'Crazy Heart' role a showcase for his acting, music ability

The story of an alcoholic over-the-hill singing star would make a perfect country ballad. But could it also be the stuff from which an Oscar performance is fashioned?

That’s the question Acad voters may well ponder if they consider the work of four-time nominee Jeff Bridges in the Scott Cooper-directed “Crazy Heart.”

Bridges gave an engaging performance as a Vietnam vet-turned-psychic shaman in this year’s military satire, “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” but critics are even more enthusiastic about his turn as Bad Blake, the broken-down country singer who falls for a young journalist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Reacting to the buzz, Fox Searchlight pushed the originally 2010 scheduled release date to Dec. 16 in hopes of an Oscar nod.

For Bridges, who took care to keep Blake from being a mere caricature, the film also meant an opportunity to showcase his musical talents. He reunited with close friends T Bone Burnett (who did the film’s original music) and Stephen Bruton, both of whom collaborated with Bridges on “Heaven’s Gate.”

“I saw the wonderful job Scott did on the script, and then when T Bone said he’d do the music I thought, ‘Wow, now we’re talkin’,'” says Bridges. “It became a totally joyful experience and kept accelerating as we went along.”

A songwriter himself, Bridges also drew on the lives of Burnett and Bruton (who passed away in May). “These are the guys who have lived that life,” he says.

Bridges is enjoying the Oscar whispers, commenting that it’s natural to want to share work that you’re proud of with your peers.

“Awards time is for all of us in the movies to be the barker at the carousel,” Bridges says, “to say, ‘Look what we did.’ It can get a little awkward, but I’ll tell ya, this is one that I’m hoping a lot of people see.”

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