Lately, there’s been a lot of Oscar talk about Jeff Bridges’ performance in Crazy Heart, the new film in which he plays a hard-drinking, hard-living country musician. But Bridges has been down this road before. Four times to be precise, even though he’s never won. When we recently sat down with the 60-year-old actor, we asked him to look back at those nominations, here’s what he had to say…
*The Last Picture Show (1971) Bridges plays a fresh-faced, sexually frustrated high school jock about to ship off to Korea in Peter Bogdanovich’s nostalgic black-and-white coming of age story. “I remember when I first got nominated for The Last Picture Show. I remember sitting with Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Timothy Bottoms, and Cybill Shepherd — we were all pretty green, but we all knew something was happening here. For my money, that movie sits by itself. It’s not like anything else. What an experience! That transcended all of your expectations. When I was nominated, I think I was living with [actress] Candy Clark in Malibu. We’d met and fallen in love on Fat City. I was asleep and the phone rang at, like, six in the morning, and they told me I’d been nominated. I thought it was a dream. I just couldn’t believe it.”
*Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) Bridges costars with Clint Eastwood in this classic buddy crime caper. “That was [Deer Hunter director] Michael Cimino’s first movie. Clint was very calm. He had a great sense of humor and didn’t like to do too many takes. He didn’t place too much preciousness on things, which is a cool way of working. I, on the other hand, like to work it a little more than he does. That’s my style. I remember going up to Cimino after one scene and saying, ‘I have an idea, can we try it again?’ And he said, ‘I’ll have to ask the boss’, meaning Clint. And Clint said, ‘Yeah, give the kid another shot’, which was nice.”
*Starman (1984) Bridges takes on the challenge of playing an alien trying to make his way on earth. “Well, you approach the same way you would a country musician. I look at aspects of myself that are similar. I guess in a way we’re all kind of aliens. We’re all odd in our own peculiar way. My kids were very small at the time, so there’s a childlike quality in that performance. I also figured if I could crack the birth scene in the film, then it would be a process of becoming more human throughout the film. I remember one night I was kind of practicing alone in my home. I often work with a video camera. And in this case I set up the camera and took all my clothes off and got in the coner of my office and I would practice being born. And I can remember my wife catching me in the middle of this, looking in the door, turning around, and walking away like Jackie Gleason. Just deadpan. That was a great experience and a wonderful role. I really like that movie very much.”
*The Contender (2000) Bridges plays Jackson Evans, the president of the United States, as a cross between a charismatic Bill Clinton and a backroom steamroller a la Lyndon Johnson. “I remember reading that script and being so excited. Before that came along I’d had a dry period. I hadn’t worked for a while. And what I was getting, I was turning down. [Writer/director] Rod Lurie knew politics so well and loved that world. It was just after The Big Lebowski came out and Rod said, ‘The Dude as the Prez!’ That really got me. And then working with Gary Oldman! He’s another great actor. I voted for him for Best Actor in Dracula. He kicked ass! What he did with that make-up, it was so severe and so real! Playing the Prez after the Dude was so great, man. And then getting the nod from the guys [he means the Academy]. That was so cool! A real pleasant surprise. They’ve all been pleasant surprises.”
Now let’s hear from you, what’s your favorite Jeff Bridges performance?
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