CS Interview: Jeff Bridges talks Only Living Boy in New York
ComingSoon.net had a chance to chat with Oscar-winning legend Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, The Big Lebowski) about his new romantic comedy The Only Living Boy in New York, in which he plays an eccentric New Yorker. We also discussed his work in films like Tucker, Tideland, Starman and the upcoming Kingsman: The Golden Circle, as well as a potential new sequel to The Last Picture Show!
Amazon and Roadside Attractions’ comedy/drama The Only Living Boy in New York also stars Callum Turner (Green Room), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye), Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City), and Kiersey Clemons (Dope). It follows a recent college graduate adrift in New York City who seeks the guidance of an eccentric neighbor as his life is upended by his father’s mistress.
Directed by Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, Gifted) from a screenplay by Allan Loeb (The Space Between Us, Just Go with It), The Only Living Boy in New York is now playing in select theaters.
ComingSoon.net: You took an executive producer credit on “Only Living Boy in New York.” What did that entail besides your usual skills as an actor?
Jeff Bridges: I got to be in on the decisions of the shoot and the style of the film. And I got to put in my views, and put in my vote for [lead Callum Turner] who was wonderful for the part really. He did justice for the story beautifully, I can tell you that.
CS: What was something specifically that sparked for you when you saw his tape or his audition?
Bridges: His acting! It was very real.
CS: Yeah, for sure. And speaking of your character, W.F., I don’t want to spoil it for our readers because there is sort of a twist. How did you walk the line performance-wise so you didn’t tip the audience off?
Bridges: Well, you’ve seen the movie – and I love going to movies myself but I try to know as little as I can about movies that I want to see so I get to experience it fresh like the filmmaker intended. And that was how Mark [Webb, the director] and Allan [Loeb] the screenwriter did this. And there’s a wonderful device in the movie where you are wondering because my character is kind of mysterious. I love that the audience finds out that I’m [*redacted for spoilers*]. And so that satisfies the audience’s sense of mystery of who this guy is. That sort of put the kibosh on the surprise, but it is largely due to the fact that you think you discover the surprise.
CS: This movie is very much the kind of movie that Woody Allen and others used to do about Upper West Side, New York literati. Nowadays not only is that world sort of disappearing, but books in general seem to be disappearing as well. Do you think that is accurate?
Bridges: Yeah! It’s a sad thing that bookstores are disappearing. But it’s just inevitable that things change and nothing is permanent. It’s always changing, but you’re always nostalgic for the way it was. But when it changes there’s nothing we can do about that.
CS: Unfortunately not. One of the legendary bookstores still left in the city is The Argosy, which they show a lot of in this movie. Can you speak a little bit to your own relationship which books and maybe which authors had the biggest impact on you?
Bridges: Well the best part of going into bookstores is just being there for hours. Just looking around for books. And one of my favorite movies that I was in that did wonderful things for my career was “The Last Picture Show.” It was written by McMurtry, who was one of the best screenwriters as well writers of fiction and historical fiction. And it was such a wonderful book and I’m hoping that I get to continue the McMurtry saga of my character Duane. There are three more books in that series where “The Last Picture Show” was the first one.
CS: And then “Texasville.”
Bridges: “Texasville,” and then there’s two other books, so I’m hoping those work out.
CS: Are you actually in active development on that?
Bridges: Well, I wouldn’t say active development. I’m having dinner with Peter Bogdanovich tomorrow night so I’m sure we’ll talk about it, we always do. Maybe we can it get fired up. You know, it’s hard to get movies made! Our writer Allan [Loeb] was about to shift careers if this movie didn’t sell. And he had been trying to work with a director to sell the script for 10 years! So it is a tough road.
CS: I remember when this script was on the Black List and this was considered a hot property. I remember when he was considered a hot writer and now he’s a veteran, but, this movie was written when he was much younger, and that brings up an interesting point actually. You have been doing this for a bit; this is not your first rodeo, you have read a bunch of scripts. What do you think is the biggest difference between the writing of an old pro and the writing of a hungry young writer?
Bridges: I don’t think there really is much difference. They can both be open and fresh. For my tastes in all of the arts, the most advanced artists have a freshness where it seems like it’s happening for the first time. When it seems like it’s happening for the first time, you think Picasso or something like that with the big things that you haven’t heard of before. And great writers have that, or you can have “psychic” powers where you could touch what hasn’t been touched before. I don’t know, but if you look at directors who had some wonderful success, especially with first-time directors, I don’t think it gets much better than “Citizen Kane.” Like, how old was Orson Welles when he made that? 25? So it goes the same with arts and artists across the board, the freshness and things like Sidney Lumet’s movies. I got to work with him too, where his later movies were just as fresh as ever.
CS: So if you do get to do the third “Last Picture Show” movie, is the plan to bring everybody back with Tim Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd and Randy Quaid?
Bridges: Sure, if we’re still alive.
CS: Well that would certainly be awesome. I think that what was cool about “The Last Picture Show” is that even when Peter did that movie, it was more of an old-school type of movie. That was during the era of “Easy Rider” and all these other counterculture things and he was doing a kind of throwback.
Bridges: To me, that movie kind of sits by itself. I can kind of see that he had these other peers, but it was made in a time where these kinds of movies weren’t being made and it kind of sits by itself in its own funny way to me.
CS: Yeah and I think now we are entering an era where movies like “Only Living Boy” and “Last Picture Show” are only becoming rarer and rarer when there are less movies about people and more about guys in super suits.
Bridges: But yeah I think we’re going to see more of these types of movies being made – Amazon is a good thing and I think that they’re planning on making more low-budget movies and not ones with $300 million budgets. More low-budget movies, I think, are more enjoyable to see.
CS: Yeah, do you they think they would be a good fit for “Last Picture 3”?
Bridges: Yes, that would be wonderful. Have you read those other books?
CS: No, I haven’t.
Bridges: Cool, if you’re a fan of McMurtry, they’re really very terrific stories.
CS: He was one of the best for sure. One of my favorite movies of yours that I don’t really hear talked about much is “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.” The themes of “the innovator versus the forces of Industry” are so powerful and still horribly relevant.
Bridges: You don’t say.
CS: Can you talk a little bit about that movie and also about working with the late Martin Landau?
Bridges: Yeah gosh, I have such fond memories making that movie. My father also was working on that movie. We made a couple of films and it was one of the times I got to work with him as an adult so that was wonderful. And Francis [Ford Coppola], gosh, what working with him was like. What an amazing artist he is. He got me going on that movie. I can talk for hours about how innovative he was, what he did. Martin Landau and I became close with him on that film, he was such a wonderful actor and such a generous person. And Francis, one of the things he did for our relationship in the movie is he said, “How do you think you guys met?” We talked and created this story about how we met on the train, he was an old man and I bummed a cigarette off him, and we started up a conversation or whatever. And then Francis said, “Why don’t we start up an improv of that meeting right now.” And we were going on for about five or ten minutes and he set up chairs for us to use as the train. We did the improv and Francis said, “We won’t do it anymore, it will be just that one time, but now that’s in your brain I don’t have to make up how you did it. You’ve got that story actually in your brain, it really happened.” And that’s an example of what Francis did which brought us a little bit closer together. You know, playing our parts getting to know each other better.
CS: What is interesting for me about that movie is that Martin had been in the weeds career-wise for awhile and that movie very much brought him back. After that he did “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Ed Wood” got an Oscar, all that good stuff. You think he knew that that part was a turning point for him?
Bridges: Yes, I think he did know.
CS: I also want to talk to you about a film of yours that I don’t think gets enough ink, which is “Tideland.” That’s a doozy that movie. I’m a huge Terry Gilliam fan and I loved the book the movie was based on, but I think it is a challenging movie for even some of the more hardcore Gilliam people. Are you a fan of that film?
Bridges: I am, it’s probably the weirdest movie I ever got involved with. I must say it’s also the weirdest one of Terry’s, I would think.
CS: Which is saying something.
Bridges: It was so bizarre, but I had a ball doing it. And Terry is a huge master of sublimity. He’s been working on that “Quixote” movie for God knows how many years.
CS: I remember when you narrated the documentary.
Bridges: You are right about that!
CS: But “Tideland” definitely has some people who are passionate about it like me. What do you think made audiences react so violently to it when it came out come?
Bridges: Well, there is this little girl who starts shooting up her dad… starts shoving doll hairs up her father’s carcass. (laughs)
CS: It was a little too much for people, but I love you in it and I love that movie.
Bridges: It was also where I got to sing a song by my friend in the opening scene, and it always puts a smile on my face.
CS: I was also lucky enough to get to see the first 30 minutes of “Kingsman: Golden Circle.” It’s very wild stuff, but I think I did not actually get to see any part of your scenes with the Statesman. I was curious, what excited you about doing that project?
Bridges: Well I was a big fan of the first one. It was the best spy-genre-James-Bond-type film that I’ve ever seen. It was executed so brilliantly by Matthew Vaughn, and they do all the special effects now and used them in a really brilliant way like the first one. And when I got invited to be a part of this one — which they never really like to call it a sequel, they always want to call it an extension of the first story — I said “Okay, let’s go.” And I play the head of an organization called the Statesman, which is the American version of the Kingsman.
CS: Yeah, you are with Channing Tatum and all that. It was just interesting to me that you chose that because outside of “TRON” and I guess “Texasville,” I don’t really see you as a big franchise guy. Was it something that you tried to avoid in your career?
Bridges: No, no, I mean, I was in the first “Iron Man” which was a franchise.
Bridges: Also, doing the “TRON” movie was big, but I am game for all of the different formats, you know. I guess I’ll probably do virtual reality when it comes up. The question is if theaters will be taken away soon, will we all be watching movies on our iPhones?
CS: If you were to go over your entire filmography and make a sequel to any one of the movies you’ve done, which one would you want to revisit the most?
Bridges: I was kind of surprised that they never did one for “Starman” because it was all set up for one. Karen Allen is pregnant with the “Star Baby” and there’s a silver ball with the kid. Whenever I see Karen, we always jam about different ideas for a sequel.
CS: Like where did her character go? Where is her kid?
Bridges: I heard that there were talks for making a remake, but I still think that they should have made a sequel and stuff.
CS: That movie was always fascinating, because I am a big John Carpenter fan, and that was one of the only movies he got to make that really showed his breadth, that he wasn’t just a horror filmmaker.
Bridges: Yeah, I think so too.
CS: He had this really great facility with comedy – it was rather Howard Hawksian in that way with the romance there. Do you have any other memories of working with him?
Bridges: Yeah, he was terrific. I remember, I always had these ideas, and I would come up to him with my ideas and then he would look at me sometimes with an implacable expression on his face and he would say, “Yeah, but what do you know?” (laughs)