Crazy Awards Season for “Crazy Heart” Star
BY GINA PICCALO
Jeff Bridges sounded a little congested on the phone. It was around 11 o’clock on a Monday morning, the day before he got news of his fifth Oscar nomination. But it was still early by his measure. There were shades of The Dude in his loping cadence. And who could blame him, really. The guy has been burning the candle at both ends for weeks.
“There’s a lot of stress and anxiety available when you’re going through something like this,” he said, referencing the hoopla that’s surrounded him since “Crazy Heart” opened in early December. “I don’t think I’ve ever had this much attention when I’ve been promoting a movie.”
That’s because “Crazy Heart” was this year’s little film that could, the low budget indie that nearly didn’t make it to the big screen and now looks like the one that will finally nab this five-time nominee his statuette.
Last summer, the movie was headed straight to DVD. Then Fox Searchlight picked it up from Viacom’s dissolving Paramount Vantage and bumped up the film’s release date to qualify for an Academy Award. That meant Bridges would have a slim window to promote the movie (and ultimately campaign for an Oscar) in between the production and promotion schedules for the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” (which starts filming in a few weeks) and Disney’s “Tron Legacy” (due out in December).
But Fox Searchlight’s executives know an Oscar bait indie film when the see one. And since “Crazy Heart’s” initial release, it hasn’t disappointed. Before today’s Oscar nomination, Bridges’ portrayal of the hard-living troubadour Bad Blake had earned him a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild award, a Critics Choice award and a slew of other accolades.
“It exceeded all our expectations,” he said. “Fox came in late on the deal. There was no time for long lead press or [press junket] round tables. We did screenings and Q and A’s to build word-of-mouth. It’s been a very different kind of release. And awards are very important for a movie like this because we don’t have a lot money in the budget for ads and commercials.”
Bridges has long been one of Hollywood’s most respected performers, a true character actor with the winning charm of a movie star. If anyone would be good on the stump, it’s him. And during January, when Academy voters were still mulling over their ballots, he was everywhere. He collected an honorary award from the Palm Springs Film Festival (Jan. 5), he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” (Jan. 15), chatted up fans at the American Cinematheque’s sold out double feature of “The Big Lebowski” and “Crazy Heart” (Jan. 16), collected a Golden Globe, delivering one of the more quotable speeches of the night (Jan. 17) and talked about his quirky album cover collection on the Ellen DeGeneres show (Jan. 19).
Mercifully, Bridges will have a bit of a break for the next few weeks. Sure, he’ll head to Santa Barbara for “Jeff Bridges Day,” (Feb. 14), so declared by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which will honor the actor with a day of back-to-back screenings of some of his best films.
But then it’s back to the craft of acting. At least until Oscar night. Bridges has just a couple of weeks to develop his version of the surly U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the remake of the 1969 classic “True Grit,” a role that earned John Wayne his only Oscar. It’s a lot of excitement, even for a 60-year-old Hollywood veteran.
“My wife just sent me off this morning with some advice my mother used to give to me,” said Bridges. “Remember, have fun.” He’s working on it.