Jeff Bridges hits right note to land Oscar gold

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The Independent Culture

Nearly 40 years after his first nomination, Jeff Bridges Sunday finally struck a chord with Oscars voters for his portrayal of a washed up country singer in the drama "Crazy Heart."

The 60-year-old veteran is one of Hollywood's most recognizable and consistently bankable actors, part of an acting dynasty that includes his parents Dorothy and Lloyd as well as brother Beau.

"Thank you, mom and dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession. Oh, my dad and my mom, they loved show biz so much," Bridges said, as he whooped with joy after winning the Oscar for best actor, after losing out on four nominations in the past.

"I can remember my mom getting all of us kids to entertain at a party. You know, my dad sitting me on his bed and teaching me all of the basics of acting."

For "Crazy Heart," Bridges once again demonstrated his skill as a musician to play the alcoholic Bad Blake, a man struggling against his inner demons as he battles to recapture his glory days.

Bridges, who memorably played a pianist reaching for the big time in 1989 in "The Fabulous Baker Boys," initially passed on the script for "Crazy Heart" after discovering that there was no music attached to it.

But the involvement of musician T-Bone Burnett re-ignited his interest in the project and he quickly signed on for the role. Several of Burnett's songs performed by Bridges were written with the actor in mind, and Bridges paid tribute to the musician in his Oscar night acceptance speech.

Burnett also helped Bridges flesh out his character by schooling him in the sort of music Bad would have listened to during his formative years.

"He did a really wonderful thing," Bridges said in a recent interview. "He gave me a breakdown of the music Bad would have listened to growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, where T-Bone grew up.

"It would have been Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen - not just this narrow [country music] thing. So Dylan was a role model for me: I watched some of his performances. And certainly (Kris) Kristofferson," Bridges adds.

Bridges's Oscar triumph is the crowning glory of a lifelong career in showbusiness, which took off in earnest with his performance in Peter Bogdanovich's masterful 1971 film, "The Last Picture Show."

That role earned Bridges the first of his five Oscar nods, the second coming three years later for his part opposite Clint Eastwood in Michael Cimino's 1974 classic "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot."

Since then Bridges has appeared in around 50 films, playing everything from an aging slacker in Joel and Ethan Coen's cult 1998 film "The Big Lebowski" to a plane crash survivor in "Fearless" and a killer in the 1993 "The Vanishing."

Bridges's other two Academy Award nominations came for his performances in the 1984 science-fiction fantasy "Starman," where he played an alien visiting earth and the 2000 political thriller "The Contender" where he played the president of the United States.

In recent years, Bridges has appeared in a slew of successful films, including the Oscar-nominated "Seabiscuit" and 2008's superhero hit "Iron Man."

He will next be seen in Disney's "Tron Legacy," a sequel to the 1982 film in which he also starred.

Bridges is also planning to reunite with the Coen brothers for a remake of the western "True Grit", where he will play Rooster Cogburn, the role made famous by John Wayne in the 1969 original.

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