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Jeff Bridges talks 'Seventh Son,' recites Russian poetry, sings Dylan

The Oscar-winning legend discusses playing a mentor in the fantasy film "Seventh Son" and the ideas of fate and mentorship it raises.

“Seventh Son” may be a pricey fantasy movie depicting the battle between a witch hunter (Jeff Bridges) and his young charge (Ben Barnes) versus a villainous, shape-shifting Julianne Moore (with a tail). But it touches on enough heady ideas that Bridges can extrapolate upon them, going off on his own ideas on fate, good versus evil and that time in his youth when he acted alongside James Mason. It’s also, mind you, a “Big Lebowski” reunion that pits The Dude against Moore’s Maude Lebowski.

On the way “Seventh Son” explores fate and the cosmos: “As The Dude might say, this is just my opinion, man, but you have the universe, you have black holes and all that stuff we don’t know about yet. Yet here we are. Somehow the universe has come out of the universe. Alan Watts, he would say apple trees make apples, and the universe makes peoples. It’s kind of destiny, I guess, or fate that here we are. The Big Bang happened and it resulted in this happening, and here we are. All our challenges and dilemmas are part of fate. And those dilemmas can be wonderful lessons of us. They can teach us.”

What inspires him as an actor: “Some of my greatest mentors are animals, dogs, children, babies. I remember the kid in ‘Crazy Heart.’ It was so wonderful to see how he did these things. He had no expectations. He wasn’t being result-oriented. You can learn a lot from kids.”

Being mentored: Barnes says he was excited to work with an elder statesman like Bridges, which only causes Bridges to think about when he was a young actor. “The second film I did, called ‘The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go’ — Burgess Meredith wrote and directed and produced it. James Mason played a Chinese-Mexican in it. I remember Mason, I was just in awe of him as an actor. He was taking me under his wing and breaking all those expectations I had of him, saying, ‘I’m just a regular guy.’”

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Reuniting with Moore: “Even what we’re doing here, now [at a press junket], is kind of the same thing. We had the pleasure of doing a lot of interviews this morning, together. It’s kind of like performing, in a way. You’re riffing off each other, being inspired by each other.”

His Oscar advice for his costar: Moore is currently amidst heavy duty Oscar talk for her performance in “Still Alice.” (She’s also been nominated many times before without winning.) Did Bridges, who won for “Crazy Heart,” have anything to say to her? “I don’t really have any advice. We talked about it, acknowledged that feeling of having that appreciation come at you like that — it’s pretty wonderful. And all the anxiety and silly obsessions about beating yourself up for not remembering that guy’s name.” But his advice was simple: “Just go with the ride, surf that wave!”

Getting deep: Despite setting up Bridges’ character as the hero and Moore as the villain, the lines are blurred. “One of the things I was hoping the film could convey is that rather than the terrible battle between good and evil, it could go deeper than that. In my research I came across this quote by [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn: ‘If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’ I’m hoping that is in the movie somewhere.” Besides, it’s not as though Moore’s character is unjustified in her anger. “She has every right to pissed off. Her boyfriend locked her in a hole for 100 years! She’s pissed!”

Dylan talk: The film’s portrayal of a mentor-student relationship also made him think of another great poet. “I was thinking of that great Bob Dylan song: [sings] ‘Ring them bells, ye heathens, from the city that dreams.’ I say to Ben’s character: remember those things I taught you? Don’t listen. Don’t follow any of those things. Follow your heart. This is a journey that human beings are on. They’re still ringing. There’s till problems we haven’t solved — this problem of evil and how we deal with that, not only our projections of evil out there but the evil in our own hearts.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
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