Nominee Q&A

Oscars: Jeff Bridges Thinks There Should Be a Special Award for Best Awards Campaigning

David Needleman
Jeff Bridges

The seven-time nominee talks to THR about how awards season has changed over the years and how brother Beau influenced his 'Hell or High Water' character.

Jeff Bridges has nearly a half-century worth of history with the Oscars. 

The actor now has seven nominations to his name; his first was for a supporting role in Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 drama The Last Picture Show. Nearly four decades passed before he finally took home an Oscar statuette: In 2010, his turn as a down-on-his-luck country musician in Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart earned him a nod from the Academy.

This year, his portrayal of Marcus Hamilton, a soon-to-retire Texas marshal in David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water, will bring Bridges back into the Dolby.

He recently spoke with THR about bringing the character to life, his childhood memories of being teased by big brother Beau and how awards season has changed.

How did you prepare for this role?

I asked [screenwriter] Taylor Sheridan about the source of the story because the writing seemed so authentic. It turns out he was from Texas and has a cousin, Parnell McNamara, who was a marshal going through retirement. So [Parnell and I] were able to talk about what it was like to retire from such an intense job. It was very helpful to talk to him, as well as Joaquin Jackson, who was one of the most famous Texas Rangers, at least in these modern times. He died last year but was on the set quite a bit and helped me with things like how to wear the uniform but also how to behave like a Ranger.

What was an aspect of your character that was difficult to nail down?

His retirement. As actors, we don't have to retire. We can act until our deathbed. Not that retirement doesn't seem like a wonderful idea, we just don't have that same pressure.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

All of my scenes with Gil Birmingham. I come from a family of teasers. My grandfather was a Scouser, he was from Liverpool, and he had a very dry, cutting sense of humor. My brother Beau inherited that gene, big time. He would tease the hell out of me all throughout my childhood. I remember my mother used to say, "He teases you just because he loves you so much!" So I know that some people express their intimacy by how much they push your buttons. I could relate to that in how much I would tease Gil's character.

How does the Oscar nomination this year compare to your others?

I have been to a lot of these ceremonies, and each time it feels like a total surprise, like I had never done it before. The flashes seem brighter, the carpet seems crazier. I still get very anxious and stressed out at the idea of saying something. A weird thing comes over me, where I forget everyone's name even if I've known them for 10 years. My mind overloads. There is a lot more campaigning these days. There ought to be a special award for the best campaigners, the best public relations people.

What are some movies besides yours that you have enjoyed?

There's three that pop into my head. I thought Manchester by the Sea was wonderful, along with Moonlight and Arrival. But television has gotten so good. A show I watched recently — and I was surprised because I haven't seen it get too many nods — is Peaky Blinders. See, that is what I mean by publicity! It didn't have the right campaign!

This story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.