Jeff Bridges, an American icon, is one of the few actors whose very presence in a movie guarantees a degree of quality, that the film in question will be at the very least a cut above the mediocre norm.
That’s equally true no matter the overall caliber of the project: it applies to “The Big Lebowski” as much as it does a forgettable movie like 1994’s “Blown Away.”
In the new “Hell or High Water,” a contemporary Western with a social conscience out Friday, Bridges plays a Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement, hunting down two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) behind low-level bank robberies.
amNewYork spoke with Bridges, 66, about the movie.
This is a Western that transcends its genre. You seem to have a knack for finding these projects.
Taylor Sheridan wrote a wonderful script and often the quality of the scripts has to do with transcending the genres. This one certainly does. It’s about these times as much as the classic theme of the West fading. I guess all times change, that’s a rule, but this movie’s about these specific times and the power of money and banks and what that’s doing to our society.
It also stands out because it’s a mid-range movie in terms of budget.
You’ve got these movies that are cashing in, the sequels of the superhero movies and those kinds of things, and you also have almost a response to that, you’ve got very low-budget movies. ... The mid-dollar movie, like this one, is a little bit harder to find these days. Back in the ’70s, there was a great outfit that I got to work with called BBS. ... They made “The Last Picture Show” and “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces,” all of those. And it’s harder to find those kinds of movies.
Your character, a marshal facing one last job before retirement, could on the paper be seen as a cliché. What set him apart for you?
All of the prejudice, the teasing, that goes on between him and Gil Birmingham’s character, Alberto. I come up from a family of teasers myself. ... Being in a family that’s like that and a family that certainly loves each other very much, teasing almost became a display of affection in a weird way. It was a form of intimacy.
You are probably doomed to spend the rest of your life being asked about “The Big Lebowski” in every interview. Do you ever get tired of it?
I’m so happy about being a part of that movie and working with the Coen brothers — the masters. They’re so wonderful to work with ... and that film, it’s a good movie. I feel fortunate to be a part of it and don’t ever get tired of being associated with it.