Jeff Bridges is known for ambidexterity in his role-choosing, oscillating from a disembodied alien in John Carpenter’s “Starman,” for example, to an accused wife-killer in “Jagged Edge” the following year. It was an intentional strategy that avoided typecasting, and spoke to that early reluctance to act in the first place. At other times in his career, Bridges was as surprised as anyone else to get certain gigs like that of The Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” a role brought directly to him by the Coen Brothers themselves. Bridges tells VF:
“Casting is such an interesting, important part of making movies. It’s probably 99% of what it takes to make something successful.”
His versatility, he observes, made it easier for audiences and casting directors to imagine him playing a spectrum of personalities. Before “Starman,” Carpenter had Bridges in mind for the lead role of R.J. MacReady in “The Thing,” before Kurt Russell donned the grubby military campaign hat. As hard as it is to imagine anyone but Russell wielding the flamethrower, it would have been a treat to see Bridges go toe-to-toe with a shapeshifting alien.
Of all the careers he considered at a young age, music was one that he was still able to infuse into acting, and he was rewarded with praise for it; his turn as past-his-prime musician Bad Blake in Scott Cooper’s 2009 drama “Crazy Heart” enabled him to show off his talents on the guitar, for which he finally earned a Best Actor Academy Award. He’s performed on soundtracks, released solo albums, his photography has gotten him an Infinity Award, and he’s a published author. The “old man” Lloyd Bridges was right: Jeff got to do it all through acting.