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Jeff Bridges' Best AMA Answers: On 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Iron Man,' Bagels and Love

Josh Wolk
Executive Editor, Entertainment
July 24, 2014

Note: For more on Bridges — and his latest film, The Giver — check out our Comic-Con coverage.

Reddit AMAs with actors can be a mixed bag: The quick-response format can reveal some satisfying answers, but leave you desperate for a follow-up answer that never comes. And sometimes the subject does not play ball at all, failing to give even the illusion of caring. (Witness the great Woody Harrelson AMA debacle of 2012.) But it is rare that you get a session as rewarding as yesterday’s back and forth with Jeff Bridges, there to promote his upcoming adaptation of the YA classic, The Giver. Bridges wasn’t gossipy — no trashing of past movies or co-stars — but he seemed incredibly engaged with the whole process. Whether he was asked about Iron Man, The Big Lebowski, his thoughts on the secrets to marriage, or his favorite foods, he was equally thoughtful, detailed, sensitive and revealing in his answers. In true Bridges tradition, it was like a sit-down with a Zen master, revealing the secrets to making a blockbuster and the perfect bagel. Here are his most fascinating answers. (Many bonuses for Lebowski fans.)

The chaotic filming of Iron Man made him crazy, until he accepted it as the world’s most expensive student film.
Playing villain Obadiah Stane in the 2008 blockbuster, he was shocked to show up and discover the script was being changed on the fly by director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., and the Marvel team. “It was unusual because it was very expensive, close to $200 million or something, and you would think that a movie that had that high a budget, they would have had their script tighter. But that was not the case. And we would very often find ourselves, at the beginning of the day, going into our trailers with little tape recorders with the suits from Marvel & Jon & Robert, and we would try to come up with what we were going to shoot that day! We would trade parts, I would play his part, or he would play my part, Favreau would be calling up writer friends of his, and meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot, waiting for us to come back to work. That was very frustrating for me, because I like to be very prepared and let it go in front of the camera, so that you know your lines and stuff, and it was very frustrating for me, until I made a small inner adjustment that was: realizing we were making a $200 million dollar student film. And just to relax and have fun, do your best, don’t worry too much, and I think that the film came out terrifically! And again, that’s largely because we had Robert and Jon onboard.”

He was inspired to make The Giver years ago, when Lois Lowry’s 1993 book reminded him of his dad, Lloyd Bridges, who passed away in 1998.
"What initially drew me to it was the desire to direct my father in a movie, because my kids were quite young, and I wanted to make a movie that they could see, and so I was reading children’s book catalogs, and I came across this photograph of a cover of a book, with an old grizzled guy on the cover, and I thought ‘Oh, my dad could play that guy.’ And I also noticed the big Newbery award stamped on the cover, and I thought it was a must read. So I looked at the book, and found it to be a wonderful children’s book, but it also really affected me as an adult… I thought it would be quite easy to get made, but that turned out not to be the case. Probably because a lot of the financiers were concerned about the darker aspects of the book.” It took him years to finally get it made (he produced it but did not direct), and took the role of the wizened Giver meant for his father.

Another user asked him if the fact that he originally meant the role for his father resulted in the performance having more meaning to him, to which Bridges said, “I often use my father in my acting quite a bit. I kind of conjure him up and invite him to come into my being, and so I’m sure he was with me a bunch when we were shooting the Giver, or I was with him, however you want to put it…I think about my dad all the time when I am working, and maybe with this role it was a little bit more.” 

The Giver is the first time that he’s costarred with Meryl Streep (who plays the head of the Elders, who control the Utopian but controlling society), but he has an early history with her.
Turns out, he says, “We’ve known each other for years. As kids, we used to play soccer together. Yes!”

He thinks the critically lambasted bomb R.I.P.D. could have been a good movie if it hadn’t been for the studio.
"I think they really screwed up the editing of the movie, we had a wonderful time making it, with Ryan Reynolds. Wonderful time working with the director. But the suits just cut it against the grain, and I thought, screwed it up." 

Needless to say, he got many questions about The Big Lebowski, which may be the official movie of Reddit. Here, a sampling of the epiphanies on all things Dude.

Like the Dude, he will partake in the odd white Russian.
"On a rare occasion, I will have one when I am feeling like having something particularly sweet, like drinking a dessert. I like my russians without too much milk, not too much Kahlua, just the right proportions."

What’s his favorite Lebowski scene?
When asked to choose, he wrote, “Oh man, that’s a tough one! Because each scene is so good, you know? The Coen brothers wrote such a brilliant script - I don’t watch many of my movies on TV, but whenever I’m flipping the channels, and I’m a big flipper when I watch TV, when Lebowski comes up, I think ‘Oh I’ll just watch a few scenes’ and then I get sucked in, because the scenes are so funny.” However, he did offer a top pick, saying he “particularly likes” the scene in the limo, when, after he tells Lebowski that his trophy wife wasn’t really kidnapped, the angry husband has his aide (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) pass the Dude a wrapped-up severed toe allegedly snipped off of her by actual kidnappers. (This is the scene that has inspired many a Lebowski fan to use the quote, “I’ve got informantion, man. New s—- has come to light!”)

Much of the Dude’s wardrobe came out of Bridges’ own closet, including the jellies. But one came from a close relative.
The iconic baseball shirt with a cartoon of baseball player Kaoru Betto, who played in the Japanese leagues in the 1950s, was borrowed from Bridges’ brother, Beau. And Bridges is quite fond of it: He’s worn a Betto shirt in other films, including The Fisher King and TRON: Legacy.

On to a different movie: When shooting Hollywood’s first video-game movie, 1982’s TRON, Bridges got detrimentally addicted to the early games of the era.
TRON writer/director Steven Lisberger “lined the walls of our sound stage, where we shot the movie, with video games! And you didn’t need quarters! And I would often get locked into one of those games, and they would try to pry me off of it, and I would be saying ‘You have to let me finish this game!’ The game I was really into at the time was a game called Battlezone, it looked very much like the Tron world he had created.”

Even when the questions turn to more mundane issues than movies or family, Bridges gives them just as thoughtful and incredibly in-depth answers. For example, what’s his favorite sandwich?
"Is lox & bagels a sandwich? I like lox & bagels, I like kind of building that, the ritual of getting your bagel, I like my bagels toasted, almost burned, and then you put a medium spread of cream cheese, and then I like onions quite a bit, so I will put quite a few onions on it. I’m not really into tomato, but once in a while I will surprise myself with tomatoes. And then I’ll put the lox on there, and then put some peppers, and then I will cut it in half and go to town. That’s the first thing that popped into my head when you said sandwich, but it’s hard to beat a good cheeseburger. As I’m thinking about it, and then the eastern thing is cool too, falafels and pita pockets, those are awful great too. I like sandwiches, now I’m thinking about all kinds of sandwiches."

Follow-up lunch question: Does he prefer smooth or crunchy peanut butter?
"Well, that kind of depends on the mood I’m in, you know? Right now as we talk, I think if somebody offered me that, and I had some bread, or some celery, I could do a peanut butter sandwich crunchy or smooth, I think I would go with crunchy peanut butter with the celery. Right now I’m kind of in the mood for celery and some crunchy peanut butter. But next time I might go with the smooth, you know?"

But let’s not leave hungry. Let’s instead leave with a tender lesson on love from Bridges, who has been married to his wife, Susan, for 37 years. He was asked, “To what do you attribute the success of your marriage in an industry notoriously hard on relationships?” You might want to write this down.
"This industry is tough on relationships. I’ve always thought that my wife should have a credit up alongside mine, because I couldn’t do what I do without her support… The toughest thing about making movies is being apart from your family. One of the things I try my best to do is call my wife every day, to keep up to speed with what’s going on in her life. And tell her what’s going on with mine. Often when you’re apart from your loved one like that for so long, your connection kind of atrophies unless you keep engaged, even if it’s small everyday kind of stuff. But another aspect of keeping a marriage together, I think it’s important to - you’ll think I’m silly - but to love each other, which begs the question: "what is love?" Words that come to mind are openness, understanding, gentleness, kindness, and kind of working on those things, because everyone has a light and a dark side, I think, selfish aspects, and to kind of recognize those in each other and realize that we are going to have our own particular story at any given time, and those stories, they might not be the ultimate truth but they are certainly true for each of us, so to understand that we are each going through our particular version of reality, to respect that, and to nurture being in love, you know? To nurture that."