Four-time Academy Award-nominee Jeff Bridges portrays a broken-down, hard-living country music singer, Bad Blake, who reaches for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician.
Bridges is an actor who is perhaps better known for the indelible character’s he has played than for his own persona. His memorable performances include computer programmer Kevin Flynn, imprisoned inside a computer in the groundbreaking Tron; an alien who crashes on Earth in Starman and the quintessential slacker Jeff Lebowski, aka ‘The Dude,’ in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski. As Bad Blake, he once again disappears into a fascinating character.
What did it take to get you to sing in this film?
When I first got the script, there wasn’t any music attached to it, so I took a pass on it. 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.
Is the life of an actor just as hard as the life of a musician on the road?
Yeah. My wife told me that we’ve been apart 11 months this year. 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.
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. So, I can relate to that, just as a human being.
What was it like to work and sing with Colin Farrell in this?
He was great to work with. 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.
In this film, your character, Bad Blake, is a mentor to Colin Farrell’s character, Tommy Sweet. Who have been your mentors?
Well, 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 Sixties. And, I said, “I don’t know.” And, 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 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, and 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 it.
What was it like to play Kevin Flynn again for Tron Legacy, since the last time you played that character was 1982?
Wow, it was great. I guess the same thing appealed to me about the sequel that appealed to me about the original, which was this idea that there’s a kid aspect to what I do, pretending and all that stuff. I used to love to pretend when I was a kid, and here’s a movie where
I get to play a guy who gets sucked inside a computer and gets to use all the modern technology that’s available today. The same goes with the sequel, except that all the technology that we’re using in that makes the old one look like an old black and white TV show or something.
Gosh, it’s amazing what they’ve got going on this. I can’t wait to see it all pasted together.