HOL­LY­WOOD

WKND - - Contents - By Cindy Pearl­man

Os­car win­ner and finicky ac­tor Jeff Bridges on why he has laid down his own life rules for so long

eff Bridges has made 70 or so movies in a ca­reer stretch­ing back to 1951, and he seems to have sto­ries for ev­ery one. “So there I was prepar­ing to do Star­man ( 1984),” Bridges said. “I was in my bed­room at home, video­tap­ing my­self as I worked on the scene where Star­man is born. Of course I was in the nude, be­cause he was… be­ing born.

“There I am with the video cam­era on, naked and in a fe­tal po­si­tion, when my wife bursts into the bed­room,” he con­tin­ued. “Her eyes popped for a mo­ment, and then she just shook her head as in, ‘ Yes, I’m mar­ried to an ac­tor. This is just a nor­mal day’.” He gave a throaty laugh. Star­man turned out to be a classic, one of a dozen in his fil­mog­ra­phy, and

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the 66- year- old Bridges — who is the son of ac­tor Lloyd Bridges and the elder brother of ac­tor Beau Bridges — has had a ca­reer few oth­ers can match.

“My dad taught me the act­ing ba­sics,” he said dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view. “As a lit­tle boy, I hung out on the set of his show Sea Hunt ( 1958- 1961). It wasn’t about the cool fac­tor of hav­ing my dad on TV. All I wanted to do was watch him make a scene real.

“Act­ing gave him such joy — and I can say the same for my life,” Bridges said. “My dad was a very joy­ful man in his work and in his life. That joy spread to ev­ery­one around him. It spread to the com­pany on a set and the peo­ple he’d meet on the streets. It spread in our home. “That’s a life.” Bridges’ lat­est film, crime drama Hell or High Wa­ter, will re­lease in the US to­day. Chris Pine stars as Toby, a di­vorced fa­ther with two kids he hasn’t seen for a year. Ben Foster plays his brother, an ex- con named Tan­ner. The brothers be­come in­volved in a des­per­ate plan to save their fam­ily’s farm in a sleepy West Texas town from fore­clo­sure.

“They get the money the only way pos­si­ble,” Bridges said. “They rob a bank.”

One bank stickup leads to a se­ries of rob­beries at branches of Texas Mid­land, the bank that wants to fore­close. That’s where Bridges comes in. “I’m a weath­ered Texas Ranger who is about to re­tire,” the ac­tor said. “I talk nice and slow. The guy has been around the block. I take things slow and fig­ure them out. I also know the mind­set of the crim­i­nals.”

Bridges found the role so ap­peal­ing that he couldn’t pass it up. “I’ve al­ways loved movies that show our darker sides and what hap­pens when we’re pushed as hu­mans to re­veal them,” he said. Th­ese days it isn’t easy to get Bridges to say yes to a role. “I do my best not to work,” he said. “I try not to do any­thing, for sev­eral rea­sons. One is that I know what it takes to do jus­tice to a role. Another is that I don’t like to leave my wife alone for all those weeks or months. She’s in a big house by her­self, and that’s no fun.”

It’s not as if Bridges hasn’t paid his dues. He grew up in Los An­ge­les, and made his film de­but as an in­fant in his mother’s arms in The Com­pany She Keeps ( 1951). Lloyd Bridges rou­tinely took his sons to the set of Sea Hunt, and usu­ally they were put to work. “We’d show up in a boat in a cameo,” Bridges re­called with a laugh. “I re­ally en­joyed it, and it was great to be so close to our fa­ther.”

It was a given that Bridges would en­ter the fam­ily busi­ness. His only qualms in­volved be­ing seen as Lloyd Bridges’ son. “I went through that pe­riod where it was awk­ward for me,” he ad­mit­ted. “When you’re the son of some­one that famous, you do tend to get judged in odd ways. I would think, ‘ Oh, I got this job be­cause of who my fa­ther is.’

“But that was just early on,” Bridges added. “Now I’m proud to say that I got into this busi­ness be­cause of my fa­ther. He just loved show busi­ness and passed that on.”

By the time the elder Bridges died in 1998, his son had long since forged his own iden­tity, star­ring in such films as The Last Pic­ture Show ( 1971), Tron ( 1982), Jagged Edge ( 1985), Star­man, Tucker: The Man and His Dream ( 1988), The Fab­u­lous Baker Boys ( 1989), The Fisher King ( 1991), Fear­less ( 1993), The Big Le­bowski ( 1998) and, later, Se­abis­cuit ( 2003) and True Grit ( 2010). His per­for­mance as an al­co­holic coun­try singer in Crazy Heart ( 2009) won him an Os­car as Best Ac­tor, his first af­ter five pre­vi­ous nom­i­na­tions.

“The truth is, I felt ac­knowl­edged and thrilled about my ca­reer be­fore Os­car,” Bridges said, “be­cause I’ve been able to tell so many amaz­ing sto­ries. And I’m cer­tainly as famous as I want to be, al­though I get a lit­tle more recog­ni­tion on the street now af­ter win­ning an Os­car.”

It meant some­thing ex­tra, though, that he fi­nally took home his Os­car for Crazy Heart in par­tic­u­lar. “I won for a film about mu­sic, which is so near and dear to my heart,” said Bridges, who tours with his band, Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, and re­leased an al­bum in 2011. “I’ve been a mu­si­cian since I was a kid,” he ex­plained. “There was a time when I strug­gled with the big question: mu­sic or act­ing? I could have gone ei­ther way.”

The ac­tor is cur­rently film­ing Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle, with Colin Firth and Ju­lianne Moore. He will also star in Gran­ite Moun­tain, the base­don- fact story of an elite crew who bat­tled a wild­fire in Prescott, Ari­zona, in June 2013.

On the per­sonal side, Bridges has been mar­ried to the same woman since 1977. He and Su­san Ge­ston met on the set of Ran­cho Deluxe ( 1975), which was shot on a dude ranch where she was work­ing as a maid. “It was love at first sight,” Bridges re­called. “All the time I’m asked for mar­riage ad­vice, and I al­ways say, ‘ You need to love the other per­son. Re­ally love them’.”

The mar­riage has pro­duced three daugh­ters, Is­abelle, Jes­sica and Ha­ley. In 2011, Bridges be­came a grandpa when Is­abelle gave birth to a daugh­ter, Grace.

Jeff and Su­san Bridges live on a ranch in Mon­tecito, Cal­i­for­nia, where he spends his time play­ing mu­sic, smok­ing cigars and read­ing scripts. His only re­gret, it seems, is that his work makes it hard for him to sim­ply walk the streets.

“As an ac­tor you lose some of your anonymity,” he said. “That’s tough, be­cause a good day to me is just walk­ing around ob­serv­ing peo­ple.”

2 bridges across for­ever: 1 Jeff with real- life brother beau bridges and Michelle Pfeif­fer in The Fab­u­lous Baker Boys 2 as an al­co­holic coun­try singer in Crazy Heart — a role for which he won an os­car 3 in his new movie Hell or High Wa­ter 4 With...

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