Luke Perry, 47, forever endeared himself to Westerners and rodeo fans with his portrayal of Lane Frost in the bull riding movie standard, 8 Seconds (1994). Perry has stayed connected to the Frost story, contacts he made during its filming, and, as contributor Lauren Anthony found out, a special Western charity that makes dreams come true for terminally ill children.
What’s it like being “Lane Frost” to a certain segment of the American public?
It is very flattering, and at the same time, I just couldn’t believe that the story hadn’t been told yet. That no one else had found it, I just felt so lucky, and the story is a diamond in the rough. I was crazy about the story.
You also had a producing credit on that film. How did you view your role as a producer in portraying Frost’s life?
Riley Ellis—a producer at Fox—developed the story and I got a hold of it. They promised me if I’d do another movie first, then they’d do 8 Seconds. After I finished the first movie, they called and told me they wouldn’t do 8 Seconds. They broke their promise. I wasn’t happy about that, so you learn a lot of lessons. I learn mine the hard way. I also come from a place where, when you shake somebody’s hand and they tell you they’re going to do something, they do it. It’s a little more complicated out here [in Hollywood].
I did produce the movie just as much as anybody. And again, it was my first time to be in that position. I was there to protect the story, the character, and Lane’s legacy. That’s what was important to me. One of the hardest parts of doing a movie about a real-life person is that you owe—I think—a measure of integrity to the story and who they were. There’s always going to be a time that you have to take dramatic license, but I try to make sure those times wouldn’t stretch the truth too far. There were some elements of the story I could protect and some [I couldn’t]. It’s like anything else that gets done by committee; you win some and you lose some.
What did you learn about Lane Frost during the filming?
He was a very humble champion and he was comfortable and well-suited to the spotlight in a way that few people are. The thing I learned about Lane that I was impressed with the most was that he was a great friend. Everybody said Lane was a great guy to be friends with. All bull riding stuff aside, I value my friends very highly and a true friend in this life is hard to come by, and you should treasure them. He was a good friend to a lot of folks and that was great to hear.
Bull riders still idolize Lane. Why do you think that is?
Both in the arena and in life, Lane epitomized what bull riding is about. It’s about getting up off the ground and trying again and helping your friends to do the best they could do. That’s what bull riding is about, and these are the toughest athletes in the world. I’m not saying that’s 100-percent true of all bull riders, and it’s not always true about other sports. They are unique, and a breed apart, and they stand out in my mind for that reason. They possess an integrity that you have to have to be able to do that. When I sat and watched J.B. Mauney the other night—I’ve seen him as a kid and now he’s saying this might be his last year before he retires—I thought, ‘Wow, I saw this kid’s whole career.’ That was a pretty special moment.
How have you stayed connected to the rodeo world since you filmed 8 Seconds?
I feel connected to this sport still, in a way. I’ve played other athletes, but I’ve never felt connected to anything else like I do bull riding. I also want the sport to know how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to be a part of that world and that family. When I go to the NFR and I see Donnie Gay and Joe Beaver, those are guys [who] know me. I’m so thankful for the folks at the NFR and their hospitality. I love going and I love going to CBR events. I just love watching it. I still love to watch!
Tell us about Western Wishes—the cowboy version of Make-A-Wish—and your work with that group.
Donnalyn Quintana (President and Founder of Western Wishes) is all about those kids and making sure they get some love and attention and some light shining on them. You just can’t say no to that. The first time she asked me to do it, I was happy to participate and it’s something I talk to other people about. It’s definitely worthwhile. I’ll never forget meeting Amberley Snyder—she’s just unforgettable. They’re all fantastic! Donnalyn had a great idea and got it started, and now [Western Wishes] got so big she has to have a staff to help!
What other projects are you working on? Any Western roles in the future?
I have two projects, though they aren’t straight-up Westerns like I’d like to do. I did Goodnight for Justice (2013) for the Hallmark Channel because I like to do period Westerns. And they said they’d still make Westerns with me but I had to find a way to make them contemporary. It gets me to work and it gets me on my horse, so I’m willing to compromise with them. I’m going to keep trying to get as many of them made as I can. I like the spirit of Westerns and I’ll figure out a way to get the business done.
Since 1994, Western Wishes has been dedicated to making dreams come true for children facing adversity. For more information on the foundation, visit www.westernwishes.org