Jeff Bridges: Building Bridges
He laughs. "I worked out with a guy in Seattle during American Heart. He was the same guy who designed the tattoos for the movie. He was on the work release program up there. But he couldn't stay clean, he got busted again. When I went to visit him in jail, he looked kind of relieved. Like he was back home, finally. It's a weird system we've got here... they give you a hundred bucks, tell you not to drink or do drugs, and send you back out into the world. Do you know what I mean?"
Actually, I do, and I tell him this long, involved story about my family that has to do with unions, things falling off trucks, and dope deals gone awry. Which doesn't mean anything now, but it will later in this story. Then he tells me a much less revealing story that has to do with Roman Polanski, and which will not pop up later in this story. "I saw Rosemary's Baby at a matinee," he says, "and I was the only person in the theater. I was convinced that everyone who worked in the theater was a warlock or a witch. I was completely freaked out."
"Drugs," I say, and we both laugh. Our waiter joins in the laughter, which startles us both. It's then that I notice that the waiter is wearing what can only be described as short-shorts.
"I love when the waiters wear shorts," I say.
"I'll bet you do," Bridges says. "And I like when the waitresses wear shorts." Ah, America, what a place. We smile.
"One thing about your films," I say, "is that you never seem to do the same thing twice."
"I like to mix it up in my career. Like the next thing I'm going to do is an action-adventure movie. I've never done one of those before."
"Oh, that's going to be great..."
"You think so?"
"Yes, definitely," I say. "I can guarantee that people are going to love seeing you running around sweating, half-naked, and saving women. Which is what action adventures are all about, right?"
"I'm not sure about that half-naked part," he says (although I am). "It's called Blown Away. I play a bomb disposal guy."
"Is he good at his job?"
"I guess you'd have to be," he says with a grin. "You don't get too many chances to screw up. This is the first time I've done this kind of thing. I'd also like to do a balls-out comedy. I'd like to do a children's show of some sort, because my kids can't watch any of my movies."
"None of them?"
"Only Starman. I let them watch that."
"What do they think of it?"
"Their eyes get a little wide when I start kissing Karen Allen. 'Pretend,' I tell them. They're 11, nine and seven. I guess I have a few more years, and then, boom--hormone city. It should be wild. They're getting the idea, though. They like to put on shows. We make little movies of our own at home."
"Are they going to grow up to be actors?" I ask, with a moan.
"Probably," he says, and sees me shaking my head. "No, no, acting's been good to us. About a year ago, we had a huge family gathering up in Bear Valley at this place my folks have. They built this huge compound up there, so that all of us can go there to stay in the same house. All the kids, all the grandchildren, all 25 of us. And we got, well, we didn't get snowed in actually, but there were nights when we were all stuck in the house together. For a week."
"How'd it go?" I ask, imagining the worst.
"It was intense. It was wild. You run the whole gamut of emotions. And then, a couple of days before we were supposed to leave, my dad disappeared. Everyone was saying, 'Hey, where's dad, where's grandpa?' And we finally realized that he had locked himself in his room. We went to him and said, 'What's up, are you upset?' And he said, 'No, no I'm working, just leave me alone.' And so that night he came out and got us all around the table, and we thought, Oh shit, what's he gonna say? Because he looked kind of serious. And then he tells us that Dylan, one of his young grandsons, had come up with this idea that we should make a film while we're here. And he wanted to make a version of Robin Hood. So my dad had spent the last few days in his study and written a script."
"How old's Dylan?"
"Maybe, what? seven? And my father says, 'Okay, we don't have a lot of time, we have two cameras, and we'll have to take turns directing different scenes.'"
"Your sister Lucinda isn't an actress, is she?"
"Well, right now Beau is directing Lucinda and my father in something. So she has acted, but she's got a pile of kids and she's been busy taking care of them. Okay, so, we cast the thing and set out to make the film, and it was hysterical, because you had all these pros, and we were invested in the thing. It started getting a little testy..."
"Did you embarrass yourself?"
"No, not really. Eventually, it got so that the pros were getting along pretty good. But my wife wound up to be in this horrible position. Unbeknownst to her, she fell into the role of the stage mother, because she's the mother of our kids and my dad had all of them out in the snow in period costumes, in rags and things. And Sue was saying, 'C'mon it's cold, how long are they going to be out there?' And my dad got really frustrated, and he finally said, in this really tight and controlled voice, 'Okay, we won't do this anymore.' And Sue was in tears, because the director had yelled at her! It was all pretty amazing.
"We wound up doing a full-blown thing and it was great fun. We had special effects. Like Dylan, who played Robin, was a magical character, and he was on these little shoe skis, and we towed him behind a snowmobile, but the way it was shot, it looked like he was just sailing along wherever he wanted to go. We did it like a professional movie. And Casey, who's Beau's oldest son, he's a film student and he edited the whole thing. But what's so great is that when he edited it, he left all of the side action in, because that's really where the value of the thing is. And it's hysterical. I'm looking forward to doing more of those."
"I guess in the Bridges household, 'family entertainment' takes on new meaning."
"Absolutely. With my daughters, I do this thing. . . you know that comic strip called 'Little Nemo' ? We do a girl version of that, which we call 'Little Nema.' We do special effects, with flying and disappearing..."
"Who gets to be the director?" I ask.
Bridges throws his hands up in the air, as if to say, Who else?
"So the next generation of the Bridges clan is getting ready, huh?"