Jeff Bridges Interview
Jeff Bridges Interview

Starring In

True Grit (M)

Release Date

03 Feb 2011

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Renowned for playing The Dude in the cult hit The Big Lebowski (also by the Coen brothers) Jeff Bridges' CV features a seriously eclectic mix of characters, from computer gamer and designer in the Tron films, to the owner of the winning racehorse in Seabiscuit. Having been on the acting scene for the best part of 50 years, he has maintained his status as a contemporary actor, with roles in recent films such as Iron Man, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Crazy Heart. Here he talks to Donna Walker-Mitchell about his latest role as the gruff Marhsal Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers' True Grit.

What made you want to do this film, True Grit ?

Jeff Bridges

It was the Coen brothers really (Joel and Ethan). They’re great writers, for one thing. The dialogue they write feels very real and appropriate for the story they are telling. I worked with them on The Big Lebowski [in 1998] and people often think there was a lot of improvisation on that movie, but all of those lines were scripted. They’re incredible.
I’d been dying to work with the Coen brothers again. Whenever they invite you to come play, you know it’s going to be so cool...
You play Marshal Reuben J ‘Rooster’ Cogburn who seems quite tough and hard. How easy or difficult was it to empathise with him?

Jeff Bridges

Well, I’m not hard. [Laughs] I think being hard means being gruff, mean and that you don’t like too many people. That’s not me. I like people and I’m more light and airy. I’m not hard in any way. He’s a wonderful character and he’s fascinating. He’s kind of full of himself and standoffish when you first meet him. But it turns out, he loves talking about himself, he’s probably starved for company and he likes a drink.
John Wayne won an Oscar for this part in the 1969 film. How much of a challenge was it to make this role your own?

Jeff Bridges

The first bit of direction the Coen brothers gave me, because I was curious as to why they wanted to do a remake of this classic western, was ‘We’re not making a remake of the western. We’re referring to the book that Charles Portis wrote.’ I read the book and then I knew what they were talking about. It’s a wonderful book and it’s not something unlike the Coen brothers might make. I could instantly see them doing it. I didn’t refer to the John Wayne movie.
Is that because you didn’t want him influencing your own version of Rooster?

Jeff Bridges

Well, John Wayne is such an important figure in cinema, but I really took the Coen brothers’ direction to heart. I never thought ‘How did John Wayne do this?’ I didn’t mess with that at all. I just did it as if there had never been any other movie basically.
Is a lot of the script directly from the book?

Jeff Bridges

Yes, it is. I think in the original film, they used dialogue from the book too and no wonder because the dialogue from the book is just wonderful.
What was the best thing for you personally about making True Grit?

Jeff Bridges

One of the best things about doing this movie was that I invited my daughter Jessie to be my assistant so she was with me every step of the way. She plays guitar, sings and writes and we even put on a few concerts while I was doing this film. We did one concert in Sante Fe which was terrific.
You also shot Crazy Heart in Sante Fe, right?

Jeff Bridges

I did. Actually, I stayed in the very same house again while making True Grit. It was like coming home again.
You’ve worked with some incredible directors in your career. What makes the Coen brothers so special for you?

Jeff Bridges

Each director is so unique, but I love working with the Coen brothers. They create an atmosphere on set which is very relaxed and pleasant. They surround themselves with people they have worked with many times before so there was a real family atmosphere.
Matt Damon said yes to this film before he even saw a script. Did you feel the same way?

Jeff Bridges

Well, when I first heard about True Grit, I was in the middle of making Tron. It’s always disconcerting and kind of pisses me off when I get offered a movie while I’m making a movie, especially when it’s a movie that really sounds interesting. I knew as soon as I heard about it that I was going to like it. I’d been dying to work with the Coen brothers again for so long. Whenever they invite you to come play, you know it’s going to be so cool.
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