It feels a little self-defeating to write an introduction to an interview with Jeff Bridges. You know who Jeff Bridges is and you know what movies he’s been in – from The Last Picture Show to Tron to The Big Lebowski and we could keep going and going. So let’s just all agree we know who Jeff Bridges is and we can just get to it.
(It’s never not amazing how much Bridges loves The Big Lebowski, though. I didn’t even directly ask him about reprising his role – something that is oft rumored and oft asked about – but when we were talking about John Turturro’s Going Places, which is sort of a Lebowski sequel, Bridges offers up again how much he’d love to reprise his role as The Dude. I hope the Coens do eventually make another one just to make Bridges happy. The world is probably a better place when Jeff Bridges is happy.)
Bridges can be seen this week in Marc Webb’s The Only Living Boy in New York where he plays a sage of sorts (who has also visited a New York City opium den in his days). His Lower East Side character is neighbors with a young man named Thomas (Callum Turner), who is sleeping with his father’s mistress (played by Pierce Brosnan and Kate Beckinsale, respectively).
Ahead, Bridges takes us through his love of Talking Heads, his role in the upcoming Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and brings up a disturbing trend of how he’s completely out of the loop when it comes to new movies based on some of his most famous roles, like the aforementioned Going Places and a remake of Starman. (Seriously, it’s time to start calling Jeff Bridges about these things.)
Also, Bridges seems actually a little bit unhappy that his character of Obadiah Stane was killed off in Iron Man — which wasn’t supposed to happen in the original script — imagining all the cameos he could have made by now in the MCU. At the time, who knew?
After watching this movie, I’ve decided I wish you were my neighbor.
[Laughs.] Well, I take that as a compliment. Thank you.
Do you like playing the wise sage?
You know, there’s fun to be had in all sorts of parts. The sage, that’s an aspect of a character. That’s a fun one to play, but I don’t look for it necessarily.
The film starts with you giving a monologue about old New York City versus the New York City I currently live in. Is a lot of this a representation of how you actually feel?
Yeah. I mean, when you’ve lived a while, you get nostalgic for the way things were, but that’s not the way it is. It keeps changing. That’s just the way things are. Normally I stay in kind of Midtown. I was kind of lower down in Manhattan and we were right by what CBGB’s used to be. Now, it’s – what is it? Now it’s a men’s clothing store.
Yeah, John Varvatos…
Yeah, but it’s all changing. But that’s the way it always goes. It’s changing faster these days though, it seemed to really pick up speed.
Did you got to CBGBs?
No, I was a big Talking Heads fan. I never made it over there, though, so I kind of missed that whole scene.
Yeah, I missed the scene. I went in there – they have a lot of memorabilia in there and they try to show some respect for the history of the place, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that I think.
Did you get to see Talking Heads anywhere else?
I saw them give the Stop Making Sense tour at the Greek Theatre in LA. But I never saw them in New York.
As a Talking Heads person, are you disappointed that they have never reunited? David Byrne’s been pretty clear that it doesn’t sound like it will ever happen.
Yeah, we’re certainly due for a little paying of respect for that great group. They were so wonderful when they came around, and David Byrne. Also, the music that he comes up with, Eno, I was a big fan of all of that stuff.
You spent a lot of time in New York in the late ’60s, is that right?
Well, I didn’t live there for any length of time like that. It was mainly my father, Lloyd Bridges, would do plays there. He replaced Richard Kiley in Man of La Mancha and did Cactus Flower and stuff like that. When he would go there and do plays, he’d bring the family. So I experienced New York when I was a kid back around that time.
I thought you went to acting school in New York for a little bit?
Yeah, I did. I went to Berghof Studio there a little bit, but that was while my dad was kind of bringing the family. That was like when I was a teenager.
What goes into picking movies these days? The Only Living Boy in New York and Kingsman: The Golden Circle are very different projects…
Oh, well, the main thing is if it’s the kind of movie I’d like to see – and that’s one where the filmmakers are ahead of you, you know? You think you’ve got it figured out but it’s got different twists and turns. And then of course, the execution of the story. So when I knew that Marc Webb was at the helm of this one and after I read the script – and Allan Loeb wrote a great script – then it starts to pick up the pieces and make it even more attractive to me. And with Kingsman, it was kind of the same thing. I was a big fan of the first one. It was full of surprises.
Right. That first movie movie took a lot of people by surprise.
Yeah, I remember seeing it with my wife and us looking at each other, saying, “Well, that’s the best James Bond movie I’ve ever seen.”
Had you met either Matthew Vaughn or Marc Webb before?
Nope. No. All new.
It seems like after the Spider-Man movies, Webb is going back to basics a bit…
Yeah, I’m glad to see these mid-budget movies coming back. The tentpole movies, they have a place and they’re fun – but it’s nice to have this kind of movie that’s a little more thoughtful, a little more character-driven.
How did you find out John Turturro is making Going Places? Does someone call you?
No, I found out like everyone else. There’s a smile on my face. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. He’s a great actor, great director, and of course it’s a great part. It’s the extended story of Jesus.
I would have thought someone would have called you first and said, “Guess what we’re doing?,” before you hear about it in the news.
No, I think, you know, there’s so many rumors about Lebowski, that they’re going to remake him, and so I hear those like everybody else. I get excited, but they all turn out to be rumors. I don’t think the brothers are going to make another one. Who knows? You never know, though.
From the outside looking in, I have my doubts, but it always sounds like you’d be up for it, which is exciting if they ever do change their mind.
Oh, yeah, sure. They’re great to work with.
Back when caller ID was a thing for landline phones…
My college roommate, Jorge, told the phone company he adopted a son, pronounced Tay Duday, so they would change his caller ID to say “The Dude.”
[Laughing.] That is good! “Tay Dooday!”
My friend passed away, so that’s one of my favorite stories of something he did. He was a huge Lebowski fan.
That’s The Dude. You can call me Dudarino or Tay Dooday.
Are you disappointed Obadiah Stane died in Iron Man? Who knew at the time, but you could have been in a lot of Marvel movies by now.
I know, man. No, in the script, the script that I hired onto, my character lives! They open my suit up and I’m gone.
Wow, I didn’t know that.
But then when we got to shoot that scene, they didn’t open my suit up! I said, “Aren’t you going to open my suit up?” They said, “No.” I said, “You’re going to kill my guy?” And they say, “Well, it’s a comic book. You could come back. Who knows?” You know? But anyway.
You would have been in 10 of those by now. It would have been great.
There you go.
I’m very disappointed they did that now.
[Laughs.] Well, who knows? They might bring him back, maybe they’re right. It’s a comic book and anything in comic book land can happen. So who knows?
When they made Starman into a TV show, what did you think about that?
Are they doing it again?
When they did it in the ’80s…
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
With Robert Hayes, who worked with your dad in Airplane!
Yeah, I remember that. I can’t remember how I felt. You know, I hear they’re making a new Starman. They’re going to do another one.
I saw that. Again, do they call you? Or do you just find out with everyone else?
No, they didn’t call me. And it was all set up for a sequel! I mean, I gave Karen [Allen] one of those balls to give to my young son who she’s pregnant with. It’s all set up for a sequel! It didn’t happen.
People need to start calling you about this stuff.
There you go.
Before you read the script for Tron, did you just assume you would be Tron?
[Laughs.] No, no. I don’t think so. I don’t remember that.
Because name of the movie is Tron, but Tron shows up like halfway through.
Yeah, that’s right.
Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” still gets pretty regular airplay. Do you ever walk into a grocery store and you’re like, yep, that’s one of my movies?
Yeah, well, when I hear it – it is a great tune! I remember Taylor Hackford, who was such a great director, and he’s so into music… You know, that’s one of his big things. And he picked that song. I was so disappointed that they didn’t let Phil sing it at the Academy Awards, was such a ridiculous thing. It was nominated for an Academy Award.
Why wouldn’t they let him sing it?
I don’t know. They didn’t think he was famous enough, or I can’t remember what. But I remember at the time, it was upsetting to all of us. [Rolling Stone has a full piece on the Phil Collins Oscar snub.]
What’s your Kingsman character like? I am looking very forward to seeing you in a Kingsman movie.
Well, it’s full of surprises. I play a character named Champagne, who is the head of the Statesmen, which is the American version of the Kingsmen.
Is he on the level?
[Laughs.] I’m not going to blow it for you! I’m not going to tell you much more!
Well, I don’t want to know the ending…
Well, no. The Kingsmen, their cover is they’re tailors, right? And the Statesmen are booze-makers, they’re distillers. They make bourbon. Channing Tatum is also in it and all the agents have names of whiskey. Like the Kingsmen have names of King Arthur’s court, we’re all champagne and tequila and whiskey and that kind of thing.
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