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Jeff Bridges

Seabiscuit

Just as Charles S. Howard embraced two types of horsepower to find fame and fortune, first with autos and then as the owner of a celebrated racehorse, so too has Jeff Bridges bridged a love of still and moving pictures, a process the actor says helped him in his role as Howard in “Seabiscuit.”

Because Howard was a real character, Bridges says he wanted to try to capture the mood and mannerisms of the man, who in the film suffers from the tragic loss of a child before being made whole again in part by a horse who rose from the depths of obscurity.

After reading the bestseller “Seabiscuit,” Bridges spoke at length on the phone with the book’s author, Laura Hillenbrand, to get an even more detailed understanding of Howard.

But what helped him just as much, Bridges says, was being able to examine a collection of photographs of Howard. The actor is passionate about photography. He brings a camera to the set of every film he works on, and when shooting is completed he publishes a book for the cast and crew.

He says examining the photos of Howard helped him translate those black-and-white still images to a vivid portrait in the film. Looking at photos “helps me build a character,” Bridges explains. “You’re looking beyond the words — an expression on a face, the way a character holds his body.

“There was a formality to him,” Bridges says of Howard, “but sometimes, and I got this from Laura, too, that formality would sort of crack.”

To round out his preparation, Bridges also went down to Santa Anita and visited with several trainers. While there, without giving a dollar figure, he says, “I lost some money betting.”

As anyone who has been to the track will tell you, that surely completed his racing education.

Coming attractions: “Door in the Floor,” “The King of California”

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