An Evening with Jeff Bridges
“I do my best to avoid going to work,” actor Jeff Bridges told a sold out audience at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre last Saturday night. He recalled his wife recently telling him that he has been away working on films for 11 of the past 14 months. Bridges added that he also likes to avoid work because of the concern that once he commits to a project something better will be offered.
Bridges, whose film “Crazy Heart” is currently in theatres, was interviewed by Film Society board member Wendy Keys. The conversation covered much of Bridges’ career, included film clips plus a post interview screening of Bridges’ 1971 film “The Last Picture Show.”
Keys asked Bridges about the biggest challenges in playing the extraordinary range of characters he has portrayed, from the President of the United States, in 2000’s “The Contender,” to an alcoholic down and out country singer in “Crazy Heart.” Bridges said that the easiest roles are the most difficult. He said he is a musician and had fun making “Crazy Heart” but also compared the experience to being a football player who finally gets his big chance. The pressure was really on because he did not want to blow it. In contrast, Bridges explained roles that are far removed from him personally are less of a risk.
On the true, honest quality that he brings to his characters Bridges said, “That comes from my Dad who was my first teacher.” He explained that his father, (actor Lloyd Bridges) loved show business so much that he really wanted his kids to go into it, a comment which elicited laughter from the audience as most parents do not share this point of view. Bridges recalled that his father would rehearse with him and tell him to always make it seem like he was saying the lines for the first time. Once he accomplished this, his father would then tell him to try it differently.
On building a performance Bridges explained that it always starts with the script. He then looks at different aspects of himself that he can use for his character and sometimes magnifies these. Bridges said he also borrows appropriate personality traits from people he knows.
Bridges said that the reason he has played such varied characters over his career is the result of seeing his father’s frustration at having been typecast. After starring in the TV series “Sea Hunt,” in which he played a skin diver, Lloyd Bridges was only offered skin diver roles. Years later when Bridges recommended his father to play his character’s father in the movie “Blown Away” the film’s director said he thought Lloyd Bridges only did comedy, as a result of the “Airplane” movies.
When an audience member asked if there will be a sequel to the Coen brothers’ 1998 cult film “The Big Lebowski,” in which Bridges starred, he replied, “We can dream. I don’t know if they ever will.” Bridges said that he will be working with the Coen brothers again, in a remake of the 1969 movie “True Grit” which will co-star Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. “I’m Rooster, yeah,” Bridges said with a grin, referring to the character played by John Wayne in the original.