By: Brittany Bevis
What do Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood, Vince Vaughn, Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Kevin Costner have in common? They’ve all worked alongside the talented Gattlin Griffith, of course. Not only is Gattlin a budding young actor with a promising future on the horizon, he’s also a fourth generation trick rider who has been performing daily at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
15-year-old Gattlin is one of four brothers, Callder, Arrden, and Garrison, who reside in Agua Dulce, California with parents Tad and Wendy. Currently, Gattlin is carrying on the family legacy of trick riding that was passed down from his grandparents, Dick and Connie Griffith, to his stuntman father Tad.
“Tad’s father, Dick, [the boys’] grandfather, was a professional trick rider,” Wendy Griffith says. “He’s in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame, for bull riding of all things. Their grandmother, Connie, is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for trick riding.”
“It’s something we never pushed them to do, but I wanted to make sure they knew how to do it. We really jumped into it in 2011 when I called Fort Worth to see about getting in [the Stock Show]. They worked really hard and that was the first time they ever really performed at a rodeo. They did 30 performances in 2012. They were immersed in trick riding after that.”
Around the same time that Gattlin became well-versed in trick riding, at the age of seven, he also tried out for a commercial role that involved a bit of stunt work.
“He was too small to do the stunts, so they suggested getting a commercial agent,” Wendy says. “It took about nine months to get started. He was eight when he booked his first movie with Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie, The Changeling.”
“He was the kidnapped child, so it was a pivotal role, but he only worked there for five days. He’s been on the cusp of booking a much larger role for a long time.”
Since then, Gattlin’s acting career has blossomed to include credits on movies like The New Daughter with Kevin Costner, Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn, Green Lantern, and guest spots on TV series like Supernatural and Criminal Minds on CBS. Most recently, Gattlin scored a leading role in Labor Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin that debuted in theaters January 31st.
When he isn’t rubbing elbows with celebrities, Gattlin enjoys participating in daily trick riding performances at the 2014 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Texas. Only a few days of the Stock Show remain, but there’s still a chance to watch Gattlin and his brothers perform twice daily through this weekend. Even 5-year-old Garrison gets in on the act by doing a few mini stunts on his pony, while safely on a longe line, at the beginning of the performance.
Because the Griffith boys have stayed in Fort Worth for the past few weeks to perform, they’ve had to keep up with schoolwork by way of a tutor that comes to their house from 9 to 12 every morning. Then, it’s off to the Stock Show to care for their horses and practice their tricks.
“It’s a lot,” Wendy says. “They are tired. They’re also in school. This time, we did 29 performances. When we do it, we seem to do it extreme.”
When Gattlin is back home in LA, he enjoys playing football and soccer. In fact, after college, Gattlin has his sights set on becoming a professional football player in the NFL. He’s not sure yet which team he’d like to play for, but he really likes the Dallas Cowboys…
“We always wanted him to play sports,” Wendy says. “If something wasn’t shooting in LA, we didn’t take it. They understood. It was important for him to get to play and do the stuff he wanted to do.”
“I think Gattlin will head more toward acting and college. He’s also an amazing athlete. He is trick riding right now without an ACL. He tore it during soccer and has to have surgery after this show.”
For Gattlin, trick riding is more than just a fun hobby, he’s very proud to be carrying on his family’s legacy.
“Dad started when he was five and trick rode almost every day,” Griffith says. “That’s what his family lived off of. I started when I was seven. It’s in the family. Learning how to do it was scary, but I love doing it. I love performing. I can’t really choose [between acting and riding] because they’re totally different things.”
“One of my tricks is the reverse crouper. I jump behind the saddle and hold onto these handles on the back of the saddle called croupers. I throw my right leg over the left side of the horse and use the momentum of the horse to throw me back into the saddle backwards. It’s one of the harder ones too.”
If you haven’t had a chance to see Labor Day yet, visit your local movie theater and check out Gattlin’s performance as 11-year-old Henry. So far, Gattlin has seen the movie six times. Although his trick riding background wasn’t utilized for this particular role, Gattlin’s background in sports was certainly helpful for a few scenes.
“It’s hard to judge your own work,” he says, “but I think it turned out well. There was only a scene or two of baseball, but I practiced a bit just to make sure. [Kate and Josh] were amazing. Kate was basically the mom on set and took care of me, and Josh was really funny. He was always cracking jokes.”
“I actually don’t really know any of the people I work with until I get there. My mom will say, ‘You’re working with Angelina Jolie!’ or ‘You’re working with Kate Winslet!’ but I don’t really pay attention to that stuff.”
Looking towards the future, this well-spoken young actor and equestrian would love to play opposite Tom Hanks, because Forrest Gump is one of his favorite movies.