Jeff Bridges finally delivers 'The Giver'

Jeff Bridges and Taylor Swift in 'The Giver'

Jeff Bridges and Taylor Swift in 'The Giver' (August 11, 2014)

It may disappoint fans of “The Big Lebowski” to hear that Jeff Bridges, aka the Dude, aka El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, rarely hits the lanes.

“I’ve never had that urge: ‘I’ve got to bowl,’ ” he says by phone from his car. “If I’ve bowled since ‘The Big Lebowski,’ it’s usually on a whim.”

Not a whim: Bridges adapting Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel “The Giver” for the big screen. He’s wanted to since shortly after the book came out—originally as a vehicle for his father, Lloyd Bridges, who passed away in 1998. In the dystopian future of the film, opening Friday, the 64-year-old Oscar-winner (“Crazy Heart”) plays the titular character, who passes exclusive, important memories to a single, trusted teenager (Brenton Thwaites).

In “The Giver,” your character passes on experience and wisdom. You must have also felt like the wise veteran on set with the younger actors. What was it like being the mentor whether or not the camera was rolling?
You saw the movie in its entirety?

Yes.
Oh, great, then you probably know what a great performance those little babies give. You can learn so much from people who are completely naïve and know nothing about acting. My best lessons are working with children and animals, just [to] watch their behavior. But I’m open for questions or support for the younger guys, sure. I always used to enjoy that when I was the young guy and [saw] how the older guys were just as nervous as I was about getting it right.

Speaking of memories, are there any movies you’d struggle to remember making?
Well, [the memories are] pretty strong. Loyd Catlett [has] been my stand-in for over 60 films, and he has a very good memory, so if I ever forget something he can bring it back for me pretty good. I remember a lot of the details. The movies themselves provide a prompt for remembering those things. When I watch a movie that I’ve been in, there’s an element of the “home movie” involved. I remember all sorts of things—it’s difficult for me to even follow the story sometimes because it’s jogging all kinds of stories for me.

Is there something you’ve seen recently that made you feel that way?
I saw a film with—not too many people saw it, it kind of got messed up in the distribution, but we sure had fun making it—I saw it recently, called “The Amateurs.” It’s about a small town making a pornography film. There’s a great performance from Ted Danson, who’s brilliant.

I read that you meditate for half an hour before beginning work on a film set. Is that true?
I do meditate. I wouldn’t say every day, or not as regimented as you presented in the question, but I also use meditation to bring me into the moment as far as my mind [is concerned].

Was there any set where it was particularly challenging to get to that relaxed, meditative place?
It’s interesting; each movie is such a different assignment. Usually its tone is set by the director most often. [People] work in many different ways. I do my best not to struggle with it not being like how I like to do it. There’s not too much time to pout; you just gotta get to it. I kind of create an openness in myself and on the set too to see what the director has in mind and to open what [life has in store]. So sometimes if I feel anxiety, that anxiousness, I don’t so much fight it but go with it a little bit.

Is there anything you haven’t gotten to do on screen yet that you really would like to do?
Well, I’ve got a couple of projects in mind, but I’m not one of those guys that’s chomping at the bit about, you know, “I’ve gotta play Benjamin Franklin.”

I would see that movie.
Yeah! Benjamin Franklin is a very cool guy.

Plus:
His favorite song by his “Giver” co-star Taylor Swift: “I can’t remember the specific song, but I listened to that ‘Red’ album. There’s some really good tunes on there. I’ve been listening to an artist by the name of Blake Mills. It’s really, really great. He’s got a new album coming out; I’m looking forward to hearing it.”

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

CHICAGO

More