Jeff Bridges Lends His Voice To:
Big Z, (above), voiced by Jeff Bridges
Hawaii - At a junket fit for an emperor penguin - and an array of movie stars who leant their voices to this year's animated penguin feature film, "Surf's Up," - along with a slew of television, print and online journalists from around the world, Sony Pictures set up shop in Hawaii (nearly three weeks ago). Not since "SpongeBob Square Pants: The Movie," has a studio taken the press to the ocean for an animated film set in the sea. (The "SpongeBob" junket was supposed to be held in the Caribbean, until a hurricane ravaged the hotel that had already been paid for by Paramount. Consolation prize? Santa Monica, California. However, Michael Agulnek, who was recently appointed to VP at Paramount, did a great job handling "SpongeBob," taking care that the sea kid didn't dry up while on land.)
"Surf's Up," featuring the voice talents of Jeff Bridges, Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, Jane Krakowski, Jon Heder, Mario Cantone, Brian Benben and Michael McKean, rides into theaters June 8, 2007.
In addition to Shia LaBeouf, (whom we sat down with separately), Wild About Movies chatted up four time Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges.
Jeff Bridges was born December 4, 1949 in Los Angeles, California and is the son of Emmy nominee, the late Lloyd Bridges, and the brother of Golden Globe winner Beau Bridges.
Jeff Bridges's first major role was in the 1971 movie The Last Picture Show for which he garnered a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was nominated again for the same award for his performance opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1974 film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. One of his better known roles was in the 1982 science-fiction cult classic Tron, in which he played Kevin Flynn, a video game programmer. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1984 for playing the alien in Starman. He was also acclaimed for his roles in the thriller Against All Odds and the crime drama Jagged Edge. His role in Fearless is recognized by some critics to be one of his best performances, not to mention perhaps one of the most underrated films of the 1990s. One critic dubbed it a masterpiece; Pauline Kael wrote that he 'may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived'. He is perhaps best known, worldwide, for his role as The Dude in the Coen Brothers' classic cult film The Big Lebowski. In 2000 Bridges was nominated for his fourth Academy-Award for his role in The Contender. He also starred in the Terry Gilliam movie Tideland, his second with the director (the first being 1991's The Fisher King).
Wild About Movies - WHAT WAS IT ABOUT "SURF'S UP" THAT BROUGHT YOU ONBOARD?
"Jeff Bridges" - What really got me onboard was this whole surfing aspect of things and how well they pulled the water element of this film off. I said, 'They're going to do a surfing movie? How are the waves going to look? Is it going to look like a photograph type thing?' Then they started to show me some of the footage that they had worked on and being a surfer myself it was a thrill to be a part of bringing to the audience what that feels like, to be locked in a tube. That's kind of what got me onboard.
Wild About Movies - CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE FEELING OF CATCHING A WAVE?
"Jeff Bridges" - I suppose it's different at each level. I'm a pretty basic surfer. I stopped surfing about thirty years ago [Laughs], and I've picked it up in the last five years again. I used to surf in high school and at one time I was pretty great, and now I'm kind of back to getting my balance back and getting my turns down and so it's kind of challenging for me and I'm worried about hurting myself, my back and so forth. So I'm in the process of taking it very much at a step at a time to make sure that I can surf tomorrow and the next day, but it's a wonderful feeling whether you catch a wave or not. It's a bit like fishing. You're out there. You're a part of nature. You're sitting in the ocean and looking at the land. Most other times it's the other way around. You're sitting on land looking at the ocean and there is something about it that gives you a different perspective on life. It's a wonderful metaphor, catching a wave, for how you look at other challenges in your life.
Wild About Movies - DID YOU START SURFING AGAIN BECAUSE OF THIS MOVIE? DID THAT MAKE YOU THINK OF THE FUN THAT YOU HAD SURFING BEFORE?
"Jeff Bridges" - No, I started before that. But it all kind of dovetailed together and it was fun to be a part of this one.
Wild About Movies - HOW FAR IS YOUR CHARACTER FROM YOUR REAL PERSONALITY?
"Jeff Bridges" - Oh, he's pretty far, pretty far.
Wild About Movies - HAVE YOU SEEN THE FINAL VERSION OF THIS FILM?
"Jeff Bridges" - I haven't. You've probably seen the more recent version than I've seen. I just saw a pretty rough one.
Wild About Movies - "SURF'S UP" WAS DONE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER ANIMATED FILMS FOR THE ACTORS. DID IT FEEL THE SAME AS OTHER ANIMATED FILMS YOU'VE DONE?
"Jeff Bridges" - Well, it didn't feel like that. I had done animated films in the past and that was kind of a lonely experience where you sit in the booth where you've got your sides and you're reading this stuff and imagining what this other person is saying or doing the scene to their playback without them in the room, but in this instance the characters were often all there in the same room. I did a lot of work with Shia [LeBeouf] who is a wonderful improviser. We were really encouraged to do that by the directors as much as we cared to and we did a lot of it. There were also cameras set up in the room that were capturing our movements and our expressions and that was all going to help the animators. So it was a lot of fun. It didn't feel as lonesome as it has in the past and as clinical. It was really a fun experience and very loose.
Wild About Movies - IS IT HARD TO WORK IN A STUDIO ALONE IN DOING THE OTHER FILMS LIKE THIS THAT YOU'VE DONE?
"Jeff Bridges" - Yeah, but there are always things like that in making movies, little perimeters that you have to fit into. That's part of the game of it. I'm trying to think of an analogy. It's just like when you're playing football, you've got to stay within the lines. You can't just go over there into the stands. So everything is kind of narrower and narrower and sometimes you just have to use the tools that you're allowed to use. That's part of the game and in this case it wasn't about wardrobe or makeup or any of that stuff. So you use what you have.
Wild About Movies - DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SURF MOVIE?
"Jeff Bridges" - Well, I remember, probably the best of the old documentaries, one of the old surf films - I just did narration for a wonderful documentary called 'Chasing the Lotus' and that's a lot of B-roll from a lot of the surf films and they interviewed some of these great old surfers and you really get a sense of what surfing is all about. Documentaries then, I think, rather than the more fictitious films of it.
Wild About Movies - BUT YOU HAVE LIKED SOME OF THOSE SURFING MOVIES?
"Jeff Bridges" - They all had some great elements, some great parts. A lot of my friends were in there and did great work, I think. They were all surfers and they added certain authenticities to it.
Wild About Movies - HOW HAS THE WORKING EXPERIENCE BEEN ON "IRON MAN" SO FAR AND HOW DOES THE SUIT LOOK IN MOTION?
"Jeff Bridges" - The costume in motion? You mean the Iron Man costume itself? Well, let's see. It's been wonderful working with Jon Favreau who's the director of the film and is a wonderful actor as well who I've admired for a long time. I remember the first thing he did, 'Swingers,' which he wrote. He did such a great job. And Robert Downey Jr, and we were talking about improvisation in this and we were doing a lot of improvisation in 'Iron Man' to discover scenes and getting off of the written page and doing a lot of work like that. I know that Jon is very interested in grounding it in as much reality as he possibly can. That's kind of informing the whole thing. Like, the suit for instance, I don't know if you saw the first suit, but it looks very primitive. It looks like, 'Oh yeah, maybe that could happen.' It's all plausible.
Wild About Movies - HOW DIFFERENT NOW IS THE TECHNOLOGY FROM WHEN YOU DID "TRON?"
"Jeff Bridges" - Man. Leaps and bounds. I remember when we did 'Tron,' we were so excited seeing it and then I remember about a week after the opening going home and seeing all of that technology in a commercial. It was just like, 'Boom! It's now passe' -- just like that. That's the way that technology is, it happens so fast.
Wild About Movies: ARE YOU STILL WORKING ON "IRON MAN?"
"Jeff Bridges" - Oh, yeah, I have to go right back to work tomorrow.
Wild About Movies - HOW MUCH LONGER UNTIL YOU'RE DONE WITH "IRON MAN?"
"Jeff Bridges" - June, mid June.
Wild About Movies - ARE YOU A COMIC FAN AT ALL?
"Jeff Bridges" - Yeah. I used to read comics when I was a kid.
Wild About Movies - DID YOU READ "IRON MAN?"
"Jeff Bridges" - Iron Man, let's see. He wasn't part of The Fantastic Four, right? He was in The Avengers, I believe. No, I wasn't too much into 'Iron Man.' I was more into 'Superman.' I was into 'The Green Lantern.'
Wild About Movies - IS "IRON MAN" USING FILM OR DIGITAL CAMERAS?
"Jeff Bridges" - Film.
Wild About Movies - HAVE YOU WORKED MUCH WITH GWYNETH PALTROW AT THIS POINT?
"Jeff Bridges" - A little bit. We've got some scenes coming up, but I haven't worked with her too much yet.
Wild About Movies - AND FOR "SURF'S UP," HOW MUCH WORK DID YOU PUT INTO CREATING THIS CHARACTER? DID YOU HAVE ANY INPUT INTO THE LOOK OF HIM?
"Jeff Bridges" - Not too much. I tried to get the guy - I said, 'Hey, you've got The Geek, he's kind of a fat penguin, man. Can't you give him a little more tone?' He said, 'Uh, no. That's going against the story.' I said, 'Yeah, I guess you're right.' But no, I didn't have too much to say about his look or anything like that. I got a kick out of it though. It was kind of funny.
Wild About Movies - DO YOU SEE YOUNG ACTORS WITH A LOT OF POTENTIAL IN THIS BUSINESS IN SORT OF THE SAME WAY THAT YOUR CHARACTER SAW CODY MAVERICK IN THIS FILM?
"Jeff Bridges" - Sure. While we were making the movie there was a bit of that. You could transpose surfing for acting in a sense. Shia and I are both actors, and we've both been doing it since we were kids and we would play together. There is a lot of play in acting, like when you were a kid and you used to pretend and everything. It's kind of like that, and not that it can't be very serious either. You can play very seriously. They even call it playing the piano whether or not you're playing Bach or whatever - it can be very serious music, but there is an element of play to it that goes for surfing and goes for acting as well. So I think that certainly playing with Shia there was a lot of that kind of sense, and it wasn't so much teaching. I mean, God, he's a wonderful improviser and there's a great willingness he has to play and to maybe be the fool or not and so we got to surf together and we got to play together. It was a lot of fun.
Wild About Movies - TALK A BIT ABOUT THE SONG THAT YOU PLAY ON THE UKULELE. IT WORKS REALLY WELL.
"Jeff Bridges" - Yeah, I heard that they were putting that into the movie, but I haven't heard whether they did that or not. That works though? That's great. When I was recording it, one of my friends said, 'It's not a Ukulele [pronounced YOU-kulele]. It's a Ukulele [pronounced EWW-kulele].' So I went on and they must've had the mike on and recorded that. I didn't know that they were going to do that.
Wild About Movies - BUT THAT'S YOU PLAYING?
"Jeff Bridges" - I played it. That's me playing, and that song was written by perhaps my oldest friend, a guy named John Goodwin. We go back to the fourth grade together. We've been making music and making art and playing together all of these years. So whenever I make a movie he goes, 'So what's the movie about? I'll write a song.' I say, 'Okay, I'll throw it in.' So I remember he was over one day and I was working on it and I was telling him about the movie. I had told him what the movie was about and he came back an hour later, and said, 'Here. What do you think?' He laid that song on me. He also had a song in 'Tideland.'
Wild About Movies - "SURF'S UP" IS ABOUT FINDING AND KEEPING THE JOY IN WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING. YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS SINCE YOU WERE KID. HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT JOY IN THIS?
"Jeff Bridges" - Well, different things come to mind when you say that, things that mom would say. She would say, 'Remember, don't take it too seriously.' 'Yeah, thanks.' My wife, whenever I go off to work and I'll be kind of anxious, she'll say, 'Remember, have fun.' 'Oh, I forgot. Thanks for the reminder.' Sometimes we do forget. We take it all too seriously and there's a lot of joy to be had wherever you are. You have to kind of get out of your way and there it is.
Wild About Movies - COULD YOU RELATE TO THE RELATIONSHIP WITH CODY FROM YOUR OWN LIFE WITH YOUR OLDER BROTHER?
"Jeff Bridges" - With Cody? Me being Cody and Beau being Big Z? Not really, no. Beau is eight years older than I am and he was almost – my dad was working a lot in those days and so he was kind of like a surrogate father. He taught me all the sports. He was always small for his age and I was always big for my age, but he was an excellent athlete. He was scouted by the Dodgers. He played on the UCLA basketball team with Walt Hazzard and John Wooden and all of that. So, since I was bigger for my age, he would kind of teach me all of the sports stuff and then kind of vicariously have me go out and be his knight or whatever and I enjoyed it for a while. It was fun to be close with him, but I think that I didn't get into the competitive side of it. He has a wonderful way, and my father had this too, of getting great joy out of competition. Maybe it's that I'm so competitive that I don't even like to get in there and lose. Maybe that's it, I don't know. But Beau and my dad would love to compete. They played a lot of tennis and all of that stuff.
Wild About Movies - WHO ARE YOU PLAYING IN "IRON MAN" AND WHY DID YOU WANT TO DO THE FILM?
"Jeff Bridges" - I'm playing Obadiah Stane who in the movie version is kind of the mentor to Tony Stark, Robert Downey's character, and I run his company, Stark Enterprises.
Wild About Movies - DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING COMING UP AFTER "IRON MAN?"
"Jeff Bridges" - Yeah, after 'Iron Man,' I just signed on to a movie that I believe is now official. I believe it's official, but it's a movie called -- I hope I get this right, don't tell me -- 'How To Lose Friends & Alienate People.'
Wild About Movies - WHAT CHARACTER ARE YOU PLAYING IN THAT FILM? THAT'S WITH SIMON PEGG, RIGHT?
"Jeff Bridges" - That's right. I play the head of a magazine, the chief editor that Simon is working for. I think that it's loosely based on a book of the same title. I can't think of the name of the guy who wrote the book.
Wild About Movies - HAVE YOU SEEN 'SHAWN OF THE DEAD' AND/OR 'HOT FUZZ?'
"Jeff Bridges" - I've seen both of those and I'm a fan of Simon Pegg. I think he's great. I liked 'Shawn of the Dead' a lot.
Wild About Movies - ARE YOU STILL PLAYING MUSIC FOR FUN?
"Jeff Bridges" - I play all the time. I played not too long ago. I think that I have another album in me. I'm getting my buddies together and collecting songs. My friend John Goodwin has a lot of music. If you go on my website, by the way, and go into the music page you can hear a lot of John's music. You can stream his album which is available on iTunes and is called 'Up To Here.'
Wild About Movies - WHAT ELSE BESIDES MUSIC AND ACTING DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
"Jeff Bridges" - I do a lot of ceramics. My website is kind of fun for me too. I get to do drawings on that which are kind of fun. I have a lot of family time these days. My oldest daughter Isabelle is getting married and we're all kind of gearing up for that.
Wild About Movies - ARE ANY OF YOUR KIDS LOOKING TO ACTING AS A CAREER?
"Jeff Bridges" - I don't know. Unlike my father, I didn't make it as available to them as he did with us. Not that my dad was a -- what do you call it -- a stage parent or anything, but he just enjoyed it so much that he wanted to turn his kids onto it. He was right. I've enjoyed it myself and have had a wonderful life because of it, but I went through a period when I was younger when it was awkward for me. As a child of a famous person you get judged in odd ways because of that, and then I remember when I first started my acting career I would think, 'Oh, I just got this job because of who my father is -- a lot of nepotism stuff. I'm a product of nepotism, I have to say. I don't think that I would've gotten into acting if my father wasn't so enthusiastic. Anyway, I chose to not do that with my kids, and I'm kind of regretting that a little bit now because now they're in their twenties and they're at that crossroads where they're starting to ask themselves, 'Well, what am I going to do?' I'm like, 'Have you ever thought about acting? You've got it in
your blood, three generations of it. I'll help you work on the stuff.' They said, 'Eh, I don't know. I don't think so.' I wouldn't be surprised if any of them kind of stumble into it in some way.
Wild About Movies - WHAT KIND OF FATHER-IN-LAW ARE YOU GOING TO BE?
"Jeff Bridges" - I'll be a fine father-in-law. The guy that she's marrying, Brandon Bash, is a wonderful guy and they've known each other for many, many years and they toured Europe together and so I figure that they can survive here.