If you’ve seen at least a handful of movies or TV shows in the last three decades, then chances are high that you’ll recognize Clifton Collins Jr., who has to be regarded as one of the most underrated character actors in the business.
Despite appearing in projects as popular and diverse as Crank: High Voltage, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Pacific Rim, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Nightmare Alley, Alias, Ballers, Westworld, Veronica Mars and dozens more in between, leading roles don’t come his way nearly as often as he should.
That being said, Collins Jr. headlines acclaimed drama Jockey, which is coming to select theaters on December 29 after initially premiering at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. The story follows veteran rider Jackson Silva, who faces up to the realization that his career could be drawing to a close.
With the help of longtime ally and confidant Ruth Wilkes, played by Molly Parker, Jackson is forced to face up to his personal and professional legacy. Directed by Clint Bentley, who co-wrote the script with regular creative collaborator Greg Kwedar, Jockey is a moving and intimate portrait of the pitfalls that come with a lifetime spent chasing success.
Ahead of Jockey‘s release, We Got This Covered spoke to Clifton Collins Jr. and Molly Parker about the film, the small-scale nature of the shoot, how it deliberately avoids the tropes of the sports movie and much more, which you can check out below.
It’s been a long time coming, two years after shooting and eleven months after Sundance. How does it feel knowing Jockey is finally almost here?
Clifton Collins Jr.: It’s exciting. It’s very exciting. I don’t think one ever expects an indie film… You always hope for the best. You have the best experience in the moment. And when it when it’s received this way, and has the kind of hearts that it has, it’s overwhelming joy. I think every artist longs to touch people with the work that they do. And all of us collectively, we pulled something off.
Molly Parker: It’s so gratifying to have a film that you… I mean, I love this film. I loved doing it, we can talk about that. But, as a piece of work, I just… it really moves me, and to have that experience, and know that people are going to get to see it. You know, we do an indie film, we do a lot of stuff that nobody ever sees. So, it feels pretty good.
On paper, Jackson and Ruth are archetypes we’ve seen before in the sports movie; the ageing gunslinger chasing his legacy and the confidant concerned for his well-being, so was it fun for both of you to subvert the expectations that audiences might have going in?
Molly Parker: Good question… You know, there’s something… there’s something archetypal in all the roles that we play, right? In storytelling. So I think, you know, at least for me, I can identify that. And then, my job is to try to turn that archetype into a human being. To turn that archetype into, not just a kind of function of the story, but a person in the world and in relationships. And that’s really kind of what film acting is about. For me, at least. So yeah, it was really fun. We had a great time. We just got pushed in.
Clifton Collins Jr.: You don’t really think about the outside world, no disrespect. Because we’re portraying a community of jockeys and trainers. Those are the only opinions I really cared about in that moment. And I’m my own worst critic. So I’m struggling to please myself, with authenticity and things that feel organic. Things that are organic, not just feel organic, and I fight for that. So when I’m able, and I’m supported, we were very lucky to have you know, Greg, and Clint, that’s just the way they work.
You have the constant support of the filmmakers and the crew of ten. So it allowed for an authenticity to come through. And I think that’s number one. The rest of the people outside will get it, and that’s what they’re getting now. Because this is a rare view that people don’t get to see; you don’t see this in a Seabiscuit or Secretariat, or one of the glossier studio films with with money.
You’ve both worked on a number of big projects with effects and green screens in the recent past, was it a breath of fresh air going back to basics shooting Jockey in the space of 20 or so days with an intimate, naturalistic style and small crew?
Molly Parker: It was so fun! We were doing our own makeup, we had a kind of like, you know… they set up this amazing little spot for us at the top right, right at the top of the tracks. You could sort of have this view, you can see out over the whole thing.
I bought all my own costumes, you know, so you can get into, and also it just takes away the system of ‘This is how we make films’, ‘This is how we make television’, that hierarchical kind of militaristic system.
Clifton Collins Jr.: I saw it as like summer camp; we’re all carrying gear, doing our own hair and makeup and it’s… you’re all doing it together. And some of the, you know, the DP would go off on the weekends to shoot B-roll. I’d see them and I’d want to go to because it’s like I want to be a part of it.
Let’s shoot! ‘What are you shooting? Let’s go. I’m in’. Any chance to do anything for this film, because we had no money. The only money we had was the time and passion that we put into it and, you know, time is the only currency that can’t be replaced.
That concludes our interview with Clifton Collins Jr. and Molly Parker. Jockey is coming to select theaters on Wednesday, December 29.