast as Luke Collins, the handsome cowboy who falls for a sophisticated art student (Britt Robertson) in the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel, he set out to walk and talk like a competitive bull rider. A friend of his father’s pointed him towards Brown’s Tugger X Ranch in Moorpark, Calif., and he drove out with a case of beer to meet and hang with the fellas. One of them was Sammy Matthews, a professional rider and Brown’s nephew who’d recently lost his ear after being stomped by a bull—but was already back in action. “I’m like, ‘Okay, this is awesome,'” says Eastwood, who recognized some kindred spirits.
For Eastwood, a self-described adrenaline junkie, the opportunity to play a bull rider—and potentially climb aboard a bull—was a dream come true. “I grew up riding horses and hunting and fishing, and I remember as a kid being at the Salinas Rodeo,” says Eastwood. “I always was a fan of the sport. That’s why I was drawn to the role. That shit is in my blood.”
Whether it’s in Eastwood’s DNA or not, Brown recognized immediately that he’d been blessed with a willing and daring pupil—not some Hollywood tenderfoot. “When I met Scott the first time, I was really relieved,” he says. “You might get some actors that are not willing to put the time in, or maybe they’re not athletic, but Scott just had it all. He couldn’t have been a better guy to play a bull rider.”
Working with some of the best from the Professional Bull Riders tour, Eastwood learned the slang and lingo, how to rosin his rope, how to hold a bull rope naturally while putting his glove on so he looked like he’d been doing it all his life. Eastwood was such a fast learner and so unafraid that director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) was actually able to film him sitting aboard the bulls. “Every bull you see that he was supposed to ride, he actually sat on all those bulls—and believe me, it’s dangerous in the bucking chute,” Brown says. “But I had the confidence in Scott to get on them. There’s certain things, like how you keep your toes turned in. There’s a whole chute procedure, and he just listened. He wanted everything to look real.”
Actually, Eastwood wanted it to look more than real—he wanted it to be real. That is, he wanted to be the guy bucking the bull. “They were like, ‘Under absolutely no circumstances can you ride the bull, yada-yada-yada’ ” Eastwood says. “So I did as much training as you could do, around the bull, sitting on the bull—just not out-the-gate riding it. But one of my best buddies had rode a bull, and he was talking shit to me the whole time: ‘If you don’t ride a bull, you’re a pussy.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.'”
All during the bull-riding sequences, Eastwood pestered Brown to let him ride. “I said, ‘Scott, I can’t let you.’ Especially with me being a stunt coordinator, there’s no way I can do it,” says Brown. “It’s too dangerous of a sport, especially the bulls we had. We had all the top bulls in the world there.”
“Oh, I was pressing them to let me buck one,” admits Eastwood. “It was kind of a bucket-list thing for me.” Ultimately, Eastwood settled for a consolation promise from Brown: After production, when Eastwood’s thrill-seeking was no longer a risk to the film, Brown would let him ride. “With 99 percent of people, I would’ve gone, ‘Hell, they’ll never call,’ ” Brown says. “But I knew Scott would. I kept telling my wife, ‘I guarantee you Scott’s going to be calling me to get on a bull.’ And he did.”
In February, Eastwood drove back out to Brown’s ranch. And this time, there was no stunt double—just Eastwood and an 1,800-pound bull named Terminator. “With me doing stunts, I never get nervous. But I was so nervous about him getting on for like a week,” Brown says. “I’m like, ‘Damn, if I get him hurt…’—because he’s got a big acting career coming—I would not be the most popular guy, believe me, if he would’ve gotten stepped on on something.”
The good news is that Eastwood’s good looks are still intact. His ride was captured on video, and he posted a photo on Instagram. “I only lasted about two and a half seconds [on the bull], but it was a highlight in my life,” says Eastwood. “I did that and I survived. I now have the coolest picture ever to frame on my wall—riding a bull! It’s pretty badass.”
Brown, who’s the other man in the photo, reveled in his protégé’s achievement. “He had so much adrenaline. He was running around [afterward], jumping on the fence,” says Brown. “He was happy. I was proud of him. I’m excited we did it for Scott, because I think the world of him.”
For more on Scott Eastwood and The Longest Ride, which opens April 10, pick up Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday.