CULTURE

True Grit


“I love Westerns,” Jeff Bridges says. “It means you get to ride a horse.” On December 25, Bridges saddles up in Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel True Grit, in which he plays Rooster Cogburn, a hard-boiled U.S. marshal who helps 14-year-old heroine Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld) avenge her father’s murder. The original 1969 film starred John Wayne, but Bridges says he felt no pressure to live up to the Duke’s Oscar-winning performance. “The Coen brothers’ first bit of direction to me was, ‘We’re not remaking the movie; we’re making the novel into a movie,’” says the actor, who shares the screen with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. When not in the saddle, Bridges spent much of his time on the Austin and Santa Fe sets pursuing another long-standing passion: photography. He was in high school when he started experimenting with the Widelux, a 35mm panoramic camera, and has been using one to capture behind-the-scenes movie moments for decades, often creating books of his images for the cast and crew. “I usually carry it around with me, even to readings and rehearsals,” he says. “It’s a view of making movies that most people don’t get to see.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“This was shot in a particularly beautiful location in New Mexico—a whole grove of cottonwood trees that went on forever. Wearing an eye patch wasn’t as tricky as I thought it might be. It screws up your depth perception, but I kind of got used to it. Whenever I wanted to see, I just lifted the thing up.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“One of the most important parts of your character is the costume. Here’s Ethan Coen and Barry Pepper in his woolly chaps thinking how he’s going to kill my character, Rooster Cogburn.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“It was quite amazing showing up to work, because the set and the costumes were so spectacular. And the makeup! You really felt transported. This is the day my character gets cross-examined in a courtroom.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“Ethan Coen looking at ‘the bear.’ I also had a camera on the set of ‘The Big Lebowski’—my first movie with the Coens.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“It was an incredibly windy day, and I’m up on a ladder taking this picture. Matt Damon’s preparing himself for his scene while Joel Coen changes the film in the camera. At least I think that’s Joel—it looks like his posture.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“This is our first read-through of the script; in an old hotel in Santa Fe that we took over as a production house. Joel and Ethan were the writers, directors, and producers, so they ran the whole show.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“This is us just hanging out between scenes. That’s Barry Pepper in the middle and—believe it or not—Josh Brolin on the right.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“Matt Damon and I are on our ladders pretending to be on horses, and we’re waiting for Hailee Steinfeld to get ready. I think Damon’s facial hair is real.”

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Photographer: Jeff Bridges

“This is our first scene the first day of shooting, and Hailee’s first shot in a feature film ever. Did she nail it? Yeah.”