'The Giver' a labour of love for Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges poses at a press line for the movie 'The Giver' during the 2014 Comic-Con...

Jeff Bridges poses at a press line for the movie 'The Giver' during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Mark Daniell, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:59 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - When you’ve played The Dude and Rooster Cogburn (not to mention the inaugural villain in Marvel’s Iron Man), the assumption is there aren’t too many mountains left to climb.

But for Jeff Bridges there was one project that had gripped his imagination for the better part of 18 years — bringing Lois Lowry’s 1993 dystopian YA book The Giver to the big screen.

“I was looking at a catalogue of children’s books and came across this wonderful cover of this grizzled old guy with a Newbery Award stamp and I thought, ‘This looks great,’ ” he tells a roomful of journalists. “Then I read it, and I was knocked out; not just on a kid-book level, but also as an adult. Afterwards, I thought, ‘This is a movie I would love to see being made.’ ”

His original intention was to direct his father — the late Lloyd Bridges — in the title role, and the pair even shot some footage with his nephews. “We have the Betamax!” Bridges quips.

But his hopes to tell the futuristic story of Jonas, a young teen who discovers a dark secret threading its way through his utopian community, sat on the backburner for many years as Bridges went on to star in The Big Lebowski (which he shot while the original screenplay for The Giver was being written), Seabiscuit, Iron Man, Crazy Heart (for which he won an Oscar), a sequel to Tron and many more.

By the time a film version was greenlit by the Weinstein Co., Bridges had to decide whether he still wanted to do it.

“It was tough for me,” he admits. “When I was going to direct it myself, I had a certain vision of how it would look and I wanted to put the book up onscreen exactly how it was, but as I got closer to the movie actually getting made, I had a decision whether I was going to come on board and play the Giver, or if I was going to say, ‘Bon Voyage guys, best of luck.’ ”

He thought long and hard about it, joking that he had finally qualified as the “grizzled old guy” who tries to show Jonas how to feel in a society where medication is used to suppress emotion.

“What I do when I come to those crossroads in my life is I try to project myself into the future and think, ‘How am I going to feel if I let this one go?’ ” Bridges says smiling. “So I decided to experiment with myself and just said ‘Go for it; dance with the universe.’ ”

Bridges took on the titular role alongside newcomers Brenton Thwaites (who plays Jonas), Cameron Monaghan and Odeya Rush, Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and singer Taylor Swift.

Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) directs.

“So much of the success of a film, creatively and in the theatres, depends on casting,” Bridges says. “Not only casting of the actors, but of the director, the cinematographer ... all of those slots were filled in a beautiful way. The movie kind of transcended my high expectations for it.”

The film is aimed at the same audiences that have flocked to Hunger Games and Divergent, but Bridges says The Giver is quite a bit different.

“There’s action and suspense in our film as well, but there are subtle deeper themes as well,” he says adding that Lowry’s book was an inspiration for those newer titles.

Bridges says that the movie was a one-of-a-kind experience. “I’ve never had that kind of passion for a project.”

So with The Giver taken care of, there aren’t any outstanding tickets Bridges still wants to punch.

“I’m 64 now, so I’m moving along pretty good, but there’s limited time to do all the things I want to realize, so that creates a little pressure,” he says. “There’s two angels and one is saying, ‘C’mon, you’ve got a lot of stuff to do,’ and the other one is saying, ‘Jeff, relax. Do you want your whole life to be a giant homework assignment?’ So it’s balancing those two things and it drives my wife crazy.”

The Giver opens in theatres Friday.

Twitter: @markhdaniell

mark.daniell@sunmedia.ca

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Bridges gives Taylor Swift’s acting thumbs up

Jeff Bridges has high praise for all the young stars of his latest film The Giver, but took a moment to plug Taylor Swift’s supporting performance adding that he hopes she continues acting.

“Taylor was remarkable ... Her first day of work was right on the heels of arriving in Capetown. She was exhausted, but she was such a pro and so up for being involved and playing and took right to the acting ... She’s very talented, as well as being a great songwriter and performer.

“I’m so glad she stepped on board.”

— Mark Daniell


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