Jeff Bridges Interview – THE AMATEURS

     December 4, 2007

Opening up this Friday is a quirky comedy called “The Amateurs.” The movie is about a group of friends who decide to make an amateur adult movie. This is also known as a porno. The film has a pretty big cast which includes Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, William Fichtner, Patrick Fugit, Lauren Graham, Glenne Headly, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Isaiah Washington, and Judy Greer.

So to help promote the movie, I recently got to sit down for roundtable interviews with both Ted Danson and Jeff Bridges. Posted below is the one with Jeff.

During our twenty or so minutes we covered making this movie and all the projects he has coming up which include “Iron Man,” “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” and we even got in some “Tron 2” questions. If you’re a fan of either Jeff or the movies he has coming up… it’s a great interview.

But before getting to it…here’s the synopsis for “The Amateurs”:

Down-and-out divorcee Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges), with the help of his five motley friends, brainstorms a genius idea to make their dreams come true. They are going to rally their small town to produce an amateur adult film! They think they’ve found the road to fame and fortune, but their fantasy quickly turns into a hilarious misadventure as they encounter more than a few bumps in the road. Their good natured attempts lead to the creation of the most un-adult, adult film ever. See how “The Amateurs” bring an entire small town together, in the biggest comedic disaster turned boffo box office success.

Finally, if you missed the clips I previously posted you can watch them here. As always, if you’d like to listen to the MP3 of the interview just click here to download it. “The Amateurs” arrives in limited release this weekend.

Question: The hair has grown back.

Jeff Bridges: It’s growing, it’s growing.

Q: Looks good.

Jeff Bridges: Thank you.

Q: This is an unusual title change.

Jeff: Well call it amateuristic, you know?

Q: Is it because this it gave the end of the movie away? Is that why? What were the discussions to change it from The Moguls to…because I remember when you were talking about it…

Jeff: Some people thought it was a ski film. No, I don’t know. The Moguls, I don’t know. There was another film that was called The Moguls or something and they didn’t want to…

Q: Was it the Lou Watson documentary The Last Mogul?

Jeff: I’m not sure what it was but for some reason they decided to change it to this title. So I printed up these books already and I had to cross them all out.

This is a usual question but for this I really have to ask you what was the attraction for you to this role?

Jeff: Well, like most of the movies I get involved with I resist it for as long as possible. I really try to figure out why I shouldn’t do it and this one had…there were plenty of reasons not to do it. The reasons that attracted me to it in the first place is that it was so unusual. I hadn’t ever read a script like this and it was tempting to put these—you know the porn aspect and this heartfelt kind of sweetness of Frank Capra and put those two things together and I thought that was really interesting—very ambitious, but I didn’t know if this guy who had never directed a film—Mike Traeger, who wrote the script would be able to pull it off and also it seemed odd, you know I’d done movies in the past that have so many characters and I find as an audience it’s very hard to follow all these stories and you end up not caring about any of the people and I thought that would be the case in this one. And they had these big speeches for each character. I said God, you’re going to have to cut that down in order to edit the movie. My representatives kept saying “no you really should check it. You know you like the kind of freshness of it. Come on try it out.” I said “Oh God”. I read it 3 or 4 times and finally I said all right. I want you guys to organize a reading and I want you to be there to see how terrible this is and it’s not going to work at all. So we sat at a big table like this and read the script and it just flew. It was great. Then that kind of swept me up and I figured well maybe Mike can hit this very small target because it could have gone…it could have not worked and I think it works very well.

When the release started to get delayed did any of that old skepticism start coming back? Like ooh, maybe something did go wrong.

Jeff: No, I didn’t really get all the ins and outs of why it didn’t get released. It was kind of very convoluted and I’m sure there are a lot of sides to all the stories but it wasn’t because of the nature of the film or anything like that. I think it was more business type stuff.

What is it about your character which you hope will reach out to people?

Jeff: One of the themes that kind of runs through thing is about how important friendship is and I think one of the cool things about this movie is Mike Traeger and the producer Aaron Ryder are best friends. So that initial relationship and friendship kind of permeated the whole shooting of it, so I hope that people come away appreciating their own friendships.

How much did you have to do with the casting? It’s such a great cast.

Jeff: Isn’t it a wonderful cast? I really spent a lot of time with them casting the film and I was encouraged to give all my input and everything and the guys listened to me and that was the case for all of us. It was a very inclusive feeling for the whole project. You know Mike was always interested in what everyone kind of thought and probably the coolest surprise casting wise was that Mary Steenburgen came in to read for a part and she said it’s a wonderful script and I like the part and all that but the real reason I am here is to agent my husband Ted Danson because he must play Moose. That was out of the blue. We had no idea—we had never considered him and we said really? Well, he’s a great actor we’ll try him out and he just, of course, knocked it out of the park. He was wonderful. But the cast—it was just so fortunate that we got such a great cast and as you can see from this book that you guys got, we assembled before we started shooting at my parent’s beach house, to kind of establish that deep old friendship that we’d all have and it was a lot of fun and it kind of worked too, I think.

Did you—because it’s such a great cast—when you did the read-through did a lot of the dialogue change or was there a lot of ad libbing throughout this movie?

Jeff: No it’s kind of like—you know other good movies where you feel the dialogue could be improvised but very little was. The Big Lebowski was like that where people say that sounds so…and we’d always go back and get every man and every ellipsis in there the way those guys write it and because not only is it saying what Michael wants the character to say but the way they all speak creates this tone because it’s not exactly real. You know you have that Frank Capra kind of aside to it and the characters are really well drawn, so I think everybody tried their best to stay faithful to the script.

Where did you film this?

Jeff: In a little town called Fillmore outside of L.A. They shoot a lot of movies there.

Oh, you shot in California?

Jeff: Yeah.

How much are you like him?

Jeff: Like Andy?

Like Andy, yeah.

Jeff: Well, I love to get ideas like that. I’m kind of an idea guy. I have a small group of dear friends that go back to high school. One of my oldest friends, John Goodwin, we go back to the 4th grade together probably. He wrote quite a few songs in the movie. I don’t know if I go through those deep depressions like that. Not lately anyway.

You’ve taken a lot of photos on a lot of your movie sets. Did you take any on “Tron” and did ever put out anything from “Tron”?

Jeff: I started doing these books around “Starman” was kind of the first. I think “Tron” was after “Starman”. I’m trying to think. I didn’t do a book for “Tron” but a few years ago I made a compilation of these books that I made for different films and I put a few photographs I did take in “Tron” are in that book. I hear they’re going to make a sequel too.

I was also going to follow up with that, because there’s always rumors about that.

Jeff: I know it. I’m always curious to what they’re going to say. I haven’t heard about but I heard they’re going to pitch me one pretty soon.

They showed it as part of a double bill at the New Beverly a little while ago and it holds up kind of well.

Jeff: Oh yeah? Gosh. And we were so excited when that came out with the technology and everything and then in about 2 seconds every commercial on the TV you could see all that stuff for free.

In a sequel to that—is that a film that you think that you’d have to come up with some reasons why not to do it?

Jeff: Why not to do it? I don’t know—you know the dance belt—wearing a dance belt. I know you ladies wear thongs, a dance belt is kind of like our version of the thong and it’s a terrible thing, man. You can’t sit down. Then I’ve got tights and I don’t know there are a lot of reasons not to do it. But the reasons to do it and the reason I did that one was because it was so innovative and I understand they’ve got a whole new batch of stuff like that that they want—you know innovations that they want to use on that, so that could be kind of fun.

Can you talk about “Iron Man” at all?

Jeff: What would you like to know about it? Well, it’s based on a comic book. What drew me to that was the cast that they had and the director—Jon Favreau’s directing it, and I’ve admired his acting and his writing and his directing for a while so they were very fortunate to have him at the helm and Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man and he’s wonderful to work with and he’s very talented. Terrance Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow—great cast and I got to shave my head which is a big plus, and I looked through the comic and I said oh the guy’s bald. It was a big plus.

Was it scary to do?

Jeff: What’s that?

To shave your head?

Jeff: Kind of scary but kind of cool. I enjoyed it. I really liked it.

I have two things. One in the trailer they show you looking at the armor very menacingly. Have you…

Jeff: For about half a second.

Have you seen the trailer?

Jeff: Yeah, I think if that’s when you’re talking about.

Have you seen any of the footage? Has Jon shown you anything?

Jeff: No. I’m going to see it in a couple of weeks I think but just from the trailer one of the things I liked about the trailer is you get a taste of the tone of the thing which I think is really good. I enjoyed that and that’s Jon Favreau and Robert who really—they’re the ones responsible for setting that tone. I think its going to be good that way.

What’s more challenging for you—to do a small movie like this or a big budget summer movie like “Iron Man”?

Jeff: Each one is sort of the same and different. You know there’s the…part of the challenge of making it seem real and creating the world that you’re in and making interesting choices that kind of goes across on all the movies but with each movie it’s almost like you’re sitting down and playing a different game of cards with a bunch of different people and you don’t know what kind of cards you’re going to get or what the game is going to be. Each one is very different. Generally speaking I would say I enjoy the smaller films more because there’s a less sense of pressure and often the material is more unusual. But in “Iron Man” it was kind of like both worlds colliding because there was a lot of improvisation, not that we improv-ed in the scenes but to discover the actual scenes themselves we did a lot of improvisation together. And so in a way it had almost a sort of student kind of film side you know where you get him sitting there with you know Robert Downey and Jon Favreau and we’re playing around. We’re jamming around and we’re writing those pages and the next couple of days that’s what we do, so it was a good experience. Kind of frightening at first because you didn’t know quite how it was all going to work out, but they had some very talented people there so it worked out well—I’m hoping, I haven’t seen it yet.

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Are you doing a book for it because that would be interesting?

Jeff: Yeah, I wasn’t in “Iron Man” enough to really—I felt it wouldn’t really have shown the whole scope of making the movie. I took some photographs. I wasn’t that knocked out by them actually.

Are you in any betting pools about how long the strike will last?

Jeff: I’m not. What do you guys think?

I keep hearing at least as early as March.

Jeff: Then they’ve got the actor’s strike.

Do you expect this might set a president for what kind of deal the actors might get or might prevent the actors from striking?

Jeff: Yeah, I mean they’re all connected. I think that’s one of the points of the studios you know why this writers strike they’re trying to figure out kind of an unknown. They don’t know what the internet is all about so they’re kind of reticent to set with the writers deal is because they know they’re going to have to double that with the actors and then the directors, so they’re kind of frightened on both sides and the writers don’t want to give up this great thing but nobody knows what this thing is exactly, so it’s—I don’t know how it’s going to go down.

Have you filmed anything since “Iron Man” or do you have anything that you’re getting ready to do?

Jeff: After “Iron Man” I did a movie with Simon Peg. Yeah, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”. And that was a fun one and got to go to England for that and work with my friend Bob Whitey. It was his first directorial job. One of the things that he’s done that I like very much is “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. He’s one of the producers, the writers and directors of that.

Are you getting ready to film anything right now?

Jeff: A couple of things but they’re in the works here. They’re not locked in yet, so I can’t really let those cats out.

You play the boss in the movie?

Jeff: Yeah.

Could you talk a little bit about your character in the film and your relationship with Simon in the film?

Jeff: Yeah. I play—let’s start with Simon. Simon plays the editor of a magazine that’s very cutting edge and doesn’t pull any punches kind of thing. Very small magazine and I play the editor-in-chief of a magazine that’s big like “Esquire” or “Vanity Faire”. It’s based on a book and in that I play—all of a sudden my brain is failing me but “Vanity Faire” you know…

Grayton Carter?

Jeff: Grayton Carter, right. I’m not impersonating Grayton Carter or anything like that but that’s the kind of person I am in the story and I want to bring Simon on board to add a little more cutting edge. In my character’s past, I too had a small magazine like Simon that was no wholes barred kind of thing.

So that book was a memoir. Is this more of a fictionalized account of it?

Jeff: Yeah.

Insired by?

Jeff: Yeah, right.

Was there a lot of improv or did you…and how was it working with Simon?

Jeff: There wasn’t any improv. Simon was great. A lovely guy and wonderful to work with. There really wasn’t much improv. There might have been an occasional idea that pops up now and then but I don’t remember doing a lot of improv there.

Jeff, for this film Andy has to review a lot of tape in the name of research. Did that require you to watch take after take of porn?

Jeff: You know, I’ve done all my research before I came to the movie. It was well researched. (lots of laughter)

Jeff, the holidays are coming up. Do you have any family Christmas or Thanksgiving traditions you’re looking forward to celebrating again?

Jeff: Well, Thanksgiving we’ll all gather at my house. A big thanksgiving dinner and who’s got Christmas this year? I think we usually do it at Beau’s house, so we’re probably going to do that. My mom’s still feisty and kicking. She’s 92. I saw her last night. I don’t know if any of you guys knew that she published a book—her first book at 90. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book called “You Caught Me Kissing” and its’ basically love poems that she wrote for my dad but it’s more than that. It’s a wonderful book.

What’s your favorite memory of those Bridge’s family Christmas’?

Jeff: Well, the bike. Getting that bike. That was a cool thing. Did you ever get a bike?

I don’t think for Christmas but I certainly had bikes.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, but getting that bike for Christmas I remember that was a big one for me.

How old were you and what kind of bike?

Jeff: I don’t how old…I want to say 8 somehow pops in my…but my brother Beau you know, he’s 8 years older than I am so he had the really cool bike and my bike was kind of like a smaller version—like the gooseneck with the butterfly things and you can put the cards on the things.

Do you have any more plans for releasing any more albums in the future?

Jeff: I hope so. Yeah, I’d like to. Music is still very close to my heart. Like I was saying my buddy John Goodwin wrote some tunes in this and I’m writing with him all the time. The last album I made had a lot of his songs. So music is still a big part of my life and I hope I do that.

Are you and Beau looking at doing any projects together in the near future?

Jeff: We always look for…for a while Beau was going to be in this. It was going to be wonderful to work with him again but then it didn’t work out. He had some other obligations that he had to do and he couldn’t do it but we’re always looking for something to do. It’s hard to find something that kind of transcends the gimmick of a brother thing. You know with “The Fabulous Baker Boys” that script was so great and it was just one that fit us like a glove so to come up to find something as good as that. Somebody was saying they were talking to Michelle Pfeiffer and she was saying there was going to be a sequel. Oh, that’s good.

All these sequels you have.

Jeff: I didn’t know about it. It’s great.

What part was Beau going to play in this?

Jeff: They were going to switch it and make it Tim Blake Nelson’s character my brother.

Did you do any music on this?

Jeff: No, but as I say my buddy did and also my daughter, Jessie’s got a tune in it too. She’s going to be doing some good music I’m hoping. I’m rooting for her.

I was just going to say Ted had mentioned that he had been friends with you and your family for quite some time. Do you remember meeting him for the first time?

Jeff: Gosh, I had the feeling of knowing him for a long time but I can’t remember that first time, but it’s always great to see him today.

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