“There’s so many of us that have been through so much these past two years,” Clifton Collins Jr says about how relatable his role in “Jockey” feels to him. Coming off his recent Indie Spirit Best Actor nomination, the actor suggests that the film about a jockey in the twilight of his career might have a distinctly universal appeal in this day and age. “You just want to hang on and make it through and just have one more hurrah, one more beautiful day or one more ride into the sunset, so to speak,” he says.
“In my case, literally one more ride into the sunset,” he adds, alluding to the film’s signature use of plaintive, elegiac sunrises and sunsets in depicting the world in which these jockeys live and breathe. “I think everybody can identify with the things, the obstacles and challenges that get in our way, and how does one overcome that and the struggles to do so.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
In “Jockey,” Collins stars as Jackson, an aging jockey who after decades on the horse-racing circuit enduring physical injuries, is grappling with failing health and the realization that he is in the twilight of his career. Determined to win one last championship, his dreams are complicated when Gabriel (Moisés Arias), a younger up-and-coming rookie shows up claiming to be his son.
The indie drama, also starring Molly Parker as Jackson’s longtime confidant, was written by Greg Kwedar and Clint Bentley, who makes his feature directorial debut. The film had its world premiere at Sundance last winter, where Collins won the coveted Special Jury Award for Best Actor.
Early on in the film, Jackson is unexpectedly confronted with the possibility that this rookie rider could be his son as they sit together in a diner to get to know each other. It is arguably one of the most pivotal scenes in “Jockey.” It sets up the developing connection between these two men, as Gabriel awkwardly suggests that he is Jackson’s son, to which the old rider uncomfortably chuckles in response, dismissing the notion as even a slight possibility. Collins’ approach in this moment is to portray Jackson as outwardly cavalier, but with a telling glimmer in his eye revealing some lingering, almost subliminal doubt that it might not necessarily be out of the question. It’s some of the actor’s most nuanced work, as he intentionally takes a less is more approach.
“You might know what your dialogue is and what your lines are, the meaning of those lines, but what’s the life in between the lines?,” Collins explains when looking back at the scene. “What are you thinking when you’re not speaking? Are you thinking about a second meal or what your line is or are you feeling things,” he asks. “All that stuff is pretty real and those are the scenes that you walk away from after they yell cut where you have that little breakdown in private, you know, and like detox your emotions.”
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