Jeff Bridges : Interesting passage in New York Times article about the making of Blown Away.

Interesting passage in New York Times article about the making of Blown Away.

Nice guy. And a great film actor: one of the best of his generation, and certainly the most underrated. But Jeff Bridges is just terrible at being a movie star.

IN ACTOR AND A MOVIE STAR need not be one and the same. An actor becomes the person he is playing; a movie star just is, as in "Daniel Day-Lewis is Hawkeye." (When it comes to actors and movie stars, Day-Lewis has the good fortune to be both, even running bare-chested through "Last of the Mohicans.") A movie star drums up excitement on the way into the theater; an actor leaves audiences excited on the way out. An actor can be a movie star, but a movie star can be Sylvester Stallone. The way an actor becomes a star is to defy the self-eradicating essence of his profession and meld his own nature with the perfect role.

So where is Jeff Bridges's Michael Corleone? Where is his Travis Bickle? Where is his Killer Smile? At 43, Bridges has made 34 films since 1969 without turning himself into anything like a household name. "Jeff has not had the role that defines him to the public in some way, that creates a star," says Peter Bogdanovich, whose "Last Picture Show" (1971) first brought Bridges into the limelight, and brought the first of three Oscar nominations as well. (The others were for "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," in 1974, and "Starman," in 1984.)
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One studio head, when asked about this, has a dismissive answer: "No charisma. I don't know anyone who's had more chances to become a leading man, and it just hasn't happened for him." Actually, Bridges has the kind of charisma trouble other actors would kill for. His problem, if you can call it that, is an inability or refusal to let personality take precedence over each new role.

Despite the fact that he gets star billing, Bridges has a nonstellar habit of disappearing into the characters he plays. That's a dangerous way to operate when a new film can be thrown into 2,000 theaters simultaneously, in hopes that audiences will show up on the basis of a famous name, and a familiar image. Bridges could actually have made a film like "The Bodyguard" believable, because he does such a beautiful job of playing passive, watchful roles without being dull. But it's Kevin Costner who brings in the crowds. In Hollywood circles, Bridges is faulted for doing nothing for the bottom line.

Bridges's performances, including his most recent as an architect who survives a plane crash (in Peter Weir's "Fearless"), have had little in common except for the actor's perfect naturalness and his refusal to do anything resembling a star turn. Even when playing romantic leads, he finds ways to fade into the background. In "The Morning After," Jane Fonda, as an aging alcoholic actress, was able to look stunning even when her character hit the skids. Bridges, as the ex-cop who became her white knight, managed to spend his last scene in a hospital bed, looking bruised, bandaged and swollen.

"People take him for granted because Jeff's always good," says Bogdanovich. "Well, let me tell you something: it's not easy to be always good." Certainly not in a spectrum of roles that range from nice-guy idealistic ("The Last American Hero") to villainous ("Jagged Edge") to otherworldly ("Starman") to deeply cynical ("The Fabulous Baker Boys," "The Fisher King") to just plain silly (a Ralph Bellamy turn in "Kiss Me Goodbye," a scientist in "King Kong"). When an American actor has a style this unaffected and a list of credits this crazy, he's liable to obscure his own talents. Bridges's resume has come to resemble that of Gene Hackman, another self-effacing chameleon among American actors.

Gerard Depardieu has the same willingness to lose himself in people he plays, and the same quirky, unreliable taste in material. But a European actor is apt to have more artistic freedom, at least when he works outside Hollywood, and to be more openly applauded when he takes risks. American actors are more dependent on oversize screen personalities, indelible dialogue ("You talkin' to me?") and characters who call the shots even when they're underdogs. But Bridges's performances are unfashionably free of posturing. His background lacks ethnic flavor. His warmth is evident even when he plays tough guys. From the standpoint of stardom, this simply isn't how it's done.

Bridges gives some inkling of how wholeheartedly he assumes each role when he talks about "Fearless," in which his character is liberated by his near-death experience. The intense, harrowing aspect of the story is something he has forced himself to understand. Explaining how unsettling acting can sometimes be and why he fights so hard to resist the process until he gets hooked by each new role, Bridges says, "Who'd want to be in a plane crash? You push that stuff through your body, your body doesn't know it's fake."

If Bridges thinks like a character actor, he doesn't look the part. When he finally heads for his trailer on this August day, he disappears for a moment to change out of his combat gear. He comes back and flops onto a sofa wearing jeans, Top-Siders and a white T-shirt. His hair, usually sandy blond but dyed reddish brown for this role, is genuinely tousled. He hasn't gone to any trouble; he didn't have to. Movie-star nonchalance doesn't get any better than this.
Despite his obvious potential in the matinee-idol department, Bridges will let himself look awful if that is what the material requires. (He refers to the area beneath his chin as "the goiter," and can make it look either lean or jowly at will.) He also routinely allows himself to be upstaged. Ask him about any of his performances, and he'll grin and tell you how good someone else was in the same film.

In "The Fabulous Baker Boys," the film that has come closest to blowing his cover, Bridges sat at his piano while Michelle Pfeiffer climbed atop it to sing her show-stopping rendition of "Makin' Whoopee." And he did the unthinkable: he just played the piano. No seductive smile. No flattering close-up. His character was meant to be frightened by Pfeiffer's seductiveness, and Bridges behaved like someone who couldn't bear to look at her. As usual, he played the moment for real, not for show.

He achieved a pinnacle of self-abnegation in the recent "American Heart," in which he gave a shockingly believable performance as a bitter ex-convict. When some actors grow their hair, pump up their muscles, cover themselves with tattoos and play sociopaths, they have a way of attracting attention. Especially when, principles notwithstanding, they allow themselves to be featured in beefcake photos for advertising art. But Bridges, who gave an infinitely more fine-tuned performance here than the Oscar-nominated Robert De Niro did in "Cape Fear," saw some fine work vanish with hardly a trace.

And Bridges was one of the producers too. He says he made "American Heart" out of concern for the street people it was about, and he co-produced it because it might never have been made otherwise. (He helped found the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization, in 1983.) Warming to the subject of one of the performances he is most proud of, he drops a small bombshell. "You know, we shot two endings to that one," he says casually.

In the ending that was used, Bridges's character is finally reconciled with his son, played by Edward Furlong, the boy who co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Then the father is shot, and he dies. The ending that didn't make the cut was happier. It let him survive the shooting and go on to raise his son.

"There were a lot of fights about this, as you can imagine," says Martin Bell, who directed "American Heart" and also preferred the downbeat finale. "I tried to make that other ending work, but it just didn't," Bridges explains with a shrug. "That movie was so hard-core, it was so much about real life. An ending like that would have spoiled it. You know, a movie gets a life of its own. It starts to tell you what it wants."

Well, yes. But which ending would Arnold Schwarzenegger would have chosen?

Makes some valuable points about Jeff Bridges acting style and how we took him for granted because his style is naturalistic compare to his peers. Some of these talking points would be retrospective be shaking when Bridges does have a "Michael Corleone" role as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Towards the end of the column someone wrote a good passage about how when we look back at Jeff Bridges career it's going to come out looking good. That person was right about Bridges career and his filmography. I've been digging into his hidden cuts and always pleased with the ambition, even if some projects turn out lesser than the other films. The Dude is our national treasure!

Re: Interesting passage in New York Times article about the making of Blown Away

Frankly I don't think he is that good of an actor.
He tends to overact in his roles.

If you want to see a good actor, check out Jonah Hill.

Is it creative to have an uncreative signature such as this one?