Nationality: American. Born: Los Angeles, 4 December 1949; son of the actor Lloyd Bridges; brother of the actor Beau Bridges. Education: Attended University High School, Los Angeles; studied acting at Berghoff Studios, New York. Family: Married Susan (Bridges), three daughters: Isabelle, Jessica, and Hayley. Career: Appeared in the film The Company She Keeps , 1951; made his acting debut in father Lloyd Bridges's television series Sea Hunt , 1950s; composed and sang "Lost in Space" on the soundtrack of the film John and Mary , 1969; continued to be active as songwriter; made his feature film acting debut in Halls of Anger , 1970. Awards: Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films Saturn Award-Best
Films as Actor:
The Company She Keeps (Cromwell) (as infant at train station, uncredited)
Silent Night, Lonely Night (Petrie—for TV) (as Young John)
Halls of Anger (Bogart) (as Douglas); In Search of America (Bogart—for TV) (as Mike Olson); The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go (Meredith) (as Nero Finnighan)
The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich) (as Duane Jackson)
Fat City (Huston) (as Ernie); Bad Company (Benton) (as Jake Ramsey)
Lolly Madonna XXX ( The Lolly-Madonna War ) (Sarafian) (as Zack Feather); The Last American Hero (Johnson) (as Elroy Jackson Jr.); The Iceman Cometh (Frankenheimer) (as Don Parritt)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino) (as Lightfoot); Rancho Deluxe (Perry) (as Jack McKee)
Hearts of the West ( Hollywood Cowboy ) (Zieff) (as Lewis Tater)
King Kong (Guillermin) (as Jack Prescott); Stay Hungry (Rafelson) (as Craig Blake)
Somebody Killed Her Husband (Johnson) (as Jerry Green)
Winter Kills (Richert—produced in 1977) (as Nick Kegan)
Heaven's Gate (Cimino) (as John H. Bridges); The American Success Company ( Success ) (Richert) (as Harry)
Cutter and Bone ( Cutter's Way ) (Passer) (as Richard Bone); The Last Unicorn (Rankin Jr. and Bass—animation) (as voice of Prince Lir)
Tron (Lisberger) (as Kevin Flynn/Clu); Kiss Me Goodbye (Mulligan) (as Rupert)
Against All Odds (Hackford) (as Terry Brogan); Starman (Carpenter) (as Alien)
Jagged Edge (Marquand) (as Jack Forrester)
8 Million Ways to Die (Ashby) (as Matthew Scudder); The Morning After (Lumet) (as Turner Kendall); The Thanks-giving Promise (Beau Bridges—for TV) (as neighbor, uncredited)
Nadine (Benton) (as Vernon Hightower)
Tucker ( Tucker: The Man and His Dream ) (Coppola) (as Preston Tucker); See You in the Morning (Pakula) (as Larry Livingston)
The Fabulous Baker Boys (Kloves) (as Jack Baker)
Texasville (Bogdanovich) (as Duane Jackson); Quarter Time (Bogayevicz); Cold Feet (Dornhelm) (as bartender, uncredited)
The Fisher King (Gilliam) (as Jack Lucas); Picture This-The Times of Peter Bogdanovich in Archer City, Texas (Hickenlooper) (doc) (as himself)
American Heart (Bell) (as Jack Keely (+ co-pr)
The Vanishing (Sluizer) (as Barney); Fearless (Weir) (as Max Klein)
Blown Away (Hopkins) (as Jimmy Dove)
Wild Bill (Walter Hill) (title role)
White Squall (Ridley Scott) (as Christopher "Skipper" Sheldon); The Mirror Has Two Faces (Streisand) (as Gregory Larkin); Hidden in America (Bell—for TV) (as Vincent)
The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen) (as The Dude); A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (Ivory) (as Lightfoot, uncredited)
Arlington Road (Pellington) (Michael Faraday); The Muse (Brooks) (as Jack Warrick); Simpatico (Warchus) (as Carter); Forever Hollywood (Glassman, McCarthy) (doc) (as himself)
The Contender (Lurie) (as President Jackson Evans); Raising the Mammoth (Deniau) (doc) (as Narrator).
By BRIDGES: articles—
"Jeff Bridges," interview with S. Munshower, in Inter/View (New York), February 1975.
Interview with B. Lewis and Brian Baxter, in Films and Filming (London), November/December 1988.
"American Heart," interview with Sheila Benson, in Interview (New York), October 1992.
"Building Bridges," interview with M. Frankel, in Movieline , September 1993.
"His Dudeness," interview with Jeff Dawson, in Empire (London), May 1998.
On BRIDGES: articles—
Brown, Barry, "Jeff Bridges: Popular Non-Actor," in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book , edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.
Rolling Stone (New York), 19 August 1982.
Andrew, Geoff, "Bridges' Way," in National Film Theatre Programme (London), December 1988.
Frankel, Martha, "Lone Star Bridges," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1990.
Current Biography 1991 , New York, 1991.
Natahnson, Richard, "The Two Jeffs," in Premiere (New York), April 1992.
Maslin, Janet, "The Reluctant Star," in New York Times Magazine , 17 October 1993.
Svetkey, Benjamin, "Blast Action Hero: Jeff Bridges Hits Pyrotechnic Pay Dirt with Explosive Blown Away ," in Entertainment Weekly (New York), 15 July 1994.
Smith, Sean M., "Pin City: On the Set of The Big Lebowski ," in Premiere (New York), March 1998 .
* * *
"Inexplicably underrated" are the words that best describe Jeff Bridges. In 1971, his role as 1950s Texas teenager Duane Jackson in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show earned him an Oscar nomination. Throughout the years he has offered an impressive array of performances, and has been a consistent critics' favorite; he is a tremendously likable actor, expert at underplaying yet totally burying himself in a role. Yet he never has been considered among the front rank of movie stars—perhaps because he has never had that one blockbuster film to thrust him into the epicenter of media attention and public adoration.
Son of Lloyd and brother of Beau, Bridges began acting when he was four months old, appearing alongside Jane Greer in The Company She Keeps ; he also was a child actor on Sea Hunt , his father's television series. He had just graduated high school when he appeared in The Last Picture Show. In his role as Duane Jackson he projected an instinctive ease, which he continued to put forth over the next few years in roles as boyish types in Fat City (playing a boxer), The Last American Hero (as stock-car driver Junior Jackson), and Bad Company ; he was especially fine in the latter, a bleak anti-Western, playing a Civil War draft dodger. Still, despite earning critical acclaim, Bridges admitted that self-doubts about his abilities did not allow him to take acting seriously. His attitude changed in 1973, after appearing in the film version of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh. As Don Parritt, another boyish character to be sure, but one with levels of psychological depth (courtesy of O'Neill), Bridges gives his first fully mature screen performance. A critic in Variety , in describing Bridges's acting, perfectly summed up the essence of his most typical roles by calling his performance "a brilliant mixture of innocence, guilt, despair, and hope. His vulnerability and yearning . . . seem almost physically evident from the beginning." At the time, Pauline Kael characterized Bridges as being "so fresh and talented that just about every movie director with a good role wants him for it."
Over the next several years, Bridges's roles were diversified. His generous screen presence allowed his co-stars ample space without detracting from the power of his own performances. His second-fiddle roles—to John Heard's crazed Vietnam veteran in Cutter's Way , for example, or to leading man Clint Eastwood in the tragic homoerotic buddy movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot —are deceptively passive. In the old-fashioned way of a Gary Cooper or James Stewart, his dreamy boyishness ended up leaving a profound impression on the viewer.
Bridges's first important starring role came as the naive, noirish hero in Against All Odds , a remake of Out of the Past. He was superb in his next film, Starman , an offbeat, bittersweet science fiction romance, in which he plays a vulnerable, birdlike extraterrestrial. His intense research into the difficult role—watching the movements of children and animals, and videotaping himself writhing naked on the floor in an attempt to capture the essence of his embryo-hatching scene—demonstrated that Bridges's commitment to his craft is no less than that of a Dustin Hoffman or Robert De Niro.
Bridges continued playing dreamers and likably flawed heroes, as he did so effectively as visionary automobile manufacturer Preston Tucker in Tucker: The Man and His Dream and the artistically frustrated cocktail lounge piano player opposite brother Beau and Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys. But he also toyed with his outward appearance of innocence. In Jagged Edge , he plays a high-powered newspaper publisher accused of killing his wife, and who wholeheartedly proclaims his guiltlessness. As the story unfolds, the question remains: Did he, or did he not, do it? In this film, Bridges effectively pivots on the ambiguity of his lovableness, flinging the audience between adoring trust and uneasy suspicion.
In 1990, it seemed that his career had come full circle when he played an older, wiser, more portly Duane Jackson in Texasville , a sequel to The Last Picture Show. But at the same time, as he has aged, Bridges has gone on to diversify his career even more, taking on challenging roles that are anything but boyish—and which the younger Jeff Bridges never would have been called on to play. In The Vanishing , George Sluizer's American remake of his Dutch thriller, Bridges gives a forceful performance as a crafty kidnapper who reveals himself to the boyfriend of the woman he abducted. In Fearless and The Fisher King , he is cast as two very different characters whose lives are thrown into major crises. In the former, he conveys levels of emotion as a deeply troubled plane crash survivor. In the latter, he starts out as a hard-hearted, egotistical radio talk show host who undergoes a transformation after one of his listeners, whom he has just crudely dismissed, goes on a murder spree. As the story progresses, Bridges effectively communicates the confusion within a man whose outward characteristic is pomposity. But Bridges is at his best in one of his least-known films: American Heart , a staunch, at times daring drama about love and redemption, which depicts the pain and promise of its two key characters. Bridges offers a fierce, heartrending performance as an ex-con who has just been paroled from prison. His plans for continuing his life are sidetracked upon the arrival of his lonely, 14-year-old son whom he had abandoned, and who is determined to establish a relationship with him.
As he has settled into middle-age, Bridges's characterizations remain equally varied. They range from a horse breeder/con artist who is the very image of heedless dishonesty (in Simpatico ) to a bowling-obsessed burn-out who ceased evolving sometime in the 1970s ( The Big Lebowski ), a conspiracy theory-obsessed university professor who senses that his genial new neighbors are hiding terrible secrets ( Arlington Road ) to a disheveled university professor, too-often burned by love, who is romantically paired with Barbra Streisand ( The Mirror Has Two Faces ).
At this juncture of his career, it seems less likely that Jeff Bridges ever will earn superstardom. But he is still respected, still taking intelligent risks, and still a pleasure to watch on screen.
—Samantha Cook, updated by Rob Edelman