True grit: Jeff Bridges interview – Telegraph   Leave a comment

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True grit: Jeff Bridges interview – Telegraph.

At the age of 61, Bridges’ rugged good looks have taken on a little more flesh, the folds under his chin – what he calls his ‘goitre’ – disguised by a salt-and-pepper beard. He was casually dressed in a worn blue shirt, a bulge of stomach spilling out over the waistband of his blue jeans. He looked as if he had just walked out of his back yard, which in a sense he had; Bridges lives five minutes along the beach.

At the back of the room a make-up girl was laying out a range of powders and lotions on a table for use later in the day. Bridges glanced at her, as if weighing up the possibilities of this activity causing some disturbance to his serene equilibrium, and, apparently deciding it wouldn’t, said nothing. An accommodating man.

Until winning the Best Actor Oscar this year for his role as Bad Blake, the hard-drinking failed country star in Crazy Heart, Bridges had enjoyed the reputation as one of Hollywood’s most popular and most dependable but also most under-rated actors.

Over the course of a career spanning 40 years and more than 50 films, Bridges has come to define the difference between being a movie actor and a movie star. He has seldom played the conventional hero or the conventional leading man, and when he has – starring opposite Barbra Streisand in the light romance The Mirror Has Two Faces comes to mind – he has rarely been successful.

He has more often chosen characters rooted in a certain blurred, offbeat ambiguity – an extra­terrestrial learning what it is to be human in Starman, a cynical jazz-club pianist in The Fabulous Baker Boys, an embittered ex-con in American Heart.

Bridges may have a leading man’s good looks, but he has always displayed a distinct lack of vanity on the screen. He is not an actor who goes out of his way to draw attention to himself – there is no grandstanding, no pleading for the audience’s love or attention – a fact that has led some to criticise him for lacking ‘volume’. He is an actor who disappears into the role.

Bridges’ new film is a western, True Grit, written and directed by the Coen brothers, with whom he last worked in 1988 on The Big Lebowski. It will inevitably be described as a remake of the John Wayne classic from 1969, but Bridges says that the first piece of direction the Coens gave him was to forget the Wayne film; this was a return to the source material, the 1968 novel by Charles Portis.

Bridges takes the role of a US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (originally played by Wayne), hired by a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), to track the down the man who killed her father.

If Bridges embodied a kind of world-weary dissolution in his portrayal of Bad Blake, in True Grit he has attained a state of positive dereliction: pot-bellied, his face a grizzled map of hard-living and belligerence, true to Portis’s description of Cogburn as ‘a pitiless man, double-tough and fear don’t enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork…’

‘I don’t consider myself a hard-ass,’ Bridges said. ‘I like people. I’m light and airy. But I can play a hard-ass.’

He has made westerns before – notably Heaven’s Gate and Wild Bill. ‘Did you play cowboys growing up?’ He slapped me on the knee and laughed. ‘Of course, man!’ He remembers when his father, the actor Lloyd Bridges, would be doing a western and come home with ‘all that good stuff’ – chaps, sharp-shooter, waistcoats and Stetsons – ‘and I’d get to put on the real thing and play with my buds!’ He thought about this. ‘And it’s always great to get up on a horse.’

Posted December 13, 2010 by dmacc502 in entertainment, History, recreation

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