Britannia Awards: Jeff Bridges

BAFTA inner-city screenings carry on
HONOREES
Betty White | Jeff Bridges | Christopher Nolan | Michael Sheen | Scott Free Prods.

Some actors are notoriously difficult on set. Jeff Bridges is a director’s dream during production — but famously obstinate about committing to a project.

“He finds a million reasons to say no,” explains “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper, whose own overtures to Bridges — Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award honoree for excellence in film — were initially rejected. “He is so careful about the projects he chooses and is so reluctant to revisit (familiar) territory.”

The actor, who stonewalled the Coen brothers for a year before finally agreeing to play “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski,” once told Britain’s Daily Mail: “It’s a lot easier for me to turn down a role than take it. I know the effort it takes once you engage and commit.”

But when he does acquiesce, directors find one of the most collaborative and thorough thesps in the business.

“As a first-time filmmaker, I was expecting this guy who has made some 60 films to come in and not take direction or already have an idea of how he wanted to play (fading country star Bad Blake),” says Cooper, who helmed Bridges to his first Oscar. “He spoiled me for productions to come because he was so open. And he doesn’t leave any stones unturned. He would listen to a kernel of information from a prop guy, the caterer, the cameraman and incorporate it (into his performance). Most movie stars aren’t that way.”

Bridges, whose filmography spans four decades, eschews the whole movie star persona.

“The most important thing any actor can do is listen to the other actor,” notes Cooper, who calls Bridges the master of nuance. “He can make an actor better simply by changing the tempo, the rhythm of the scene. Only very confident, skilled actors can do that.”

Up next for Bridges: A reteaming with the Coen brothers for the Western remake “True Grit.” And, of course, an avalanche of offers and the obligatory “no thanks.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more