Across the table, a grizzly bearded man sits in quiet contemplation though he is flanked by reporters right and left. As he pauses and finds answers to their questions, his bright blue eyes seem to be dancing around the room, rightfully complementing the lines etched under his eyes. These lines have myths behind them, surely the product of an extraordinary life full of both joys and losses; but at the moment, the man across the table, Jeff Bridges, is jovial.
His latest role in Fox Searchlight’s “Crazy Heart” has quickly usurped itself into the throes of awards season buzz, quickly catapulting Bridges’ performance as an alcoholic ex-country superstar to the top of critics’ “best of” lists.
Bridges’s versatile career includes roles in the films “The Big Lebowski”, “The Last Picture Show,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and “Tron.” Virtually a human chameleon in all aspects of his roles – Bridges went bald for his turn as Obadiah Stane in 2008’s “Iron Man” – how has Bridges managed to reinvent himself and balance so many different roles throughout his career?
“Well my dad comes to mind you know, I kind of took a lot of my cues from the way, how he kind of ran his career,” Bridges said. “My father was a wonderful actor, very versatile, but I saw the kind of frustration that he had when he did this movie, this series in the 60s called Sea Hunt and he was in your home every week as the skin diver Mike Nelson, and he pulled that off so well that people thought he was a skin diver, so he would get a lot of scripts but they would all be skin-diving scripts. And that, that drove him crazy — he was a guy who studied Shakespeare … so my dad had all these different aspects but he was, he developed a strong persona. so I really tried to kind of not do that, so I could mix it up. I thought that also, not only for my own, it made it more enjoyable for me to play different parts, but also for the audience to see me as the character I’m playing rather than the ones that I’ve played before and brought in. It was easier for them to project the character you’re playing.”
Shot in 24 days, “Crazy Heart” is another addition to the long resume of Bridges, with four Academy Awards nominations to his name. The talk of a fifth Oscar nomination (and a very possible first-time win) seems only natural for the actor who just turned 60. After all, his heart wrenching performance as Bad Blake is a tumultuous and emotionally draining role. How does an actor tune himself off after going to such dark places for a character?
“You just kind of, you bring that along with you,” Bridges said. “I remember doing an interview once … a guy asked me a question: ‘Do you, are you one of those guys who takes your roles home with you’ And in a way it’s the same question – how do you get rid of this character? I said to him, ‘Well you know, I don’t really consider myself one of those actors that you know, takes his work home with him,’ and my wife happened to be in the room and she rolled her eyes. I said, ‘Why did you do that, Sue?,’ and she goes, ‘Of course you don’t think you do but you do!’ So maybe I’m not aware of it, but it probably just kind of subsides slowly.”
Bad Blake’s story takes him down a rocky road of salvation; literally trashed, lost, and strung-out, the former country superstar has been reduced to playing in bowling alleys and seedy bars in order to fuel his alcoholism. A handful of marriages and a child left behind in the dust, Bad Blake is a broken man who stumbles upon a chance to find himself and love again. Who has Bridges known that has known that has had the most inspirational personal tale of redemption?
“Well, I always look to myself, you know? I’ve been redeemed; I’ve been married 33 years so in a long marriage like that there’s a lot of redemption going on.”