Jeff Bridges' New 'Dude': A Fallen Country Star In Crazy Heart, Bridges plays a washed-up, alcoholic country singer who has been reduced to playing gigs in bowling alleys and dive bars. Though it's tempting to get drunk to play a drunk, Bridges advises against it: "I've made that mistake in the past," he says.
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Jeff Bridges' New 'Dude': A Fallen Country Star

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Jeff Bridges' New 'Dude': A Fallen Country Star

Jeff Bridges' New 'Dude': A Fallen Country Star

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of movie, "Crazy Heart")

Mr. JEFF BRIDGES (Actor): (As Bad Blake) (Singing) I used to be somebody, but now I am somebody else.

BLOCK: That's Jeff Bridges on stage, singing and playing guitar in the new movie "Crazy Heart." His character, Bad Blake, is a washed-up, alcoholic country singer reduced to playing in bowling alleys and dive bars, driving himself to gigs in a battered old Chevy Suburban.

(Soundbite of film "Crazy Heart")

Ms. MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL (Actor): (As Jean Craddock) What's your real name?

Mr. BRIDGES: (As Bad Blake) I'm Bad Blake, and I was born bad. When I die, my tombstone will have my real name on it. Until then, I'm just going to stay bad.

BLOCK: That's Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in the new film "Crazy Heart." And Jeff Bridges joins us from our studios in New York.

Thanks for coming in.

Mr. BRIDGES: Oh, great to be here, Melissa.

BLOCK: The performance scenes in the movie are really quite something. And you, at least in the beginning, are drenched in sweat during these gigs. You're drunk. You've been drinking - what's the drink of choice for Bad Blake?

Mr. BRIDGES: Well, it's something called McClure's. You know, we went to the, you know, the great, you know, whiskeys like Wild Turkey and, you know, Jack Daniel's and all that, but they didn't want to be associated with an alcoholic like Bad. So we had to come up with our own and we named it McClure's, which happens to be our director Scott Cooper's middle name.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That's fascinating. The other companies said nuh-uh.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah, right. Probably, a good idea for them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Yeah, it doesn't work out too well. But, you know, you - in these scenes, I felt like I could sort of smell Bad Blake, between the sweat and the cigarettes and the whiskey. You know, it's just coming right off the screen.

Mr. BRIDGES: Good.

BLOCK: I'm not sure if it's good or not. It's powerful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRIDGES: Well, I mean, you know, that makes you feel the character more, you know? I mean, you don't want to work drunk. I've made that mistake in the past, you know, having to play a drunk scene and say, well, I'll just get drunk for it, but that - you know, you've got to work for the rest of the day and the day after that. So that doesn't work.

But I would, you know, have that extra drink after work, and a little hangover wouldn't be too bad.

BLOCK: There would be, I think, dangers of overplaying an alcoholic, and Bad Blake has fallen just about as low as he can go.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah. He's real good at being an alcoholic. He knows how to do it pretty good. And being up on stage, you know, that's his throne, that's his home turf. He's - he really feels comfortable up there however he is, you know?

BLOCK: Even if he has to run off stage to get sick...

Mr. BRIDGES: Sure. That's...

BLOCK: the middle of a song.

Mr. BRIDGES: know, that's par for the course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRIDGES: You know, that's nothing too strange for him.

BLOCK: Let's listen to one of the songs that was written for the film. This is called "Hold On You."

(Soundbite of movie, "Crazy Heart")

(Soundbite of song, "Hold On You")

Mr. BRIDGES: (As Bad Blake) (Singing) All my life, I've been a rolling stone, done everything that a man can do. Everything gets a hold on you. Done everything that a man can do.

BLOCK: What do you hear, here in your performance?

Mr. BRIDGES: I hear how much fun I had, for one thing. I hear Bone, T-Bone, telling me, we're going to make you sound good, Jeff. We're going to, you know, have songs that are going to be in your wheelhouse. We're not going to call upon you to do something that you're not going to be able to do. And we're going to tailor-make the songs to fit you and Bad.

BLOCK: You mentioned T-Bone. T-Bone is T-Bone Burnett...

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...the music producer, one of the producers of the film. T-Bone Burnett says watching you in this movie, he thinks you look like Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, which is really striking as you're watching it. You have that look, that grizzled, bearded, I'm in this, and I'm kind of a country outlaw kind of look.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah. One of the first directions that Scott Cooper gave me was that if Bad was alive, and he was a real character, that he would be the fifth Highwayman. Do you know who the Highwaymen are?

BLOCK: Yeah, absolutely. Willie, and Johnny Cash.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah, Willie, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris. So I took that to heart. And I'm a friend of Kris'. And Kris actually - we screened the movie and Kris was there. We were laughing together how much, you know, we looked alike. And we looked at each other in the - you know, put our heads together and looked in the mirror and had a good laugh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You and Kris Kristofferson?

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah.

BLOCK: I want to switch gears just a little bit here. Jeff Bridges, there would be Lord knows how many people who would love to see you come back as The Dude for a sequel to "The Big Lebowski."


BLOCK: Think there's any chance of that?

Mr. BRIDGES: I don't know about The Dude, but I'm going to be working with the Coen brothers again coming this March. We're doing another version of "True Grit."

BLOCK: Yeah, I've heard about this.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah, and that should be fun. I'm, you know, looking forward to working with those guys again. They're real masters.

BLOCK: Now, are you playing the John Wayne character?

Mr. BRIDGES: Rooster Cogburn, yeah.

BLOCK: Wow. Well, what do you think about doing a modern-day Western?

Mr. BRIDGES: I mean, I just love Westerns. It's wonderful. It's a great time in our history, relatively short period of time. And I love riding horses and, you know, dressing up like that. There's a bit of the kid in me, you know, the -sometimes I think of movie acting as advanced pretend. You know, you get to wear all those neat costumes and play with all the cool kids and use the cool toys.

BLOCK: Would you have been playing those parts as a kid, playing cowboys...

Mr. BRIDGES: Oh, I played cowboys, sure. Yeah, absolutely. I was big in pretending. My mom, one of the things that she did that was wonderful with all her kids was she had this thing called time that she would do, where every kid had an hour a day of my mom's undivided attention, where she wouldn't pick up the phone and talk to her friends, or, you know, just whatever I wanted to do. If it was let's play - oh, let's play spacemen under the, you know, the dining room table, and you're the alien, and I'm under here, you know? Or, let's go into your makeup, and I want to make you up like a clown. Or, you know, later as a teenager, it would be, oh, massage me, mom, you know, for an hour.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRIDGES: And we did that time right up to when she passed away. We would, you know, do that and she would always encourage us to put on plays and that kind of thing. So pretend was a big part of my childhood.

BLOCK: What great memories, wow.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Well, Jeff Bridges, it's been fun talking with you. Thanks so much.

Mr. BRIDGES: Oh, great talking with you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Jeff Bridges stars in the new film "Crazy Heart."

(Soundbite of movie "Crazy Heart")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BRIDGES: (As Bad Blake) (Singing) Funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while. I was going where I shouldn't go, seeing what I shouldn't see, doing what I shouldn't do, and being who I shouldn't be.

BLOCK: And, Robert, there's a little coda I want to play for you right now. We are here in Washington.


BLOCK: Jeff Bridges was in our studios in New York. And at one point, we were talking about his father, Lloyd Bridges.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BRIDGES: My father, unlike a lot of actors, really encouraged all of his kids to go into showbiz. He loved showbiz so much, all the different aspects, you know, doing what we're doing right now, signing autographs, and of course, the work. Hey! I see Daniel Day-Lewis out there, I just got to say hey!

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Oh, I see. Daniel Day-Lewis has come into the New York bureau for another interview.

Mr. BRIDGES: Good, yeah. Sorry about that, Melissa, but I had to wave my hand at him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: So, Robert, that's our little moment of Zen, a shout-out to Daniel Day-Lewis there from Jeff Bridges in New York.

SIEGEL: That's right. The NPR New York bureau is evidently a happening place.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Daniel Day-Lewis was arriving there for my interview with him about his new movie "Nine." That interview will be on the program tomorrow, Melissa.


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