One of the nicest things about the way “Crazy Heart” has just sort of blown in out of nowhere at the end of this year is how rare it is these days to discover a film without any hype attached, particularly one starring people like Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Scott Cooper’s film was originally going to get its first public exposure at next month’s Sundance Film Festival, but Fox Searchlight made a very last minute decision to put the film out this year instead. As a result, when I sat down to see it, I hadn’t seen a trailer or a still or read anything at all. I just saw it cold.
My reaction to the film led me to enthusiastically ask the film’s publicists if I could talk to the cast at the TV day, and they were kind enough to offer all three, one at a time. I will admit I had an ulterior motive here, but I’ll explain that a little later.
First up, I sat down with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I met at Sundance in 2001, when she was in town for “Donnie Darko.” She and her brother Jake were at the “Darko” after-party, held at a “cabin” which was actually a four story house packed full of hundreds of people by the time the night was finished. Even amidst all that madness, I had a chance to spend some real time with both of them that night, and Maggie struck me as a young woman who was already at home in that particular world, thanks to the influence of her talented parents, Stephen Gyllenhaal and Naomi Foner. She was just out of college, and she seemed determined to do work that mattered to her, outside the Hollywood game as much as possible. In the years since then, she’s done a lot of interesting work, and I think she’s one of the most eccentric actresses working right now, in a good way. She makes very unusual choices, and frequently. Yeah, she’s in “The Dark Knight,” but she’s doing a lot more like “Secretary” in the meantime. Here, I think she does very natural work, and I wanted to talk to her about how she and Bridges found their rhythm together:
I was hoping for a few moments to gather my thoughts before they threw me into the next room, but they put me in almost immediately. So there I am, face to face with the legend himself, Robert Duvall, and I realize that I don’t know where I’m supposed to start:
So that’s me winging it. Off-balance and totally humbled by this amazing actor whose work I’ve grown up watching and loving. Went well enough… better than I expected from the way it started.
But it was the last room that I was most excited about. Yes, even more than Robert Duvall, I was there to talk to Jeff Bridges. Part of it was my excitement about how good his work in “Crazy Heart” is, and part of it was to thank him for something he did for me over 20 years ago… something that I doubt he remembered, but that meant everything to a much younger version of me:
I could have spent the next two hours chatting with him, and it wouldn’t have felt like it took a minute longer. Bridges is such a fascinating character at this point, giving one great performance after another, and when “Crazy Heart” comes out in a few weeks, if you’re a fan of his to any degree, you absolutely need to see the movie.
“Crazy Heart” opens in limited release this Wednesday, December 16th.
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