Jeff Bridges, who says he tries to avoid working, will be all over the big screen next year

Jeff Bridges, seen here in Los Angeles, Wednesday, brings his slacker charm back to the big screen in The Amateurs. Kevork Djansezian, The Associated Press


Jeff Bridges, seen here in Los Angeles, Wednesday, brings his slacker charm back to the big screen in “The Amateurs.” Kevork Djansezian, The Associated Press

By Sandy Cohen

LOS ANGELES – Jeff Bridges tries to avoid making movies.

Still, he’s managed to star in scores of films during his 45-year career – earning four Oscar nominations along the way – playing such varied roles as a computer genius, an alien, a president, a slacker, a corpse and an ornery penguin.

The 58-year-old, who divides his time between acting, music, photography and philanthropy, is back to the big screen big-time with a spate of upcoming projects. First up: the buddy flick “The Amateurs,” in theaters Friday. Bridges’ character, the de facto leader of a motley bunch, comes up with a can’t-fail get-rich scheme for his crew: they’ll make an amateur adult film. (The movie itself is sweeter and more innocent than it sounds.)

Then there’s the much-anticipated “Iron Man,” based on the comic-book hero, which is set for release next year. Also due in 2008 is “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” based on the book of the same name, in which Bridges plays a powerful magazine editor who quickly loses patience with his latest hire. The actor is also set to star as a man whose life is changed by a crazy canine in “A Dog Year.” Plus he hopes to start shooting a few new films next year.

For a guy who tries to avoid making movies, he’s been pretty busy.

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Bridges took time out to talk with The Associated Press about his extracurricular pursuits and what makes him keep on working.

AP: What do you look for in a role?

Bridges: I do my best to not do anything. I notice that’s sort of my M.O. I put a lot of energy into resisting doing things. It takes a lot for me to engage. Once I engage, I’m there a thousand percent. But getting me to the table is tough. I know once I agree to do something I can’t do something else. I don’t even know what it is yet but I won’t be able to do it. … So I try my best not to engage until something about it is too sweet to refuse … And usually it is a freshness, like with “The Amateurs” script – something I haven’t seen before that surprises me, where the filmmakers are kind of ahead of the audience.

AP: What was it about “The Amateurs” that drew you in?

Bridges: When I read the script, I had never encountered one like it before. … I had some reticence about getting on board because I didn’t know if they could pull this thing off, this marrying the world of porn with the world of Frank Capra and sweetness and that sort of thing. … I read it over and over, and this is not an unusual process for me. … I finally thought one way to figure out if this is going to fly is to have a reading of it. So we got a table reading and had some wonderful actors there and the thing came to life. I saw: Oh, this is going to be a good one.

AP: What typically closes the deal for you when you finally agree to work?

Bridges: The folks you get to be playing with is a big plus. That’s probably 90 percent, if not more, of your chances of success are based on who your folks are that are involved. And then the story that you’re telling, and the character. Sometimes I’ll be attracted to a character that’s kind of despicable in a way, that’s not particularly fun, but for some reason I’ll be drawn to it, it’s a unique opportunity, that kind of thing. Sometimes I’ll be drawn and I won’t know why and the only way I’ll figure out why is to do it and that desire will be strong enough to cause me to do it.

AP: What do you think of the cult following behind “The Big Lebowski”?

Bridges: Isn’t it great? Have you read the book? It made ninth on The New York Times best-seller list, nonfiction, and it’s called “I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski.” It’s all about the (“Lebowskifest” fan) festival. I wrote the foreword to it. And the festival is something to behold. I’ve participated in one, played some music there and it was quite amazing.

AP: What else is going on with your music? Are you making another record?

Bridges: I’ve got a bunch of tunes that I’m gathering and I’m going to do it at some point, I think. I’ve been working with my record company, Rant Music, and one of my oldest buddies, John Goodwin – not Goodman but Goodwin – he’s come on board. … He’s got a couple of songs in “The Amateurs” and he’s got a song in “Surf’s Up,” this cartoon I did, the surfing penguin thing.

AP: You’re a longtime political guy. What’s on your mind as the election nears?

Bridges: One thing I’d like to do politically is make the issue of hunger an arena where both Democrats and Republicans can win. It’s not all about the Democrats are doing good and the Republicans aren’t doing good. There’s room enough for everybody to work together and get the job done. That’s what it’s going to take, as a matter of fact. … I don’t particularly get behind one candidate or anything like that. I try to stick more with the issues. I am a Democrat. I was looking at the lineup they have there and watching the debates. They’re all pretty damn good.