Jeff Bridges: Duderonomy

Jeff Bridges, who made dozens of movies, and won a handful of Oscar nominations, snared his first Academy Award last year for “Crazy Heart” and is in theaters this season with two films, “Tron: Legacy,” a sequel to the 1982 film in which he also starred, and the Coen Brothers acclaimed current “True Grit.”

But he’ll be forever be associated with his role as The Dude in an earlier Coen Brothers production, “The Big Lebowski.”

A new biographical film on him this week on “American Masters” is titled “Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides.”

So when he was at the TV Critics press tour this week, I asked if he was still a little too closely associated with that famous slacker from 1998.

“I know what you mean,” Bridges said. “I tried to resist creating a strong persona because of my father, you know, with ‘Sea Hunt’ and Mike Nelson and all that.”

Lloyd Bridges was made a star through “Sea Hunt.” But, Bridges says, “I saw how frustrated he was, because he was a very versatile actor, and because he was so successful as Mike Nelson. He got offered a lot of skin diving scripts. That’s about it for quite a while.

“So I went about not developing a strong persona, and now The Dude has sort of materialized as that. And I’m not so I’m not so stuck on not developing a persona. I figure now my persona is going to be whatever it is, and I’ve got enough material around The Dude that the filmmakers know I can do other things, so I’m not as worried as I once was about that, and I love ‘The Big Lebowski.’ It’s one of my favorite movies. I’m partial — I’m in it. That’s one reason. Even if I wasn’t in it, it would still be one of my favorite movies.

“It always hooks me. You know, I’m one of the guys who clicks on the TV, and if ‘The Godfather’ comes on, I’ll watch that. I get hooked. I say, ‘I’ll just watch a couple of scenes,’ and I get hooked. And ‘Lebowski’ is like that with me too. I’ll watch a couple scenes, and I’m a goner.”

Enough other people feel that way to make Lebowski a sensation among its fans.

“I had a really interesting moment when I went to a Lebowski Fest. You know what a Lebowski Fest is? They have them all over the world now,” Bridges says. “They go on for two days, a lot of bowling, you know, a lot of drinking of white Russians, a lot of bowling pins walking around, you know, hundreds of dudes all dressed up like The Dude, and a lot of Maudes.

And I had my Beatles moment where I got a band together and played the Lebowski Fest.
And when the guy said, ‘And now, The Dude!’ people were absolutely crazy.
And I played to a sea of Dudes. Wow, something’s going
on here. It will never be the same.”

“Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides” plays “American Masters” on PBS Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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