Jeff Bridges Returns to “The Last Picture Show” Country for Sequel
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Talk about deja vu. Jeff Bridges felt it all over again when he returned to the hamlet of Archer City, Texas, for the sequel to the 1971 milestone film, ″The Last Picture Show.″
Bridges wasn’t alone. Also returning for ″Texasville″ were Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Timothy Bottoms, Randy Quaid and director-writer Peter Bogdanovich. For many of them, ″The Last Picture Show″ marked the beginning of their film careers. The movie was nominated for best picture, and Leachman and Ben Johnson won Academy Awards for supporting roles.
Making ″Texasville,″ says Bridges, ″was like constantly being hit over the head by deja vu. Every day I’d grab Peter and place him in some corner on the street where we were shooting and I’d say, ‘Now 20 years ago what did you say to me as I was standing right here?’ ″
Getting ″Texasville″ on the road was no easy task. Bogdanovich was certain Larry McMurtry’s sequel would make a good movie, and he sold Dino DeLaurentiis on buying the rights. When the Italian’s company went belly-up, Bogdanovich bought the book and wrote a script. Finding backers took a year. ″Last Picture Show″ cost $1.3 million. ″Texasville″ was budgeted at $20 million.
Assembling the cast was another problem.
″Everybody wanted to do it,″ says the director. ″It was just a matter of finding the right time when we could all get together.
″Cloris was doing a series through part of the picture. Annie Potts (who plays Bridges’ wife) was doing a series; she made 28 plane trips to and from location. Billie McNamara (Bridges’ son), also in a series, made 11 trips from Hawaii, if you can imagine. Randy Quaid was so busy, we only had him for four days.″
″Texasville″ portrays the oil economy’s change from boom to bust. Bridges’ business is $12 million in debt. Banker Quaid threatens suicide. Mayor Bottom is living in the past.
″It was a tough shoot; we were working six days a week, sometimes 14 days straight, long hours,″ recalls Bridges. ″But it was a lot of fun, great cast, great crew. We kind of picked up the ball where we left off.″
Bridges remembers sitting around a table in the Archer City hotel 20 years ago with other cast members (including Ellen Burstyn, who is not in the sequel). All agreed that they were involved in something special.
″It was the show that really put me on the map,″ says the actor, who won the first of his three Oscar nominations (others: ″Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,″ ″Starman″).
Bridges had made two previous films, but mostly he had been known as Lloyd Bridges’ kid. He and his brother, Beau, and their sister, Cindy, grew up with a famous father, but his parents, now married 52 years, kept them out of the movie whirl. ″They weren’t big Hollywood party goers,″ he said. ″Maybe that kept us kind of out of it.″
With Lloyd often absent on film locations, the job of disciplining the boys fell to their mother. Bridges laughs as he recalled, ″I remember when she decided too late that she would spank us. She decided to do that when I was about 14 years old, and it always ended up with me chasing her around the house.″
Lloyd tried to compensate for his absences by including the boys in his work: ″Whenever there was a role for a small kid in ‘Sea Hunt,’ he would ask me if I wanted to be in it. That was great. I worked with him a lot when I was a kid.
″I really consider him my teacher; he taught me all the basics about acting. I remember sitting down with him and going over all the lines. He’d tell me to make it real, make it appear to be happening for the first time, listen to the other actor.″
His father’s advice was augmented by training with Berghof Studios in New York. Since ″The Last Picture Show,″ Bridges has enjoyed an amazing diversity of films, including ″Fat City,″ ″King Kong,″ ″Stay Hungry,″ ″The Last American Hero,″ ″Bad Company,″ ″Winter Kills,″ ″The Iceman Cometh,″ ″Tucker″ and ″The Fabulous Baker Boys.″
His philosophy about picking film roles:
″I like to mix them up. For my own enjoyment, it keeps the boredom level down. Also I think the audience, subconsciously or consciously, carry you with them in the baggage from the films you have done. I try to different roles so you never know what this guy is going to do. Is he going to kill somebody or be a nice guy? You don’t know.″