Career Renaissance For Jeff Bridges

By: Mike McCrann

Winner of last year's Best Actor Academy Award, Bridges is the star of two of the year's biggest hits, Tron and True Grit.

This talented performer has been an under the radar star since his role in The Last Picture Show back in 1971. Receiving a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for this film, Jeff Bridges went on to receive 4 more nominations, an honor finally capped by last year's victory.

Bridges comes from an acting family. Father Lloyd, best remembered for his 1950s TV show Sea Hunt, was a fine actor whose best work was opposite Broadway legend Kim Stanley in The Goddess and in his TV movie Silent Night, Lonely Knight with Shirley Jones. (Jeff had a small part in this film.) Jeff's brother Beau preceded him in feature films like Gaily, Gaily and The Landlord.

Jeff_bridges_3 Made on a shoestring budget by famed director Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show is one of the great films of the 1970s. Jeff Bridges' performance as Duane opposite Cybill Shepherd (in her acclaimed film debut) is one of this special classic's treats. Bridges was both sexy and endearing as one of the small time Texas teenagers chronicled by Larry McMurtry's book turned classic film.

Bridges made a number of wonderful films that gave him highly memorable roles, but unfortunately most of these were not box office hits. The best is Cutter's Way, a 1981 masterpiece that nobody saw. Occasionally Jeff had a commerical hit like Jagged Edge, but most of his films came and went without much notice. The only constant was Bridges himself, whose work remained unique and outstanding.

His latest turn is True Grit, the remake of the 1969 Western that earned John Wayne his only Oscar.

Jeff_bridges_2 Academy Award-winning brother duo Joel and Ethan Coen, fresh off their No Country For Old Men triumph, have revisited the original Charles Portis novel and the new film focuses more on young Mattie Ross, who hires Rooster Cogburn to find her father's killer.

The remake has been an unexpected box office hit, gaining great reviews for its stars and its story. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon are wonderful in their supporting roles, but the film belongs to Jeff Bridges. Unshaven, fat, and lazy, his portrayal of Cogburn may not make you forget John Wayne, but it is a splendid star turn.

The Coens have gone back to the book and have included the bleak epilogue that was omitted in the original movie. While being more truthful to the source material, this decision is a real downer—not only due to the plot revelations but to the casting of the woman who is supposed to be the 40-year-old Mattie. There is just no way that the Mattie we see at age 14 who is pretty and spunky would grow up to be the hawk-faced actress playing her as a grown-up.

Despite its faults, True Grit is worth seeing for Jeff Bridges in the prime of his later career. Jeff always had true grit, and like Jean Brodie, he is in his prime.