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Young trick rider Gattlin Griffith has his ‘Day’

A 15-year-old California kid who regularly hurls his body within inches of the pounding hooves of a running horse got scared when he landed a major role in a motion picture.

“Am I the right one for this?” Gattlin Griffith thought when his third call-back on Labor Day ended with his being cast as Henry Wheeler in the movie, which opens in theaters Friday. “Is this supposed to happen?”

He is a fourth-generation trick rider whose grandparents, Dick and Connie Griffith, are in the professional rodeo, and the national cowboy and cowgirl halls of fame, and whose father, Tad Griffith, is a successful movie stuntman. Gattlin Griffith is the oldest of a group of trick riders performing in the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

But because he also is a talented actor, the teenager co-stars with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in a romantic thriller that revolves around a mother and son who become involved with an escaped convict.

Griffith’s anxiety over Labor Day may have been misplaced. It isn’t like this was his first major movie role. He has worked with Angelina Jolie in Changeling, Vince Vaughn in Couples Retreat, Kevin Costner in The New Daughter and Tim Robbins in Green Lantern.

Before the movies he appeared in such TV shows as Untold Stories of the E.R., Cold Case, How I Met Your Mother, Monk, Supernatural and Criminal Minds.

“I was a little nervous about doing a good job on those shows, but not as much as doing Labor Day,” Griffith said.

The jangled nerves he had over the movie role can’t hold a candle to the butterflies he said he and his brothers, Callder, 12, Arrden, 10, and Garrison, 5, get every time they are about to ride.

“Acting isn’t life or death,” Griffith said. “I’m always scared before a performance. Before every show my stomach is turning over on itself. It’s good to be nervous. It puts you on edge.”

One of his more stomach-turning tricks has Griffith “jump behind the saddle and throw my leg over and hit to the back left of the horse,” he saidd. “Then I spring back on and land backwards in the saddle.”

The adrenaline rush — and doing something remarkable with his family and the trick riding act’s other stars, Demi Trepanier, 11, and Maddie McDonald, 21 — outweighs everything else in Griffith’s mind.

“All of my money from acting is going into a bank account until I’m 18, so I don’t know how much I’m making from the movies,” he said. “We’re not that big on money. I don’t need a lot of stuff.”

What he wants more than anything is to heal from a torn ACL from playing soccer, so he can get back on track to play football in a future Super Bowl.

“After I get my knee fixed, I hope to do football and soccer again,” he said “I hope to go to college on a football scholarship and stay in acting. Trick riding won’t be the main thing, but I’ll still be involved in it with my brothers.”

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