Speaker You tell the story. I'll start with Jeff told me about the two of you and that you must've been around against all odds until you met each other, that the first thing he did speaking about is I think he said he had a bottle of vodka bottle of tequila kilo and sang the entire Beatles repertoire repertoire.

Speaker You know, I had been a fan of Jeff Bridges since I'd seen The Last Picture Show. I knew his father, Lloyd Bridges and Mrs. Bridges. Fabulous people, very political people. And I had worked with Lloyd on an industrial and I'd met him. But then subsequently, I was quite politically active. And in that era, I still am to a degree. And I called Lloyd up. There was a Chicano chief justice, the Supreme Court, not chief justice or justice of the California Supreme Court, who was. They were trying to impeach him wrongfully. And I called Lloyd and said, I need a celebrity. I need a voice. Look, you know what I said? Fine. That's the kind of person that Jeff Bridges, his family was, you know, and he'd always talks about his family. He always mentions his mother and his dad. And it's not by accident. It's these people imprinted he and Bo and Bo. I mean, the fact is that Bo and Jeff are products of a fabulous family. And so when he mentioned them at awards time, I had a certain pride myself because I knew Lloyd, I knew Mrs. Bridges. I loved them anyway.

Speaker I had seen Jeff's work and I'd seen great work. I mean, there was a film called Kutter and Bone.

Speaker Yes, that way. Cutter's way past. Yeah, it was. It was first called Cutter's. I'm you're not interrupting you anything because I would like to hear you talk about Jeff is one of my favorite. Yeah.

Speaker It early in his career, he, you know, was a kid, you know, early in his career. He was a kid and he was this kind of, you know, naive a little bit. I think the first great performance I saw of Jeff Bridges was in Fat City. You know, when John Houston, who is a master, took that book by Leonard Gardener, which is a, you know, to me, the best boxing book of his generation.

Speaker And Jeff Bridges plays this kid, you know, from Stockton, who is the golden boy, he thinks. And he goes into this thing. And Stacy Keach is there has been and it's a beautiful performance. It's a great performance. And I'm going, you know, John Houston got a great performance from Jeff Bridges, but he's got depth. Then there was a movie called Cutter and Bomb. It started and then it was released as Cutter's Way by Ivan Passer. And it was fabulous. It was he and John heard. And Jeff was.

Speaker Let's call it a film noir, but a modern film noir and everything from Jack Nietzsche's score, which was no water, water, Half-Day very liquid. Yes. And and and all the performances. Extremely dark. And I said to myself, that's what impressed me. The work in The Last Picture Show or the work in Fat City was wonderful. Even the work in King Kong. You know, Jeff was fabulous and King Kong. Right. But the thing that was interesting when I saw Cutter's way was that I saw a dark quotient to Jeff Bridges. I saw an intelligence. I saw a cutting edge. I didn't see that young, happy surfer kid, you know. And I pursued him for. Against all odds because I realized that he had something. He had that sunny quotient. But from Cutter's way, I could see he also had a cynical side.

Speaker Could be a smart ass, which he is. Is it against all odds?

Speaker Yeah, I think in that instance, the idea was to go after somebody who had been the golden boy. But still now had some experience. It had some mileage on had been hurt and could in fact now come back with a wiser. I know. I know now what I didn't know then point of view. And the interesting thing about this experience with Jeff was that he had done King Kong. He'd done this big thing, which had not been a big success. And Hollywood is so fickle. You know, when you were the young golden boy, boom, but when, in fact, you don't go over the top in a big blockbuster that the town can turn as cold as ice to you. And I was going to the studio and, you know, people were saying, Jeff Bridges, no, forget it ain't gonna happen for him. And this is I'm telling you, because now you see a body of work. You know, Jeff Bridges survived, you know. But I'm telling you, at the time, Jeff Bridges was like, you know, he'd done hearts of the West. He'd done various films that had not worked. And people were saying, forget it. Don't go there. The studio will never approve him. And I said, but he's the guy I want. He is the guy I want and I. Yeah. And the thing that was interesting is that I went to Guy McOwen, who was the head of Columbia, and guy went, well, Jeff is not the hottest thing right now. I said, Guy. It's my film. I believe he can do it. And he said, Well, what if that's the case? Go. Now, the important thing to understand about the first time I met Jeff was this. Jeff came in, not the slim, muscular, athletic guy you see, and against all odds. He came in about 30 pounds overweight. He had you know, what happens is that when he finishes a movie, he and Susan, his wife, go up to Montana or Wyoming. A lot of these places in Montana, they've got a house there and he veges out. He was, you know, eating and relaxing and so on. And when he came in, it was not the lean, mean Jeff Bridges that I have in the movie. And I basically said to him, look, I said, Jeff, I think you're a fabulous actor. I wouldn't have you here and I really like you for this role. But right now, you don't look like a football player. You look like an overweight, you know, guy. And, you know, you have to be honest. And I said, you know, if I go to bat for you and I fight for you in this role, will you, in fact, go on a program and really get yourself in shape because you are playing a wide receiver who has to be incredibly fast and tough because you get hit like crazy. You know, anybody knows football. Those guys are out there. They're reaching up like this and they get cut in half. They have to be tough as nails sinewy. And Jeff looked at me and said, man, when I commit to something I commit, I guarantee you I will do this. And he had that sense that I believed him. I went to the studio. I fought for him. The head of Columbia, Guy McOwen, said, OK. Cast him. And I then put him on a regimen of vitamins and workout. And Jeff Bridges went. He lost 30 pounds. He is so beautiful in that film.

Speaker And he did it again for American art. I think about that. I'm sure it is later.

Speaker But but but the important thing about Jeff Bridges is that, you know, is it is his body the work? No, it's the eyes. It's the talent. It's all the things that he has. But if he needs to do something for the role, he does it. And to me, the the fabulous thing about Jeff Bridges is that we grew up thinking the Actors Studio. We got the Actors Studio. You got De Niro, Pacino, Dustin. You got all Brando. You have all the method people in New York. And they really have the tap on great acting. Here's this guy in California who a surfer dude. He's absolutely as good as any one of them.

Speaker I just have to interview something. I did some were years ago on The Misfits. And Eli Wallach, of course, is in the business. And every time I did it, Eli and Arthur were the only remaining living people on film. And Eli was talking about Clark Gable and Tom Ritter in exactly the same way. Clark Gable, in a way, was kind of a gem. I mean, these guys who this wasn't very and I'll do the method, the method, and it's just kind of Dali, you know, great actor.

Speaker Spencer Tracy, you know, he made it look so easy. He was what he was. And, you know, I don't know what his training was. He didn't go to the Actors Studio. Jeff Bridges came from a theatrical family. You know, I grew up watching C. Hunt, you know, with Lloyd Bridges putting on his Scooby Deer out here in the channel off of Los Angeles and going into these these situations. And I'm sure Jeff and Bouwer around everywhere. You know, in the making of that, he told me that he was. But I believe that a great actor is born. You know, it also comes from a lot of work. Jeff started working early. He had a great work ethic imposed upon him by his family. And ultimately, when he goes into something, he is committed. And, you know, I had him working out with the Raiders. We shot at the Raiders training camp and all the Raiders were there. And Jeff had to go in there and get hit by by real cornerbacks. He had to go hit that tackling dummy and try to move it. He did all those things and had gotten himself in great shape. And let me tell you, by the end of that film, he was in terrific shape and could be believable, actually.

Speaker Well, he does do that. I mean, he's he and I think he loves that. He's he's told me in several different incarnations of different films how he learned from this guy how to be a junkier. He learned from this day how to be in prison. So he learns from the Raiders how to play football. There seems to be a great joy that he has instead of figuring out how to just absolutely absorb those personas, you know, great actors, you know, take it back.

Speaker Great movie actors are a particular breed. You know, they're not stage people. No. And people that are on the stage can kind of embody what? Ever. It's part of the imagination when they're there. The camera is a magnifying glass and the camera bores in like a mike, the magnifying glass and it detects. And therefore, movie acting is this interesting thing, whatever the character is. He must take that character. You must learn it. You must, you know, work it. And then you've got to put it on like like some armor that you can't see because you can never dispense with what this is.

Speaker The eyes are the key to the soul. And the personality of an actor is what it is. The camera sees that. So you will always be Jeff Bridges. And every film you do, you change the character in ways that you, you know, are subtle. It isn't like I can become somebody else. No, you can't. What you do is you take on the character was. Was Jeff Bridges the character and against all odds? Absolutely not. He's a much sweeter guy than that than the guy that was in. Against all odds. But it's that subtlety of acting skills and how to use the camera. Jeff is brilliant on how to use the camera. Thing. Yeah. And anyway, those are the things that I found were great. Now, there were the just the human quotients that when you're working with somebody is terrific. I had been his you know, the person, the tough taskmaster said you've got to lose 30 pounds. And I was also the person who said, I want you to, you know, do this and train with the Raiders and do all these. You know, you you you give you know, you try to give a certain amount of tools to somebody. They have to pick them up and use them. But you're also the one dictating these things, things a you know, the director can be this they. All right, fine. I've had enough of him. You know, he's the guy who makes me do all these things. I don't want to see him off the set. We were down in Mexico. And one night I'm I've got I'm going to be working all weekend. I'm I've been at this tough week of prep and I'm walking from the dinner room out and I walked by Jeff's room. The door's open. He's sitting there with his guitar and a bottle of tequila and he's playing and he's playing a Beatles song. And I happened to be a musician and I happened to be in love with music. And I always use it in my films. And it was a song I kind of started singing. I grew up in high school singing. I was I sang in all the groups. And in fact, I, you know, my friends, we had a band and I didn't go into the band. I went to college. You know, I gave that up. I said, I'm going this way, but I have a real desire. And so I went in the room, we sang a couple of songs. Jeff said, Oh, this is cool. We started getting into harmonies. The bottle of tequila started getting lower and lower and lower. And, you know, I was probably about eight thirty one in his room. It was about 6:00 in the morning when I left. We sang all night. You know, we you hear people banging as a shot up. And by this time, the tequila was talking and we sang seriously, you know, from from eight thirty eight, forty five and nine until 6:00 in the morning. And we had a ball and it was a great bonding moment. So when he did his recent film and he was able to get up there and play that wonderful country western singer, I thought, God, Jeff is finally has what he's wanted. He played the guitar. He loved music. And here he got to to finally utilize with this wonderful character this this this old salty dog who was a great songwriter and at the same time was deeply, deeply pained.

Speaker And you think you think about the fact that he's had this very long filmography and there is interspersing through added music because he's the fabulous Baker boys. I mean, there's just no two of you just knowing what you knew together.

Speaker But isn't it so interesting that this trajectory takes a long time before the world gets to know? And this is quite especially him having arrived at this point now. And you had you wouldn't have known somehow that he was missing. Feeling any of that? Well, I think.

Speaker I think his desire and his true love of music was a natural thing. It was not. I'm preparing myself for a role. This is a this is a force that came out of him. But he took his music seriously. And when he was playing and you could see him working on the guitar, you prepare yourself for certain roles. And when they come along, you're ready. Now, that's happened twice for Jeff, and it's been fantastic. It was the second one. Well, the Baker Boys and crazy heart attack. Yeah. I mean, and I think that in that instance, he I don't know if he was doing it consciously because it was a true love of his.

Speaker But it paid off beautifully for him to say how sweet, how sweet the moment of that.

Speaker You know, it's one of the thing that I think is interesting. While we were shooting against all odds, Jeff would come to the set with his new. Gadget he had he had a wide luxe camera, and it was the first time he'd been. I think he bought it or he was given to him. Yeah. So we'll sue. Susan is a photographer herself, and she gave him this camera. He came to the set and he was all excited, you know. You know, whatever he was in character did. Jeff Bridges is a very violent character, you know. And on the set, he was like, wow, look at this stuff. And he started developing it and showing me the images. And against all odds was the first film he shot the wide luks. And then subsequently in every film I saw. And later he says, hey, man, I'm I'm shooting every movie. I'm doing this whole thing. And of course, he's become quite a celebrated photographer in the white luxe format. I'm my wife and I are connected to MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, and they're going to, I think, do a show with them, which is fantastic.

Speaker I would love to know about this because I'd love to have a screening there. Thank you.

Speaker Well, they're gonna do a retrospective. They're gonna do a risk, a retrospective on Jeff's life, on his work. And also, I think I'm losing on the photographer, so I'll put you in contact because it would be great.

Speaker Yeah. And those photographs are absolutely great. And I know you could.

Speaker But again, it was a hobby. It was you know, this was this was not something that he went into going, well, I'm leaving this profession, going here. It was a hobby. Then he got into it. And then, of course, his desire and his talent never forget this is an artist. And he took his artistry into music. It took his artistry into photography as hobbies. But ultimately they evolved because of his own sensibilities into art. And and I think that's a great thing about Jeff. Everybody goes, hey, man, he's so laid back. He is. You know, he doesn't really, you know. No, there is there is there is a machine working there. There's a great artist working there. When you work with him, you know it.

Speaker And he's deeply serious and on finding itself to all kinds of factors and moves through. And instead of a fluidity, this actually kind of awesome.

Speaker You know, it's interesting working with him because he was very easy. You know, we we I told him exactly what I wanted. He went there. He had really, really sexy scenes with Rachel Ward in that film. He told me it was Rachel Worth Honeymoon. Yeah. You know, Brian Brown and Rachel Ward had just got married and they were on their honeymoon in Mexico. And I've got major sex scenes between the two of them. Now, I must say, Brian Brown is a pro. He knew he wouldn't like it, I think, but he knew he was there. And. And but at the same time, Rachel trusted Jeff totally. I mean, they liked each other a lot. They knew they had to do the work and they did the work. And it was terrific. There wasn't any. Oh, I hate you know, you can always when you do love scenes, it can be that you can the people can dislike each other. You know, there was a sense of commitment which was it was very important to me. And at the same time, there was a sense that we're doing this. We're professionals, we like each other. Let's do it. We know we have to. Which was a great, again, professional essence of Jeff making it right. The director can say, I've tried taking everybody off the set. Only Jeff Bridges could have made Rachel Ward feel right in that instance. And he did. But Jeff is easy. He was always there. He did exactly what I wanted. But I have a big car chase. And against all odds. And in that instance, I had Carrie Lofton and Gary Davis, two of the greatest son drivers in history, doing a lot of standardized. But Jeff had to do some driving. And Jimmy Woods had to do some driving. And I did a lot of stuff with him. Well, what a coincidence. You know, your adrenaline is it gets up there. And in one instance, we're traveling. And we were in some fairly since it was on Sunset Boulevard.

Speaker I mean, I closed Sunset Boulevard from the west gate of Bel Air all the way through to the beginning of Beverly Hills. It was no, it'll never be done again. It was like a fluke. But anyway, you're involved in this situation and there is a lot of intensity going on and sometimes not the way you planted it gets a little hairy. One instance, however, we did this run and out of the car came Jeff. And it was not the Jeff Bridges that we know as Mr. Laid Back. It was furious said.

Speaker I know I'm not going to die in this thing. And at that particular moment, I'm looking and going. Jeff. We were 20 meters, 20 feet away. There are been moments, we've been five feet away. This was 20 years is really hard. But somehow the adrenaline that build to a point where he was coming down and he was so into it. And then it it hit him about the danger of it that he reacted. Now, he reacted to a thing that wasn't necessarily very dangerous, but it was fascinating to see the lion come out of Jeff Bridges.

Speaker I thought he was going to come right after being in the camera car with as a survival will actually read out now.

Speaker But I said, wait a minute, Jeff and I had the people there. I said, you really weren't that close. He's a really. OK, let's do it again.

Speaker I think that's the other thing about him, I think is risible. Yeah. I think, you know, absolutely ready to do it again. Again. Again. I mean, he. But we were talking about I want to say to him, do you think things about going back to that city for a minute?

Speaker I suppose so. Yesterday, I did not know that Beau had originally auditioned for that part. He really thought that Beau was a bit old, huh? And Beau said, well, I think I might have somebody on. See. Which I thought was fantastic.

Speaker It's it is fascinating. And, you know, Jeff has. I mean, listen, John Houston, I have huge, huge respect for and I think Fat City was a very interesting film for him because he was doing various things. There was such integrity in that work. It was a kind of, to me, a comeback for for John Houston. But all the performances in that film were stunning. And Jeff worked with some great people. He worked with a lot of real fighters. And, you know, Art, Eragon was in that film a great, you know, well, a fighter. But, you know, as I said, that work also.

Speaker I remember seeing Jeff to a television drama on Eugene O'Neill, The Iceman Cometh, and he played later in the. There was a thing that Eli Landow had or it was American Film Theater. And and I'd seen an early version with Jason Robards and Robert Redford, which was then as a television drama. But in this particular one, it was Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges. And Jeff Bridges was fabulous in this piece. He really was. Jeff Bridges is a wonderful actor. Now, if you'd seen that American film theater and you've seen this, you say that's a young New York actor who went to the Actor's Studio. He's definitely in the method now was Jeff Bridges. He just is a great actor.

Speaker Well, another thing I find interesting when there's two other balances here where when he and I started talking and I started really, really immersing myself in all this of his five Oscar nominations, three of them are first time directors. Last picture show was only by Donovan, his second film. Right. And John Carpenter's the only kind that was the only kind of veteran among them. First, James Starman. So there's that there's there's a willingness, I think, in him to take his chances with people because he finds it's fascinating and interesting and he likes to come and do it and he doesn't. And I don't think that he weighs, you know what?

Speaker An actor has to have taste in material. And Jeff Bridges has an unerring sense that I can do something with this role that other actors may pass on. You know, somebody can have talent, but if they don't have the ability to look at something and say, you know, I can take that and make something out of it. It was interesting to watch you see this when you're you have a career in Hollywood over a period of time where, again, people are out. As I said, Jeff had done several films that hadn't worked. And I guess all eyes, I had to really fight for him. I had to fight for him and against all odds, brought him back. It brought him back into the limelight. It wasn't a huge blockbuster, but it he looked great. He was fantastic. He got great reviews. Now, the next film star, Mantic, is nominated and all of a sudden nobody goes, you know, and it's never stopped since then. The interesting thing is Jeff Bridges knew that I can take this role. I can do something with it. I looked at Star Man, you know. You know, I could say, well, he's just what? He's going to play some weird, know, space alien. He knew what he could do. And the academy kind of looked at it and went, wow. Every single time that he looks and looks at whether it's a big movie or a small movie, he sees something in it. He says, I can do something indelible and he does it.

Speaker But there's also the other side of this, which is when he gets into the hands of the guys like you guys who are very seasoned, very schooled, know how to extract something from you so that the baseline of Jeff Bridges is there. Yes. We all know this is Jeff Bridges. And then it's a decimal point up in an entirely and almost unutterable way. That city's one of those. Why does against all odds work?

Speaker Because also there's a director in these things and that also is eliciting from him just another notch up.

Speaker You know, I think when I when I'm working with. There's I kind of when I start working with an actor, I kind of always go in the same way we do when we're done. When I'm working with actors, I always approach in the same way. I say, listen, I am going to try to get the best performance you've ever given. That's what I am, a performance director. I think I want to collaborate. It's like I'll never give you ever, you know, a I'm going to act it out for you, you know? However, I believe that you can get further if you trust me. Then you've gotten before. Now, we may fail, but let's try. And the best actors say let's go for it. Jeff. Absolutely. Was that kind of actor. You know, I'll go as far as you want to take me. And that's such a gift to a director. You know, if you're serious about getting a performance, that's what you want, is somebody that that will challenge you. And you can challenge them and they'll walk out, put their toes over that cliff. I won't let them fall, but they'll go because they trust me. And that's a great experience. You know, I think the other thing that that is important about Jeff Bridges is that he has always had the support at home. He's had a fabulous family. Those girls, you know, his daughters, I knew when they are little girls and they're women now, you know, he always had time for them.

Speaker He was always there. Susan is a fabulous woman. She was an artist herself, but she was always a terrific person. And, you know, as a director, you're asking somebody to come and give of himself, go away from the family. And Susan was never somebody who looked at me and said, you son of a.

Speaker Well, he echoed. He is he he's on his nuclear family. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker He well, he knew his mother and father and he knew what great great supporters and and they they were and the love that came. But he chose the right woman. And Susan is still there. She's absolutely terrific. You know, it was funny. My wife was nominated at the same time Jeff was nominated. So we saw it. We know we saw each other all the time. And every single time I would be sitting there with Susan talking. And, you know, she was so thrilled for him, the realization that for both of us that this is well deserved. But would it ever come? And it all depends on the role. And he got the role and he did the best with it. And did he deserve it before? Yes. But he earned it. He earned it with a body of work. And she was always there with him. And so were they. So were the girls or the daughters. So it's it's a great family.

Taylor Hackford
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Taylor Hackford, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 01 Jan. 2010,
(2010, January 01). Taylor Hackford, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Taylor Hackford, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 01, 2010. Accessed July 05, 2022


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