American Masters (2011 Season): Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides

Air date: 01/12/2011

THIRTEEN’s American Masters kicks off its 25th anniversary season with Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides, a look at one of America’s most accomplished screen actors airing January 12 on PBS


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American Masters opens its 25th season with Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides, giving viewers an unexpected window into the life of the actor whose easy-goingstyle has endeared him to audiences for almost 40 years.  The 90-minute film, airing nationally Wednesday, January 12 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), debuts less than a year after Bridges’ Best Actor Academy Award-winning role as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. It also coincides with his return to the screen in Tron: Legacy — reprising his role as Kevin Flynn from Tron (1982) and as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, which reunites him with the Coen Brothers, the writer-directors of The Big Lebowski (1998), where his iconic role as “the Dude” originated.

American Masters is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“Jeff Bridges is one of our greatest screen actors,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, a seven-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series. “He has an incredible body of work, but most of us didn’t know that he is, truly, a modern Renaissance Man, widely and wildly talented in, seemingly, all of the arts.”

Once called “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived” by über-critic Pauline Kael, Jeff Bridges has been plying his craft most of his life. After his first role as an infant in The Company She Keeps and a childhood television debut in his father Lloyd’s television series, Sea Hunt, he burst onto the silver screen in The Last Picture Show in 1971 and was immediately recognized with a Best Supporting Actor nomination the first of his five Oscar nominations.

Jeff Bridges has created original and memorable characters in notable films, emblematic of every generation and genre. To name but a few The Last Picture Show (1971), Starman (1984), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), The Fisher King (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998) … and, of course, Crazy Heart (2009). Featured in The Dude Abides are clips from these and several other Bridges’ films, including Against All Odds (1984), Tucker (1988), Texasville (1990), The Contender (2000), Tron: Legacy and True Grit (2010).

Helping to illuminate time and place in Bridges’ work are on-screen interviews with directors Terry Gilliam, Taylor Hackford and Peter Bogdanovich; actors Robin Williams, Robert Duvall, John Goodman and Stacey Keach; actresses Cybil Shephard, Mercedes Ruehl and Karen Allen; and musicians T-Bone Burnett and Michael McDonald.

Hailing from an illustrious Hollywood family, with the pervasiveness of the “business” all around him, Jeff Bridges was raised with values and an authenticity that negated Tinsel Town’s influences and, by all accounts, retains a genuine and unaffected demeanor, despite his celebrity. His firm and steady ties to his parents and siblings is replicated in his own decades-long marriage, his relationship with his three daughters and strong friendships that date back to childhood. His brother Beau, his wife Susan and his sister Cindy are among those who add their personal touches to Jeff Bridges’ story.

Jeff Bridges exemplifies traits and interests far beyond his brilliance as an actor. He is a talented musician recently touring with his band The Abiders a photographer, painter, potter and occasional vintner. He helped found the End Hunger Network in 1983 and continues to work with Share Our Strength, a foundation trying to eradicate childhood hunger.

Known for taking on-set still photographs of cast and crew during all of his recent movies, Jeff Bridges puts together an original album after wrapping and presents a copy to everyone. His photographs have been shown in galleries in Los Angeles, New York and London. He uses the Widelux camera, pioneered in France, and wrote about it in his 2003 volume Pictures. “It is a fickle mistress … it has arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in my work … a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment … getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.”

Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides is a production of THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET. Gail Levin is director and writer. The producers are Neil Koenigsberg, Nikki Silver and Orly Wiseman. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website ( offers interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes and other resources. American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Elizabeth Rosenthal in memory of Rolf W. Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.



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