Q: Hi Jeff. You are known as one of Hollywood's
nicest guys, but you are also brilliant when you play a hard
ass, tough guy like Rooster Cogburn in True Grit or Bad Blake in
Crazy Heart. Does Jeff Bridges have a secret hard ass side?
A: (Laughs) No,
I'm not a hard ass. I can play a hard ass, though, that's fun. I
like to do that.
Q: Do you think Rooster falls into that category?
A: I don't
think he'd call himself that, but yeah I think other people
would see him as a bit of a hard-ass. He's grumpy, an alcoholic
and he has a lot of hangovers. That makes you a hard-ass.
Q: How did you prepare for the role?
A: I referred
to the book which Charles Portis wrote and I didn't refer to the
John Wayne film at all. That was the direction the Coen brothers
gave me and I followed that.
Q: Knowing John Wayne won an Oscar for the same
role back in 1969, it must have placed pressure on you?
A: No, I just
do the best I can every time out. Actually, the first bit of
direction the Coens gave me was 'We're not making a remake of
the western. We're referring to the book that Charles Portis
wrote'. I didn't refer to the John Wayne movie at all. I read
the book and then I knew what they were talking about. It's a
wonderful book and it's not something unlike the Coen brothers
Q: You shot part of this film in Austin, Texas,
which is a fantastic music town. Did you perform any concerts
while you were there?
A: My daughter
Jessica was my assistant on this film so she was with me every
step of the way and she plays guitar, sings and writes and we
put on a few concerts. We did a couple in Sante Fe as well. One
concert we did was specifically for the make-up department head,
Tarra Day, who was on Crazy Heart. She had a stroke. We were
raising some funds to help her out and did a concert on her
behalf. It was cool. We hooked up with a local band, got up
there and did our thing.
Q: What was it like working with the Coen
A: The Coen
brothers make very special, very unique films. They're
fantastic. I've worked with a lot of great directors and they're
all very different. Look at Scott Cooper who directed Crazy
Heart. He was a first time director. He'd never even directed a
high school play, never written anything and he makes that movie
in 24 days. He was so gregarious and enthusiastic about it and
the whole company was on fire because of his enthusiasm and it
was genuine. It wasn't fake. So there's that kind of director
and then you have the cooler directors, which the Coen brothers
fall into. There isn't this giant excitement, but there is a
coolness on set in a very good way, you know? They both get
wonderful results. Look what they did with The Great Lebowski.
You'd think they'd be funny guys, but no, they're not that
funny. It's not like they don't have a sense of humour, but
they're not like cracking jokes. They're very pleasant and they
like to surround themselves with people they have worked with
many times before so there's a family atmosphere on set. Scott
Cooper was so different to them, yet they're all great ways to
approach the work. I like both ways.
Q: You played an alcoholic in Crazy Heart and
again in True Grit. How have you managed to stay sane and clean
all these years in Hollywood?
A: I definitely
got hung over enough times (laughs). I think it's luck, I guess.
I can see how people would go that way, but it hurts too much.
Don't you think? You learn that lesson over and over again, but
there are some people who don't ever learn that lesson. They get
in a bad groove, but I just didn't go that way. I could be a
little healthier though. I really admired my father. He was very
health conscious and one of our main discussions when we were
growing up would be habit. I would say 'Dad, each moment has to
be fresh. You've got to live each moment like there's no other'.
He said 'Yes, that's a wonderful thought, but that's not the way
life is. We're habitual creatures. We develop good habits or bad
habits. You want to develop good habits'. Now, all these years
later, I can see his point (laughs).
Q: How does meditating every day before you go on
set help you, especially with doing something like True Grit?
important to me to just sit still and be aware of what's going
on. With acting, thoughts and feelings are so much a part of
that work. In meditation you become aware of what's going on in
your mind. You feel all those thoughts. When you're making
movies there's all these terrible things to think about like
(sounds stressed) 'What's my line? How am I going to deliver
this? I really want to do this right'. You can really work
yourself up. Meditation helps you let go of thoughts. It makes
you more aware of everything and when you quiet your own mind
down you can pick up all of these wonderful things that the
universe is supporting you with that you wouldn't be privy to if
you were so busy listening to your own thoughts. It helps in my
Q: How do the Coen brothers work together?
A: They said
early on in their career, one of them wanted to take the
producer spot and they wanted it filled by one of them, because
they didn't want someone else coming in. What it looks like to
me is that they write, produce and direct all together. Ethan
walks around with a stick and I don't know what he's thinking
about. Joel is the older brother and I think he says 'action'.
They both come up and give you tips, like a normal director
would. I feel comfortable asking either one for advice. It's
very loose and there's never any fighting between them. It's
quite amazing in that sense. I just love their movies.
Q: Have they changed their directing style over
A: No, not
really, no. Joel cut his ponytail. That's about it (laughs).
Q: When did you first read the book, True Grit?
A: I read it as
soon as I found out about this film and it's always exciting
when you're making a film based on a book because the book fills
in all the gaps and answers any questions you might have.
Q: You, of course, are a musician. What's on your
A: I just came
off a great tour with Elton John, Leon Russell, John Mellencamp
and Elvis Costello. T-Bone Burnett put this thing together and
we just got back a couple of days ago. I had a wonderful time.
So I'd have to say those albums that Bone made with Leon Russell
and Elton John are great. Elvis' new album is also wonderful.
I'm also into this guy, Benji Hughes and his piano player, they
were on this tour. His band is just phenomenal.
Q: Is your True Grit more violent than the
yeah. Probably a little darker too.
Q: How comfortable are you riding horses?
A: I love it.
Whenever I see a script which says I have to ride a horse, I'm
happy. I have a ranch up in Montana and I had to bury my horse,
but I used to love to ride up there.
Q: What is the most challenging role you've ever
A: They all
have their challenges in different ways. Crazy Heart was a big
challenge because it involved the music and music is a big part
of my life. I guess the basic challenge is, will you do this
justice? Are you doing something you care about? Are you going
to be able to have true grit and see it through to the end?
Q: You have had a very long and successful
marriage. What is it that makes your marriage so great?
A: I don't
know. It's the mystery of love. Look at her (shows a photo from
his wallet). She's not bad looking.
Q: Are you a romantic?
A: Yeah, I
believe in it but I'm not real good at it. I see other guys and
I say 'I wish I could do that'. My brother for instance, he
loves to buy his wife clothes. He dresses her almost like a
Barbie doll. It's just not my style. I wish I was like that.
Q: What do you do for your wife?
A: I rub her
back at night. That's about it. She deserves so much more. That
picture I carry around, that's romantic isn't it? I should do
more of that.
Q: What do you think is the secret of a long
A: Not getting
a divorce (laughs). You know what I mean? In each marriage,
especially when you've been married a while you're going to have
tough times. When you reach those tough times, you draw a line
and if your partner crosses that line, you think 'Well, is that
it or am I going to have to enlarge my concept of what love is
and be able to embrace that?' You open your heart and it means
so much to you that it becomes too precious to lose. So next
time you're tested you say 'I canít lose this. It's too
wonderful'. Life will test that all the time.
Q: Was it luck you met your wife?
A: Whenever I
doubt if she is the woman I should be with, I think about so
many moments in our relationship which have happened over the
years and there is no doubt. She's my leading lady.
TRUE GRITT IS AVAILABLE ON DVD AND
BLU-RAY ON THE 9TH OF JUNE 2011