Scott Eastwood thinks 'The Longest Ride' bucks a Nicholas Sparks trend

Scott Eastwood took on 'Longest Ride,' a film based on a Nicholas Sparks book, because his character has drive

Scott Eastwood is no wimp. He was gonna ride a bull, studio be damned.

He had obeyed Fox's orders to stay off the 2,000-pound animals during production of the new Nicholas Sparks adaptation "The Longest Ride" — even though he was playing a professional bull rider.

"But I was like, I'm not gonna promote a movie and act like I've been a bull rider and know what it's like without actually bucking a bull," said Eastwood, who is every bit Clint's son.

So he and his "boys" drove up to a Moorpark ranch a few months ago. He rode a bull for a few seconds, got thrown off and walked away unharmed. It might not have been the smartest career move, but he describes himself as an adrenaline junkie. He's like one of those guys on a dating website who tries to look macho by posting pictures of himself flying helicopters, practicing jujitsu or surfing gnarly waves — except these are all things the 29-year-old actually does.

Which is why it seems slightly out of character that Eastwood's big acting debut is in a movie from an author who has cornered the market on saccharine tear-jerkers.

In fact, just a few years ago, Eastwood scoffed at the idea of appearing in a Sparks film. He was asked to audition for 2010's "The Last Song," which is pretty much remembered only as the movie Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth fell in love on. He would have played Hemsworth's part, which he thought seemed one-dimensional: "Good looking guy on beach."

But then the script for "The Longest Ride" came around. "It's Nick Sparks, but it's actually really cool," his team told him. George Tillman Jr., the filmmaker behind the Biggie Smalls biopic "Notorious," was directing. And Eastwood would be playing a bull rider — a former champion trying to come back after an injury when he falls for a local North Carolina art student (Britt Robertson).

"I really like 'The Notebook' because it's a little grittier, and this felt like that," the actor recalled. "The character was doing something. He had drive."

Eastwood had driven up to Los Angeles for the day from San Diego, where he moved seven years ago after graduating from Loyola Marymount. He's been trying to make it as an actor for the past decade, but he refuses to live in Hollywood — just like his dad, who has long kept a distance from the film business in Carmel.

Eastwood isn't one of those kids who hates having a famous parent. He thinks his dad is a "badass." (This is a term he uses a lot.) The guy who carried the gun and got the girl. A hero.

"I'd be sitting at home and all of a sudden a Clint Eastwood marathon would come on TNT, and you could watch 10 of your dad's movies," he said. "You realize he's bigger than life. He's a legend. He got to play all of these cool characters and tell stories and travel all over the world. Who wouldn't want to do that?"

Growing up, Eastwood didn't always live with his father. He spent about five years of his childhood in Hawaii with his mom, Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant with whom his father had an affair while he was living with Sondra Locke. (Eastwood has six siblings whom his dad fathered with five different women.)

But he saw his dad a lot. He would get to visit film sets like "The Bridges of Madison County" and hung out in Sun Valley with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not that he had a silver spoon in his mouth. He often auditioned for his father's movies and didn't get roles, like the lead in 2006's "Flags of Our Fathers," which went to Ryan Phillippe. (He ended up with a cameo.)

"My dad has never given me money. I've parked cars and bartended to pay the bills," Eastwood said. "He's old school. He's like, 'Go be a man.' And he was smart. He saw enough [messed] up rich kids that never had to work for anything in their life and don't value a dollar."

On "The Longest Ride," he was in the company of many actors with famous show business relatives. Alan Alda, who plays an elderly man Eastwood's character befriends after rescuing him from a car accident, is the son of Broadway star Robert Alda. The film also stars Jack Huston, grandson of John Huston, and Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and great-granddaughter of Eugene O'Neill.

"I kept saying we had to get together and have dinner to talk about our families," recalled Alan Alda. "Scott is at ease talking about his dad. He may be tired of talking about their relationship, but he doesn't show it."

Eastwood and his father look a lot alike, too. They both have the same lean good looks — a strong jaw, those squinty eyes, though Scott is shorter than his dad.

"When he walked in, he looked exactly like a younger version of his dad, and at first it was like, 'Wow, will this be too distracting?'" said Tillman. "He was always trying to counter his looks — he had a 5 o'clock shadow, he'd deliver lines with a little subtext. He was always saying, 'I don't want to be known as that guy people think I am.' And sometimes he'd go too far in dirtying himself up. He put tobacco in his mouth and the studio was like, 'No.'"

Eastwood has already gotten a lot of attention for being attractive. The first time people noticed him was after he appeared in a Town & Country photo spread in 2013, modeling on a yacht while shirtless and smoking a cigar. The images went viral, as did some paparazzi shots taken last month of Eastwood running the Santa Monica stairs shirtless (again), barefoot and in jeans.

"I didn't have any workout clothes with me, and you have to get a workout in sometimes," he said, with a shrug. "Maybe I should keep my shirt on."

But he's eager to prove he's more than just good looks. While "The Longest Ride" may not be the film to hammer that idea home — critics haven't been kind to the film so far — he's already lined up roles in some solid projects, including Oliver Stone's "Snowden" and the adaptation of DC Comics' "Suicide Squad." He looks up to actors like Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio, even though he doesn't think he's anywhere near as talented as them.

"Look, I'm never gonna be the Johnny Depp of the world. I'm not that guy," he said. "He's a better actor. He can transform and be, like, multiple different people. I don't know how good at that I'll ever be. But maybe I can just be the everyday man guy. You have to know your lane and stay in it."

Twitter: @AmyKinLA

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