Thursday, May 13, 2010
HIS BEST PICTURE SHOW, JEFF BRIDGES FINALLY WINS HIS OCSAR
I'm pleased to bring you Steve Fisher's interview of actor Jeff Bridges. There are some great reveals for writers in the interview....read on.
Film critics, historians and fans have said Academy Awards for acting are often given to make up for prior snubs and not for the performance nominated.
Jeff Bridges finally won one this year, for his performance as self-destructive country musician Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. But even though his previous four nominations could have been winners, this is not a consolation prize: It is wholly earned.
The chain-smoking, hard-drinking, relationship-challenged, self destructive former country music star he portrays is a far cry from the amiable star in real life, although they do share one thing, according to Bridges: “Certainly the love of music was a parallel for us. I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. Love a lot of the same music that Bad loved.”
The Bridges method
That Bridges was able to so completely embody Bad Blake is a testament to his talent.
Talking with Bridges prior to the Academy Awards—by phone, as he prepared to fly off to the location of his next film shoot—one gets the sense that he is almost as laid-back as his iconic character, and the role fans most approach him about, slacker and stoner Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, in The Big Lebowski.
But Bridges’ approach to a role is intense and begins long before shooting starts. “I prepare for them all basically the same way. You start with the script and look at the lines that people say about your character and lines your character says about himself,” he explains. “Then you look inside yourself and figure out what are the parallels between myself and the character. I might magnify some of those parallels and kick the aspects of myself that don’t really coincide with the character.
“I’m very blessed to have a 33-year marriage.…Sue, my wife, has been through all that stuff with me and supported me. Bad didn’t have that kind of support system,” Bridges says, showing how an actor can tap into a positive life experience to find the negative. “Bad attempted marriage four times, so you know he longed for that kind of intimacy. So that was something you kind of use.”
He is also quick to point out the contributions of others. “Then you look around and find people among your group of friends that might remind you of that character,” he continues. Bridges makes special mention of Stephen Bruton, who wrote the music for the film, along with T Bone Burnett.
“My biggest role model in the whole thing was Stephen Bruton,” says Bridges. “He’s the guy the movie was dedicated to. He died shortly after it was completed. He was with me every step of the way, giving me little tips. I always encouraged him to let me know what it’s really like, being a musician, living on the road, because that’s what his life was like.”
Bridges also lauds his co-stars and others. “One of the wonderful things about making movies is you’re working with all these other artists, creative people, and you get the benefit of all their input,” he says.
Growing up show-biz
Jeff Bridges has been appearing in films and on television since he was a tot, making his debut in a 1951 film, The Company She Keeps, with his mother, Dorothy Dean Bridges, and brother, Beau Bridges, and graduating to more substantial roles alongside his dad, Lloyd, who had a hit television series all baby boomers are familiar with: Sea Hunt.
“All my basic training is really from my father and my brother, Beau,” Bridges says.
While most parents who work in the entertainment business tend to dissuade their offspring from taking the same route, Lloyd Bridges was a strong proponent. “My father really encouraged all of us to go into show biz, he loved it so much, all the different aspects,” Jeff relates.
But the younger Bridges initially had other aspirations: “I love music. I know that’s where my interest was.” Other artistic endeavors include painting, ceramics and photography. He has published a book of photos he has taken on movie sets, titled Pictures. Some of his backstage photos are on his official Website, www.jeffbridges.com.
“I didn’t make a conscious choice about my career until kind of late in my life,” he adds. “I’d maybe done 10 or 12 movies before I decided to be an actor, make that my main career.”
Unlike some of the Hollywood stories that grace the supermarket tabloids, Bridges grew up in a loving, cohesive family unit. His parents had one of the longest marriages in a business not known for marital longevity. He credits that as one of the reasons for his own long-term marriage but doesn’t take his relationship with Sue for granted.
“We’re in love,” he states. “That’s a good thing. And then we practice love. We’ve been married 33 years. Life can be a challenge. You come up against things where some people will say, ‘I’ve had it; that’s too tough.’ But if you stay with those feelings and try to understand the other person’s position and really be there for the other person, your love gets to expand. I guess it’s almost like working out. You work out and it becomes easier and you start to enjoy it.”
Bridges claims his own parenting skills have mirrored those of his parents. “My mom was really the center of our family,” he recalls. “We called her ‘The General,’ and she held it all together. My wife, Sue, has kind of taken on that role in our family. And my father was very loving—we had a very, very close relationship, all lines of communication were very open— but, like me, he was traveling a lot. My wife told me that, over the last 14 months, I’ve been away 11, so that’s tough.”
The importance of being a father—to his three daughters—rivals his artistic ambition, but he was determined to spare them the career advocacy. “I didn’t encourage them like my dad,” he adds. “I thought I’d let them discover their own interests and let them pursue those. Now that they’re in their mid–20s I’m sort of sad I didn’t give them a little more encouragement, because they certainly have the talent. I think I waited a little too long to get them bit by the bug. We’ll see.”
The next chapter
During our conversation, Bridges is on his way to take on the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit, a film memorable for John Wayne’s only Oscar winning performance, as Cogburn. “The Coen brothers are referencing the book, as opposed to the movie,” Bridges clarifies. “So that’s what I’m doing too. John Wayne was a wonderful actor, but I’m not trying to copy him.”
He is also days away from the Academy Awards presentation and trying not to think about it. “When people talk about it, I can feel myself kind of tighten up a little bit,” he says, but he finds a more selfless way to look at it. “These awards bring attention to the movie and put people in the theaters. That’s what’s really gratifying about this.”
After the award ceremony, The Connection reconnected with Bridges via e-mail to get his take on the win.
He wrote, “The image of a magic slate comes to mind—you know, that thing you used to draw on when you were a kid. And then when you went to wipe the slate clean, you lifted this plastic sheet and everything you had previously drawn was erased. So that’s what it felt like: like cleaning the magic slate.”
And then, sounding a bit like The Dude, he added, “It feels like some sort of cosmic chiropractic adjustment.”