Speaker That city was probably at the time it was a revolutionary film in this respect.

Speaker It was not a Cinderella story. It was about boxers who started at point A and ended up at point A.. They didn't go anywhere. And based on a wonderful book where Leonard Gardner, which was really the template for this, this film and John Houston came to see me and I was shooting another picture in Spain and talked to me about it. And then I read it the script and I loved it. I didn't see Leonard Gardner. He wrote the script as well. Yeah. But working with Jeff was one of the most extraordinary experiences for me. I learned so much from him because I came pretty much from the theater. I hadn't done too many movies. I'd done maybe two or three films when I came to Fat City. And I still was very self-conscious about working in front of a camera. And Jeff has this unbelievable natural ability when he works. Oh, he's. He's had it from the beginning. I remember seeing one last picture show just before we got together, just before we met.

Speaker And my dad and his dad knew each other very well. They were both in the business and jumping around a little bit. But some years later, I had the great privilege of working with Lloyd as well in a mini series called The Blue and the Gray about the Civil War and was great. And we share a lot of similarities in the sense that we're both. We both come from theatrical families, families that are in the entertainment industry for some time.

Speaker And.

Speaker Bo is also a good friend.

Speaker And that's her legacy of the family business being family, that's relevant to me.

Speaker Well, it is. It is. And they're not too wealthy. There's the Baldwin family. There's the bridges and the carotenoids.

Speaker Of course, there's the very Moyse. I mean. Yeah, the Houstons. Well, that's right. Yes. You could look at Euston as. Because he certainly was an actor as well. My great achievement of having directed his father and his daughter to askers.

Speaker So there's something about Houston in that vein, too, that John Houston was probably the most in my career, was had the greatest influence on my on my work and my life as well. He was an extraordinary man and. Had a great sense of humor. We used to play backgammon on the set. And Ray Stark, who is producing the film, to whom a person said, John. Give me. You got to give me the backgammon board because we're behind schedule, you know? And John would say, no, no, no, I'm I'm not going to give you the board, Ray. This is how I relax between shots. I've got to have my board and I have the board. Please, Ray. We will play backgammon. Well, Connie Hall, God bless him, was setting up an action is a great idea to actually do a film on The Misfits several years ago.

Speaker Yes, of course. You know, he just gamble through the whole thing. He'd just go to the casino. Yeah, he should film. Well, Eleanor, I'd be late, so I guess that's what he saw.

Speaker I know he would. He was extraordinary. I mean, he would play pool till three o'clock in the morning. And I told Johnny, hey, we're getting up in three hours. Who's getting up? I'm not going to bed. Fabulous.

Speaker How was he? I mean, this was a very early thing for a job with a formidable director. Yes, a director in the sense of also being such an independent and, you know, just unyielding spirit in his own right. Right. And so I'm curious a little bit about how that dynamic evolved, because I happen to know from Beau. Interestingly enough, Beau, I think, apparently went for the part before Jeff. Really? I didn't know that story, nor did I have. And he told the story of having gone. John said, do you mean. And this is more than music that he said, Beau, you're a little too old then, right? You know, a young kid, obviously a young young kid part. Yeah. And he's why I think I've got just the guy for you. And he said Jeff. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker So it's just interesting to me very early in Jeff's career to hit his drive with this kind of director because by Don Image as brilliant and is as brilliant as a couple of films were that preceded this. In terms of Jeff's career, I doubt if it was new at that point.

Speaker Still, too. That's true. He was on the seventh film. That's right. And we know even though you also learned in school and all those things, all things movies, you. Yeah. Different Visa. That's a different animal than Houston, right?

Speaker Well, one was in one respect you. It was it was early for me to in the film world. I mean, it was my third or fourth film, I think. And both of you are here with this. Exactly. And we spent a lot of time together training for. But in in the gym. We spent a lot of time, which was great because it allowed us to feel. And John was very good about the way he worked with actors was extraordinary.

Speaker He would allow he would let the actors block the scenes, work the scenes. He would sit. All right, you go in there, you do the scene. And then he would come in later and he would look at the scene and then he would make a few adjustments through changes here and there. But he, being an actor himself, trusted his actors. And he allowed us to sort of work things out ourselves with the exception of the choreography of the fight. Of course, those were pretty well choreographed. But then John would say, all right, you feel all right, boys knowledge and just go out there and box, you know?

Speaker So the casting is superb all the way through to. I mean, the managers are great. They used to be in here. Who is here? I forget his name. Mikalah Santo.

Speaker God, what a wonderful actor. What? Well, he was I think he used that city as a training ground for Raging Bull because he played that character in a different sort of context. Yeah, he was great in that region.

Speaker I mean, using comedy to fight with one piece about. Yeah. Yeah. Did you find two movies in two totally different genres of the boxing world? That's true. Yeah. On the bottom rung up these days. Yeah. Fights, scrambling, scrambling.

Speaker Apparently Vasily was biographical in one respect. It was Leonard Gardner who had had experience as a boxer himself, knew this character, Billy Tully. And I think that in many ways, Lyndon Gardner was the Jeff Bridges character.

Speaker In the story. And that's presumptuous on my part, but I'm you know, I don't know that for a fact. But I it feels that way to me.

Speaker Well, the only thing that's interesting to me about just characters that Jeff's character, rather Mira, is where he was at that moment in his own life. The two of you may have been new ish together coming into this film. Right. But he, it seems to me, was also still I mean, just he's he's spoken to us a lot about his own just in decisiveness, about taking parts, having decisiveness, about where he wants to sort of find himself. And in some ways, that character does the same thing. He gets that right. He gets pressured by his girlfriend. He kind of walks away from it. He doesn't. There's a certain amount of sort of feel in terms of at least with the mental activity may have been in Jeff's mind at that moment.

Speaker I visited Jeff on the set of his next film because we after Fat City, we wish that we had a very close relationship. And I had a script, a Cormac McCarthy script that I was very interested in directing and Jeff play the lead. And it was called After Dark. It's ever been made. It's a it's an extraordinary Gothic tale, the South and what a brother and a sister have a child together, but incest and all the ramifications of that.

Speaker And I and Jeff Woo would love the script and was at one point was going to do it. And then he kept very busy. I think he did a film with Elizabeth Taylor. We know went winter killed her kill.

Speaker Was it John? It John. It acts in that. I don't know. You know, I don't remember as the father. One I don't know. I hate to say that I don't either. What?

Speaker Well, I mean, I went to the set of winter callaloo and visited John. And some years after that, we my brother and I, my brother and I decide we want to do a Western. We're all brothers playing brothers. And it's the first people we went to or Jeff and Bo. And in fact. And and the Cariddi. And that we have a there's a photograph someplace. And I'm dying to find it, by the way. My brother, myself, the three carat rings and Jeff and Bo. Jeff and Bo got busy with other projects and the Baker Boys was sort of on their agenda. So they didn't do it. And Dennis and Randy Quaid ended up playing the other guy.

Speaker Isn't that great? Yeah, this is that's a wonder. What was any of it?

Speaker The long ride, right? Yeah. Yeah. He was a Western water holder.

Speaker Well, the end, though. Kind of interesting to me also that you in those three little stories, that that's the trajectory from that city to this Cormac McCarthy script. Right. You go long writers is an interesting, again, melding of the kinds of characters that Jeff has seemed to have throughout. I mean, he has got he has got the ability to sort of pay to play this kind of a kind of son bootstrapping kind of young type movie that he can be very dark, as we know. Sure. And some things that are very, very surprisingly good. And then at the same time, he's got this American Westernness family.

Speaker He has an extraordinary range that encompasses the American character. In that respect, I really think that Jeff is he he's he can do just about anything in terms of character work in movies. And I'm so happy for him in terms of his ability. His musical abilities have always been there and for for them to be able to shine the way they did. I think it was extraordinary.

Speaker I don't think he has mean music seems inoffensive. You know, I know there's so many things now that we know this, that when I look back and there's some little part where he'll just play a guitar for a minute. There's some little aspect of the music that actually does show up right now that I'm tuned to it. I see. Was this, again, sort of parallel passion along with the acting in the scenes, your scenes with him? Right. I'm particularly thinking of the end when you're sitting in that lunch counter in the lounge. Carry on are very also, once again, I think, very subtle and very nuanced in the sense that you're kind of ahead of him and yet you're kind of behind him at the same time. Right. As a as a as a person in that. Right. Right. You kind of you've gotten you know, you've kind of gotten yourself thinking that you want to try and get back to this. You can't. You don't. He walks away from it. Yet you kind of you're kind of a lesson giver. And at the same time, you're you're also following him.

Speaker There's that wonderful moment with this great Chinese gentleman who played the waiter in that scene where Billy challenged the character that I play in and Jeff's character. We're looking at him. And he said, how would you like to wake up in the morning and be him before, you know, your life makes beeline for the drain? So it's a very down kind, which I mean, Tully is dark in that same. He's he's sort of, you know, but he's come to accept the fact that he's a loser, you know.

Speaker And.

Speaker You don't feel that with just character, you feel like he's he's tolerating tally at that moment. But there's something bigger, much bigger.

Speaker Beyond that, he's I, I think my sense of it was maybe not much bigger, but.

Speaker Able to be perhaps more successful? Yes. If not a more realistic let's. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker And yet at the same time, the person that you really root for and that's who uses you is the really telling character because the romance of that character is.

Speaker Yeah. Well I think that's that's because of the script. I think because of the story, the way the story of John Houston had a wonderful moment in that scene.

Speaker He he added, if you recall, bit in the background, there was a smoke filled sort of people, the old guys playing cards and John right in the middle of one of the tanks, he said. Origin. All right. I want everybody in the back to just freeze. Don't do anything. Just freeze. And then he told me, son, I want you to just turn around and look at them. That's all.

Speaker And it was an amazing moment because he was about his life's stopping. But he didn't want to use a freeze frame because he wanted he wanted to see the smoke drifting through the frame while these guys were just sort of in a frozen position like that. And I asked John afterwards, I said, where did you get that idea? It was an extraordinary moment. And he said. Sometimes the devil just comes up and bite you in the ass.

Speaker Oh, you have great skills. I heard that.

Speaker I wish I had never, ever had the chance to meet him. But his job is interesting to me also. Yeah. I mean, also, as I look at you and I think about you and just think about your own what I know of your career, you're a very different personality from Jeff's. And somehow or other I. My, my. Imaginings of you with Houston are different than my imaginings of JFK, right? And I would I'm curious how. Sort of how he used. I mean, I and I've heard this, as I say, when we did The Misfits do I heard this from one of the people that I've got to know quite well is a woman named Angela Allen, who was was is a British woman, but who was John script supervisor on 14 films. She wasn't on that scene because I actually designed Didi.

Speaker I mean, not Angela Allen, who was there with the other. What was the other woman's name? Oh, he was his assistant for. Thank you for having me. She was unconscious. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker But she was not really the script supervisor wasn't she. Just that pursuit him to pieces and she was constantly taking care of.

Speaker But she's the reason, I think because she started when John met her, when she was a scripture scripture professor. What was her name anyway.

Speaker I sent it to you because I have it in that treatment somewhere, OK? Yeah. And you.

Speaker How's. Oh. But I mean, she would say, you know, he wouldn't push people, you know, John let. He wasn't. He didn't. He didn't direct. In that sense he directed by non direction.

Speaker That's exactly right. Except with women. Candy class, I'll never forget the scene, the scene with Jeff. As a matter of fact, I came to that, too. We're shooting over here in Columbia, do retakes. And he wanted candy. This is when Jeff tells Candy that he's going to go. He's going to join you. He's going to go in the service. And he wanted Candy to cry. And Candy was having trouble. This was her first movie to your second movie. I mean, and he took her aside and just laid her out. I mean, did you dirty rotten, you know, interviewed just to get her into that state where she was going to cry and she started and she's darted to cry.

Speaker And he said, all right, get over there. OK. Roll them up. So he did direct in that respect.

Speaker I mean, he you know, he. But you're right. Generally speaking, he allowed the actors to do and which also seems to be a way that Jeff flourishes.

Speaker I mean, he said he has also said repeatedly to us that his his he feels his best moments are with directors and in collaboration's where he's open and everybody is open and he's able to insert his own thinking. And also at the same time, you know, feel you know, just feel that the whole environment is not terribly controlled, entirely tight. Right. But once again, this I'm just, I guess trying to get a little bit to the germ of this very seasoned John Houston and is still very young.

Speaker Young. Yeah. Very. Regardless of his pedigree at this moment. Right. Very. This very initial pairing.

Speaker You know, we had a week's rehearsal on that city where we sat around the table and really discussed with Leonard Gardener. The script was good for John, too, to get a vision in terms of how he is going to approach materials that he never he never really he never offered any kind of suggestions. I think he trusted the fact that he'd cast the right person, you know?

Speaker Well, I think yes, I've got to say, I think there's another thing that I've learned of him from Angela, that he he if he's casted, he and he believes in that.

Speaker That's right. Yeah. He knows that, you know. Yeah. Know you can't make a Batman thing. There you go. But I also have to ask you, this is another off point for a minute, but I just have to ask you about Susan Terrell, because. My goodness.

Speaker What a great, great, great talent. And what a tragic story in her life.

Speaker I mean, I guess the Jeff hadn't re met her, which I didn't. I don't think the scene is actually in it in the film. Asked an anonymous that they did. And I think they did it in 2004. John Goodman actually told us this story because I'd actually which is you know, this film was a film written by Bob Dylan. It's a name it's kind of one of those big, glorious messes of a film. You either Kahar get into it or you actually just think it's crap. But I kind of think it's great. Right. But like, she was in the she was one of the people in the film. I don't I didn't remember any scenes with her. And John used to tell me and when John Goodman told me this, but apparently he had lost her legs by then. And then he said there was a very sweet reunion of Jeff with her.

Speaker Oh, I'm so happy to hear that.

Speaker I didn't know that it is went up and talked to her. And I thought and, you know, Jeff didn't really play any scenes with her. You're seeing her just now. She isn't sure that she's one of those. That's one of those performances. I think one just never, ever gets over or forgets.

Speaker And she was just great and amazing. And I mean, God love her. And she knows she's also very, very talented artist. Just extraordinary. Yeah.

Speaker Another aspect of jail, which I think we see throughout this, not simply the music, but is artistic. You know, he has an amazing hand himself. He's terrific artist. Peter DA, photographer. I know he's a great photographer.

Speaker So all of this you know, it's interesting to me also that on some level, these characters, that character is a.. Artist. Yes, certainly that's true. That that there's this scrappy boxing kid who's just gotten great timing, got the right stuff, but isn't. Sort of imbued of much else, doesn't it, isn't it? I think that's what I was feeling about that last scene. While you may be here for a while. Well, the Billy Tully character, one may look at and go home. The thing that's more heartbreaking is the ambition, less ness of Jeff's character. He may be better quote, Yeah, he may survive somehow.

Speaker Yeah, but not because of something is internally driving, you know, because of and nobody learns anything except that life doesn't change it in terms of that's the vision of Leonard. But nobody has a discovery or a revelation that will propel them forward into another dimension.

Speaker Exactly. And certainly not him. And there's that other scene that you have very early on that Jeff's not in. When you're talking about Jeff, which is a kind of an interesting scene, too, where you go, this is a one in a million kid. This kid's I mean, the generosity of that of that character, the generosity of the Billy tell the character to also know it when he sees it. You know that I always I think one can only have great regard for it. Right. You know that, you know, there's a pro there. Even if the pro can't come out of you, who can see it and somebody else.

Speaker I was just recalling a day where we had to go out into this Walnut Grove and get these walnut pickers and we were picking walnuts together. Jeff and I and I remember that day vividly was a hot day. We were up in Stockton and these machines were they were they were little overarm.

Speaker So when they they they grabbed a tree and they shook the tree. We were standing under the tree. We I mean, we had welts on our bodies after this because of the walnuts, the way they came down. I mean, it was an extraordinary moment. Excuse me. I remember you. Good memory.

Speaker Oh, I.

Speaker You know, I remember during after this walnut moment where the trees shook the walnuts down on the Japanese, where the assistant director got very, very upset with the operator of the machine. And I remember this vividly. And Jeff, God bless him, said he went over it, said, no, don't blame the guy. He's just doing his job. I remember I thought to myself, the great character of this kid.

Stacy Keach
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 Nov. 2010,
(2010, November 05). Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). November 05, 2010. Accessed July 05, 2022


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.