In Crazy Heart, based on the novel by Thomas Cobb and written/directed by Scott Cooper, Jeff Bridges gives a raw, Oscar-worthy performance as Bad Blake, am alcholic, burned-out country music singer who has a chance to make a comeback when he gives an exclusive interview to a music journalist, Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and gradually falls in love with her the more she gets to know him intimately. Jeff Bridges has previously starred in The Men Who Stare at Goats, Iron Man, The Door in the Floor, Seabiscuit, The Contender, The Fabulous Baker Boys and, most popularly, as "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski. It was a real privilege to interview him.
Fox Searchlight Pictures releases Crazy Heart at the Angelika Film Center on December 16th, 2009.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What made you agree to accept the role of Bad?
JB: At first I turned it down because there was no music. Whatís the sense of doing it if there are no songs in the movie? Plus, I had done a music movie that I was so pleased about, The Fabulous Baker Boys which had good music, so I didnít want to do a movie that wasnít going to be up to that. When finally everything came in place about a year after I read it, T-Bone fell into place and then I was there. [T-Bone and I] go back 30 years to Heavenís Gate. Heavenís Gate is kind of like the birthplace of this movie because thatís where I met him, Stephen Burton and [Kris] Kristofferson who was the star of that movie and brought all of his musician friends to play smaller parts there. We were jamming 6 months every night with these guys.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you get into character?
JB: I started with myself. There are different aspects of my life that, kind of, link up---the music certainly does. Iíve been drunk, hung over, puked and all that stuff, so I know how to do that. Then I go to my close circle of friends and that included these two great guys, T-Bone and Stephen. Stephen was probably my biggest role model because he was there every step of the way, teaching me the chords to play the songs that he was writing and organizing a band for me to just rehearse in. He was there every day when we were shooting, so I could ask him all different kinds of questions. He was encouraged by both me and Scott to add almost anything.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Were you tempted to write your own songs for Crazy Heart?
JB: I would love for it, but I had my hands full with everything else. I was there during the music sessions throwing different ideas and stuff, but I never actually sat down and wrote the songs. My dear friend, John Goodwin, did a lot of work. The song ďHold on YouĒ was one of his songs and one of the things that T-Bone [Burnett] set out to do and did so well was that he wanted all of my songs to be reflective of my character, [Bad]. The ones that had been chosen that were written before the movie were very carefully selected. T-Boneís dear friend , Stephen Bruton, wrote a lot of these songs and even wrote some while the movie got under way.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the challenge for you to play country music?
JB: I play some country stuff and like country tunes, but Iím not really an electric [guitar] player. That was, kind of, a challenge.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a country song into a classic?
JR: Relatability and, just like any good poem, the way that itís expressed, kind of, like magic.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whoís your favorite country singer?
JR: Iím a big Bob Dylan fan, especially his new batch of stuff.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What social cause are you most passionate about?
JR: Iím especially passionate about ending hunger in this country. I formed an organization 25 years ago called The End Hunger Network. It was originally about ending world hunger, but we shifted our focus about 15 years ago to hunger here in our country, child hunger specifically.