Multiple Oscar-nominee Jeff Bridges plays bad Bad Blake, a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who’s had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician. Buzzine sits down with the veteran actor and gets the inside story.
Izumi Hasegawa: What did it take to get you to sing in this film?
Jeff Bridges: When I first got the script, there wasn’t any music attached to it, so I took a pass on it. Then, when I found out from my good buddy, T-Bone Burnett, that he was going to do it if I was going to do it, that filled in that empty, missing piece. So, when he got involved, I knew the music was going to be top-notch, and that got me to the party really quick.
IH: Is the life of an actor just as hard as the life of a musician on the road?
JB: Yeah. My wife told me that we’ve been apart 11 months this year. That’s tough. That’s the hardest part for me. But we’ve been married for 33 years and we’ve done this a lot together, so we know the routine and how tough it could be, how much we depend on each other. It’s great to have a partner like that. But there is a similarity to acting and singing. One of the things that’s appealing about country music in general is that it’s dealing with human emotions that people can relate to. We can all relate to not only the fear of failure but the fear of success and what we do to ourselves when we get successful. Once you get to the top of the mountain, there’s only one place to go — you roll down. So how do you deal with that? A lot of us deal with it by numbing ourselves. That’s our strategy. We slow ourselves down. So I can relate to that, just as a human being. Just being alive, you struggle with that.
IH: What was it like to work and sing with Colin Farrell?
JB: He was great to work with. With movies, you only have a certain time to pull it all together. For this one, we just had 24 days to do it, so you’re really looking for comrades that can get the fire going as quickly as possible. I think Colin worked maybe four or five days. It was very very short, but we hit it off, right off the bat. We approached the work in a similar way and got along great. It was a joy working with him. I’ve admired him. The first time I saw him was in Tigerland, and I’ve been keeping up with his career. I loved In Bruges. I thought that was a great movie. And then singing together is a great way to strike up a relationship with your fellow actors, when you harmonize. That all fell into place really well.
IH: In this film, your character, Bad Blake, is a mentor to Colin Farrell’s character, Tommy Sweet. Who have you been a mentor to, and who have been your mentors?
JB: My dad was my mentor. Unlike a lot of actors, he really encouraged all of his kids to go into show business. He loved it so much. I remember, when I was a little kid, he came up to me and said, “Hey, you wanna be in Sea Hunt? There’s a little part.” That was a TV series my dad had in the ’60s. I said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “Well, you get to get out of school. You can make some money and buy some toys.” So I said, “Okay.” Then I remember him sitting me on his bed and giving me all the basics of acting and teaching me how to do it. And, of course, my brother is my mentor. He took up where my dad left off. We worked on scenes to get my agent. Then I remember a big turning point in my career was doing a movie version of The Iceman Cometh, and I got to work with all these masters, like Robert Ryan, Fredric March and Lee Marvin. Most of my scenes were with Robert Ryan and I learned a lot from working with him, about fear and insecurity. I remember doing a scene with him across the table in a bar, and we were waiting for the scene. He took his hands off the table and there were two big puddles of sweat on the table and I said, “Bob, gee, after all these years, you’re still frightened, nervous and scared?” And he said, “Oh, yeah. I’d be really scared if I wasn’t scared.” That let me know that fear is always going to be with you. It’s how you deal with that. It’s hopeless to think you’re going to get rid of that.
JB: Wow, it was great. Getting back with my old buddies, Steven Lisberger and Bruce Boxleitner… I guess the same thing appealed to me about the sequel that appealed to me about the original, which was this idea that there’s a kid aspect to what I do — pretending and all that stuff. I used to love to pretend when I was a kid, and here’s a movie where I get to play a guy who gets sucked inside a computer and gets to use all the modern technology that’s available today. The same goes with the sequel, except all the technology that we’re using in that makes the old one look like an old black and white TV show or something. Gosh, it’s amazing what they’ve got going on this. I can’t wait to see it all pasted together.
IH: That teaser you shot was wonderful. When you actually shot the movie, how much had changed from that whole concept?
JB: That teaser was something they do kind of often with movies, and I think it’s a good idea. The Coen brothers told me they did it when making Blood Simple. Before they even shoot the movie at all, they shoot the trailer of the movie as if it was already made, and then they use that to entice the financiers. So even though it was a Disney property, Disney wanted them to shoot this pretty expensive trailer. I don’t know how much it cost, but it was pretty expensive. All that technology that we were going to use in the movie itself is used in the trailer. It wasn’t as highly polished as the movie is going to be, but it gives you a little peek into what you might find.
IH: Was it hard to step back into that role after so many years?
JB: It was challenging in that I got a little taste of this new technology of acting in the volume and making movies without cameras. That’s a completely different deal. That was hard.
Crazy Heart is in theaters now. The soundtrack is available on New West Records here.