Interview: Clifton Collins Jr. and Molly Parker on ‘Jockey’, Research and Bad Auditions

“I think real actors like to act whether they’re gonna get a part or not. It’s an opportunity to perform.” — Clifton Collins Jr.

If you’re looking to watch some excellent actors in a wonderful film, Jockey should be first on your list. Directed by Clint Bentley and co-written by Bentley and Greg Kwedarthe movie stars Clifton Collins Jr. as an aging jockey who is hoping to win one last title for his longtime trainer (Molly Parker). But the arrival of a young rookie rider (Moises Arias), who claims to be his son, might make his title dream impossible.

In this interview, Collins Jr. and Parker chat about the film, researching their roles and their worst audits. These are edited excerpts from that conversation. For the full interview, check out the video below or on YouTube.

How did you guys get involved in the film?

Clifton Collins Jr.: For me personally, I believe it started with the previous working relationship on a film called Transpecos that Greg Kwedar directed and Clint produced. And it was through that collaboration and that work into the process that they invited me to be a part of this one. They actually wrote this one for me, approached me that way. So, we worked from there and then slowly methodically thought about our great Molly Parker and Moises Arias, getting them involved. Thankfully we got them.

Molly Parker: Yeah I mean, these filmmakers who wrote it together and one directs and one produces and they’ve sort of switched off. By the time they approached me, the script was really in good shape and Clifton was attached to it. And I was excited being a real fan of his over the years, this was a role that I really wanted to see him do, you know? So, I wanted to go and support that.

And yeah, these filmmakers were real artists. Through their manner and the way they spoke. I just had a feeling. I had a good feeling and it worked out.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is with you two in the trailer after you’ve been drinking. There’s so many levels going in and on in that scene and then boom, it kind of flips on a dime. Did you guys rehearse that or plan anything out or did you just jump into the scene and film it?

Molly Parker: I mean, a lot of the way we worked in this film was that… we were staying in a sort of little hotel near the track, all of us. The whole filmally had a really small crew intention, about 10 people. So, we were all in the same hotel and Clifton and I would get together every night, go through the work for the morning.

This was a scene that, you know, we knew there were beats in the script that needed to be hit story wise. We shot it right at the very end, I think, of our schedule. It kind of already contained all the things that it needed to.

Clifton Collins Jr.: Yep. That is correct. And also the style in which it was shot allowed for improvisation for both of us. I knew Adolpho [Veloso] was gonna be able to catch either one of us in special, magical moments. And there was a lot of fluidity and freedom in allowing to do that. So, it wasn’t actually shot as written per se. We were supposed to go back to the couch and we didn’t. There’s a lot of little things that happened, wonderfully so. Clint and Greg provided an environment for us to do that and feel free in doing that, which allowed for a lot of organic moments.

What kind of research do you guys do for this film? It seems like everyone, from the jockeys to the trainers, they love this life but it just seems so hard.

Molly Parker: Well, just to speak to the research part, because of the way these filmmakers set the film up, we were shooting in a live track. They really wanted to be able to see what that backside of the track is really like. It’s not something I think we’ve seen in film before.

I know Clifton was there pretty early working with those jockeys, meeting them, just hanging out. I did the same with a great female trainer who’s there and yeah, you just try to sort of get into their world. They were really gracious to let us be there. And our filmmakers have some documentary experience, so I think it really helped in terms of how they set it up, how they created opportunities to shoot in a real live working space.

Clifton Collins Jr.: They set the table in such a way that allowed us to kind of slowly become a part of it very organically. And for myself personally, I spent every moment I could in the jocks room with the jockeys or on the track, be it inside or gambling. Occasionally, I’d gamble cause some of the jockeys would gimme a little inside tip like, “You know, I’m going to win today”, which wasn’t always the case.

What’s been your worst auditions?

Molly Parker: I can’t remember what it was for, but I remember being at an audition and, you know, doing the scene. Then the director leaning in and saying, “Okay, try it again. But this time try caring.” It was just like the worst. The worst.

Clifton Collins Jr.: For me, it’s auditioning for stuff that they’ve already got somebody in mind. Because you’re going there, you’re swinging for the fences. You gonna knock that ball over the fence, into the parking lot. And oftentimes in the bigger studio films, when they already have somebody in mind, they’re just buying out the clock, you know? They’re just killing time and you can feel that they don’t care and they’re not watching you.

So that’s painful to pour your heart into a role that people aren’t gonna pay attention to. Because at the end of the day, if they are paying attention, whether they have somebody else in mind or not, you’re still able to affect them with a performance. And that’s what we live for. I think real actors like to act whether they’re gonna get a part or not. It’s an opportunity to perform.

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