"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: jeff bridges

Million Dollar Movie


Hold that Tiger.

Dig this: Brad Darrach’s 1988 People magazine profile of Preston Thomas Tucker:

Seeing isn’t necessarily believing. Case in point: Tucker, Francis Ford Coppola’s new movie about the man who created a glamorous and controversial wonder car of the postwar ’40s but never quite got it into production. According to Coppola’s film, the Tucker was the Great American Automobile of its era, a dazzling experiment that advanced the automotive art by at least a decade. As for Preston Thomas Tucker, the man who made this miracle happen, Coppola presents him—and Jeff Bridges plays him—as a martyred saint of transportation, an endearing idealist betrayed by a sinister conspiracy hatched by Detroit’s Big Three: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

All of which adds up to a nice piece of innocent entertainment—and a considerable rearrangement of the truth. The Tucker car, in fact, was in some respects a streamlined lemon. And Tucker himself was a living jigsaw puzzle: industrial visionary, half-educated opportunist, promotional genius, amusing con artist, tender husband, big-spending boozer, loving father—and in the opinion of his adversaries, an out-and-out crook. Put the pieces together and you get the John De Lorean of a heartier time, an American primitive who grappled boldly for power and was swiftly destroyed in a spectacular financial scandal.

Everything about Tucker was spectacular. He stood 6’2″ and weighed 200 lbs., most of it muscle. Boldly handsome, he had large, dominating eyes and razor-thin lips. His black wavy hair was slicked back in the lounge-lizard style affected by George Raft, and a subtle effluence of Lucky Tiger hair tonic trailed him wherever he went. Invariably duded up in custom-tailored suits, jaunty black homburgs, expensive chesterfields and two-tone shoes, he could have passed for a modish mobster—except for his screechy bow ties and the white cotton socks he wore for his athlete’s foot.

Almost Famous

almost famous

Nice group of Big Lebowski links over at the consistently rewarding movie site, Cinephilia and Beyond. Includes this picture of Steve Buscemi and John Turturro taken by Jeff Bridges (the guy in the middle is Bridges’ longtime stand-in). Ah, my Zelig moment. You’ll see in the background right near Buscemi’s head, a blurry figure wearing a Clippers jersey. That would be me.


Million Dollar Movie

On the set with Jeff Bridges


over at Everyday I Show.

Million Dollar Movie

“Fat City.”

Now, there’s a case of a fine book and a fine movie.

Million Dollar Movie


Chris Jones on Jeff Bridges in the new issue of Esquire:

“If some crazy idea stays in my head for long enough, then there’s no fighting it,” he says. “I just say, Okay, let’s go. Let’s do this.”

Bridges was sixteen or seventeen years old when he learned to stop fighting it. He had acted a few times — his first tearful lines onscreen were spoken to his black-and-white father, Lloyd, on an episode of Sea Hunt — but he wasn’t sure that acting was what he wanted to do. He liked music better, experimenting with his brother Beau’s guitar, along with other objects and instruments. His family had a beach house back then, down in Malibu, and one night, as he and some friends were leaving, he saw that they had left a light on deep inside the house. He went back to turn it off and click: He was in blackness.

“Normally, we push away the things we’re scared of,” Bridges says. “But for some reason, that night, I decided to let that fear in. I decided that it was okay for me to be afraid of the dark.”

He imagined all those things that aren’t there in the light. And by the time his friends came back inside and snapped on the lights — he had remained inside the darkened house for so long — they found him curled up in a ball on the floor, trembling and bathed in tears and sweat. He had opened the door to fear, and fear had rushed in.

“And then there was a rose,” he says now, looking clear through the fog. A single rose, in a tiny vase, on a table. And he imagined that the rose hid the same things that the dark kept hidden, and he felt his heart start racing again. He was terrified of the rose, and that’s the exact moment when Jeff Bridges learned the secret that would unlock the rest of his life. That night, he learned that there was no such thing as acting. There was only imagination, and that long succession of dreams and nightmares we all harbor. And if only he continued to let everything in — if all of us decided to let everything in — those things would join our imaginations and carry us wherever we might want to go.

Million Dollar Movie

This past Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the New York premiere of one of the great films of the 1980s, the far too seldom seen Cutter’s Way a/k/a Cutter and Bone. Over at Edward Copeland’s film blog, J.D. offers a terrific account of how the film was made, essentially dumped by the studio and then luckily “saved from obscurity.” For fans of the film or just those interested in the machinations of the Hollywood machine, it’s a must-read.

Cutter’s Way is a movie I find myself liking more and more each time I see it. Bridges does great work here and he and John Heard (as Cutter) play exceptionally well off of each other. As J.D. puts it, “Heard plays Cutter like a character straight out of a Tom Waits song.” His need for action, for something other than liquor and self-pity, creates a terrific dynamic with Bridges’ do-nothing yacht rat gigolo. Between the two male leads is a remarkable performance by Lisa Eichhorn as Cutter’s depressed alcoholic wife, who plays one of the saddest love scenes ever put on film.

Cutter’s Way takes its time introducing the cast of characters and the world they inhabit. The film gradually lets you get to know them and their daily routine. Jeff Bridges proves once again that he is one of the best American actors working in film today. He portrays Bone as a man afraid of commitment, content to do little but fall back on his pretty boy looks to bed any woman who crosses his path. As one character tells him, “Sooner or later you’re going to have to make a decision about something.” This could be the underlying thesis of the whole film: making decisions and taking a stand about something.

The film (directed by Czech emigre Ivan Passer) has a lot in common with the great paranoia thrillers of the 1970s (e.g. Chinatown, The Parallax View, The Conversation) and it feels now as if it served as the parting shot for that cycle, as the 70s drifted into the 80s.


Million Dollar Movie

Tonight at the Walter Reade Theater, a slept-on Jeff Bridges vehicle featuring John Huston:

I can’t make it, dang it, but man, it should be a good time.

Million Dollar Doobie

Tonight, the latest episode of American Masters is about the career of Jeff Bridges. He’s a favorite around these parts…Check it out.

Million Dollar Groovie

Last Friday night I went to the Little Lebowski shop on Thompson Street. It is run by a friendly guy named Rob Preston, a movie nut who previously worshipped cult classics like “Time Bandits” and “Withnail and I.”

The shop is filled with Lebowski t-shirts and toys.

It’s worth the trek if you dig all things Lebowski.

There’s Roy, pictured with Bridges, who paid a visit not too long ago:

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

Million Dollar Movie

Bridges and the Coen brothers, together again.

Million Dollar Movie

I don’t know if Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, the Clint Eastwood vehicle featuring a young Jeff Bridges, is a sleeper but if you have never seen it, do yourself a favor and put it to the top of your Netflix queue. It was Michael Cimino’s directorial debut. George Kennedy is terrific, as usual, in a supporting role.

Speaking of Cimino, check out this 2002 feature on the director from Vanity Fair.

Man of the Moment

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.

Yeah, I Gotta Rash, Man

Yes, it has come to this: the Eggheads take on the Dude and The Big Lebowski.

Speaking of Bridges, check out this L.A. Times piece about the music for his new movie, Crazy Heart.

And dig this: the Film Society at Lincoln Center is hosting an evening with Jeff Bridges on Saturday, January 9th. An interview with the actor will be followed by a screening of The Last Picture Show.



Poor Lonesome Cowboy


I went to see Crazy Heart last night and was not disappointed. It is a good, unaffected movie that provides satisfying pleasures, notably getting to watch Jeff Bridges in the lead role. He’s a great American actor and he’s in top form here. It is a story that we’ve seen countless times–it made me think of the Verdict and the Wrestler, but without the tension–but while it is familiar it doesn’t feel stale. It also isn’t self-consciously “small.” The tone feels spot-on (and so does the music), slack, just like Bad Blake (Bridges).

The photography is excellent, and the director, Scott Cooper, cuts between tight shots of Bridges on stage–you feel as if you are in his whiskers–and long shots of the big open sky in the southwest. Bridges carries the movie with grace. He doesn’t make a false step, and the supporting cast of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall are outstanding too. I don’t think Gyllenhaal has ever been lovelier–she’s radiant. She comes to interview Bad Blake in his hotel room and he says something about how she makes the rest of the room look ugly, and he’s right. She blushes and he says he can’t remember the last time he’d seen somebody blush and that feels so right too.

Farrell plays Bridges’ former protoge who is now a big star. The filmmakers and Farrell display admirable restraint in his scenes which would have been easy to turn into a satire. He plays a cheese-ball pop singer and he sounds like one too, but he isn’t ridiculed for it, lending his scenes on stage with Bridges depth and subtlety. Actually, that is what the movie really offers, some nice, subtle moments. Actors at the top of their game, working together, nothing showy. Duvall shows up half-way through and threatens to ruin the continuity because he’s “Robert Duvall.” But he slides right into the story, and he’s crackles. His scenes with Bridges are wonderful, especially the one where they go fishing together (I love the camera move in that scene as well).

The ending doesn’t really work, but it didn’t disturb my enjoyment much. The pleasures this movie offers might be humble but they are sustaining.

Hurts So Good

“Sometimes you only get to win one championship.” –Leonard Gardner

Did you ever rent a movie and then return it without watching it?


I’ve rented John Huston’s Fat City at least twice in my life but never watched it. I can’t explain why. Chalk it up to my mood at the time. After all, Huston is one of my favorite directors and Jeff Bridges one of my favorite actors.

Fat City is based on Leonard Gardner’s novel of the same name. The book is less than 200 pages long, and the story is almost unbearably grim. It is about boxing and drinking in Stockton, California. It is about losers losing. And although the prose is lean and clear, it is also dense–you can almost feel how much effort went into making it so direct and spare.

It was a tough book for me to get through, even though it wasn’t long. I read it because I thought it would be good for me not because I enjoyed it. I admired the artistry–the writing was superb, but I found the story bleak and depressing. When I finished it, I thought, Now, there is a world I don’t need to visit again. No wonder I never watched the movie.


I felt compelled to read the book because Huston’s movie started a two-week run at the Film Forum last night. George Kimball and Pete Hamill introduced the movie and then stuck around to answer questions when it was over. Hamill said that Gardner’s novel is one of the three best boxing novels ever written, along with The Professional by W.C. Heinz, and The Harder they Fall by Budd Schulberg. Kimball who is a walking encyclopedia of boxing knowledge talked about how Huston cast boxers and non-actors in the movie, how he insisted that it be shot in Stockton to preserve the book’s authenticity, how the producer Ray Stark wanted to fire the DP, the great Conrad Hall, because the scenes inside the bars were so dark.

Kimball also tried to explain the biggest question about Gardner (one that Gardner is probably asked daily)–why was Fat City the only book he ever wrote? Gardner continued to write short stories and journalism–I remember reading a piece he did for Inside Sports on the first Leonard-Duran fight–and eventually went to Hollywood to write for television. David Milch taught Fat City when he was at Yale and got Gardner work on NYPD Blue, which proves that Milch isn’t all bad (although he famously ripped-off Pete Dexter’s novel Deadwood for his TV series).

Kimball didn’t know the exact reason why Gardner has never written another book. He said Gardner’s never offered a reason and he’s never  pressed him for one. Kimball’s guess is that Gardner wrote such a perfectly realized book in Fat City that he figured could never reach that height again. So why bother trying?  Kimball said that Fat City was 400 pages long and Gardner kept honing it, pairing it down, like a master chef making a reduction.

Whatever the reason, it is easy to see why Huston was attracted to the story.  Hamill said that Huston spent his life making one movie for the studio and then one for himself. And this was one of his personal movies. He has great affection for the characters and the place and while he captures the unhappiness of Gardner’s book, I think the movie is has far more humor. There was some funny banter in the book but it didn’t come across as amusing to me. But the moment we see Nicholas Colasanto (better known to my generation as Coach from Cheers), the sound of his voice is warming, and cuts into the despair. So does the soundtrack.


Huston’s directorial style is also an ideal fit for Gardner’s prose. I remember once reading an article about Huston in American Film when he was making his final film, The Dead (another personal project). His son Tony was surprised at how skilled his father’s camera technique was.  And the old man said, “It’s what I do best, yet no critic has ever remarked on it. That’s exactly as it should be. If they noticed it, it wouldn’t be any good.”

In Huston’s movies–The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra MadrePrizzi’s Honor–you don’t notice the style, you follow the story. Gardner, who wrote the screenplay with Huston, was blessed to have this man in his corner. The boxing scenes are strong. You feel close to the action, but nothing is forced or stylistic–it’s not like the Rocky movies or Raging Bull. In fact, you can see the ropes in the frame often, putting us just outside of the ring. The boxers sometimes look clunky but since they aren’t supposed to be great fighters, it works. And in Keach’s big fight scene you can feel the fighter’s exhaustion, their bodies getting heavy, by the second round.


Stacey Keach and Jeff Bridges are terrific (so when is Bridges not terrific?). There is a dignity to the characters, no matter how laid-out they are.  There is a tremendous shot, a long take, when Keach and his trainers and their wives leave the arena after a fight, followed by a broken-down Mexican fighter that illustrates this beautifully.

Keach wears a silver braclet in the movie that was exactly like the kind my father wore during that period, when I was a young kid. But my old man was a middle-class drunk, so the comparisons end there. However, the bar scenes, the life of drunks, rang true and reminded me of my father’s alcoholism.  There is a lot of drinking during the day, and Kimball remarked on the blinding light that greets you once you stumble out into the daylight. Like when you come out of a movie theater in the middle of the day–but more woozy and disorienting.

It is that kind of touch that makes Huston’s movie effective. Nothing much happens in the story. But it feels authentic, taking the essence of Gardner’s book and making it into a story for the screen.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver