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I AM (gonna kill) IRON MAN: Jeff Bridges

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
I AM (gonna kill) IRON MAN: Jeff Bridges
“Iron Man” opens worldwide this week

With “Iron Man” arriving in theatres this week, the writers, actors, and director responsible for Marvel’s latest big-screen adventure met with members of the press last weekend for a series of roundtable interviews in which CBR took part. We published earlier our latest interviews with director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey, Jr., followed by a conversation with co-star Gwyneth Paltrow. CBR News continues today with actor Jeff Bridges, who plays Tony Stark’s mentor and destined nemesis Obadiah Stane.

Unlike his treacherous on-screen persona, Bridges carried himself with a gentle warmth as he greeted the press Sunday in New York. Now with a full head of hair, the actor was first asked whether he was concerned about having to shave his head for the role of Obadiah Stane. Bridges indicated quite the opposite was true. “When I saw the comic book I thought, oh, I get to shave my head,” he said. “I talked to Jon [Favreau] about it and said, of course I’ll shave my head. He said, ‘Eh, you don’t have to do that, we don’t want to be a prisoner to the comic book, that’s up to you.’ But I got excited about it. Then all the anxiety I had as a kid getting my hair cut started to surface, and I thought maybe I don’t want to. So it took me a while to kind of get down to it.”

In the end, Bridges was satisfied with his decision to sport the bald look. “I loved it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Even though this was a distinctly new look for him, the actor said it was still his usual preparation rather than his new appearance that got him into the role. “There’s that process when you’re getting made up, and you’re getting into character, you look in the mirror and start to feel like that guy. Otherwise I was just a happy-go-lucky bald guy, basically.”

Scenes from “Iron Man”

Besides the opportunity to shave his head, Bridges said his reasons for taking the role largely centered on the people he would be working with. “Jon Favreau was the real appeal to me. Big fan of his from ‘Swingers,’” Bridges remarked, referring to the breakout indie comedy written by and starring Favreau. “And the combination of Jon doing this kind of comic book genre film seemed so intriguing to me that I went to go hear his pitch. He told me that Robert [Downey, Jr.] was going to be Iron Man and that made it all the more wonderfully odd. I thought, oh God, this could be really exciting, very different. That’s what got me to the party.”

Bridges said he enjoyed playing Stane because of the character’s complex morality and the belief that his actions are ultimately justified. “I think there are aspects of good and evil in all of us, with evil being self-serving; only serving yourself. But when you get into those higher stratospheres of thinking, yourself becomes everybody, where it’s a sociopathic, psychopathic kind of deal,” Bridges explained. “Obadiah considers himself a hero. He’s the guy, who says, yeah, I’ll be the bad guy, you can all blame me. But we both know — or maybe you don’t know but I certainly know (talking now as Obadiah) — that I’m holding this whole thing together. That what I’m doing, you can say it’s all terrible, but this is why you can go out and get your burgers at the fast food chain, drive your hot cars, and all that. I’m holding the whole status quo together.

“One of the things I like about this movie is that it’s not ramming a message down your throat, whether it’s a pro-war movie or an anti-war movie. Hopefully, it will provoke a lot of discussion after the film about those themes, and about power, and once you have it what do you do with it. What are you willing to do to keep things how they are, all these kinds of things that pertain to what’s going on.”

Scenes from “Iron Man”

Unlike co-stars Robert Downey, Jr., and Terence Howard, the veteran actor was wary of the improvisational script revisions discussed in previous interviews. “It kind of drove me crazy in the beginning because I like to be as prepared as I can,” Bridges remarked. “You read a script and what you say about other people and what they say about you, that’s how you find your character. And if that’s all up for grabs, you kind of panic. I experienced some panic. Often we would show up for the day’s work without knowing what we were going to say that day. We’d go into Jon’s trailer for a couple of hours, with one of these little tape recorders, and we would jam. We would play each other’s characters, and we would all have ideas and throw them around. We tried to distill it, the writers would be in the room with us and Marvel would be there, and we’d just throw out ideas. It took me a while to get behind that. For a few weeks, I was panicking. It really rubbed my fur the wrong way. It’s not how I like to work.

“However, that’s the way it is. Life’s like that, too. There’s a certain way you like it, and it’s rarely that way. It’s how it is, you know. It’s like you go to a ballroom, you’re all prepared to dance the waltz, and they’re just playing cha-chas all night long. You can spend time bitching, saying ‘wah…!’ Or you can dance the cha-cha, you know? And that’s what I finally did, I got my cha-cha shoes on, so I could have fun playing the game that was being played.”

On the subject of advancement in special effects since his days working on the seminal “Tron,” Bridges indicated that from an actor’s perspective the techniques remain essentially constant. “You use the basic technique you use in special effects movies, in most movies, and that’s your imagination,” he said. “If you’re working with a kid, and the kids only get to work a certain amount of hours a day, you often find yourself working to a little ‘X’ on the table. You say, ‘Oh come on, Johnny, your mother loves you,’ and you have to just have it in your mind. And it’s basically the same trick.”

But, Bridges said, the particulars of that trick are evolving. “It’s getting weirder, man. Now they’ve got this motion capture thing. We didn’t do much of that, but that is no cameras. Actors show up in tights, with a bunch of electrodes on, and it’s room that’s green, and everything is done in post. All of the sets, the costumes, the camera angles — everything’s done in post-production. That’s a whole new skill. They’re taking imagining to another level. I guess I’ll be up there, I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like. Talk about cha-cha, that’s a weird one!”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s TV/Film forum.

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