I was watching a bad pirate copy of Iron Man. I didn't know Jeff Bridges was in it. Even when watching it, I didn't know it was him – partly because it was a bad copy and partly because Bridges was playing a bald baddie. I didn't know it was him until he took a loud slurp of his drink – and I immediately recognised that slurping as the same slurping in The Big Lebowski.
Jeff Bridges looks like he's never had to make an effort – is this why he was never as big as he should have been? Look at Tom Cruise – someone who has worked ruthlessly hard to get where he is, never mind that he has no talent and has yet to be in a good film – we like people who get somewhere by working hard regardless. Jeff Bridges has ambled by amiably with his lazy charm and youthful good looks. His natural acting style is the opposite to the school of the more popular De Niro and Pacino – a method actor Bridges is not.
I first remember watching him in my childhood playing an alien (in Starman – for which he was Oscar nominated) and in a video game (Tron). I didn't then know that his best films had been the decade previous: The Last Picture Show (watch him strutting out of the motel room after having laid Cybil Shepherd), Fat City (as a small-time boxer and my favourite ending of any film ever), Thunderbolt and Lightbolt (looking good as a woman), Winter Kills and Bad Company (great low-key western directed by the writer of Bonnie and Clyde) are some of the best American films of the decade.
In the 1980s, the noirish Cutter's Way and western flop Heaven's Gate are key films – for better and worse – of the decade. The 90s saw him somewhat frantic in The Fisher King, The Vanishing, Blown Away and Arlington Road until The Big Lebowski (1998) gave him the iconic role of The Dude he was born to play.
Along the way there's been a bag of other decent films too: Jagged Edge, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Tucker – The Man and His Dream, Texasville – a belated follow up to The Last Picture Show, Fearless, Masked and Anonymous (yes, I liked it) with Bob Dylan, Seabiscuit... among many others I haven't seen so shouldn't comment on. He also takes great on set photos.