LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nearly a year after his Oscar win for best actor, Jeff Bridges has gained awards buzz again, teaming up with his “The Big Lebowski” directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, in “True Grit.”
The film, due out in theaters on Wednesday, shows off Bridges’ acting chops in the role of drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the post-Civil War era Western, a 180-degree turn from his recent role as a tech-whiz trapped in a computer grid of his own making in the futuristic “Tron: Legacy.”
“True Grit,” first adapted in a 1969 film that won John Wayne an Oscar as Cogburn, is based on Charles Portis’ novel about a 14-year-old girl (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) who teams with Cogburn and a Texas ranger (Matt Damon) to avenge her father’s death. Bridges sat down with Reuters to talk about the film and how his career has changed since his Oscar win.
Q: The book was already made into a 1969 film. Weren’t you wondering why the Coen brothers wanted to make this?
A: “I was curious. But they said, ‘We aren’t remaking the movie, we are making a movie of the book ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis. Have you ever read it?’ And I hadn’t, so I did. I could see why they wanted to make this movie. The book is wonderful and it reads just like a Coen Brothers script.”
Q: How did you create a character different to John Wayne?
A: “I don’t know how, but his portrayal is not something I would refer to as I’m studying my lines. I took it as a totally fresh thing. But whether subliminally something leaked in, I don’t know.”
Q: Your character is a pretty good gun slinger. Was that you doing the shooting, or was there a stunt person?
A: “I don’t really mess with guns too much outside of the movies, but yeah, that was really me shooting in the film. But whether I hit the target or not — that was some movie magic.”
Q: You spent pretty much the entire movie on a horse. Do you ride?
A: “I love riding. To be communicating like that with another species — it’s a wonderful team that you develop.”
Q: You won your first Oscar in February for playing alcoholic singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” How has your career changed since then?
A: “I thought maybe I’d get a big flood of wonderful scripts but that hasn’t happened for some reason. But I’ve gotten into my music a lot, and I think that’s a direct result of ‘Crazy Heart.’ I’ve just cut the basic tracks for an album with T-Bone Burnett (who wrote “The Weary Kind” from ‘Crazy Heart’). It should be out next year on Blue Note Records.”
Q: You come from an acting family. Was it your destiny to follow your father Lloyd and brother Beau into acting?
A: “My dad was very proactive about all his kids going into the movies. Not for any vicarious reasons or anything. He just loved it so much he wanted to share the joy.”
Q: Did you do the same for your three daughters?
A: “Having a famous father was not that great all the time because when you’re a kid, you want to be liked for who you are, not for who your parents are. So I thought I’d spare my own girls that a bit.”
Q: Did it work?
A: “I’m kind of sorry I wasn’t a little more like my dad. My girls are all out of the house now, in their mid 20s, on their own career paths. A few years ago they were wondering what they should do. I said, ‘Well, acting is in your blood. I’ll help you out if I can.’ They said ‘no.’ I guess I exposed them to the acting bug too late.”
Q: You and your wife Susan have been married 13 years. What’s the secret to your marriage?
A: “To be intimate with somebody, to know somebody deeply, that’s the object of the game in a way. And marriage is a place where that happens.”
Q: How do you handle the tough times?
A: “Rather than taking those times of tightness as a reason to call it quits, you look at it as an opportunity to get a little deeper, to find more about each other. The deeper you know each other, the more precious it becomes. The more times you survive, the more unbreakable you are.”
Editing by Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte