Exclusive video interview with the stars, writer, and director of Jockey

(Molly Parker and Clifton Collins Jr)

This film has Oscar written all over it. Jockey, opening in select theaters, is a beautifully filmed, original story with exceptional performances.

Reel 360 had the pleasure of chatting with stars Clifton Collins Jr, Molly Parker (Lost in Space), writer/director Clint Bentley, and co-writer/producer Greg Kwedar. We talked about the film, where the inspiration came from, and much more.

Jockey stars veteran actor Clifton Collins Jr as Jackson Silva, an aging jockey fighting to win one more championship before he rides off into the sunset. However, a young kid named Gabriel (Moises Arias) comes to town claiming to be his son and wants to follow in his footsteps, causing things to go awry.

You can check out the interview with stars Clifton Collins Jr and Molly Parker here:

You can check out the full video interview with stars Clifton Collins Jr, Molly Parker, and co-writer/director Clint Bentley, co-writer/producer Greg Kwedar here:

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The film isn’t just about Jackson (Collins) trying to emotionally prepare himself for the end of his career, it’s so much more. In the calendar year 2021, 19 racehorses at Santa Anita have died from racing or training injuries or other causes and there are many more across the country. The world has been paying attention to the horses, but it seems that the jockeys are overlooked.

This film shines a light on what jockeys put their bodies throughout of their love of the sport. Jockey also focuses on what “family” means and who we choose to be in our family regardless of blood relation. 

Writer/Director Clint Bentley explained to Reel 360 why it was so important to share that story, as well as why a portion of the profits of the film will be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, “Its is a nonprofit organization that helps support jockeys who have been injured and can’t go back to work and it’s something that’s a lot of jockeys deal with as you know from the movie pain and broken bones and all that is just part of the job but there’s no real safety net for them there’s nothing out there that’s catching them in and helping them out when their only source of income is gone and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund helps them out so a portion of the proceeds of this film also go to supporting them and supporting Jockeys.

Jockey is so beautifully filmed on a live track, Turf Paradise in Phoenix, AZ where cinematographer Adolpho Veloso captured the most beautiful images of sunrise and sunset over the track. As the sun rises over the track, you can almost smell the dew on the grass and feel the warmth of the early rays as they kiss the horizon, and at one point in the film, you can almost smell the dirt from the track. 

Clinton Collins Jr, poured himself so deeply into the role, that he went to the track before filming in order to immerse himself into the jockey culture. In one of the most poignant scenes of the movie, the line between reality and fiction blur as other real life jockeys share their horrific stories of debilitating injuries that they survived, as well as facing their fears and literally getting back on the horse. 

One of the jockeys named Logan Cormier, whom the producers met on opening day at the track said, “I knew they were making a movie – I was riding for a man who said they had come by the barn and talked to him about it,” the jockey remembers. “I’d just won a race, and I went into the kitchen, and Clint was standing there at the counter. I said, ‘Hey, ain’t you the one making the movie? Man, you want to hear a story – listen to this. Lemme tell you a little about what I’ve been through.’ Their movie was about a rider who’s making a comeback, fighting his weight, which was exactly what I was going through.” Cormier also plays Jackson’s best friend in the film, a jockey named Leo.

Clifton Collins Jr has had much experience with horses, but explains to Reel 360 how this was different,  “I’ve got a lot of experience with horses… I can do a lot of stuff on rodeo horses… Westworld is another show as well, but with regards to Jockey, quarter horses are very different than rodeo horses. Rodeo horses, especially ones in Westworld that are as accurate as Porsches, they’re just so like precision, whereas with the quarter horses you just hope to guide me, like the dragsters of the horse world. There was a show that I got on a quarter horse that I don’t think my camera department was prepared for because my quarter horse lapped the camera truck 3 times, so I’m like ‘are you guys gonna get the shot or not?’ I probably should have done a little more research and I probably shouldn’t have gotten on this horse! I was on the horse quite a few times in Jockey, but you know the dangerous stuff is when you’re in that gate, that gate is one of the most dangerous places because a lot of things can go wrong there. Whether the gates don’t open, or the horse gets jumpy, or the bell is misplaced, then anticipation, that second to 2 seconds is a lot, you gotta really stay hyper aware of that, you’ve gotta be in tune with the horse cause the horse is in tune with you and you become a relationship.”

Molly Parker shines as Jackson’s boss and horse trainer Ruth. She exudes the same love of the sport as Jackson does and the two are giddy as she acquires what she and Jackson perceive as the perfect horse. Parker perfectly balances warmth and authority as Ruth as she interacts with Jackson and it is clear that the two characters have been loyal partners for decades. 

Parker previously said, “She’s this great woman who is his friend – but also his boss. I liked the complications of that.” She continues, “I wanted this woman to be like the lead mare,” she explains. “If you look at wild horses, there’s a female that is the Alpha of the group. She leads with strength. I wanted Ruth to have that, but also have a command that was feminine. I feel like we tell stories these days about women who are bosses, who are wielding that power in a way that is heavy or tough. I think there’s a new generation of women coming into jobs like that, that doesn’t necessarily feel like they have to be like men to do them. They can still be women. And that’s who Ruth is. She’s receptive and compassionate. Strength doesn’t have to operate in the same way as a masculine strength.”

When Reel 360 asked the actress to elaborate on their relationship, Molly Parker exclaimed, “They love each other!” but was eager to explain that whether they were involved romantically or sexually is irrelevant and did not need to be the focus. 

Collins, however, agreed it was possible there could have been more in their long-term relationship and told Reel 360, “It may have been a past relationship. It may have started that way, who knows, but there’s certainly a sexual tension. I think work is such a big priority for both of them that I think it takes precedence over whatever they may or may not have, but also it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement in the rush of winning and the opportunities that it’s very easy to rekindle something that once was. When you have an actress as brilliant as Molly, when they call ‘action’, I mean it’s that she just turns it on. It’s kind of hard, but you feel that it’s a very easy thing to get caught up in when Molly goes.”

Molly seems to feel the same about Clifton and has previously said, “He has an old-fashioned Hollywood part of him, combined with an Actor’s Studio part of him. You can see, it’s the only place he wants to be.”

The film has almost a documentary feel to it, which can be attributed to many improvised scenes and Parker had previously explained, “I generally don’t love improvisation on film,” the actress admits. “Because I feel like I can always see it. It always looks like people trying to be natural. But here, Clifton and I would typically get together the night before and go through scenes for the next day and just hone them. If we wanted to change any lines, we’d get Clint and Greg over – we are all staying at the same motel – and would meet in one place, go through it, talk it through, and get it to where it felt right. They were so incredibly collaborative.”

Molly Parker was always first choice to play Ruth. Writers Bentley and Kwedar had always loved her work on other series, as well, such as Deadwood and House of Cards, and, while writing the script for Jockey, with Collins already aboard, wrote the part of Ruth solely with her in mind. “There were no backups,” says Bentley. “We were always going to start there and hope she said ‘Yes.’”

“They sent me a really beautiful letter, explaining the kind of movie they wanted to make,” Parker recalls. “I hadn’t done a really small film in a long time,” something that had great appeal after working so often on big sets. “I talked to them on the phone, and got a sense of how they wanted to make the film, and that was really exciting to me.”

Kwedar notes, “She was drawn to the process of this kind of band of artists on a live track, where she could really build Ruth.”

Moises Arias plays Gabriel, who claims to be Jackson’s biological son. Jackson takes Gabriel under his wing and teaches him how to be humble with trainers, as well as some riding tips as the two spend time on The Equicizer, a hand-crafted mechanical horse that simulates riding so you can improve overall fitness and practice skills.

While the role was actually written by Bentley and Kwedar for a real jockey to play, at the suggestion of Collins’s manager, they had a look at Arias and found in him their perfect Gabriel. “I was actually nervous to have that character played by an actor,” Bentley admits. “But we presented it to him, and he really wanted to do it, and he did such a beautiful job.”

“As soon as I got on the phone with Clint and Greg, I saw how special the story was to them,” the actor is quoted as saying. “Clint told me about his dad, and that got me really excited about it.” Arias also had a history with one of his co-stars – Collins. The two had appeared together in The Perfect Game in 2009, with Collins managing a team of young baseball players, Arias among them. “I hadn’t seen him since I was 11 – 14 or 15 years earlier.”

Arias was alluding to the fact that the script was inspired by writer/ director Clint Bentley’s father, which Clint Bentley explained to Reel 360 stating, “It started just as a feeling. Yes, my father was a jockey and I was raised in that world and it just started from this feeling I felt of the feeling of the back of the track. It  was something I hadn’t seen in films before and I just wanted to portray that and then you know we built it with a lot of Clifton’s life as our lead and Greg’s life and it grouped much beyond that but just started from the seed of a feeling.”

Writer Greg Kwedar also elaborated on his life’s input into the story, “Yeah that was really surprising! You know when something starts so personally I think it becomes an invitation for everyone who joins it to bring part of their own life to it, but what got uncovered in the 3 years that we wrote the script, was my wife and I adopted a son and so the motif of Clifton and Moises’ characters finding each other started to marry our own story of adopting our son Michael into into the film as well.”

When you begin to watch this film, and you see the physical pain in Jackson’s eyes as Collins slips into his character like a glove and you might try to guess how the film ends, however you might be wrong.

Kwedar had this to say about the surprise ending, “How we tend to make films is to naturally try and subvert expectations and so, you know, maybe the first idea that comes is that obvious one and then we’ll just sort of sit with it and we’ll try and dig underneath it and we’ll just try and chase, honestly something that the characters are telling us rather than the architecture, and  I think I know what you’re alluding to and I think a big part of this sort of question of what’s true to the track, is that on the backside is all these chosen families I mean they’re they’re choosing each other rather than the lineage that they’re born into and that that felt true to the characters as well of our story”

Jockey is Directed by Clint Bentley, written by Clint Bentley & Greg Kwedar, produced by Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, and Nancy Schafer, Co-Produced by Linda Halbert, and is Executive Produced by Larry Kalas, Larry Kelly, Linda & Jon Halbert, Cheryl & Walt Penn, Genevieve & Mark Crozier, Cindy & John Greenwood, Ann Grimes & Jay Old, Benjamin Fuqua & Jordy Wax, Clifton Collins Jr.

Jockey, presented by Sony Pictures Classics, opens in select theaters on December 29, 2021.


Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.