I took the wife to see Jeff Bridges last night and he was unassuming and releaxed, tall and handsome, with the best head of hair this side of Ted Berg, and a winning, high-pitched, nerdy laugh. He talked about the anxiety some roles carry because they are so rich that “you don’t want to blow it. It’s like being a wide receiver and running a long route and the ball is thrown and you can see it and you’ve got it in your sights…” And you don’t want to blow it. Bridges said that was how he felt with the roll of Bad Blake in his new movie, Crazy Heart.
I was curious to know what movies he felt like he did drop the ball, where he didn’t achieve what he was looking for. I would have also liked to know more about his relationship with his brother, Beau. I asked him about the difference between being a stage actor and a film actor and he talked about his experience on the movie version of The Iceman Cometh, but he didn’t say why he has avoided the stage.
Bridges spoke lovingly about his parents and how they encouraged their kids to become actors. He said, “Acting is advanced pretending.” He also said that he goes out of his way to turn down work because of how much time it takes him away from his personal life and his family. He mentioned that he’d been away from home for 11 of the last 14 months, and that generally, by the end of a picture, he’s exhausted and just wants to return to being himself.
He did speak about how he approaches a role. First, by reading the script, and not only his character’s scenes but the entire script to know how the other characters feel about his character. Then he draws on his own experience and mostly friends, picking and choosing nuances. He said that for Starman, where he plays an alien who inhabits a human body, he leaned on a dancer friend who had very specific and articulated body language. He talked about learning how to imitate human gestures, and suddenly sat up and crossed his legs in a rigid manner. It was uncanny. In that brief moment, he was that alien again. It was subtle, just a slight physical gesture, but he had changed.