A Q&A with Jeff Bridges: Talking 'Tron' and more
Jeff Bridges currently inhabits two distinctly different cinematic worlds.
One is the futuristic, computer-generated matrix of "Tron: Legacy," which arrives in theaters at midnight tonight, much to the delight of Grid geeks, Daft Punk fans and anyone who enjoys the comforting glow of neon light.
The second involves the old-fashioned Western landscapes of the Coen brothers' "True Grit," which opens Dec. 22 and features Bridges in the role of grizzled U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn.
Back in July, during my whirlwind journey through Comic-Con, I got a few moments to chat with Bridges about a variety of things, including life after his Oscar win, reprising his "Tron" role as Kevin Flynn and his love-hate relationship with technology. Oh, and water bottles. We talked about that, too.
I held off on publishing the Q&A until now, to capitalize on the moment when both "Tron Legacy" and "True Grit" would be poised to roll out in multiplexes. Also I had a feeling that on a snowy December day in D.C., it would be nice to flashback to a 75-degree July afternoon when I sat in a poolside cabana at San Diego's Hard Rock Hotel, sipping coffee with the Dude.
Jen Chaney: Talk about what this year has been like for you since your Oscar win.
Jeff Bridges: Oh, it's been a real whirlwind. The day after the awards I was off to Santa Fe, to work with the Coen brothers on "True Grit." Then right after "True Grit" I went right to work doing some more "Tron" shooting, some more work on that. Then I came home and I started to fire up my music.
You know, "Crazy Heart" really fanned my music flame. I really started to get hungry and get back into that. I put a little local band together, and we've got a few gigs going.
JC: Oh yeah? Where have you been playing?
JB: We've been playing in Santa Barbara right now. We just played the Nevada Theater, the oldest operating theater in California, not too long ago. That was a lot of fun. And I'm looking forward to getting into more music and making an album with T. Bone Burnett, my buddy.
JC: Have you changed anything about your approach to your work since winning the Oscar? You and I met once before, and you talked about how you're selective because you want to take it easy and do what you really are moved to do.
JB: Right, yeah. No, it hasn't changed that too much, but I notice my life has been picking up steam. It's hard to slow down when you get used to it.
JC: Picking up steam because you're getting more offers?
JB: I don't know. I don't know if it's a function of, as you say, winning an award or anything. But it just seems to be that there are a lot of projects that have come my way that are too cool to turn down. Like the Coen brothers project. Couldn't turn that one down.
JC: The "Tron:Legacy" project was born a while back. When they came to you with the idea, was there any part of you that thought, I don't know if I should do this? Or did you immediately think--
JB: No, I dragged my feet as normal. A drag-me-to-the-party kind of thing.
JC: Why did you drag your feet?
JB: You know, we had done "Tron." It was kind of what it was. At the time, it was the most advanced movie out there, using a lot of the advanced technology. It was kind of a classic in a way. So to revisit it, the script had to be right. And you had to have somebody at the helm -- it had to be the right director to pull it off.
That was Disney's concern as well. So when they came to me with this idea, they had laid out a story, kind of a rough idea of what the story was. And it sounded intriguing to me, a modern-day myth kind of deal. And we need myths to help us navigate the waters of life. We certainly have challenges in this day and age with technology, which is what "Tron" is all about. I thought, if we can make a movie that deals with that theme, then that would be something that I would be interested in. And they were interested in that as well. And they had an interesting idea, which was -- the Coen brothers actually did this with "Blood Simple." When the filmmakers -- to get financing, sometimes they'll make a trailer. The Coen brothers I think made a trailer of a movie that didn't exist, you know what I mean? But they showed that to the financiers to try to get the money.
So Disney said I don't know, it's going to cost a lot of money to make this world, "Tron." Why don't we have you put together a couple of minutes to give us a taste of what we might expect and we'll show it at Comic-Con and see if it flies? So we did that not knowing really what our full story was, and that we'd probably have to re-shoot what we did. But we'd show some of the art and some of the design. We showed two minutes here at Comic-Con three years ago and the place went crazy. So Disney said, if this is what the people want to see, we'll give it to 'em.
JC: You talked about the dark side of technology earlier. What is your relationship with technology? Do you consider yourself Web savvy, for example?
JB: Technology is such a broad kind of term, it really applies to so many things, from the electric light to running cars on oil. All of these different things can be called technology. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with it, as I expect most people do. With the computer, I spend so many hours sitting in front of a computer. Do you do that?
JC: I have to, for work.
JB: You have to do it, for work.
JC: But I do it even when I don't have to.
JB: But even when you don't -- I mean, the e-mails. And you think it's supposed to make your life more convenient but now, you put stuff out there and here it comes, the waves, the ripples back, you know. You have the idea you want to share something and now, the world comes back and there's so much more to keep up [with]. If you're like me, I get hooked into to-do lists, you know. I'll say I checked that off. Okay, I did that. And you have all these things you're doing.
And then you say, wait a minute. I'm a prisoner. I've got to do this? You know. And at the same time, it's kind of fun. There's almost an addictive quality to it. And I was saying on the panel the other day about, just, water bottles. Convenience. We love things that are convenient. These little water bottles that you can swig, throw away and you don't think anything of it. Well, the ramifications of those bottles -- we dump 100 million gallons of plastics into the ocean every year. And then the fish eat them and then we eat the fish. And this is maybe not a thing that we want to do. We have to reexamine that, you know, think about it.
So I have kind of a love-hate relationship with it, and I'm trying to not numb myself and engage in the issue myself. Because I notice in myself a kind of, "Yeah, don't worry about it. Just keep going on." I'm trying to kind of wake myself up about that.
JC: Are you trying to cut back on the amount of time you spend on, say, e-mail?
JB: Yeah, I'm trying to do better. Just on this water thing, I've got myself one of these metal things. [Gestures to water canister.] Be more conscious about my relationship with plastic, study a little bit more about that. That's one of the cool things about fame. You have an affect on society and where it goes. So I'm interested in that.
JC: We're at Comic-Con, where people are often very passionate about really niche pieces of pop culture. What do you geek out about? What are you really into?
JB: I'm into music. My own music, certainly. I got into a guy who I've been listening to, he's not too well-known -- a guy named Benji Hughes. You can check him out on iTunes. I'm a big fan of Tom Waits. I like his music. So I'm a big fan of music.
What other things do I geek out about...
JC: Are you into comic books at all?
JB: I was when I was a kid.
JC: Video games?
JB: I was when I was a kid. Not too much now. I think the last video game I played -- it was with one of my daughters -- was "Mist." Do you know that video game?
JC: I know of it. I never played it.
JB: But that was years ago. I'm sure it's completely different.
JC: I play the Wii.
JB: I haven't gotten into that at all.
JC: I also have a Playstation 3, but I've never played a game on it. I only watch movies on it.
JB: Wow. How is it for watching movies?
JC: It's great, because it's Blu-ray.
JB: Yeah. Oh, good.
JC: So you've been to the Oscars. And there's a whole scene around that. And here at Comic-Con, there's a whole other scene. Do you see differences between the two? Because there is so much celebrity at Comic-Con. There are so many parties now.
JB: Well, the costumes are different. Different costumes, different casts, different director. The challenge is to not be too anxious. Get with the program. Have fun, as much as you can. Don't take it all too seriously.
| December 16, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories: Celebrities, Comic-Con, Movies, Pop Culture
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