By Jocelyn Gallardo
On February 9, 2017, Jeff Bridges was awarded the American Riviera Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) for his performance in the new film Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie. This was not his first appearance at the film festival. Bridges came last year for the movie premiere of The Little Prince, being the voice of The Pilot. Both Charlie Hess and I were excited and nervous about what was to come.
In addition to Jeff Bridges, there were many other actors, producers, and directors. To our advantage, we were able to interview a few people before the main honoree arrived.
Bridges finally arrived shortly after Gil Birmingham, who is most famously known for his performances in the Twilight Saga.
Both Bridges and Birmingham took their time on the carpet, having long conversations with all of the interviewers. When they finally made it past the first couple of long interviews, they both stood in front of all of the photographers who were snapping a bunch a photos. Given the opportunity, we were able to move amongst the photographers in order to have a better chance to get an interview with Jeff Bridges. As Jeff was getting ready to head down to some of the other interviewers, we called him over and he walked right up to us, ready to dive right into whatever conversation we were going to have with him.
Our first question we asked him was; what it was like to perform in a film like Hell or High Water? Just as he was about to begin answering our question, he asked us if we had the opportunity to talk to Gil Birmingham. We said that although we had wanted to, we, unfortunately, did not get the chance to do so. At this response, he immediately called Gil Birmingham over, who was just about to begin an interview, and Birmingham left the interview and walked right up to where Bridges was, engaging us in a double interview. This was their responses to our first question:
Jeff Bridges: “It was fun… largely because we became friends, we got to hang out together, played music…”
Bridges even asked us if we played any instruments and completely engaged in a conversation with us. We followed that question with this one; what was one of the greatest challenges when working on this movie? This is how they answered:
Jeff Bridges: “You know, it’s kinda the same thing, making it seem like it’s happening for the first time, making it seem like it’s real and kinda, you know, interesting without making it too interesting, and making people think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t seem right’. You know, it’s kinda walking that line.”
Gil Birmingham: “Sometimes it’s the elements, if you’re doing a lot of outdoor shooting. We were in temperatures of 114 degrees a few days. You know, it’s a little hot. You gotta endure.”
We then asked them; what was different about performing these roles versus other ones that they had done? They both pondered the question before responding:
Jeff Bridges: “Well, it’s kinda the the same and different, you know. It’s almost like playing cards. You know, each time you sit down and play cards you’ve got the same deck but you’re playing a different game, you’re playing with different people, and that changes it all, but it’s kinda the same. Funny, I don’t know if that really explains it.”
Gil Birmingham, then builds off of what Jeff has already mentioned: “Yeah, and you’re exploring different characters, too, you know, and they all have different backgrounds and different situations and different elements in terms of their dynamics of their relationships. So. you are just trying to find the truth of those characters.”
Our next question was; what their favorite part about working with each other was. They both just smiled at each other before giving us a response.
Jeff Bridges: “His spirit. Just the inside, you know. It comes out in his music, our conversations.”
Gil Birmingham: “I think just the chemistry that we had just right off the beginning was so natural and genuine, and Jeff is just one of the most real guys that you’ll ever meet. It’s a honor to know him, to find his spirit like that and to get to work with him is really an honor.”
The following question that we asked both of them was; what were some other things that they were looking forward to doing in the future whether it been films or working with new people? Bridges, enthused, jumped right into the question quickly.
Jeff Bridges: “Well, you know, I look for that same thing wherever I, whenever I work. … It’s like the first day you go to school, you know, your new class, and you kinda check out who you’re gonna link up with, who’s going to be your friend. You kinda hang out and wanna nurture those relationships because it feel better to have somebody who’s your body, right? I kinda do that.”
Just as we were about to ask another question, someone from behind asks if Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham could take a picture with us. So, we promptly turned around, greeted by the flash of cameras. As soon as the press finished taking our photos, Bridges and Birmingham made their way down the red carpet and into the theater.
The whole event was full of momentous experiences and we were very blessed in being able to talk to both Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham for a solid three minutes. This was an opportunity that we will treasure forever and never forget.