Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bridges: More Than a Hollywood 'Contender'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bridges: More Than a Hollywood 'Contender'

Article excerpt

The last time Jeff Bridges was in Boston, he was trying to stop a terrorist from blowing up Copley Square, just one block north of the hotel boardroom that he is sitting in now.

"Oh man, yeah," laughs Mr. Bridges, recalling "Blown Away," the 1994 film in which he played a bomb-squad officer.

"I'm glad to be invited back after blowing up half the place," says the actor, who was here for the annual Boston Film Festival in September, which was screening a preview of his latest movie, "The Contender" (opening nationwide today; see review page 15).

In the movie, a political thriller, the star of movies like "The Fisher King" and "The Fabulous Baker Boys" portrays a president of the United States eager to seal his legacy by nominating a controversial woman senator (played by Joan Allen) to be his vice president.

Bridges says that the decision to star in "The Contender" was made in a matter of seconds. "You just don't read scripts that are that good. It's very, very, very rare," he says. "I like to do movies ... where the filmmaker's kind of ahead of the audience and you don't know what's going to happen."

He's not exaggerating. The California native's filmography reveals a minor specialty of starring in thrillers with plots that twist like Mbius strips - among them "The Jagged Edge," "Arlington Road," and "The Vanishing."

The choice of casting Bridges as president in "The Contender" would seem counterintuitive to anyone looking at the Hawaiian- shirted actor casually doodling on a pad of paper and taking full advantage of a backward-tilting chair. Yet Bridges utilizes his easygoing persona to create a believable president.

"I really wanted to stay away from doing an impersonation of [Bill Clinton]," Bridges acknowledges.

"I looked at other politicians like Mario Cuomo, Robert and John Kennedy, [Lyndon] Johnson. But I ended up really using elements of myself, and also my father kept coming to mind."

His father, the late actor Lloyd Bridges, introduced him to acting. …

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