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Jeff Bridges – Is fifth time the charm for the Dude to get an Oscar?

Posted by LiveFor on February 3, 2010

Article by Richard Bodsworth

To many he is simply known as, The Dude. From his roles in The Big Lebowski and Tron it is easy to place him in the ‘cult’ category but Jeff Bridges is also a quality actor. This years Oscar nominations were announced yesterday and for the fifth time in his livelihood Bridges finds himself in prime position to win a golden statuette, an accolade that has eluded him at all previous attempts. Now seems as good a time as any to take a brief look at some of the performances that have solidified his sterling career so far.

Even from his first big role in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 coming-of-age drama, The Last Picture Show, Bridges proved he was an actor to be reckoned with. His performance of Duane Jackson earned him his first Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category but eventually lost out to co-star Ben Johnson. A couple of years later in 1974 he was nominated in the same category, this time for Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino’s crime drama Thunderbolt and Lightfoot opposite Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. However the Academy rightly opted for Robert De Niro’s legendary performance as the young Vito Corleone in the second instalment of The Godfather trilogy, making it two for two against Bridges.

Disney’s Tron followed in 1982, although not considered a blockbuster at the time it has grown to become a cult classic and Bridges is set to reprise his role of video game programmer Kevin Flynn later this year in Tron Legacy. Another nomination and another rejection in 1984 when he was up for Best Actor in 1984 for his performance as an alien who falls to Earth and takes the appearance of a dead man in John Carpenter’s Starman. This time pipped by F. Murray Abraham who featured in the award-hording Amadeus.

A string of performances over the 80’s and 90’s including Peter Weir’s Fearless, Against All Odds and Jagged Edge continued to build his reputation as a great actor. He would also team up with brother Beau Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys, in which the siblings play a pair of faltering jazz pianists who bring in a female singer (Michelle Pfeiffer, who would later lose out on an Oscar for her part) in hope of changing their fortunes. Later appearances in well crafted thriller Arlington Road with Tim Robbins and racehorse drama Seabiscuit would also add substantial clout to his resume. Bridges once more missed out on recognition for his skills in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King after again being beaten by a co-star, this time for a Golden Globe, the award would go to Robin Williams. He would later team up with Gilliam for 2005’s Tideland and also acted as narrator for Lost in La Mancha, the fascinating documentary following Gilliam’s failed attempt to bring the story of Don Quixote to life.

Perhaps his greatest, and certainly the most iconic role of his career was that of Jeffery ‘The Dude’ Lebowski in the Coen brothers 1998 classic The Big Lebowski. The film, which tells the story of an unemployed stoner and bowling lover who simply refers to himself as ‘The Dude’, was not a huge commercial success at the time, but over time the film, and the character have gone on to become an institution. Along with its instantly quotable lines (I could fill the page with, “that rug really tied the room together” etc. but I wont), the “way of The Dude” has even spawned its own religion, Dudeism. Yes that is correct, I was ordained last night, check it out www.dudeism.com

President Jackson Evans in The Contender, Rod Lurie’s political drama about the corrupt on goings in Washington during the search for a new Vice-President, was his fourth attempt at Oscar gold. Although a decent performance it was certainly not the greatest and Bridges eventually lost out to Benicio Del Toro for his portrayal in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic.
Bridges has never been considered a ‘big movie’ type of guy, whether that is his own decision I don’t know, but over the past few years he has moved closer into the mainstream market. He would lend his voice to animation fare Surfs Up before featuring in teen-comedy Stick It and playing the role of magazine editor Clayton Harding in the underwhelming How To Win Friends & Alienate People. He also took on a supporting role in blockbuster Iron Man, playing villain Obadiah Stane and most recently an almost ‘Dude’ like role in the big screen adaptation of Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare At Goats.

So here we are in 2010 and ‘The Dude’ is back in Oscar contention for his turn as washed up country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart (check out the LFF review). Having already picked up a Golden Globe among other gongs he certainly has to be considered the front runner. Variety’s called Bridges “The whole show…” while Roger Ebert commented “Some actors are blessed. Jeff Bridges is one them.” Sadly and angrily, here in the UK we have to wait until February 19th to see the film! He will have to be cautious however if Mickey Rourke’s robbery last year is anything to go by. After cleaning up at essentially every award ceremony for The Wrestler, the Academy decided against awarding him the Best Actor Oscar. Will this year be the year, or will Jeff Bridges forever be the bridesmaid? We will find out in March.

What is your favourite Jeff Bridges performance (I hope someone says Blown Away) and what do you make of his chances of finally claiming Oscar gold?

Richard Bodsworth

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