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For decades, referring to Jeff Bridges as one of Hollywood's "most underrated actors" was something of a cliché, as this second generation performer was hailed for eschewing flashy blockbuster roles in favor of more substantive characters. Bridges was rarely a box office champ, but he did build a loyal following for his naturalistic performances in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989), "The Big Lebowski" (1998), and "Crazy Heart" (2009). Though he started as a child actor alongside father Lloyd and brother Beau, he earned acclaim on his own with highly praised turns in John Huston's "Fat City" (1972), Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" (1972) and "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot", co-starring Clint Eastwood. After enjoying a box office hit with "King Kong" (1976), Bridges starred in one of his better known films, "Tron" (1982), before earning high praise as the alien in "Starman" (1984). Following "Against All Odds" (1984) and "Jagged Edge" (1985), he was a cynical radio show host in "The Fisher King" (1991) and received some of his best notices as the survivor of a plane crash in "Fearless" (1993). He went on to play White Russian-swilling slacker The Dude - his most recognized character - in "The...
For decades, referring to Jeff Bridges as one of Hollywood's "most underrated actors" was something of a cliché, as this second generation performer was hailed for eschewing flashy blockbuster roles in favor of more substantive characters. Bridges was rarely a box office champ, but he did build a loyal following for his naturalistic performances in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989), "The Big Lebowski" (1998), and "Crazy Heart" (2009). Though he started as a child actor alongside father Lloyd and brother Beau, he earned acclaim on his own with highly praised turns in John Huston's "Fat City" (1972), Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" (1972) and "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot", co-starring Clint Eastwood. After enjoying a box office hit with "King Kong" (1976), Bridges starred in one of his better known films, "Tron" (1982), before earning high praise as the alien in "Starman" (1984). Following "Against All Odds" (1984) and "Jagged Edge" (1985), he was a cynical radio show host in "The Fisher King" (1991) and received some of his best notices as the survivor of a plane crash in "Fearless" (1993). He went on to play White Russian-swilling slacker The Dude - his most recognized character - in "The Big Lebowski" and later excelled as a devil-may-care president in "The Contender" (2000). Having been a real-life racehorse owner in "Seabiscuit" (2003) and a comic book villain in"Iron Man" (2008), Bridges won the Oscar for "Crazy Heart" and was nominated again for his role as the cantankerous Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" (2010). Thanks to his everyman qualities, audiences accepted Bridges in a wide range of genres, where his talent for complex, morally ambiguous characters was so strong that the actor was often accused of playing himself.
The son of famed actor Lloyd Bridges and the younger brother of actor Beau Bridges, Jeffrey Leon Bridges was born on Dec. 4, 1949, in Los Angeles. Destined by blood to go into the family profession, Jeff Bridges made his first screen appearance at the tender age of four months, playing Jane Greer's infant son in "The Company She Keeps" (1950). Growing up, he and his brother Beau got some valuable early acting experience playing drowning victims and the like on their father Lloyd's popular undersea adventure series, "Sea Hunt" (syndicated, 1957-1961). As Bridges recalled to The London Times in 1999: "[My dad would] always say, 'Do you want this part? You'll be gone from school for a couple of weeks.' And when you're eight years old, it's kind of fun." The brothers also popped up occasionally on their father's subsequent TV venture, "The Lloyd Bridges Show" (CBS, 1962-63). Fun and games aside, however, the experience of seeing their father become typecast after "Sea Hunt" also taught the junior Bridges a valuable lesson about diversifying one's roles.
In 1971, Bridges joined the ensemble cast of director Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" - an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Larry McMurtry. A coming of age tale set a small Texas town in the 1950s, "Picture Show" earned the 23-year-old Bridges his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the boyishly charming Duane Jackson. Bridges further enhanced his image in a series of quality projects, beginning with John Huston's "Fat City" (1972) as a struggling boxer, and Robert Benton's directorial debut, "Bad Company" (1972), in which he played a likable, if untrustworthy con artist who drifts into lawlessness in the post-Civil War west. The following year, Bridges brought a three-dimensional believability to his portrayal of moonshining stock-car racing legend Junior Jackson in "The Last American Hero" (1973). Later that year, Bridges subsequently stood tall amidst such heavy hitters as Robert Ryan, Fredric March and Lee Marvin in John Frankenheimer's filmic adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" (1973).
Having grown in stature with each successive picture, Bridges was a revelation in Michael Cimino's directorial debut, "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1974). Demonstrating his impressive acting range while exuding an effortless screen charisma, Bridges wound up stealing the picture right out from under its star, Clint Eastwood. When "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" earned Bridges another Best Supporting Actor nod, predictions abounded that the young actor would be the next big thing in Hollywood. Unfortunately, several ill-advised choices over the next few years ended up dampening Hollywood's enthusiasm for the actor - most notably his lead roles in the 1976 remake of "King Kong" and Michael Cimino's studio-killing epic drama-turned-failure, "Heaven's Gate" (1980).
Thankfully, Bridges was able to break his downward career freefall in the mid-1980s with a number of timely commercial hits. The first was director Taylor Hackford's "Against All Odds" (1984), a loose remake of the 1947 drama "Out of the Past" (1947). The film, which co-starred Rachel Ward and James Woods, also featured a cameo by Bridges' "first" leading lady, Jane Greer, as his mother. Later that year, Bridges earned his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his low-key portrayal of the titular Earth-bound alien in the science-fiction drama, "Starman" (1984). Over the course of filming, Bridges kicked off a lifelong friendship with "Starman" director John Carpenter, who gushed to Larry Worth of The New York Post: "[Jeff is] the greatest, as an actor and a person. He's the best actor of his generation, bar none." A year later, Bridges would enjoy his greatest box office success to date as a charismatic, successful businessman accused of a high-profile murder in the legal thriller, "Jagged Edge" (1985), co-starring Glenn Close.
Bridges proved utterly convincing as the almost neurotically optimistic, indomitable, all-American entrepreneur Preston Tucker in director Francis Ford Coppola's, "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (1988) - a project which enabled him to act again with his father, Lloyd. Keeping things in the family, Bridges next teamed up with brother Beau to give a complex performance as Jack Baker, a once celebrated piano prodigy reduced to entertaining as a lounge lizard in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989). A resounding critical success, the film earned co-star Michelle Pfeiffer her second Oscar nomination, but some found Bridges even more impressive. He continued to give typically strong, but underrated performances during the 1990's. Often willing to drastically change his looks to suit a part, Bridges reprised the role of an older, fatter Duane Jackson in "Texasville" (1990), the long-awaited sequel to "The Last Picture Show." Set 30 years after the original movie, Bridges gained 20 pounds for his role as the Texas roughneck-turned-millionaire who is desperate to recapture his lost youth. Unfortunately, not even Bridges' splendid chemistry with "Texasville" co-star, Annie Potts (as Duane's wife) could save the film from failure.
Despite his up and down track record at the box office, Bridges nevertheless continued to grind out exemplary performances. The understated angst of his disk jockey character, Jack Lucas, in the gentle fantasy, "The Fisher King" (1991), again impressed critics by providing an effective counterpoint to the exuberant Robin Williams. Though Bridges wound up being overlooked by the Academy, the picture earned actress Mercedes Ruehl a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Bridges' girlfriend. For his next role as an ex-con seeking to reconcile with his wayward son, Bridges grew his hair out long and dramatically sculpted his physique for the respectfully reviewed indie, "American Heart" (1993). That same year, Bridges won raves for his portrayal of Max Klein, a man transfigured after his survival from an air disaster, in "Fearless" (1993). Nominated for an Oscar, "Fearless" was considered by many to be Bridges' finest, most courageous role to date.
Unfortunately, moviegoers continued to take for granted the actor's work. In 1994, Bridges fared poorly as a bomb squad cop pitted against Irish terrorist Tommy Lee Jones in "Blown Away" (1994), a critical flop that still did modest business. His follow-up, "Wild Bill" (1995), an eccentric "art western" from writer-director Walter Hill, earned Bridges some enthusiastic kudos, but it barely even received a release. Although Bridges delivered the goods as the tough, but fair skipper of a floating prep school in Ridley Scott's lusciously photographed "White Squall" (1996), the involving, well-acted, coming-of-age sea saga sank at the box office. Later that year, Bridges showed off his impressive comic timing as Barbra Streisand's buttoned-down platonic paramour in the old-fashioned romantic comedy, "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996). During production, rumors abounded of friction between Bridges and Streisand, but both stars downplayed the reports as merely idle gossip.
For his next project, Bridges did what he did best - make a 180 degree turn to transform himself into the overweight, greasy-haired, burnt-out, beach bum-cum-bowler in the Coen Brothers now classic comedy, "The Big Lebowski" (1998). Weirdly engaging in his role as 'The Dude' - described by the narrator as "the laziest man in Los Angeles County" - Bridges was initially hesitant to take the role of the reefer-toking, white Russian-swilling Dude, because he did not want it to appear as if he condoned drug use. Thankfully for fans of the "The Big Lebowski," Bridges wound up changing his mind. The film became an instant cult classic - even more, after being released to home video/DVD. Leaving the Dude's bloated physique behind, Bridges slipped back into a more comfortable guise for his next role of the rumpled professor in the thriller "Arlington Road" (1999). In it, Bridges plays a paranoid academician whose discourses on domestic terrorism lead him to believe that his new neighbors are up to no good. Despite those two superb back-to-back performances, Bridges was back to being underused again in "The Muse" (1999), in which he played an Oscar-winning screenwriter who introduces his best friend (Albert Brooks) to Sharon Stone's title character. Rounding out the year, Bridges and Stone reteamed as a millionaire racehorse breeder and his alcoholic wife in "Simpatico," adapted from the Sam Shepard play.
The new millennium saw Bridges expanding his artistic horizons. An accomplished photographer in his spare time, Bridges had his evocative behind-the-scenes photo memoirs from films like "White Squall" published in Premiere magazine, and later, explored his longtime musical interests by releasing his debut album, Be Here Now in 2000. Despite the inevitable slings and arrows from wary critics who called the album a vanity project, Bridges handled the record with the very same level of Everyman dignity with which he approached his acting roles. Indeed, the participation of such musical heavyweights as Michael McDonald and David Crosby lent the album its share of gravitas. Later that year, Bridges returned to the big screen to play the deceptively shrewd and manipulative U.S. President Jackson Evans in the political drama, "The Contender" (2000). The actor followed that up with a role in director Iain Softley's "K-Pax" (2001), a science-fiction drama co-starring Kevin Spacey. In it, Bridges played Dr. Mark Powell, an earnest psychiatrist who comes to doubt his own diagnosis of a seemingly delusional patient (Spacey) who claims he is from another planet. Bridges was especially enjoyable in his next picture, the Gary Ross-directed "Seabiscuit" (2003), in which he played wealthy financier, Charles Howard. Summoning a winning synthesis of his previous character, Preston Tucker, and his own father, Lloyd Bridges, Bridges breathed life into the optimistic, but grief-tempered character of Howard, the man responsible for bankrolling the famed 20th Century racehorse. Although the brisk pace of the film did not allow Bridges to fully explore his character's extreme emotional depths, the actor effectively conveyed Howard's entrepreneurial spirit.
Almost simultaneously, Bridges appeared in the quirky comedy-drama, "Masked & Anonymous" (2003), the story of a singer-songwriter who emerges from obscurity to stage a benefit concert. The movie starred Bob Dylan - who also handled the directing chores - as singer Jack Fate and Bridges as Tom Friend, a jaded and bitter veteran music journalist covering the concert. Bridges' maintained his steady output well into the decade, starring in an average of about one film per year. After a co-starring turn in director Terry Gilliam's underperforming fantasy, "Tideland" (2005), Bridges starred in the gymnastics-themed sports comedy "Stick It" (2006). The following year, Bridges lent his voice to his first animated project "Surf's Up" (2007), an ambitious CGI-animated feature comedy about championship penguin surfers. After several years without a major studio feature, Bridges finally emerged to co-star in "Iron Man" (2008), the first mega-success of that summer. He played Obadiah Stane, second in command at Stark Industries, which manufactures high-tech weaponry sold around the world. But when the company's prodigal son, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), decides not to sell weapons after being held captive in Afghanistan, where he developed an iron suit designed to thwart violence, Stane attempts a hostile takeover that leads to stealing the Iron Man blueprints and designing his own bigger version. Aside from being a part of a strong cast that also included Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Terrence Howard as Rhodey, Bridges was able to live out his dream of shaving his head and growing a beard, making him look like a cross between Daddy Warbucks and the Gorton's Fisherman.
Following a co-starring role opposite George Clooney in the political satire misfire, "The Men Who Stare at Goats" (2009), Bridges earned considerable acclaim for his starring performance in "Crazy Heart" (2009). He played an alcoholic country-western singer who receives a new lease on life with the help of a young journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a rising young contemporary country star (Colin Farrell). The actor earned several critics awards nominations, as well as nods from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit awards for Best Actor. When he won the Golden Globe, he was given an unexpected standing ovation for his long overdue win. Shortly after, he also received recognition from his peers by earning the SAG Best Actor award, as well as the Academy Award for Best Actor. Meanwhile, Bridges made a rare small screen appearance when he starred in "A Dog Year" (HBO, 2010), playing a man whose life is turned upside down after taking in a border collie crazier than he is. The actor earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - the first such honor of his career. Back on the big screen, Bridges had large shoes to fill when he took on John Wayne's Oscar-winning role of Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's take on "True Grit" (2010), which they adapted more faithfully from the novel than the 1969 version. Bridges delivered the goods as an alcoholic U.S. Marshal who escorts a 14-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) on her quest for vengeance following the murder of her father by a drifter (Josh Brolin), earning Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.
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Bridges heads his own production company called As Is Productions.
"Sometimes, just on his own, Jeff Bridges is enough to make a picture worth seeing. . . . He may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor who ever lived; physically, it's as if he had spent his life in the occupation of each character. He's the most American--the loosest--of all the young actors. . . If he has a profile, we're not aware of it. . . . Jeff Bridges just moves into a role and lives in it--so deep in it that the little things seem to come straight from the character's soul." --Pauline Kael, from The New Yorker review of "The Last American Hero (1973), quoted in "Jeff Bridges: Blast Action Hero" July 15, 1994.
"There are still waters that run very deep in him. On the set when we were working, he showed the ultimate respect of one actor for another. . . . He saw you, heard you and was totally repsonsive through every take." --Mercedes Ruehl discussing working with Bridges on "The Fisher King" in Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1991.
"It's time to recognize Mr. Bridges as the most underappreciated great actor of his generation. Although he approached this potentially showy role without fanfare or ostentation, he has managed to transform himself to an astonishing degree. Looking muscular and mean, sporting chest-length, unkempt hair and a prominent tattoo, he sheds all of the guileless optimism that once colored so many of his performances, instead becoming a sour, suspicious failure who seems lost beyond hope. . . ." --Janet Maslin, "Father and Son Find Each Other Again" [a review of "American Heart"], The New York Times, May 14, 1993.
"Look, I know there are articles about how underappreciated I am, how I'm not a big enough star. I've read them. But I FEEL appreciated. I'm having a GREAT career. I'm getting paid a lot of money. I'm getting a variety of roles. I'm doing what I want to do. What's the problem?" --Jeff Bridges quoted in Entertainment Weekly, July 15, 1994.
"I am lucky because I haven't had any huge box-office hits, and yet I'm able to work with great directors, actors and writers, Maybe it's because I don't have a strong screen persona. I try to play a mix of characters and to do a variety of films." --Bridges quoted in "Pistol-Packing Papa" by Michele Shapiro, Time Out New York, November 29-December 6, 1995.
Bridges has exhibited his paintings and photographs in galleries in Los Angeles and Montana.
"Somehow, he never became a s--theel actor. I've never, ever heard of him pulling a star turn, or showing any ego.
"He was a pro when I met him, and he's only gotten better with the years. I'd work with him on every picture if I could. What can I say? I love the guy." --Peter Bogdanovich, to Larry Worth in the New York Post, March 3, 1998.
"I certainly have taken my cue from my father as far as my approach to the work. He has a very strong work ethic. It was great seeing how he approached the work. When he's on the set and he makes everybody feel appreciated and respected and important, you just kind of pick up on that. Acting, because of my dad, came pretty easy to me. The hard part, getting your foot in the door, was kind of handled by my dad having a hit TV series. But I had made seven or eight movies before I really decided that acting was what I wanted to do."
"The turning point for me was really on 'The Iceman Cometh'. I'd just finished 'The Last American Hero'. Usually after a film, you have this feeling where you don't ever want to do it again. I was feeling like that, and then I got offered 'Iceman Cometh' the next week, with Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, and Fredric March, directed by John Frankenheimer. And I said, 'Ya know, I'm too tired. I don't want to do it.' I felt like being lazy. Then Lamont Johnson, who directed 'The Last American Hero', called up and read me the riot act. He said, 'You call yourself an actor? You got this great opportunity and you just turn it down? You're totally crazy.' So I decided to do a little experiment on myself and work when I didn't feel like it because that's what pros are supposed to do, right? And it turned out to be a wonderful experience." --Bridges, to Jay Carr in the Boston Globe, March 1, 1998.
"My first memory of acting was being thrown off the Malibu pier in ice-cold water and having to recite my lines [for a guest spot on 'Sea Hunt' at age 8]. He [Lloyd Bridges] taught me all the basics of acting whan I was just a little kid. I remember him sitting me up on the bed and going through it all for hours at a time. He was definitely my teacher.
". . . We called my mother the General because she held it all together. My mom, being so grounded and having such a secure base, allowed my father to be a kite. She would hold the string and he'd go flying out into the wind. That's the example I take of how they did it." --Bridges, quoted in People, July 26, 1999.
"I've been writing music since I was a teenager and jamming with my buddies all through the years, and there was a while there much earlier on in my life when I thought I might pursue music as my career. I always take a guitar and keyboard to different movie [sets] and have always written songs." --From the Chicago Sun-Times, March 19, 2000.
Bridges on accusations that his album is a vanity project: "Some people will think that. I guess you could look at it that way. Vanity? I dig my music, I love to play music more than I love listening to it. I get so much joy from my music that I guess it is a vanity project. But the proof is in the album and everyone has to make their own assessment of it.
"The music comes from the same place as the acting. I also do ceramics, I paint, I dance, I sing -- I'm a creative person and this is just another outlet for me." --quoted in New York Post, February 25, 2000.
Jeff Bridges' official web site, which features his music and visual art pieces as well as commentary on his acting, is accessible via www.jeffbridges.com.
"I really like it the way it is. It's kind of great. Yes, there's a downside to, you know, fame and all that stuff not only can it hassle your private life but I think as far as the work goes I really enjoy kind of disappearing into the character, not having too strong a persona or to be so..."---Bridges on his level of fame to Larry King CNN November 16, 2003
"For a long while I kind of resisted going into acting, and part of that reason was that my dad [Lloyd Bridges] was a well-established actor, and I thought I was just getting work because my dad got me in the door. That's the toughest part about acting, I think, getting your foot in the door, and my father certainly handled some of that for me."---Bridges on getting into acting to Premiere July/August 2004
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