Jeff Bridges talks 'Crazy Heart'

Jeff Bridges, tipped to pick up an Academy Award for ‘Crazy Heart’, tells Tom Huddleston about country music, putting spots on his face and the mysterious ‘fecal lemon’.

He’s been nominated for Oscars five times over the course of 39 years, but in 2010 it looks as though Jeff Bridges is finally set to take home the big prize for his role as a washed-up country singer in ‘Crazy Heart’. But does the coolest man in Hollywood really care about awards?

TO: This is your fifth Oscar nomination. How do you feel about awards? Do you want to win?
Jeff Bridges: ‘It would be great to win. I’m certainly not averse to winning! But I’m really happy about this particular movie being acknowledged, because we didn’t have time to get any long-lead press, so the awards were very important in getting people to go to see the movie.’

Do you think you miss out on awards because you make acting seem so effortless? You don't do grandstanding.
‘I don’t know. That’s just the style of acting I enjoy watching, acting that gives the audience the feeling of being a fly on the wall. That’s the kind I aspire to.’

Last week the readers of Empire voted your early film, ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980) the sixth-worst movie of all time. What do you think about that?
‘Come on! It’s a masterpiece. It was a wonderful gathering of folks, we had a great time making it. Tough, of course: there were a lot of hardships, but those battle scenes were incredible. I’m really proud of that movie. Michael Cimino just wanted to make a great movie and he didn’t want anybody to fuck around with it. So a certain amount of animosity built up with the studio and the press, and when it came out the reviews were very personal. They said if you shaved Cimino’s head, you’d find three sixes!’

At least everybody loves ‘The Big Lebowski’. Did you ever think that would be the movie that would redefine you?
‘I didn’t think “Lebowski” would be what it’s become, but I thought it’d be a hit. But when it first came out it didn’t do anything, which surprised me. But now I’m excited to be working with the Coen brothers again, on “True Grit”. We’ve got a great cast.’

What appealed to you about your new film, ‘Crazy Heart’?
‘The director, Scott Cooper, sent me this script that he’d written. It was a great script, well written, good dialogue, but it was missing an essential ingredient: the music. There were no tunes attached to it. So I took a pass. Then when T-Bone Burnett got involved, that really brought me to the party. I knew the music would be taken care of.’

Are you a longtime country music fan?
‘I play guitar and piano, and write songs. I’ve done that for a long time. And I love country music, but I love all sorts of music. One of the things T-Bone told me was that in Forth Worth, Texas, where he grew up and where my character Bad Blake grew up, he used to listen to all kinds of music. Ornette Coleman came from Fort Worth, Lightnin’ Hopkins too, so all kinds of music was around, not just Hank Williams, Lefty Frizell and all those guys. He would listen to Dylan, Leonard Cohen, even Captain Beefheart. So that really broadened the type of references that were available to us.’

You and Kris Kristofferson worked together – was he an influence?
‘I listened to his music, particularly his work with The Highwaymen, but I didn’t talk to him about it. And then I took the movie down to Austin, and Kris happened to be there and he saw the movie, and he laughed at how much we looked alike. He said it reminded him of himself, which was a great compliment.’

The long-awaited sequel, ‘Tron: Legacy’ is also in the works. Why did you want to revisit that world?
‘One of the reasons I did the first “Tron” was to be part of all that new technology that was coming around, and with the sequel it’s a similar thing. Of course the new movie makes the old one look really primitive.’

What is it that appeals to you about the digital world? You seem like a pretty analogue guy...
‘It goes back to being a kid, playing “let’s pretend”. If another kid calls you up and says, “We’ve got all this new shit, man, it’s the wildest stuff, you wouldn’t believe it, you wanna come over?” You wouldn’t go, “No, I’m into analogue.” You’d wanna find out what it’s all about! “What, I put a leotard on, and I have to put all these spots on my face? All right, I’ll be over in a second!”’

I've been looking at your website, www.jeffbridges.com. There’s all kinds of stuff on there – paintings, music, links to crazy news stories. I particularly liked one called ‘Testicle attack’.
‘Ha! How about “Fecal lemon”, did you click on that? It’ll turn you off lemons, I tell you! The website’s fun, I’ve become fond of it as another expression of myself. It’s like everyone’s got their own radio and TV station.’

Your first Oscar nomination was for ‘The Last Picture Show’ in 1971, which was also your entry into the acting big league. If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself?

‘Have fun. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t mistake this for reality. Be sincere, but don’t get too serious. But that’s a life direction too, it doesn’t just apply to movies.’

Read our review of 'Crazy Heart'

Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston





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