Jeff Bridges is famously laid-back, but the Bagger found him chill to the point of being incommunicative when she met up with him in Manhattan this month — at least at first. Mr. Bridges, whose performance as a Texas Ranger in the modern western “Hell or High Water” landed him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor this week, had just 15 minutes to spare. After the publicists and assorted handlers (all of them women) left the room, the Bagger made repeated, futile attempts to get Mr. Bridges — who was making coffee with one of those pod machines — talking. But he just sipped from his cup and mumbled a few answers before she decided to launch in outright.
Well, should we start the interview?
You’re the interviewer?
Yeah, it’s me. I’m with The New York Times.
What’s your name again? I’m sorry.
Cara Buckley, hi.
Cara, all right.
I thought, “Wow, he’s really laconic. Just like the Dude” (his fabled character from “The Big Lebowski”). Are you talked-out yet about “Hell or High Water”?
The promotion of movies these days is a lot more than it used to be. “Hell or High Water,” you want to really get people to go see it and support what you’ve done, and all of the hard work that has gone into it. So yeah, there’s kind of a plus and minus thing to it.
In The Times, the reviewer described “Hell or High Water” as an “easygoing thriller.” And I think part of the easygoing-ness is you. It just seems like you’re really relaxed about things. How can that be in this world?
It’s because I’m an actor. It’s all an act. [Laughs]
Are you really tense and wound-up?
I can be. I do have a lot of tension, a lot of fear, and things like that. I would imagine most people do. It seems to me I’m always kind of challenged about being in the moment.
I read that you’ve said you related most to the Dude out of all your characters. Is that still holding true 20 years later?
I don’t know if that’s really accurate. I don’t know if that was a quote from me or not. But, you know, the different parts I play, start with yourself and see what kind of lines up with the character. You might magnify those aspects of yourself that work with the character, or keep those parts of you that don’t match to the curve. With [“Hell or High Water”] a couple of things come to mind. One, my grandfather, Fred Simpson, on my mom’s side, was from Liverpool. He was a terrible teaser. I think my brother [the actor Beau Bridges] inherited that gene, too, because Beau was a great teaser, still is. And that was part of my character. I remember when my brother would tease me and get me crying, and my mother would say, “It’s just because he loves you so much,” you know? That helped me with the stuff I had with Gil Birmingham [his co-star in the film, who plays] my partner who I enjoy working with so much. And then, as in most characters, you think about role models. All of us were so lucky to have Joaquin Jackson be a part of our show [as a consultant]. He died just recently, but he was one of the bad asses, a famous Texas Ranger.
What was it about the Texas Rangers, some of the characteristics you were able to latch onto or discern?
Well, you would think somebody who’s lived a life like Joaquin’s, that he’d be tough. But he was very kind of a sweet; there was a gentle side to him.
People have asked you about Donald Trump and your hopes for his presidency. Do you have any?
What a wild time, huh? Oh my gosh. But one of his best features as far as I’m concerned is that he’s … I guess a less gracious word would be — he’s a hypocrite. You don’t know where he’s going, he changes his mind. Maybe he’ll surprise us. It’s all over the place. So, you know, you’ve got to have high hopes. But it’s kind of a call to action, that’s where I’m looking at it.