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It may take a minute, but watching Jeff Bridges' performance in Marc Webb's The Only Living Boy In New York lends to a particular "A ha" moment. Noticing that the actor is wearing little more than some stubble on his face, you suddenly recognize that it's been nearly a decade since he last played a facial hair-less part. This fact led me to ask the actor about his lack of beard during the movie's Los Angeles press day, and he revealed his personal, odd approach to preparation in that department. Said Bridges,
I let all of my hairs, every hair on my body, grow between movies. Because I don't know what my next character is going to need! A while back I had a beard like this [mimes a chest-length beard] -- I hadn't worked in a while! And I was growing it to play Walt Whitman! And then that part fell through and I didn't get to use it. Whoa, man, it was so great! But I just let it go and then I shave it for the part.
There are many actors who make sacrifices in their lives in favor of their craft, and it seems that one of Jeff Bridges' sacrifices is shaving between projects. The Oscar-winning performer was sporting a heavy beard when I sat down with him last week, and it's presumably been growing since he finished work on his upcoming features Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Only The Brave (and it should be noted he doesn't have facial hair in either of those projects).
Of course, fans who are familiar with Jeff Bridges' full body of work know that he has a tremendous number of clean-shaven performances in his career -- but he doesn't have many in the last decade. From Iron Man to The Men Who Stare At Goats to TRON: Legacy, to True Grit to Hell Or High Water, Bridges has been sporting a variety of beards and goatees for years now, to the point where it was weirdly surprising to see him without some legitimate chin hairs in The Only Living Boy In New York.
As for why Jeff Bridges decided it was proper to shave for his part in the new Marc Webb film, the actor couldn't give me a specific reason. Instead, he brought me into his process, and explained how he goes about figuring out those character details when preparing for a performance.
The character slowly comes into focus, you read the script, what people say about him, what you say, what the script says about the guy. That's the beginning. Then you start to work with the makeup man -- Thomas Nellen, who I've worked with on so many films. And Anne Roth, who was the costume designer on this movie, we were so lucky to get her. You get in there, they have all these different jackets, shoes... And you start to put them on, and one will be like [pops his tongue], 'That's it!' And it slowly pulls into focus. And that goes for the facial hair and all of the hair too. It's slowly dialing into him.
You can watch Jeff Bridges talk about his special approach to facial hair by clicking play on the video below!
Starring alongside Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale Pierce Brosnan, Kiersey Clemons and Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges will be back on the big screen this weekend in The Only Living Boy In New York, which will be in theaters this Friday, August 11th, in limited release.