Actor Jeff Bridges has been acting all his life, building a résumé of starring roles in films like The Big Lebowski, Seabiscuit, The Contender and Iron Man. Now, 40 years into his Hollywood career, he's hit a high note with his performance as rundown country-western star Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. The role earned him his first Golden Globe® and a spot on the Oscar® nominee shortlist.
Despite the accolades, Jeff says he passed on the role of Bad Blake when he first read the script. "It didn't have any music attached to it, and without the right music, that movie wouldn't be half the movie it turned out to be," he says. "Then I ran into my dear friend [producer and composer] T-Bone Burnett about a year later, and he asked me about it and I said: 'Why? Are you interested in doing Crazy Heart? And he said, 'Well, I'll do it if you do it.' And then we were off and running."
Jeff does all his own singing in the film, including the vocals for the "The Weary Kind," which won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. "[I've been singing] ever since I was a kid," he says. "The real birth of the music for this movie goes back 30 years to Heaven's Gate, where I first met T-Bone and Stephen Bruton. Kris Kristofferson, the star of Heaven's Gate, brought all of his musical buddies on board on that show, and we used to play for six months while making the movie. We'd play day and night with those guys, so that's where it all started for this."
When Jeff won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a drama, everyone in the room was on their feet. Jeff says the standing ovation took him by surprise. "I was trying to figure out what I was going to say up there, and then I got up and got that kind of appreciation, you know, an attaboy from all those guys, and it just kind of wiped my mind completely clean," he says. "It was so unexpected, so strong and powerful."
Jeff says the person who grounded him that night is the same woman who's been doing so for 33 years: his wife. "She looked so beautiful that night. She always looks pretty, but she looked really beaming," he says.
Being apart from his wife is the hardest part of his job, Jeff says. "She told me the other night, she said, 'Do you realize over the last 14 months we've been apart 11?' That's no fun, to be separated from someone you love so much," he says.
So what's the secret? "Having my folks as role models really helped. They were married over 50 years and loved each other very much, and I saw how they struggled with all the challenges that come up in marriage," he says. "But if you've been married as long as I have, 33 years, you're bound to have some bumps. And it's how you do that together, you know? Those bumps can really be wonderful opportunities to make your relationships all that much stronger."
On the heels of a Golden Globe win, there's plenty of talk about Jeff's Oscar chances, something Jeff says he appreciates. "It's a little maddening feeling that you might have to get up there and forget to thank certain people," he says. "But it's also wonderful to be appreciated. Getting that nod from your peers is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. It's also bringing attention to a movie that I love so much. All in all, it's a good thing."