Hey, dude. You in the second row. With the bowling shirt, chewing on the ice in your White Russian. Got news for you. Jeff Bridges doesn’t mind that you showed up at his concert because you worship him in the “The Big Lebowski.”
Honest, he doesn’t mind. He called to tell me that.
“If people shout ‘The Dude,’ I kind of like that,” said Bridges. “It’s one of my favorite movies.”
Or if you show up Sunday at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis with, say, a bowling pin, The Dude might autograph it. And he won’t even complain that you didn’t buy one of his CDs.
He knows people are coming because of “The Big Lebowski” and maybe out of “curiosity” about his singing, he said.
The Dude abides, and so does Bridges. He does his acting thing, he does his singing thing.
He’s released two albums under his own name, one in 2000 (“Be Here Soon”) and another in 2011 (“Jeff Bridges”). Maybe you remember his piano playing in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” (Me, I can’t forget Michelle Pfeiffer rolling around atop the piano, but maybe that’s just me.) Certainly you remember his weathered-but-warm singing in “Crazy Heart.” Didn’t see it? Not many people did except the Academy Awards voters. They gave him the Oscar for best actor for his stunningly credible performance as a once-famous country singer struggling with the bottle.
Not only did the 2009 film get him glory, but it “lit a fire musically,” Bridges acknowledged.
In concert Sunday with his band — the Abiders, naturally — the guitarist promises to sing a few things from the T Bone Burnett-produced “Crazy Heart” soundtrack, some tunes from his albums and a couple of covers.
“There’ll be some new songs, too, that I’ve written and John Goodwin has written,” the 64-year-old Californian said, referring to the Nashville singer-songwriter who’s a childhood friend, not to be confused with “Lebowski” co-star John Goodman.
In concert, what is Bridges like? What percentage of him is The Dude? What percentage is his “Crazy Heart” character Bad Blake? How about Merle Haggard, or Kris Kristofferson, or “Crazy Heart” consultant Stephen Bruton? Or the real Jeff Bridges?
He laughed at the long-winded question. His response could have come straight from The Dude’s mouth.
“I don’t know. I don’t think in those terms, man. I’m just doing my best. When I’m in an acting role, I do a similar thing. You have to be open to the Muse of the character that inhabits you. When I come onstage, I’m just me. I’m not any kind of character or anything. Different songs will encourage different aspects of myself. Sometimes it’s a surprise to me. I hope it’s a pleasant surprise to [the audience] as well.”
To garble one of his priceless quotes from “The Big Lebowski”: “This is music, not bowling. There are no rules.”
“Jeff Bridges,” his 2011 disc, sounds like the kind of rootsy album Bad Blake might have made if he’d had his act together. Actually, a few of the songs were considered for “Crazy Heart.” Bridges describes it as “kind of a mix of stuff: pop, rock, blues, country.”
He and the Abiders have played West Coast gigs, including the huge Stagecoach festival in Indio, Calif., and at Sturgis, S.D., for the motorcycle rally. But never in Minneapolis.
He’s been here, though. No, not to pay homage at the Coen brothers’ childhood home in St. Louis Park (“I should do that”) or to look up their old neighbor Jeff Lebowski. Minneapolis has been a stopover spot for Bridges and his wife of 37 years, Susan Geston, when they visit her family home in — are you ready for this? — Fargo.
Since he’s a semi-expert on Fargo and the Coens (he also starred in their biggest hit, “True Grit”), he’s the perfect person to pass judgment on “Fargo,” the TV series on FX.
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “Billy Bob [Thornton] is fun to watch.”
Which, of course, leads to the next question: “The Big Lebowski” as a TV series?
“Ha ha ha. Oh God. That’s a funny thought,” he said. “Could be. Could be. Ha ha.”
Would he want to be involved?
“Not at the moment. I’m not sure I want to work those kind of hours,” he said, knowing full well the kind of time his older brother, Beau, puts in on “The Millers” and “Masters of Sex.”
You know the whole world wants a “Lebowski” movie sequel. “You never know, you never know,” The Duderino said coyly. “The Coen brothers are always surprising me.”
Bridges has a new movie, “The Giver,” a sci-fi drama that opened last week after he spent 18 years trying to get it made. He’s shot another film, “Seventh Son,” with “Lebowski” co-star Julianne Moore, due next year. “I play a witch hunter from the Dark Ages,” he explained.
The family business
Bridges made his film debut as a 4-month-old in the 1951 flick “The Company She Keeps,” and appeared in four episodes of “Sea Hunt,” the 1958-60 TV series starring his dad, Lloyd Bridges.
His first significant role was in 1971’s “The Last Picture Show,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. Over the years, he has played a ne’er-do-well on the lam in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” an alien who comes to Earth in “Starman,” the president of the United States in “The Contender” and a one-eyed U.S. marshal in “True Grit” — all roles that earned him Oscar nominations.
We realize that Bridges, the hippie with the grayish beard and sweptback hair, is an actor playing roles, though everyone suspects The Dude has a whole bunch of Bridges in him. So what is he like in real life?
“Blond, with a touch of gray. Surfrider-like. Um, ah. Gee, I can’t think of adjectives that describe me. Oh man. Open. Closed. Delighted.”
Let’s give him an easy one: What motivates you — an Oscar-winning father of three daughters with one grandchild and a forever wife — at this point of your life?
“Fulfilling dreams. That’s motivated me throughout my career. I try my best not to do too many projects. So I take it as slow as I can. Once I engage, then I’m in it 110 percent. ”
Spoken like The Dude — except he wasn’t crunching ice from a White Russian when he said it.