Because I just can’t get me enough of Jeff Bridges, here’s some more on the favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar next weekend…from Manohla Dargis in the Sunday Times:
In the early and mid 1970s he played a wide-eyed boxer, a sly con artist, a moonshiner turned car racer, a squealer turned suicide, a thief and a cattle rustler, working with veterans like John Huston (“Fat City” in 1972) and newcomers like Michael Cimino, who, for his 1974 debut, directed Mr. Bridges alongside Clint Eastwood in the crime story “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” The critics had started to pay attention. “Sometimes, just on his own,” Pauline Kael wrote of his performance as a stock-car racer in “The Last American Hero” (1973), “Jeff Bridges is enough to make a picture worth seeing.” Notably, she also compared him to Robert De Niro, who was about to set fire to screens in Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets.”
“He probably can’t do the outrageous explosive scenes that Robert De Niro brings off in ‘Mean Streets,’ ” she wrote. “But De Niro — a real winner — is best when he’s coming on and showing off. Jeff Bridges just moves into a role and lives in it — so deep in it that the little things seem to come straight from the character’s soul.”
I worked as an assistant film editor on The Big Lebowski which was cut on film and not a computer. During the shoot, our main responsibility in the cutting room was to mark-up the sound track and the picture and synch the footage that was shot the day before–these are called “rushes” or “dailies”, which would be screened for the directors later that day. We’d check the synch by screening the footage on a Steenbeck.
Watching Bridges work was a revelation–he simply was the Dude. Some actors need a bunch of takes before they really hit their stride but Bridges was that character, and in each take he gave a subtle variation on a line reading or a physical gesture. You could tell that he had a background in TV and film and not the theater. His approach and rhythm was different from most everyone else in the movie. He was so natural and extremely intelligent, providing the directors with all the material they’d need to piece together a winning performance.
Back to Dargis now, writing about Lebowski:
Whether shuffling around in a bathrobe or dropping a lighted joint in his lap, Mr. Bridges’s timing is brilliant. But it’s his ability to convey a profound, seemingly limitless sense of empathy that elevate the Dude beyond the usual Coen caricature. By facing every assault — repeated beatings, a friend’s death, the theft of a rug — with little more than an exclamation (“Man!”) and a toke, he and the Dude affirmed that an American hero doesn’t need a punch, just a punch line, something that Judd Apatow’s merry band of potheads know well.
In some respects “The Big Lebowski” was Mr. Bridges’s “Raging Bull,” a defining movie. He never established a long working relationship with a director as Mr. De Niro did with Martin Scorsese. Mr. Bridges has worked with significant filmmakers, just not necessarily in their finest hour. He has made questionable choices, but he has had a breadth of roles that should be the envy of most, and a depth few achieve. And he has staying power. It takes nothing away from his work in “Crazy Heart” to note that the film’s success and profile probably owe something to “Iron Man,” the 2008 blockbuster in which he pulled a Lex Luthor to play the villain and which gave him his highest-profile role in years. He was hilarious, absurd, necessary, and to watch him in that movie as well as in “Crazy Heart” is to be reminded yet again of how he abides.
Dargis singles-out Cutter’s Way (pictured above) and that’s a movie worth watching if you’ve never seen it. Terrific-look. The only drag is watching John Heard chew-up the scenery, but otherwise, it’s a good movie.
Finally, my boy Joey La P, sent me a link to this interview with Bridges on KCRW.