Jeff Bridges: Building Bridges
Between movies, Jeff Bridges goes off his workout regime, fends off his admiring public, and spends time with father Lloyd and brother Beau making home movies that will no doubt help launch the acting dynasty's next generation of stars.
I don't mince words. "I'm really mad at you," I tell Jeff Bridges as I slide into my seat at a cafe in Santa Monica.
"Why?" he asks innocently.
"Because the last time I interviewed you, during Texasville, you told me that it was the best movie you ever made. You swore to me. And you seduced me into believing it."
"And I'm telling you right now, I'm not letting that happen again." I'm lying: if Jeff Bridges tried to seduce me to do anything, I'd fall for it in a minute.
"Oh, that's too bad," he says, totally unabashed, "because Fearless is really a fabulous movie and--"
"Give me a break here, Jeff. I know all your little tricks."
"No, really," he continues, "it's a great story. It's about a guy who survives a plane crash, and how that affects his life. I don't think he knows what he learns from it until the end of the movie. It's not the kind of movie you can put in a nutshell; it's more that it affects you like an instrumental piece of music. It's got a great cast: Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez, Tom Hulce, John Turturro..."
"I don't care," I say, sticking my fingers in my ears. "Don't bother telling me. I know it's gonna be great, I know Peter Weir is a genius, I've heard that it's among the best work you've done in years. But I don't give a shit about Fearless."
"So what are we doing here?" he asks, genuinely confused.
For once in my life, I can't think of a snappy comeback.
"In my own defense," he says, even though I'm humming and not listening, "movies are very subjective. For me, Texasville had a lot of spin on it. It was the same character I played 20 years ago [in The Last Picture Show]. And the same cast. So I'd have to say that it had a lot more meaning for me than it did for you."
To put it mildly.
"They were going to rerelease Picture Show and show it back to back with Texasville," he says. "That would have been great. Picture Show stands alone, it's just so fantastic."
"My point exactly," I say. "Picture Show was a magnificent film; Texasville was not. I'll tell you what did surprise me, though: when I saw Picture Show again, I was amazed at how bleak the landscape was. I had remembered it being so much more lush."
"Lush, Martha? All I can say is... drugs! Everything looked so lush in those days."
"Yeah, I probably thought it was in color, too."
"Well, it wasn't my intention to... what did you call it? seduce you? It wasn't my intention to seduce you into liking Texasville. Although I wouldn't have minded if you did. But I'll tell you, Fearless has something you don't often see on the screen. It's a husband-and-wife love story. Between me and Isabella Rossellini. She's so gorgeous. Better than gorgeous... her face is so interesting that you just want to see what she's gonna do next. When she laughs, oh God, forget it, she's just great."
"Hmmm," I say, talking about Fearless even though I swore I wouldn't, "it seems like no one ever falls in love with their wife or husband on-screen."
"Are you married?" he asks.
"More or less," I say. "I've lived with the same guy for 18 years."
"So you're married."
"Yeah. And we're wild about each other."
"I'm constantly falling deeper in love with my wife," he says, referring to Sue Bridges, who was a waitress in Montana when they first met, and who is the mother of his three daughters. I try not to look disappointed. "I love marriage," Bridges adds.
"That's good," I say, "because the '90s are definitely the right decade for marriage."
"Yessiree. We've been married for 16 years, been together about 19. It's great."
"I interviewed your father a few months ago," I say, referring to my hero, Lloyd Bridges.
"And I loved what he had to say about your mother. Actually, I loved everything about your father. But when I commented on how amazing it was that they were still together after, what? over 50 years? he said, 'When you've got a family like mine, you don't want to make waves.' Even if it was a line, I loved it."
"No, no," he insists, "it's true. You learn that stuff."
"But hey, Jeff, this is Hollywood."
"Well, you go through some tough times, and if you safely navigate that area, then you don't want to give up that experience. It's precious. If you change partners every time it gets tough or you get a little dissatisfied, then I don't think you get the richness that's available in a long-term relationship."
"But sometimes we get all whiny and want both those things."
"What?" he asks.
"To change partners and have the richness of a long-term relationship."
Bridges taps his head. "Fantasy, Martha. Fantasy."
It's funny he would use that word, because among many women I've talked to, Jeff Bridges's name always comes up as their number one fantasy. "He's the man of the century," one of them said to me, and I certainly wouldn't dispute it.
He's been toiling away on the screen from the time he was a boy (when he was on TV's "Sea Hunt" with his dad), and although he's been busy in his share of clunkers (anybody remember Tron, King Kong, or, for that matter, Texasville?), he's often been wonderful (Against All Odds, Jagged Edge, 8 Million Ways to Die and Tucker: The Man and His Dream) and sometimes brilliant (The Last Picture Show, Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys and American Heart). But back to the present...
"Me and Lloyd, we're talking like this," I say, holding my two fingers together to show him just how close Lloyd and I really are. "So if you give me a hard time today, I'm gonna call him and get you in trouble."
"Fire away," he says, obviously afraid of the wrath of his father.
"Okay," I say, going for the heavy stuff first, "how the hell did you get in such great shape for American Heart? The picture that Mary Ellen Mark took for the poster is phenomenal. I mean, your stomach is like a fucking work of art. It's just extraordinary," I think I may be drooling.
"Well, right now I have to lose some weight," he says, although I think he's just being modest. "I'm about 15 pounds overweight. Over the years I've developed different little techniques. Fasting and eating certain foods and working out."
"Do you work out if you're not working?"
"No, not really. Not too much. I usually let it all pop, let it all go. And in-between I get to play a fat guy, like in Texasville. And in The Vanishing I let myself go. For Fearless I lost some weight. I always feel better when I'm thinner and in good shape."
"But what? You can't get it up for working out if you don't have to?"
"I don't know what it is. It's kind of sick, but to reward myself, I drink and eat ice cream and do all this stuff that's really bad for me."
"How else are you gonna reward yourself?" I ask.
"By getting healthy. By taking good care of myself."
"Oh yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun."