Speaker Jeff is one of the real people in show business, and there aren’t that many. He’s a real person.
Speaker He’s also such a great actor that you never catch him acting sort of like sort of like him being the president in The Contender, where he’s constantly trying to order food to catch up. The chef never catches off the chef.
Speaker He just he just has an ability to immerse himself into the role to such a degree that he he doesn’t appear to be acting. He’s being and it’s considering the range that he’s accomplished in his career. From playing the president to playing the guy in The Big Lebowski, I mean, and you don’t catch him acting, you know.
Speaker Let’s go back, though, and let’s start at the beginning, which is really one picture for both of you in this picture show was your second, and I think it was his second film. Would you say I mean, talking as a director now, talking to somebody who’s casting really early in your career, and that casting is every every person, every morsel of that film is so on the mark. When you saw him, he was utterly unformed, completely unformed, even if he had the pedigree of this family. What was your I mean, here he was bright, shiny new last picture show.
Speaker Jeff was 19 when he came in to see us and. I think he got the part before he said hello, but he was just so right for the part in many different ways, what was most interesting was that was really casting against type, because Jeff is one of the nicest people and you’ll ever meet. He’s just a really a mensch. He’s a sweet, sweet guy, very giving a loving person and the character of Duane. In The Last Picture Show is almost nothing he does is sweet or nice or really likeable.
Speaker He beats up his friend, the he.
Speaker Lies when he’s confronted with a situation, I mean, not nothing on paper, he’s not a nice guy. So I thought, Jeff, I could tell immediately just talking to him, because I like to talk to actors for a while before they read, if they read at all. And I could tell he was just a really sweet guy, a real nice guy. So I thought taking a real nice guy like Jeff.
Speaker And putting him in a role that’s ambiguous at best would create an interesting tension between the actor and the character and would give us something interesting, and it did. So the culminating moment in the movie when he when he admits to Sunny that he’s not still not over J.C., I ain’t over yet the damnedest thing. I ain’t over yet. Your heart goes out to him because you realize. He’s a kid and he makes mistakes. But he’s a decent person, but that all comes from Jeff, it’s not in the writing.
Speaker He he’s he’s alongside extraordinary performances in that film as well. He’s alongside Timothy Barton, the sunny character is exactly sort of the other side of this. He is the one that your heart goes out to. He is the one that elicits sort great. So he sort of go along with him. He’s alongside Sibylle, this is a first for her. This is a first for him in a way.
Speaker Yes, Sybil and Jeff had a very intense relationship for a while.
Speaker They were very close. And then things changed.
Speaker Jeff went away for a week for Army training and next thing you know, so when I got together, which was a surprise to me. And I remember when Jeff took it well, when he came back, he. I remember him warning me that. Things were a little dangerous there.
Speaker He was right and effective in the actual character itself.
Speaker Jeff goes after the Army, I mean, yes, he went off to the army.
Speaker He was good. He was also a joy to work with I mean, you couldn’t ask for a more sympathetic actor or one who understands the business and understands the. The process of making a movie, you know, even then, oh, yeah, he was a pro right from the right, from the.
Speaker Go, one of the things that’s also not to say this, and now that one looks at Texasville. Twenty years later in the making. Yeah, 20 years later about and everybody there is still and sort of even now, just a little insight giving to me about Jeff and Sybil. You sort of see it. You sort of see it. I mean, you see it in the characters. But now that you see it, I see it in the people.
Speaker Um, well, Larry, when he wrote Texasville McMurtry. When he wrote Texasville. I was thinking I had to be thinking somewhat about the actors that had played in Picture Show. I mean, he’ll he’ll probably deny that, but. Uh, it you couldn’t you could not, and he dedicated the book to Civil because he was in love with her to. Everybody was Sunny admitted later on Texasville, Tim Bottoms admitted later he was in love with her two. Why didn’t you tell me, Sugar?
Speaker She said. Oh, well, anyway, uh.
Speaker Jeff was and is a concert, some consummate actor, and he was he was, as I said, he was he was there right from the beginning.
Speaker The interesting trajectory for him in going from last picture to, uh, to Texasville and as I was saying when you came to me, that he’s hoping that there’s going to be this third one.
Speaker Well, he really liked he did. So Jeff did something very unusual in my experience. He wrote me a long letter after a picture show, but he didn’t give it to me until. Tell Texasville. Which is 19 years later, he wrote this letter to me, telling me how much the experience meant to him. He never mailed it. But I gave it to me and I have it. It was a very touching letter.
Speaker So it must have meant a great deal to him to have this opportunity to also come back with you and you deserve this guy.
Speaker Yes, and he was very keen to have the entire cast, he said, and he said, let’s not do unless we get everybody back. So he helped us get everybody back because. There was some reluctance from Tim, I think. But he everybody came back and it was a very odd experience going back there. Nineteen years later, same town, all of us, 19 years older, quite a bit of different things that happened in our lives that I had lived with Sybil for nine years and. Then we had broken up, she just had twins with somebody else. It was strange, it was strange to be in the same place again and Jeff was playing and they were all playing older, they weren’t playing themselves. Twenty years later, they were playing themselves. Thirty years later and Jeff, I remember Jeff telling me that he had a hard time nailing the character until and what the character should wear and how he should behave. And he was in his trailer and it was knock on his door and he opened it. And there was a guy standing there whose name I can’t remember, a local. And Jeff took one look at him and said, that’s Dwayne with the pencils in his pocket and he just wanted to have the guy’s outfit, he said, Can I wear your clothes?
Speaker Well, you know, the thing I’ve sort of read and heard him say things about clothes and how important sort of that aspect is for him in terms of, you know, in terms of embodying this thing. And yet he embodied that. That is I think it’s a magnificent performance. Oh, yeah. I mean, you feel like you walk into that office with him. You feel like, you know, Cloris Leachman now in this role of this bookkeeper for him, I felt in some ways I was seeing this. Johnny Allen was here this morning and I was talking about sort of this Midwestern us about him, which is sort of very something I’m very conscious of. I grew up in the Midwest. You feel like. I feel like I knew that I felt I know that bookkeeper. She worked for my dad. You know, here here is my dad when my dad was 50 years old. You know, in a funny way, my dad wasn’t a cowboy guy, but it was this sort of. Your openness, this openness about him and openness in the character and openness in the. You’re right, you keep those you don’t really know exactly. You actually think you’re in that office.
Speaker Yeah, well, that’s that’s Jeff’s great talent. They never seems to be acting the script. The book was I mean, Larry is a hell of a writer. There’s nobody writes better regional dialogue than Larry McMurtry. But I think it is very, very good in Europe. That’s great. Yeah, but it’s all Larry’s dialogue is very good.
Speaker You know, he’s the best regional dialogue since Mark Twain, I think.
Speaker You just you kill for dialogue like that, so I constructed the script because the book was way too long to do as a movie, but but it was all Larry’s dialogue.
Speaker I might have put in a but or an end or something.
Speaker One of my favorite moments on that picture, because Jeff gets very into the role and I notice that in the 19 years that had passed, he got even more into the role than he had on a picture show. To the point where I made a joke one time. I came up to him and I said loudly, I want to talk to Jeff.
Speaker And he when he hears your.
Speaker It feels I mean, he does feel like that he inhabits the character, he inhabits the character.
Speaker It’s certainly I mean, the Texas House, it’s funny, I was watching it.
Speaker I just watched it again. I was watching it, looking at him and seeing that Blake I mean, this predates that film by two decades also. And yet, in a funny way, he looks he he he looks exactly sort of the way he does and crazy hard.
Speaker Well, he was playing older and he played older. The thing is, the the released version of Texasville, the studio release version of Texasville, is twenty five minutes shorter than it should be. And some of the scenes that are missing from my cut and there’s a long reason why it was shortened. Well, the studio had promised to reissue The Last Picture Show prior to issuing Texasville because Picture Show is not available on home video yet. Nobody seen it in 20 years except on television, so there was no way to get it. And so we wanted to put it in theaters again with a slightly longer version, about six minutes longer, a picture show, and then after that was all over the country, then put Texasville out in theaters and would have been a dynamite production, would have been a dynamite effect. Quentin Tarantino saw the two long versions of the films back to back with a five minute break. He said it’s the most extraordinary, one of the most extraordinary moviegoing experiences of his career to see the same cast 20 years older. Thirty years older in the story, and unfortunately, the studio sort of went back on the promise and it didn’t happen. And so we had to cut a lot of things out of Texasville that just wouldn’t work if you hadn’t seen Picture Show recently. I was sad. And it’s a real shame because some of Jeff’s best scenes weren’t, because what happened is we ended up with a more of a comedy picture than the original version, which had almost a lot of the more soulful scenes got cut out.
Speaker Is it possible to get I mean, could we ever see any of that?
Speaker Well, it’s available on it was available on Pioneer LaserDisc.
Speaker Yeah, we have a copy of it, but we’ve been trying and trying to get MGM to let us re re re reconstruct the picture. And we haven’t succeeded, but we will one day.
Speaker Oh, I mean, it’s that kind of heartbreak to think that it would.
Speaker Well, it’s a much better film, much better film.
Speaker And yet this film is rather poignant to this film is I mean, I understand. And you can you can see the humor in it, of course. Great. There’s great moments of humor in it, but there’s also amazing DVD, a heart wrenching character in this. And he and create something in this character that you don’t see coming out of the character as a young guy. You know, you see that sort of that sort of, I don’t know, disregard or sort of the way he is a young guy character. And then and here’s this guy, a tortured guy. This guy is kind of, you know, just not comfortable. And it’s it’s it is a very sort of sad delling, I thought.
Speaker Yes. It’s an interesting it’s an interesting spin on the character that existed.
Speaker Larry wrote it very well, of course, and Jeff played it extraordinarily when you when you sort of take this on or took this on, also this trajectory now, right now. Do you feel and do you hope that there can yet still be another another?
Speaker Well, I think there could be a third one. Larry has written three books that put the same characters. So we have a lot to choose from. Dwayne’s depressed. His of is would probably be the natural sequel. The third one, Jeff and I are talking about it. I know he wants to go back there one more time. And I think a trilogy is.
Speaker It’s probably better than not how and how would you end up saying that it was odd to go back then? How do you feel now that’s sort of going back again?
Speaker Will it be even more odd and more poignant? I hope we all survive it.
Speaker Well, you all have. I mean, and the other person who’s extraordinary in this film in tandem with him is Annie Pops.
Speaker Yeah, Annie Annie came in to read and Jeff said she’s the one. I said, you’re right. Yeah, she was great.
Speaker He was great, wonderful actress and their whole the whole thing that was just extraordinary in the face, and she fit into it in just the right way.
Speaker We had a screening of the long version actually on LaserDisc, which isn’t the greatest way to project the film down in Dallas. When they gave me an award, about 300 people saw it that way and they loved it, I.
Speaker It he told a story I just happened to see this. Well, his photography is something we should also talk about because you also wrote the foreword for his book and the photography is wonderful. And he’s got great pictures of you in that book and great pictures on a great Texasville time. But he was telling a story about the kid who was the grandchild being stuck up in the dish in places like this. And he went to come down and he said he wouldn’t come down and he wouldn’t come down. So you went with the prop man. And went off and got a bunch of plates and glued them onto a board. Do you remember this? And brought them back and said to the kid, if you come down, you can hammer and break these plates. And of course, the kid came down. So Jeff was talking about this in terms of just such masterful thinking on your part as a director to sort of be able to elicit and how do we get out of the performance that you needed to get out of the performance and that just sort of on. So, I mean, I think his regard for you is also quite deep and quite profound.
Speaker Well, we love each other. We respect each other and. You know, there’s never I’ve never worked with a better actor, let me put it that way, and I work with some really good actors. Nobody better than Joe.
Speaker What is that process for the two of you, though?
Speaker I mean, is it we talk about things. I mean, we we talk about the scene before it happens. And talk it over, and sometimes I’ll have to say anything, and sometimes I talk quite a bit. Sometimes he talks, we just talk about it. I remember I got into a big fight with the director of photography because of Jeff and I went for a long walk. Just before we did that scene, when he says, I ain’t over yet the damnedest thing, and I got him ready for that scene and we went and shot it and right. And it was a first take was called and I said, you know, we got it. Let’s walk away. And the director of photography came out and said, no, we have to retake it because that was underexposed. I said, well, why would it be underexposed? Well, the sun moved while you were walking. I said, what didn’t you notice? And he got very upset with me, he almost quit, so we had to do it again. And it was it was it was good. I didn’t think was quite as good as the first take.
Speaker Well, I think that that’s a good thing.
Speaker But I always wondered, do you could get it if you get it right, you know, you don’t want to do it again. Jeff is became it wasn’t like this on picture show, but by Texasville, he like to do it again and again. He said, let’s watch just one more. Just one more. See, the thing is, Jeff gets so into the role. And he doesn’t remember what he did give and take, he thinks he does, but he doesn’t really because he’s into it. When you’re into it, you’re in the zone, as they say. You’re in the moment to such a degree that you don’t really know what you did, but the minute is over, he wants to do it again because he is one more, one more. And I often would say, Jeff, we got it. Let me just do one more. I would give him always give him one more, except if it involved another actor. I really thought we didn’t need to do it. I remember when cibils big scene when she broke down crying at the end of Texasville and we did the first take and I said, that’s it. Let’s go, let’s go home. And Jeff said, let’s just do one more. I said, I don’t think we can do it better. And this is the one where we started it because Jeff and then like I saw it was getting us nowhere. I said, we got this right. But it comes from being so into it that he. He doesn’t know what he did. He’ll say, let me try it one more time and he’ll do it again, and it’ll always be good. Jeff never gives you a bad take. It’s just that we probably already had the better one earlier with the one other interesting and many interesting things.
Speaker But another very interesting thing to me is that your hand on this picture shown to me is just gentle and perfect. And there’s it’s it’s it’s the most to me. Another film that I often think of that I think is kind of perfect. This is To Kill a Mockingbird in terms of the sense that not everything fits to me just right. And that’s how it feels to me. Last picture show just that you extracted exactly the right amount and there’s no overdoing it. And in particular, I’m actually also thinking of the stain of human civil in the motel, and I mean, that’s an amazing shot when you’re on his face. It’s not working. It’s not working. First of all, a hard shot for a hard thing for a young actor to do, I would think, to try to do this scene and then the subtlety and the tininess of those gestures that he was able to. There again, you are one is just staggered at the sight of are you actually in the room with them or is I watching a film?
Speaker Yeah, that’s try. Jeff is multitalented, you know, he. He’s so talented. That I don’t think he really let himself.
Speaker Go in all the directions that he could go until after his dad died. And I wrote this in my forward to his book of. Pictures, but he asked me to take it out, so I said, now there are two kinds of sons. The son, a good son who loves the father and the son and the other son who loves the father but wants to kill him. Jeff is the kind of son that would never killed his father. And he already became a bigger star during Lloyd Bridges lifetime than Lloyd Bridges had ever been. And I think it was it was and his brother was an actor is an actor. I think he had a responsibility there that he felt the kind of.
Speaker Discomfort with that, and I know he we never talked about it, and this is just my.
Speaker Putting it together because he’s such a giving and and sensitive person. It’s interesting that he didn’t publish his book of pictures until after his father died and he didn’t do as the recording of his singing until after his father died. I think it was unconscious on his part, but I think he just didn’t want to.
Speaker He didn’t want a superstar, he didn’t want to supersede his father to such a degree. And I know and when he gave the Oscar speech, he was very generous to his dad and certainly he gets his talent from his mother and father. Where else would he come from?
Speaker But he he. Went way beyond. What what what Lloyd Bridges did in his life, and I think it troubles Jeff in a funny way.
Speaker Well, and one could also wonder and again, this is just a little speculation, too. It’s also gone way beyond what Bo has. Not even a ball is a terrific actor and a terrific. And this is a this is a very visible family.
Speaker Well, it’s a very it’s a very it’s a show business family. And Lloyd, who is the patriarch and Bo is the older brother and both of them are terrific, solid actors. Jeff just went a little further and became a real movie star as a movie star.
Speaker Yeah, he really is a movie star. I mean, there’s something about that, too. That is absolutely I mean, I. I was saying today he sits down in front of the camera and there’s a there’s another gene there. There’s there’s another there’s more cells in.
Speaker He’s also been a very, very dedicated family man. And I think sometimes he’s. Chosen roles that were less attractive than he could have chosen because he didn’t want to put himself and he didn’t want to be a romantic leading man. He didn’t want that to be his thing.
Speaker Well, he talked about his own reluctance to he says that he always kind of wants not to do it. Then he kind of you kind of box. He always kind of tries to find a reason not to do something. And then he comes back around and thinks about it, doesn’t it? One of the roles that he spoke about that way, actually was the mask, even though I think, you know, I don’t I don’t know. The dude character has so, so filtered into the consciousness of the whole. Era, I think, in the whole consciousness of this country right now. But he said he had a very hard time taking on that character. So he had a conversation with his family about it now and felt like what this embarrassing if I did this, because this guy is really a slug. He’s really kind of a horrible mess of a guy. And I think they were very great in allowing kind of giving him permission to do that.
Speaker Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that. But it doesn’t surprise me because Jeff has been very conscious of his private life and trying to keep that sane and trying to keep his his children from being adversely affected by his fame and and the kind of occupational hazards that acting in movies carries with it.
Speaker And he also, you know, he has this wonderful let’s talk about that a little bit. I know he’s got this we I haven’t not yet met him, but he has this group of people around him who I’m sure you’ve met many John Goodwin.
Speaker Well, Lloyd Caplan, we picked for a picture show because he was the ultimate towny. He was the absolutely looked like the perfect townie. I think he was from ArchCity. Or Wichita Falls, but he was definitely a local kid and he was in the picture, he did a good job, and then he and Jeff, I think, became very good friends because Jeff was interested in Lloyd as a specimen of that. Region and I’m sure he used some things from Lloyd to help him understand the character and then they became friends and Lloyd’s been stand in for ever since.
Speaker And it was nice seeing you show up again in Texas.
Speaker And he was there in Texas. And we wrote a big part. We took two parts and combine them into one for him.
Speaker Well, it’s interesting you say the word specimen of that region, because actually that’s one of the things you also feel about. Both last picture show on Texasville and maybe it carries on again into well into American heart a little bit and into a crazy heart. It does feel like he belongs and somehow that kind of terrain, that kind of lonely, lonesome environment.
Speaker He believes he’s a real Western hero. Jeff Bridges, I mean, he seems to be seems to be a Western hero, even though he hasn’t done many Westerns because Westerns went out of fashion. He did one, I think bad company was a kind of Western and he’s not doing too great. And he did True Grit and he’ll do it. It’ll be a better picture than the John Wayne picture. And that was probably John Wayne’s worst performance. Of course, he won an Oscar for it, but. It was it was over the top, and Jeff never, never will. Jeff will be real. I don’t know what they’ll change, but there was a better book than the movie.
Speaker You know, another little interesting tidbit that I sort of observed with Jeff when we were talking was that of his five Oscar nominations, three of them were first time directors for you. It was just your second film and the only sort of seasoned director he was with in terms of Oscar nominations. John Carpenter, costar, man, there’s something about the choices he’s willing to make that I think is.
Speaker Extraordinary in terms of scripts, and he doesn’t seem to have. He’s not a criminal. He’s not a movie star about that.
Speaker No, he chooses his projects very carefully and I think with an eye toward not repeating himself in terms of the kind of roles he plays, he likes to challenge himself. I mean. People ask me, can you do this, can you do that? He can do anything. Look at the Mirror has two faces with Barbara. I mean, for him to play a schoolteacher, a very dignified Tweedie kind of schoolteacher, that was a stretch. You never seen him do that? I knew he could do it because we talked about my directing that at a certain point. Producer and WAMI.
Speaker But I didn’t want him either. That’s for the public. But.
Speaker But he could do it. That’s the thing, Jeff can do anything. I’m convinced he could do anything he did, Stahmann. Brilliantly, you know, he played in The Jagged Edge. Played a murder and, you know, that picture worked because you didn’t believe he was the killer, and then and then he’s a president and president and then when he was a good president. Yeah, that would be good to have him around the president.
Speaker It would be interesting because I just read that. I just read that again. I was thinking to myself how incredibly relevant that film is right now. And the particular the moment when he is presidential and he makes that speech in the end. Yeah. Boy, does that speech need to get made. I mean, it really is the point of so much. Yeah. So much of this stuff.
Speaker He’s one of a kind.
Speaker Jeff Bridges is absolutely sure. Let me just ask just about other performances of his that you have. I mean, I’m thinking of things like Fat City. I’m thinking of.
Speaker Well, he was very, very fine performance in the Fisher King. And The Big Lebowski. He’s always good, you know, I loved him in Crazy Heart, I mean, everybody did, but. I had just done a documentary about Tom Petty for Warner Records for our documentary, and I was just blown away by how Jeff became. A professional singer in the movie and the thing he did was he threw it away. He didn’t sing and come on, like now I have a chance to sing because those kind of performers throw it away themselves. They’ve been doing it so long they don’t get up and play a song like it’s the first time they play it like it’s, you know, and they just they just get up there and they sing it. They don’t emote it. And that was something that was a brilliant choice on Jeff’s part, that he he sort of threw it away.
Speaker And the music for him is not sort of an incidental thing.
Speaker It’s a very big part of what informs his life is, oh, yes, he’s very musical and his performances are musical. He there’s a rhythm to his work there.
Speaker There’s another thing that I wanted to sort of just touch on.
Speaker And he can do comedy. You know, he hasn’t done much comedy. But I remember in Texas, we had a couple of slightly farcical moments and I said I said, go ahead, just this is comedy, you know, you can go ahead and play it. And he could do it. He could enter into that kind of comic vein as well.
Speaker Well, you talk about just you were just talking about a screwball comedy of yours. And when you said that, I sort of started to think of bringing a baby and then I actually sort of thought, wouldn’t Jeff be kind of darling in the Cary Grant? Oh, yeah.
Speaker I thought of him for that kind of picture. We talked about it at one point, but we never haven’t got around to it.
Speaker We need to get around to it. Um. I think maybe I have just about everything I need, I’m trying to think, is there anything anecdotal in your. I mean, just some people you’ve got a long haul with him, and I expect you’re going to have more. I think, you know, another thing I think about him is that he’s his trajectory is just stayed right with him. He’s he’s just who he is right now. And I see this continuing. I don’t see that this is any you know, this there’s a road in front of him. And I feel like there’s a road in front of the two of you again, too, because I well, hopefully we can work together again.
Speaker I really enjoyed it. There’s a few pictures that I wanted to do with him that we one, for one reason or another, didn’t work out. But I hope that we get to do some more. He. Jeff has that rare thing that people have, people rarely have in show business, it’s called integrity.
Speaker He has it in spades, and I think he and I think it’s I think it’s somehow palpable.
Speaker It is palpable. He’s got integrity as an actor and as a human being, as a father and as a husband. He’s he’s, um.
Speaker Great guy, just when we think when I think about the directors that you’ve gone for and some of these and you talk about the Western character and again, that place that I feel that he is so comfortable somehow in that Western persona. And when you think about people like John Ford and some of these great directors, do you think they would have loved to have gotten their hands on him?
Speaker Yeah, I think particularly Ford and Hawks would have liked to work with with Jeff.
Speaker He did sort of have a bit of a throwback character characteristic to him and yet is thoroughly modern as thoroughly as.
Speaker Yeah, what’s what’s what’s interesting is he has a kind of persona as an actor that he constantly reinvigorates and challenges and but I mean, he’s he never goes so far away from himself that he seems to be acting.
Speaker That’s the part of the trick. He feels like a great method actor. He finds the character in himself.
Speaker And I was actually thinking about him. He’s kind of a character actor in a leading man in a leading man’s game.
Speaker That’s right. He finds the character in himself. You know, I once I still have the great acting teacher. Do you do you do you play yourself in the role? She said, of course, darling. Hello. Who else can you play but yourself in the role you find it in yourself?
Speaker Well, Stephen Frears actually once said to me in an interview, you don’t make a Batman and then, you know, so you’re always casting for who that person is. Yeah. And I think that’s what you feel. You feel, you know, Jeff, all the way through, you know.
Speaker OK, thank you. Love your job and a little one No one question like before you make a direct comparison. It’s one of the classic movie stories of the 30s or 40s or somebody who would you.
Speaker Said Jeff was like.
Speaker Well, first person that comes to mind, he’s got the integrity and the the chops that Jimmy Stewart had. And he has the integrity and the chops that Jimmy Stewart had and the all-American kind of quality as well.
Speaker The Americanness of him, I think, is extremely.
Speaker That’s why I thought that’s why the Americanness of Jeff Bridges is what makes him such a great Western character.