Easy-going Jeff Bridges has a lot of tension

Jeff Bridges landed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Hell Or High Water.
Jeff Bridges landed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Hell Or High Water.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Jeff Bridges is famously laid-back, but he was chill to the point of being incommunicative at an interview for Hell Or High Water this month - at least at first.

Bridges, who plays a Texas Ranger in the modern western, landed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor last week for the role.

Are you talked-out yet about Hell Or High Water?

The promotion of movies these days is a lot more than it used to be. Hell Or High Water, you want to get people to go see it and support what you've done and all of the hard work that has gone into it.

So yeah, there's kind of a plus and minus thing to it.

A New York Times reviewer described it as an "easygoing thriller". And I think part of the easygoing-ness is you. It just seems like you're really relaxed about things. How can that be in this world?

It's because I'm an actor. It's all an act. (Laughs)

Are you really tense and wound-up?

I can be. I do have a lot of tension, a lot of fear and things like that. I would imagine most people do. It seems to me I'm always kind of challenged about being in the moment.

I read that you've said you related most to the Dude, a slacker in The Big Lebowski (1998) out of all your characters. Is that still holding true 20 years later?

I don't know if that's accurate. I don't know if that was a quote from me or not. But, you know, the different parts I play, start with yourself and see what kind of lines up with the character.

You might magnify those aspects of yourself that work with the character or keep those parts of you that don't match to the curve. With Hell Or High Water, a couple of things come to mind.

One, my grandfather, Fred Simpson, on my mum's side, was from Liverpool. He was a terrible teaser.

I think my brother (actor Beau Bridges) inherited that gene too because Beau was a great teaser, still is. And that was part of my character. I remember when my brother would tease me and get me crying and my mother would say, "It's just because he loves you so much", you know?

That helped me with the stuff I had with Gil Birmingham (his co-star in the film), my partner who I enjoy working with so much. And then, as in most characters, you think about role models.

All of us were so lucky to have Joaquin Jackson be a part of our show (as a consultant). He died recently, but he was a famous Texas Ranger.

What was it about the Texas Rangers, some of the characteristics you were able to latch onto or discern?

Well, you would think somebody who's lived a life like Joaquin's, that he'd be tough. But he was very kind of a sweet; there was a gentle side to him.

People have asked you about Donald Trump and your hopes for his presidency. Do you have any?

What a wild time, huh? Oh my gosh.

But one of his best features as far as I'm concerned is that he's... I guess a less gracious word would be - he's a hypocrite. You don't know where he's going, he changes his mind. Maybe he'll surprise us. It's all over the place. So, you know, you've got to have high hopes. But it's kind of a call to action, that's where I'm looking at it.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Easy-going Jeff Bridges has a lot of tension'. Print Edition | Subscribe