‘Wind’ at his back: James Jordan, ’02, hits the big screen in new thriller

Getting a movie made is a difficult task, says James Jordan. And for that movie to be good?

“It’s like an impossibility,” says Jordan. “Every element has to come together … the financing, the director, the cast.”

But when arriving on the set of “Wind River” in Park City, Utah, last year, Jordan found himself in a bit of a rarified situation.

“There was a silent hum … an energy in the atmosphere,” he says. “We all knew we were making something special.”

The film has the potential to open more doors for the 2002 Missouri Southern graduate, who has spent more than a decade in Los Angeles, Calif., as a working actor.

Released in August, the thriller – which stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen – has found critical acclaim for its story of a wildlife officer who teams with an FBI agent after discovering the body of a young woman on an Indian reservation. The film was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who also penned 2015’s acclaimed “Sicario” and 2016’s Best Picture nominee “Hell or High Water.”

It has been hailed as a “terrific, offbeat and heart-pounding thriller” by the New York Observer, and a film that “packs an elemental power that knocks you for a loop” by Rolling Stone.

Jordan’s character in “Wind River” doesn’t appear until the film’s second act. And “appear’ is probably the wrong term to use. The film quite literally comes to him.

“We filmed on the far western end of the mountain range that encompasses the Wind River reservation,” he says. “I was there for about three weeks. The weather was just like you see in the movie. There were moments where a snow storm blew in and an hour later it was sunshine and you could take your jacket off. Then the storm would roll right back in.”

Given the elements, the cast, a writer/director whose work he respects and the film’s gritty subject matter, Jordan says he knew he would have to up his game and be ready to “roll with the punches.”

Some of those punches were real, courtesy of actor Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher,” “Walking Dead”).

“We’re in a flashback scene together, and we went toe to toe,” says Jordan. “He said, ‘I’m going to hit you, and you’re going to hit me.’ It’s the nature of the work.”

Discovering what the work of an actor entails was a journey that started on stage in Taylor Performing Arts Center. His years at Missouri Southern were a formative period, he said, allowing him to hone his acting craft.

“I did play after play and developed a technique and style shaped by the faculty there,” he says. “I created a set of tools for me to use that I refined in grad school.”

Anne Jaros, a member of the Theater Department faculty, said Jordan was an exceptional student with an extremely positive outlook on life.

“That outlook was contagious and sent a positive vibe throughout the department,” says Jaros.

After graduating in 2002, he was accepted into the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. It was an intensive three-year period in which he was either in class, sleeping or working to memorize lines

While there, Jordan appeared in “Kindred,” a play written by a friend. The two-person production served as a showcase for his stage abilities, and it ran for nearly a year.

“I got an agent out of it and I was lucky enough to get my Screen Actors Guild card about a month after I graduated,” he says.

He found that making a living as an actor in Los Angeles involves moving from television show to television show.

“I’ve been lucky to bounce around enough to create some momentum that’s still running,” says Jordan, who appeared in a two-season arc on the cult mystery series “Veronica Mars” as well as several episodes of HBO’s “True Blood.” He’s also appeared in roles in shows ranging from “24” to “Justified” and “Fargo.”

He’ll be seen next year in “The Endless,” a thriller directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.

“I’ve got a great team of agents and managers, and we’re taking time looking for the right parts,” he says. “Hopefully, each door is a little more open than the last one you went through. Right now, I’m riding the wave that ‘Wind River’ has created.”

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