Is Anyone Cooler Than Jeff Bridges?

By Bernstein, Jacob | Newsweek, August 29, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Is Anyone Cooler Than Jeff Bridges?

Bernstein, Jacob, Newsweek

Byline: Jacob Bernstein

The slacker hero is having a career renaissance. His next big move: going country.

The idea of branching out from acting to singing could turn even the sanest veteran of the stage and screen into a nervous wreck. Russell Crowe, Lindsay Lohan, Danny Aiello, Kevin Bacon, and Robert Downey Jr. have all released music over the years, and none could honestly tell you it significantly affected their careers for the better. But ask Jeff Bridges if he is concerned about this transition--his self-titled major-label debut album comes out Aug. 16--and he just shrugs and says, "Not really."

It isn't arrogance, Bridges explains. Just a certain "Que sera, sera" about his next chapter. "I don't really think in career terms," he says on his cell phone, which he's using in the back of a chauffeured car that's taking him around Southern California on a recent evening. (Last stop: a pretaped interview with Piers Morgan for CNN; next stop: his Santa Barbara home.) "I've been doing music since I was a kid."

Plus, he recently had some good practice. In 2009 Bridges starred in the film Crazy Heart, playing an aging country singer. What floored people about the performance (and won him his first Oscar) was not just his uncanny understanding of the toll alcoholism can take, but also his surprisingly adept crooning. After doing the movie, and after shooting Tron: Legacy, Bridges and his Crazy Heart musical collaborator T Bone Burnett headed back into the studio to produce a full album.

No one spent a whole lot of time belaboring or overthinking the process. "It all happened quite quickly," Bridges says. "We cut something like 17 songs in a week. Over-dubs and mixing took longer, but it was fast." The result: a quietly impressive collection that embellishes, rather than detracts from, his career. He's supporting the album with a handful of live shows this summer.

Bridges has always given off a supremely mellow, slightly ho-hum vibe. He just does what he does and does it well. One adventure takes him to another, and he enjoys the ride.

"I'm not that ambitious," Bridges says, transitioning to a discussion of his childhood in California, where he grew up the son of actors Lloyd Bridges and Dorothy Simpson. "I'm a product of nepotism. One of the hardest things for an actor is getting a break, and my dad was so gung-ho about getting me into the business, things came easily."

At 23, Bridges earned a best-supporting-actor Oscar nomination for his role as a football player in The Last Picture Show, and he's worked steadily ever since.

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