MY OTHER GIG
Phillips was spending most of his time heading steers at jackpots and circuit rodeos in Arizona when he got a gig that definitely never crossed his mind growing up.
Phillips, of Benson, Arizona, has spent nearly 30 years driving teams of horses in films like Titanic, robbing banks and trains onscreen, and wrangling horses on sets all over the country. The 1972 national high school team roping champion still ropes horns at WSTR events, too, when he’s not commuting to a TV studio or movie set in his own Mooney airplane.
He got into the business on a whim. Phillips was roping in the early 1990s with guys like the late Byron Wilkerson and Fred Davis (he and Davis placed in a round at Tucson one year along with Pickett/Beers, Williams/Culpepper, and Cowden/Cowden). But it was in ’89 that he and Wilkerson auditioned as extras on the local set of the television show Young Riders. They were hired for the ABC show, which starred Stephen Baldwin as Buffalo Bill Cody and Josh Brolin as Wild Bill Hickock.
“Then I came out to California and just never stopped working,” Phillips recalled.
For years, the soft-spoken Phillips just politely smiled when his thick horseshoe moustache, cowboy demeanor and deep, resonant drawl drew comparisons to Sam Elliott.
“I met him once,” Phillips said. “He’s a nice guy, just like you see on TV.”
Phillips has wrangled horses and done stunts and crew work on movies that in- clude Django Unchained, 3:10 to Yuma, Wyatt Earp, The Patriot, Evan Almighty, The Postman, Hidalgo and a Disney movie called Oz: The Great and Powerful. He’s also worked on plenty of TV shows, including Quick Draw, Longmire, True Blood, and The Homesman. His favorite as a horse wrangler was HBO’s Deadwood.
“My dad’s grandparents lived in Deadwood in the summer of 1876, and my mother’s grandparents moved into Whitewood in 1877,” said the South Dakota