Posted: 11/20/2011

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BEAU BRIDGES ON THE DESCENDANTS

by Paul Fischer



The Descendants is currently in limited release in New York and Los Angeles


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Veteran actor Beau Bridges has plenty to smile about these days as we chat in a Beverly Hills hotel room. He is appearing alongside A-lister George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, which opened on Friday in New York and Los Angeles. “It’s nice to be here talking about something you’re genuinely proud of,” Bridges says right from the outset. High praise indeed for an actor who has appeared in over 400 films and television episodes spanning some six decades. A very youthful 69-year old Bridges plays cousin to George Clooney in the film, a character that has two vital scenes. Bridges says he was aware of making an impression from the beginning. “For me, always, the play’s the thing, as Shakespeare said, so I recognized this as a wonderful story, aptly told, and I saw as one of a fascinating bunch of characters. One of Alexander’s strengths is that all of the characters in all of his movies are very multi faceted and complex. As an audience member you think you understand them at first they do something totally surprising, much like life.”

Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants follows self-titled ‘back-up’ father-of-two Matt King (Clooney) as he frantically tries to keep his family together following a boating accident, which has left his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) in a life-threatening coma. Faced with the proposition of single-handedly reigning in his wayward daughters - 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) - preparing his wife’s friends and relations for the worst and also finalizing a significant sale of prime Hawaiian real estate that could have far-reaching consequences for the entire community, Matt seemingly has it all to do.

Bridges plays cousin Hugh, a family patriarch desperate for Matt to make the family wealthy, without caring for the consequences. While Bridges only appears in two scenes, for the actor, the fun part was in figuring out who this guy is. As he explains it: “One of the fun things about doing any character, especially one who only has a couple of scenes in the movie, is to develop the whole back-story, so I started to talk to Alexander about that and then just got together with George and started to talk about who we are. I’ve probably known George’s character all his life. So we just started talking and maybe I figured I taught him to surf, and drew some parallels about my own nephews, now in their thirties whom I still think of as little kids. I wanted to bring that to this role.”

While this was not the first tome he had worked with star Clooney, he had never worked with Payne before and gives him genuine high marks. “He’s wonderful, very soft spoken, very economical in his use of words and the way he communicates. He’s very well prepared, has a real strong vision and his main focus in the beginning is to make sure you’re comfortable.”

There is a genuine sense of joy in Bridges’ approach to his work. An actor since childhood, Bridges loves the process of acting, loves to “figure out who the character is in the scheme of things. That remains my favorite part in the process. It’s a fascinating journey to create a part.” Asked if he plans to re-team with his Oscar winning brother in the future, Bridges smiles. “We keep pitching The Baker Boys go to Hawaii. We do love working together and we’re always throwing ideas around.”

In the meanwhile, the fabulous Bridges brother is heading to Broadway to take over in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Asked how he feels about appearing on Broadway, Bridges is succinct. “I’m scared shitless.”

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.



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