With an impressive career spanning 50 years, Jeff Bridges started out as a young whippersnapper on his dad’s 1960s TV series, The Lloyd Bridges Show. Since then, he’s starred in classics such as Tron, Bad Company, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Last Picture Show, for which he was Oscar-nominated. But he will continue to be best remembered for his iconic turn as The Dude in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.
This month, Bridges received his fifth Oscar nomination for Scott Cooper‘s Crazy Heart. He stars as down-on-his-luck country singer “Bad” Blake and is favourite to take home the statuette for a brilliantly vanity-free performance. RT grilled him about the role, and about the forthcoming Tron Legacy and True Grit.
Jeff Bridges: That’s not really important to me personally. But it would be great because the more attention I get for this role, the more attention the movie gets.
JB: My dad loved showbiz and he encouraged all of us to go into it. One of the toughest things in acting is getting your first job so I’m a product of nepotism, basically. As a kid, I didn’t enjoy having a famous parent. But, looking back, I’m glad I listened to the old man. If I hadn’t, I might have gone down the music path because that’s what I loved.
JB: Very much so. I put an album out a few years ago, called Be Here Soon. It’s wasn’t quite like Bad Blake, but my Beatle moment was when I played the Lebowski Fest. It was wild: I played to a sea of Dudes. Very surreal, but it was wonderful.
JB: It was a double-edged sword. Obviously it’s fun to let yourself go and eat that pint of Haagen Dazs, but being healthy feels the best. Sobriety and health is the greatest thing. I’ve got to watch my back, so I can’t put on too much weight.
Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart.
JB: No, I never drink while I’m working. But one of the ways I prepare for a part is to think about what I put in my body. So I would definitely have that second drink the night before. A little hangy would work for the role. It was great being able to have that input because Scott Cooper is a first-time director. His directing style was very inclusive. He even allowed me to come in during the editing process. Not that he would just roll over, but he was very open to our ideas.
JB: I have thought about it, but I might be too lazy. Directing takes a lot of time. You spend three or four times as long on a film as an actor does. And I feel that I’m getting my vision realised in my acting already, especially working with guys like Scott who let me have a lot of input. If I find something that really grabs me, maybe I’ll do it.
JB: He was a joy. I met him the day before we started filming and we’re supposed to have had this long relationship so we had to establish that. There are some actors that want you to call them by their character’s name and they have no relationship with you outside of the character. But I like to get to know who I’m working with so that we can relax together, and it’s more fun. Colin works that way too.
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.
JB: I don’t think about it in those terms. In fact, I’ll try my damndest not to do a movie because I know how much effort it is. Work takes me away from my wife, Sue, and my life in Santa Barbara. I realised the other day that, last year, we were apart for 11 months. But I was offered four movies that were just too interesting to turn down. It’s like that line in The Godfather: “make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Sue agreed that I couldn’t turn them down but it is hard being away from her. So, usually, I do my best to not work at all. That’s the Dude side of me.
JB: It’s really terrific to be working with the Coen brothers again. They’re masters. They make it look so easy. They’re doing a Western, which is something they’ve never done before, and I love making Westerns. It’s a great cast too: Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. I’m really excited about it.
JB: It couldn’t be more different. Like the original Tron, it’s all about cutting edge technology and we used some of this motion capture thing. You have to dress in a leotard with sensors all over it, with 200 dots on your face and a helmet. You don’t have the benefit of costumes or location: it’s all in your mind. Then everything is done in post-production. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. With King Kong in 1976, I was acting at blue screen so you don’t really know what you’re reacting to. But this is like a whole new deal. It’s getting weird, man. It’s just crazy.
JB: You just have to work with your discomfort. Being pissed off that you don’t have a costume is counterproductive. It’s challenging, but you have to dance the dance that the band’s playing. You can’t say: “I came here to Cha Cha and they’re playing a Waltz, godammit!”
Crazy Heart is released on March 5th.