Jeff Bridges is best known for appearing in dramas such as 2009’s Crazy Heart, which garnered the actor an Oscar, and the Coen brothers’ 1998 noir-stoner comedy classic The Big Lebowski, which garnered him an army of “Duderino”-quoting fans. But Bridges’ filmography also features a surprisingly large amount of sci-fi and fantasy movies, including 1976’s King Kong remake, 1984’s Starman, the two Tron movies, the first Iron Man film, and now this summer’s Robert Schwentke-directed R.I.P.D., in which he and Ryan Reynolds play dead, but still extremely active, law enforcers.
Below, Bridges talks about making the film — which will be released July 19 — and why “the Dude” wouldn’t need to burn one before seeing it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What attracted you to R.I.P.D.?
JEFF BRIDGES: Well, several things. I felt the script was quite unique, kind of wild science fiction. It’s certainly a comedy and I hadn’t done a comedy in a long time. I saw Robert Schwentke’s movie Red, which I thought was wonderful. That was a very familiar genre, but he made it fresh somehow. He did a great job on that and I felt he’d do a good job on this one. And I think he certainly has, from what I’ve seen. And another reason that I was attracted to this was that Ryan Reynolds was going to be in it and I think he’s a wonderful actor. It was a chance to work with him.
Could you set up the premise of the film? What exactly is the R.I.P.D.?
Well, it’s the Rest in Peace Department and it’s made up of a lot of dead policemen and sheriffs. [Laughs] All these lawmen from the past who are working to protect the unsuspecting people of earth from all sorts of disgusting creatures who are actually dead but they’re pretending to be alive in a human form. So we’re kind of rounding up these guys. Ryan is a new guy that I’m training. It’s a very bizarre plot — which was one of the things that attracted me to it.
Who do you play?
I play a marshal from the 1800s and Ryan plays a modern-day cop. The people on earth, they don’t see our real appearance. They see me as a gorgeous woman, they see me as Marisa Miller, this very sexy model. That’s my avatar.
How do people see Ryan?
They see him as James Hong. [Laughs].
So, this is kind of your opportunity to play drag without having to put on the clothes.
Exactly! I’ve played drag before. I’ve been there, done that.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, right?
There you go. Yes!
One of the other stars of the film is Kevin Bacon. What was it like working with him?
He’s wonderful. I’m so glad he was cast in that part. God, he’s great, and also he’s a musician so we had a lot in common…We got to play music to each other between shots and stuff. That was a lot of fun.
You were jamming?
I saw a photo of you on set with a concertina in your hand.
That’s right. I wrote a song with T Bone Burnett, who produced it, and that’s in the movie. It was a lot of fun working with my old buddy T Bone on that.
Who does Mary-Louise Parker play?
She’s wonderful to work with. I’ve always enjoyed her in anything I’ve seen her in. She’s terrific. I don’t want to give too much away [but] she’s my boss.
You’ve now appeared in quite a few of these big budget action spectaculars. Do you enjoy making them?
Well, like most things in life, there’s kind of two sides to ’em. It’s wonderful that you can have all these incredible special effects that are just mind-boggling. The same guys who did the wonderful effects in Life of Pi did our effects. You need that kind of money to achieve this — so that’s a wonderful thing. But at the same time, the small picture is so great. You ever see that movie Once? I was knocked out by that movie. They made it for like $100,000. So when you do these tentpoles — at least this is where my mind goes — I think, God how many Onces could they make with that? With the $300 million, $200 million, or whatever it cost?
But that’s show business! You know, that’s the business side of the show. They must know something. They must be very lucrative. But it can be fun. A lot of times there’s an innocence that you wouldn’t expect in these big movies. Like, with Iron Man. You’d think there would be a very locked-in story but it turned out that a lot of it was kind of made up on the day we were shooting. And thank God they had Jon Favreau at the helm and Robert Downey to be the lead, who is very good at improvisation. We came up with some good stuff and the movie turned out great, I thought. For a while there I was a little nervous.
Is R.I.P.D. a film the Dude would enjoy?
Oh, I think so. I think the Dude would enjoy it.
…with the right, uh, medication?
[Laughs] Well, maybe even nothing. Maybe the movie would be enough!
You can check out the R.I.P.D. trailer below.