After 11 days of movies, panels, and parties, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival wound down Sunday with a dedication to one of the city’s treasured residents—Jeff Bridges. The tribute began at 8 a.m. with a screening of The the Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich’s Academy Award nominated movie based on Larry McMurtry’s book. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Starman followed, capped by a showing of Bridges latest—and perhaps most celebrated—film Crazy Heart at the Lobero Theatre.
The Lobero was packed to the rafters for the Crazy Heart screening, which was followed by a Q&A with Bridges. The actor came on stage to cheers and a standing ovation. Dressed in a dark blue blazer and jeans, he sported his Crazy Heart beard and long hair, this time looking fit and debonair.
Moderator Kristopher Tapley asked Bridges how he got involved with Crazy Heart. “When I get a script that involves music, it piques my interest,” Bridges said. “But the bar is set high. Years ago I did the Fabulous Baker Boys…When Crazy Heart came along, the script was great, it had great dialogue. But it had no music, so I passed. A year later I saw T-Bone Burnett, who had also seen the script. He said ‘I’ll do it if you’ll do it.’”
Bridges has one of the most prolific film careers in Hollywood and yet claims he tries to avoid doing movies. “I’m not really looking for anything. I don’t want to do anything,” he said laughing. “Doing a movie is hard because you have to be away from your Valentine. Mine is my wife Sue.” The two have been married for 35 years. “So the ones I end up doing are the ones that are too tempting [to pass on].”
Bridges got into acting thanks to his father Lloyd Bridges, who rose to fame as Mike Nelson in the television series Sea Hunt. “[Dad] loved showbiz. He wanted to turn his kids on to it. One time they needed a baby in a film dad was doing and he said, ‘Take mine,” and Lloyd handed over his infant son Jeff. “I was a happy baby and they needed me to cry so Mom said, ‘Just pinch him,’” Bridges said laughing. “Dad approached work with sheer joy and it was contagious.”
Despite the fact that Crazy Heart was director/writer Scott Cooper’s first film, Bridges said, “He’s one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. We shot this [film] in 24 days. That’s a lot of pressure…[Cooper] was so open. I never felt rushed…Scott said, ‘I want to circle myself with great talent and by doing that I’m going to make this film director proof.’”
That circle of talent included Maggie Gyllenhaal, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Crazy Heart. “I was worried she wasn’t getting the acknowledgment she should,” Bridges said. “She disappeared into that role. She was that person so completely….And Colin Farrell was there for only four days. Everyone just jumped in and opened their hearts and were up to the challenge.”
Also receiving an Oscar nod is musician Ryan Bingham, who wrote the movie theme song “Weary Kind.” “I remember the day when Ryan [Bingham] showed up. Colin Farrell is responsible for Ryan. He saw him playing at Cantor’s [Deli in L.A.]. He was living in his car. Ryan came over to T-Bone’s and played the ‘Weary Kind’ and T-Bone sighed,” knowing that this was the song for the movie.
Just before the event’s end, Mayor Helene Schneider presented Bridges with a letter of recognition from the city. The actor closed the event by signing autographs for an appreciative audience.