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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - To hear veteran actor Jeff Bridges tell it, he had the time of his life in his new movie "Crazy Heart" playing a drunk -- and so far, no bad hangover.
In fact, Bridges has enjoyed critical acclaim and movie awards buzz for his portrayal of hard drinking country singer Bad Blake in the film, which is now playing in U.S. theaters.
"I'm very excited about its success," Bridges told Reuters recently. "Sometimes you just have fun making it, and that's happened on several films. But on this one, I hit it all. I had a great time making it, and I love the way it turned out."
Bridges, whose father is the late screen star Lloyd Bridges and brother is actor Beau Bridges, has been nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe, for his portrayal of down-on-his-luck country singer Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart."
A four-time Oscar nominee, Bridges got a little help on his latest movie from his friend, the composer T-Bone Burnett, who wrote much of the music for the independent film.
First-time filmmaker Scott Cooper said he fashioned his tale after the lives of outlaw country singers like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, who enjoyed monster hits but also played their share of dive bars and honky tonks.
But the movie's success -- it earns a 90 percent positive rating at rottentomatoes.com, which collects and scores reviews -- has been less about the tale, and more about Bridges' work.
"It's a mark of how fine a performance Bridges gives that it succeeds beautifully even though the besotted, bedeviled country singer has been an overly familiar popular culture staple for forever," wrote Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan.
Bad Blake is the epitome of his name at first, peeing in a jug so he can keep driving to his next gig at a bowling alley, then getting so drunk he runs offstage to vomit.
But along comes journalist and single mother Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal). A relationship blossoms, and Bad goes good.
Like any good country song, there are bumps in the road to Bad's redemption. That means heartache and pain, love and loss, friendship and kinship -- and not always in that order.
Made outside Hollywood's major studios, the movie was acquired by Fox Searchlight ("Slumdog Millionaire"), and its release was advanced from a planned date in 2010 to late 2009, based on Bridges' performance and his ability to gain the awards spotlight that might lure audiences.
So far, the strategy seems to be paying off, with Oscar buzz humming in the Hollywood air for Bridges.
Bridges said that when he was initially given the script for "Crazy Heart," he passed because there was no music for it. But about a year later, he ran into his "old friend T-Bone," a Grammy winner who had been asked to write songs for the movie.
"I said, 'If you do it, I'll do it,'" said Bridges. And "Crazy Heart" was on.
In his role, Bridges sings, strums guitar and plays every bit the country renegade, and the endearing element to Bad's character is that while he's a drunk, he's an honest drunk whose attempt at being good is just that -- an attempt.
"Honesty is an attractive thing; hypocrisy is not. And it's refreshing to find people who are honest...and as far as country music, it's that honesty that is shared with the blues," Bridges said.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis