Jeff Bridges – The Dude abides and then some in a glittering career

The great JEFF BRIDGES – otherwise known as “The Dude” – is an Oscar-winning actor at last!

He’s JEFF BRIDGES – he’s “The Dude” – he’s one helluva artist. And I’m delighted he’s an Oscar-winning actor at last.

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, his now Oscar-winning role

I’ve finally caught up with Crazy Heart, the beautifully nuanced drama that has won the brilliantly amazing JEFF BRIDGES a long-deserved Oscar. Understated, intricate and emotional, as with all of BRIDGES’ work, his portrayal of Bad Blake was right up there with a whole slew of landmark performances he’s given.

Where do we start? Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Last Picture Show, Bad Company, Winter Kills, Cutter’s Way (one of my favourite of his films), White Squall, Fearless, Jagged Edge, Starman, Tucker: The Man and his Dream, Arlington Road, The Fisher King, American Heart (amazing movie), The Fabulous Baker Boys, Seabiscuit and The Contender – the list goes on.

But of course, in that illustrious list, how can one not mention The Big Lebowski? Joel and Ethan Coen’s dazzling creation of mistaken identity and bowling still holds a special place in the hearts of BRIDGES’ fans and Coen brothers’ fans alike. From the minute we see those flip-flop adorned feet of The Dude shuffling across the screen, we know we’re watching not just another of his standout portrayals, this is something pretty special. As The Dude struggles to keep his sanity, while all around him are most definitely losing theirs, we’re witness to a piece of acting of the very highest order. Just watch the scene where he’s in the back of limo trying to put his point across if you ever wonder how do actors remember all those lines. Genius stuff.

A common thread in many of BRIDGES’ movies is that he’s accompanied by a host of other great actors and so in Crazy Heart, you don’t just get one good performance from BRIDGES, you also get to marvel at the work of the wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal, the incomparable Robert Duvall and the phenomenal Colin Farrell. Director Scott Cooper should be a name to watch in future for putting together such a heartfelt and accomplished character-driven film.

Jeff Bridges with Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Bridges with Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Matching the performance of Bad Blake this year though was the delight of seeing BRIDGES re-team with his old friends the Coen’s and inhabit one of John Wayne’s most famous and iconic roles to absolute perfection – Marshall Rooster Cogburn in the brothers awesome re-telling of True Grit. Watching him with the extraordinary Hailee Steinfeld as young Mattie Ross, determined to track down her father’s killer, we saw gruffness never played better, obstinate belligerence rarely equalled and a reluctant, almost fatherly care heartbreakingly portrayed. This was a marvellous piece of acting that I thought should have given BRIDGES a follow-up ‘Best Actor’ Oscar but it was not to be.

And once again, True Grit didn’t just contain BRIDGES’ knockout portrayal, as well as star-in-the-making Steinfeld, you had one of Matt Damon’s finest performances as the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Here was a man initially pompous, preening and arrogant, who then became over time, an honourable, worthy suitor for Mattie. There’s a real lump in your throat when he says goodbye to her, made even more tragic with the new ending the Coen brothers chose – an epilogue showing Mattie years after the main events of the story, that made you wish very much she had taken LaBoeuf’s offer all that time before. And what’s more, the whole movie looks as gorgeous as most of the Coen’s work does because it’s once again shot by that master cinematographer Roger Deakins. Superlative stuff.

JEFF BRIDGES really does seem to bring out the best in the people he works with and with his latest successes, perhaps it’s time to go back and re-visit all of those landmark performances once again. But where do you start, when there are so many great ones? Oh, I know. Hand me a White Russian and watch out for that marmot.