Ride 'em, Luke!

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

FOR TODAY'S URBAN COWBOYS, LUKE PERRY—OR AT LEAST HIS Beverly Hills, 90210 alter ego, studly yet pensive Dylan McKay—is the beau ideal. But for Perry himself? His heroes have always been screen cowboys like Clint Eastwood arid John Wayne. "The cowboy," says Perry, "is the purest image of America I have."

And that is why on a June afternoon Perry, 26, was astride a bucking, 1600-lb. Brangus bull in the glaring sun of a Boerne, Tex., rodeo ring. He was filming a big-screen biography about Lane Frost, the legendary rodeo champion who died at age 25 after being rammed in a 1989 competition. When Perry and bull flew out of the chute, the neophyte rider managed to stick to the heaving animal for the requisite eight seconds before landing on his posterior. In this, his first major starring film role, the actor declined a stunt double for four harrowing on-camera rides (after securing proper insurance). "I want to make sure we get the absolute best, gnarliest, scariest action footage that we can," he says, "and if that requires me getting my ass whipped a little, I'll do it."

Perry began training for the part last summer and racked up nearly two dozen ripsnorter practice rides, incurring some bruises he hid from his 90210 colleagues. His tenacity and skill earned high marks from the set's real rodeoers. "He's fearless. He could probably be a bull rider if he wasn't an actor," says former champ Gary Leffew, who coached Perry (first on a mechanical bull).

Eager for future rides, the actor waxes philosophical: Hanging on to a bucking bull is a lot like life. "You've got it ail in the palm of your hand, and the harder you squeeze and the more ass you kick, the better off you'll be," he says. Clint and the Duke would be right proud.

CRAIG TOMASHOFF in Boerne

From Our Partners