SAN DIEGO – Jeff Bridges is about as big a name as you can find these days, and yet one of his co-stars in the forthcoming YA adaptation “The Giver” is arguably even more recognizable: country-pop superstar Taylor Swift.
“Taylor was so terrific,” said Bridges while promoting the film at Comic-Con on Thursday. “Being both lovers of music, we talked a lot of music, and we got to pick [guitar] a little bit between setups and stuff. And she's so sweet and such a good actress.” So does she have a future on the big-screen then?
“Oh, I think so!” he said enthusiastically.
Funnily enough, Swift was only a child when Bridges first began developing the Newberry Award-winning Lois Lowry novel into a film – a process that ultimately dragged on for nearly two decades. So why does he think the adaptation took so long to make it to the screen?
“I think one of the reasons that…we had such a tough time getting it made, is because it's pretty dangerous stuff for kids to be seeing, you know?” he said. “It's kinda controversial. At the same time it's being taught in schools…I was just in Vegas with Lois Lowry the author, we were at a convention all about banned books. And I didn't know this, but it was on many banned lists. And funny, surprising that I didn't realize that all these years. I said, 'maybe that's why it was tough to get made!'”
Initially, Bridges – who first discovered the book while flipping through a kids' library catalog – eyed the adaptation as a directing vehicle for himself and a starring vehicle for his father Lloyd Bridges, who passed away in 1998.
“I wanted to direct him in a kids' movie cause my kids at the time were quite young, I wanted to make a movie that they could see,” said Bridges. “It certainly worked as a children's book, but as an adult I just enjoyed it so much. It was so deep and kind of dangerous, you know?”
Of course, it's hard to imagine “The Giver” being made had it not been for the success of “The Hunger Games,” which ushered in a new era of dystopian YA book adaptations by grossing nearly $700 million worldwide in 2012. That said, Bridges made sure to point out that Lowry's novel was in essence the first of its kind: “It's the book that started out this whole dystopia genre of kids in that kind of world,” he said.
Along with Swift, Bridges and acting contemporary Meryl Streep share the screen with a number of young thesps including Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan, which begs the question: what advice would he give to his up-and-coming colleagues?
“Probably what my mom used to say to me when I'd go off to work,” he answered. “You'd think after making as many movies as I've made that you'd kinda be relaxed. But I'm still very anxious. This is performance anxiety. But my mom, when she used to send me off to work, she would say to me, 'remember, have fun, and don't take it too seriously.'”
“The Giver” hits theaters on August 15.