December 6th, 2010
Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides
About the Film

American Masters opens its 25th season with Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides giving viewers an unexpected window into the life of the actor whose easy going style has endeared him to audiences for almost 40 years. The 90-minute film, airing nationally Wednesday, January 12 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), debuts less than a year after Bridges’ game-changing Best Actor Academy Award-winning role as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. It also coincides with his return to the screen in Tron Legacy – reprising his role as Kevin Flynn from Tron (1982) – and as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers, reuniting him with The Big Lebowski (1998) writer-directors, where his iconic role as “the Dude” originated.

“Jeff Bridges is one of our greatest screen actors,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, a seven-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series. “He has an incredible body of work but most of us didn’t know that he is, truly, a modern Renaissance Man, widely and wildly talented in, seemingly, all of the arts.”

Once called “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived” by the über-critic Pauline Kael, Jeff Bridges has been plying his craft most of his life. With his first role as an infant in The Company She Keeps and a childhood television debut in his father Lloyd’s television series Sea Hunt, he burst onto the silver screen in The Last Picture Show in 1971 and was immediately recognized with a Best Supporting Actor nomination – the first of his five Oscar nominations.

Bridges has created original and memorable characters in notable films, emblematic of every generation and genre. To name but a few – The Last Picture Show (1971), Starman (1984) , The Fabulous Baker Boys(1989), The Fisher King (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998) … and, of course Crazy Heart (2009). Featured in The Dude Abides are clips from these and several other Bridges’ films, including Against All Odds (1984), Tucker (1988), Texasville (1990), The Contender (2000), Tron Legacy and True Grit

Helping to illuminate time and place in Bridges’ work are on-screen interviews with the directors Terry Gilliam, Taylor Hackford and Peter Bogdanovich; the actors Robin Williams, Robert Duvall, John Goodman and Stacey Keach; the actresses Cybil Shephard, Mercedes Ruehl and Karen Allen; the musicians T-Bone Burnett and Michael McDonald.

Hailing from an illustrious Hollywood family, with the pervasiveness of the ‘business’ all around him, Bridges was raised with values and an authenticity that negated Tinsel Town’s influences and, by all accounts, retains a genuine and unaffected demeanor, despite his celebrity. His firm and steady ties to his parents and siblings is replicated in his own decades-long marriage, his relationship with his three daughters and strong friendships that date back to childhood. His brother Beau, his wife Susan and his sister Cindy are among those who add their personal touches to Bridges’ story.

Bridges exemplifies traits and interests far beyond his brilliance as an actor. He is a talented musician – recently touring with his band The Abiders – a photographer, painter, potter and occasional vintner. He helped found the End Hunger Network in 1983 and continues to work with Share Our Strength, a foundation trying to eradicate childhood hunger.

Known for taking on-set still photographs of cast and crew during all of his recent movies, Bridges puts together an original album after wrapping and presents a copy to everyone. His photographs have been shown in galleries in Los Angeles, New York and London. He uses the Widelux camera, pioneered in France, and wrote about it in his 2003 volume Pictures. “It is a fickle mistress ….. it has arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in my work …. a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment …. getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.”

Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides is a production of THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET. Gail Levin is director and writer. The producers are Neil Koenigsberg, Nikki Silver and Orly Wiseman. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Jack Rudin, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and public television viewers.

  • Madeline Des Jardins

    I’m really excited about this program! It sounds like it will be a fantastic piece that will allow some extra insight into the life of a man who is a truly remarkable person.

    I look forward to viewing it! :)

  • joan smith

    i cannot wait to see this show. jeff bridges is truly one of the most talented and creative people in show business today. i can’t describe the excitement at seeing his oscar win last year. he truly is an american master. kudos pbs

  • Zadie Durkee

    I knew tonight was a good night to surf the net and land on PBS!! I can hardly wait to see this program. I have been a long time fan of Jeff Bridges. For awhile it seemed as though Jeff Bridges was under rated and under appreciated. His body of work is just extraordinary! Oh boy PBS! Thank you.

  • carla trujillo

    I would love to see it but it will not be shown on KCET.

  • Tammy

    I saw this tonight in a Los Angeles screening. You will not be disappointed.

  • J. Lebowski

    Thanks PBS.

    Now to get the white russians and Sioux City Sasparillas ready – just gotta find a cash machine first.

  • willard Phillips

    Bridges is a movie star not an actor. He plays himself in all of his fims. Remaking True Grit is ridiculous. Remaking it with Bridges playing Wayne’s role is stupid.

  • David

    The dude does abide!

  • Karl Laslo

    A way out west there was a fella, fella I want to tell you about, fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski. At least, that was the handle his lovin’ parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. This Lebowski, he called himself the Dude. Now, Dude, that’s a name no one would self-apply where I come from. But then, there was a lot about the Dude that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. And a lot about where he lived, like- wise. But then again,
    maybe that’s why I found the place s’durned innarestin…

  • Larry Sellers

    Thank you PBS! You really did your Homework this time. While I may never be Branded a fan of Lebowski, I will always admire

  • Larry Sellers

    Thank you PBS! You really did your Homework this time. While I may never be Branded a fan of Lebowski, I wmust admire the work of Jeff Bridges.

  • patricia quinn

    I respect him for his talent, lifestyle and humility. He is a true movie star and artist.

  • Christine Horner

    I’ve been in love with Jeff Bridges for years. Not only is he one of the most grounded artists around, he is a happily married man to a beautiful woman. Hmm… could they possibly be related? I will enjoy this presentation very much. Thank you for thinking of me, PBS. :)

  • Chris Hall

    Will this be available to stream online? If so, can you tell us when? I’d love to watch it but don’t have any TV service where I live.

  • Bob Workmon

    Does UNCTV have plans for broadcasting the American Masters Jeff Bridges tribute? I noticed you’re NOT airing it tonight, as advertised by PBS.

  • Ryan Douglas

    What is the name of the macabre book that shows pictures of limbs, etc. that they mention in american master? Who is the author?

  • Eleanor

    What was the name of the photographer jeff bridges liked, the one who was meant to illustrate his “dark side”? The photos were disturbing and fascinating, and I’d like to see more.

  • jimmy beasley sr

    The Dude will allways abide he’s my generation’s. John wayne

  • ted shuler jr

    An amazing and wonderful look at one of the most uniquely talented individuals of our time. Jeff Bridges is truly one-of-kind! Keep it up Jeff, it’s inspiring to us!

  • George Fischer

    Just watched it. Wow, had no idea that Jeff encompasses such a wide spectrum abilities. Great documentary, enjoyed it a lot. Thank you.

  • bill

    I remember spending time with Jeff and Beau and Cindy over 30 years ago in Bear Valley. My daugter spent a summer in France helping to care for Cindy’s then young son. she loved the Bridges family then and still remembers their love and caring. The American Masters has done a great job of profiling Jeff.

  • Susan Heldman

    thank you pbs. i have been waiting for this day. everyone needs to meet a “Jeff Bridges”

    hey Jeff, i will never forget the day you sat in my chair. Century City/Dr. Hoffman’s office. MY FAVORITE ACTOR in my chair. sweeeeeet!

  • Patrick Birkett

    It was great reviewing the extraordinary range of performances that mark the verry special career of jeff bridges.Thebonus for me was to be seen in the clip showing the crowd scene from Seabiscuit..Needless to say I will be ordering a copy of this film.

  • Ian Renga

    Congratulations to Gail Levin on an outstandingly concise and revealing look at Santa Barbara’s pride and joy. I still recall floating in a dinghy next to Marina One at the Santa Barbara Harbor in 1980 while they filmed Cutter’s Way, catching a glimpse or two of the actors at work, knowing for certain that I wanted to be up there with them in some capacity. Jeff became the unofficial ‘dude’ of Santa Barbara all those years ago. I look forward to the Abiders’ next concert at the Lobero! Great job PBS!

  • W. Lee Shane

    About The Film: aired last night and it was insightful without sentiment, I learned not only about Jeff Bridges, his life, his talent, his process but to my surprise about myself. A fan for many years, if I had to pick one performance: Jack in “The Fisher King” still leaves me mesmerized in its balance of intensity and subtlety. Now I know why I have found this gentle giant of life and film is so engaging, he’s a hero on a journey not so different than mine in some respects and I look forward whatever is next.

  • Laurie

    What was the name of that crazy book with all the disturbing photos?

  • Mark Stidham

    I really enjoyed seeing this show. Very well put together. Left me wanting a whole lot more.

  • Paul W. Ernst

    Bridges is a phenomenal talent! “The Dude Abides” is a wonderful compilation of the work and his contributions, but I was surprised that “Wild Bill” wasn’t mentioned in this film. No one has ever portrayed Hickock so perfectly.

  • Bobby

    Thanks for the brilliant documentary on the career of one of Ameriica’s great all time renaissance artists. PBS ought to have a retrospective of all of Jeff Bridges’ films. What is the name of the Zen Koan teacher?

  • Laurie

    This was a fantastic film. I sorely missed seeing his portrayal of the dark serial killer in The Vanishing (Sandra Bullock played one of her first “big” roles in this), the remake of the very dull Parisian film. His character was SO BELIEVABLE and frightening, whereas, Crazy Heart was a bit too “Jeffy” for my taste, but I’m glad he and the fans enjoyed it. Also I missed the scene in Lebowski where he retrieves the car at the impound lot, God that was funny! Guess I’m stuck watching both of these films AGAIN very soon, bummer for me, hahaha. Thanks for a GREAT SHOW!

  • Sara M. Quinn

    I don’t see my comment posted that I left after viewing the program last night. I think the omission of any portion of the Michael McDonald interview was an error. These two guys have been friends and worked together for years and were/are both involved with Runt, a recording company that demonstrates Mr. Bridges long-time involvement in the music industry, That should have been explored during the program, and, at the very LEAST, deserves an outtake spot online. They are also both well-known for their charitable endeavors.

    Again, I ask, especially after viewing the online interview with Mr. Bridges, why no shout-out to Mr. Bridges during the program about the End Hunger Network? It should have been showcased, since Mr. Bridges clearly stated that speaking about the End Hunger Network was a pivitol reason for agreeing to be the subject for the American Masters program. Again, the interview I saw this week by Tavis Smiley was more in character with Mr. Bridges’ obvious philosophy: his celebrity is about what he can do to help (long-time involvement with End Hunger Network and now Share Our Strength)) not just a chance for him to bask in the glow of PBS’ adoration.

    Unlike my last comment, are you going to post this comment, or do you only post kudos?

  • Judith

    I viewed the episode on Jeff Bridges last night and loved it. I’ve been trying to find on your website when this episode might be shown again so my husband can catch it. Unless it won’t be shown again (which I cannot imagine), I cannot navigate your site and find the answer to my question.

  • Michele

    Thank you SO much for doing an American Masters with Jeff Bridges. The DUDE himself!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. He’s such a terrific guy. So talented. I was amused to see how eccentric he is! who knew!? Absolutely great show. Hope it airs again so those who may have missed it will see it. It’s a “gotta see”!

  • Sara M. Quinn

    I misstated my reference to the McDonald-Bridges record label. It is Ramp Records, not Runt. Ramp Records released Mr. McDonald’s album “Blue Obsession” and Mr. Bridges’ album “Be Here Soon” in 2000. Ramp has also released work by John Goodwin, friend and colleague to both Mr. McDonald and Mr. Bridges.

    I just think reference should have been made on the American Masters’ program to Mr. Bridges’ record label, if it were truly showing the breadth of his professional musical engagement, adding to his luster as an authentic Renaissance Man.

  • Name of Artist who Bridges showed book to Gilliam

    Joel Peter Witkin

  • Jeff King

    joel peter witkin

    name of artist who bridges showed book of work to gilliam

  • Tonni

    This gives great insite as to how Jeff is able to take on each roll with so much detail, and seems to find so much to give us in each person he portrays. Really enjoyed learning details and history of the music from the movie Crazy Heart.

  • Michael

    I watched this program Wednesday evening and I got up early this morning just to watch it again. Jeff Bridges is always been one of my favorites and I appreciate you doing an ” American Master” on him, ” The Dude Abides”

  • Mike K

    The name of the photographer that Terry Gilliam refers to when discussing Bridges’s “dark” side is Joel-Peter Witkin. His work is very macabre but also quite haunting and beautiful.

  • Nietzsche

    the best movie ever!

  • Jane

    Beautiful piece done on Jeff Bridges!!! What what a treat to see someone so talented, so grounded, and so “normal.” American Masters, keep up the great work. Programs like this one truly uplift the world of television, thank you.

  • David Leikam

    A great creative Artist indeed! Also, the photographer mentioned during Jeff’s “Darkside” section of this beautiful documentary is a Joel-Peter Witkin’s photo macabre book.

  • Deborah

    This just was not long enough. I really enjoyed it and each time I see him on a program, I’m amazed at how multifaceted he is.

  • Robin

    I also loved this documentary. I have watched it twice so far. It was beautifully done and made me like and respect Jeff Bridges even more! I enjoyed hearing from the other actors, such as Joan Allen, not to mention Beau Bridges.

    I am one of the many people who’s been trying to find the name of the photographer whose book Terry Gilliam talks about in the film — the book of crazy disturbing photographs that Jeff showed him. Can someone help? Thanks!

  • Robin

    Found it!

    Joel-Peter Witkin is the name of the photographer Terry Gilliam talks about.

  • larry lecain

    Gail Levin Rules! Romantic without sentiment. Great presentation of a wonderful subject. Much deeper than I remembered.

  • mariljohn

    Fantastic program! I never knew that Jeff was such a renaissance man — actor, photographer, artist, musician, sculptor — he does it all! And the very best thing is that he has stayed out of the celebrity party scene and remained true and loyal to his wife of 35+ years. That is MY kind of man!!! I love this guy, and just ordered his photography book from Amazon — maybe one of these days I can see him at a personal appearance and get it autographed. He is really a class act.

  • Texas Rana

    I watched this and was glued to the TV for entire piece. I had no idea he was so gifted. Incredible talent and continues to search himself. He is so humble and down to earth. He has a new fan.

  • elizabeth robertson

    Great show, but disappointed that Mr. Bridge’s passion for ending hunger in America was left out. No interviews with his daughters. Cybill Sheppard received more air time then the woman who has been with him since the age of 24, and married to him since 1977. I thought that was a disservice to the woman behind the man.

  • Roberta Amico

    So upset that I forgot to watch this. Saw Jeff perform in Phoenix. Was Terrific!! Need to see this – when will this be aired again?

  • Thomas Marino

    The name of the photographer is Joel-Peter Witkin… I am the director of a new Documentary about Joel-Peter Witkin and I would love to interview Mr. Bridges for the film. If you’re interested in learning more about the film you can do a search for the title, “Joel-Peter Witkin: An Objective Eye”.

  • Phil Wissbeck

    You forgot King Kong one of his best!

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