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Jeff Bridges Talks About 'Crazy Heart'

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Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart.'

© Fox Searchlight
Four-time Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges is earning major awards buzz for his powerful performance in Crazy Heart, the touching story of an aging country singer. Bridges plays Bad Blake, an alcoholic loner who travels the backroads playing his music to less than standing room only crowds in bowling alleys, bars, and other smaller venues. Bad Blake's been on the road for years, never settling down and never far from a drink. But when a pretty journalist (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) asks for an interview, Bad Blake finally feels a connection with someone and finally has a reason to try to clean up his act.

Jeff Bridges didn't immediately jump at the opportunity to star in this film from first time feature film director Scott Cooper. "When I first got the script, there wasn’t any music attached to it so I took a passer on it," recalled Bridges. "And then when I found out from my good buddy, T-Bone Burnett, that he was going to do it if I was going to do it, then that filled in that empty, missing piece. So when he got involved, I knew the music was going to be top notch, and that got me to the party really quick."

At the LA press day for the Fox Searchlight film, Bridges said he could relate to Bad Blake on a personal level. As an actor, Bridges' life is often as nomadic as Bad Blake's. According to Bridges' wife, the two have been apart for 11 months this year due to Jeff's acting commitments. "That’s tough. That’s the hardest part, for me. But, we’ve been married for 33 years and we’ve done this a lot together, so we know the routine and how much we depend on each other. It’s great to have a partner like that."

Bridges added, "But there is a similarity to acting and singing. One of the things that’s appealing about country music in general is that it’s dealing with human emotions that people can relate to. We can all relate to not only the fear of failure, but the fear of success and what we do to ourselves when we get successful. Once you get to the top of the mountain, there’s only one place to go. You roll down. So, how do you deal with that? A lot of us deal with it by numbing ourselves. That’s our strategy. We slow ourselves down. So, I can relate to that, just as a human being. Just being alive, you struggle with that."

A Cameo Appearance By an Actor Not Normally Associated with Music

Bad Blake mentors a young singer/songwriter, Tommy Sweet, and then Tommy's career takes off while Bad Blake's hits the skids. Irish actor Colin Farrell shows up to play Tommy.

"He was great to work with," said Bridges of his time on the set with Farrell. "With movies, you only have a certain time to pull it all together. For this one, we just had 24 days to do it, so you’re really looking for comrades that can get the fire going, as quickly as possible. I think Colin worked maybe four or five days, but we hit it off right off the bat. We approach the work in a similar way and got along great. It was a joy working with him. I’ve admired him. The first time I saw him was in Tigerland, and I’ve been keeping up with his career. I loved In Bruges. I thought that was a great movie. And then, singing together is a great way to strike up a relationship with your fellow actors, when you harmonize. That all fell into place really well."

 

The Importance of Mentors

Bad Blake takes Tommy Sweet under his wing in Crazy Heart, and in real life Bridges had mentors of his own to watch over and guide him. "My dad was my mentor. Unlike a lot of actors, he really encouraged all of his kids to go into show business. He loved it so much. I remember when I was a little kid, he came up to me and said, 'Hey, you wanna be in Sea Hunt? There’s a little part.' That was a TV series my dad had in the ‘60s. And I said, 'I don’t know.' He said, 'Well, you get to get out of school. You can make some money and buy some toys.' So I said okay, and then I remember him sitting me on his bed and giving me the basics of acting and teaching me how to do it."

"And, of course, my brother is my mentor. He took up where my dad left off. We worked on scenes to get my agent. And then I remember a big turning point in my career was doing a movie version of The Iceman Cometh, and I got to work with all these masters, like Robert Ryan, Fredric March and Lee Marvin. Most of my scenes were with Robert Ryan and I learned a lot from working with him, about fear and insecurity. I remember doing a scene with him across the table in a bar, and we were waiting for the scene. He took his hands off the table and there were two big puddles of sweat on the table. I said, 'Bob, gee, after all these years, you’re still frightened, nervous and scared?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. I’d be really scared if I wasn’t scared.' That let me know that fear is always going to be with you. It’s how you deal with that. It’s hopeless to think you’re going to get rid of that."

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Crazy Heart hits theaters on December 16, 2009.

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