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Jeff Bridges - aka the Dude - is a Cowtown natural

Jeff Bridges tribute

Crazy Heart, 1 p.m. Saturday, AMC Palace, with Bridges, T Bone Burnett and director Scott Cooper in attendance

The Last Picture Show, 4 p.m. Saturday, AMC Palace, with Bridges and director Peter Bogdanovich in attendance

The Big Lebowski, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with Bridges and Burnett in attendance

Closing-night party and concert featuring Burnett and Bridges 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 8.0 Restaurant and Bar

Movie tickets are $8-$15; closing-party admission is $20. For more information, visit www.lsiff.com.

What film contains Jeff Bridges' best acting performance?
Posted 2:24pm on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

Jeff Bridges makes life look easy.

The man is an Oscar-winner, a cult hero, Hollywood royalty, a humanitarian, a musician, a photographer, a father of three; heck, he's even the voice-over pitchman for Hyundai and Duracell. Yet I'm pretty sure his pulse rate has never registered above 60.

"I've got a lot of slacker in me," Bridges told me two years ago, during a bowling-alley interview in Dallas. "I consider myself kind of a lazy guy, but when I look back, I've done a bunch of stuff."

He's done a bunch since then, too. Like winning a Best Actor Academy Award last year for his portrayal of washed-up country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. This holiday movie season, he'll star in two of the biggest potential blockbusters, TRON: Legacy (a reboot of/sequel to the 1982 classic, in which he'll reprise his role as the video-game designer Kevin Flynn) and a remake of True Grit, which reteams him with the Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski), and which finds him playing the part that won John Wayne an Oscar.

At 60, Bridges has never been hotter, which makes his visit to Fort Worth this weekend one for the ages. He'll be honored with the Lone Star International Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award. He'll also stick around to introduce three of his most memorable films: The Last Picture Show (director Peter Bogdanovich will be in attendance), The Big Lebowski and Crazy Heart. And on Saturday night, Bridges will strap on the acoustic guitar for a festival after-party/concert at 8.0 with Crazy Heart collaborator and Fort Worth boy T Bone Burnett.

My guess is he'll make that look easy, too. After all, this is The Dude we're talking about.

His portrayal of Jeffrey Lebowski, a lover of fine rugs, fine weed, White Russians, whale songs and, above all else, bowling, gave rise to one of the most beloved and quoted characters to ever appear on film: a bathrobe-wearing slacker king who is more popular today than he was when The Big Lebowski was released in 1998.

The Dude (or El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing) has spawned a cottage industry: Lebowski-fests, Lebowski gear, you can even be ordained as a Dudeist Priest at dudeism.com (I am.).

So when he strode into USA Bowl in Dallas two years ago for our bowling interview, I was both excited and a little terrified. As the self-anointed Kingpin of Cowtown, I had bowled with more than 25 celebrities over the last decade -- everyone from Deepak Chopra and Davy Jones to the Rockettes and Ron Weasley from the "Harry Potter" movies -- but Bridges was my mountaintop.

What if he was one of those Hollywood types, the anti-Dude?

I needed not have worried. In walked Bridges, no entourage, in jeans and a denim shirt. He pulled on a pair of two-toned bowling shoes and we rolled. We spent about 90 minutes bowling and talking. Unlike most celebrities who insist on talking up their most recent projects (Bridges was in town to promote an indie film called The Amateurs), he abided all my Big Lebowski questions.

"He's a surfer, an activist, he appreciates fine rugs," Bridges mused about The Dude. "He's a good bather, too."

Of Lebowski's enduring appeal, he said: "It's about friendship.... You've got these two polar opposite guys -- Walter (John Goodman), who's this gung-ho warrior guy, and The Dude, who's anything but -- and it's about how they love each other and come to terms with each other." He even confessed to watching The Big Lebowski late at night anytime it comes on cable: "I always say I'm only going to watch until John (Turturro, aka The Jesus) licks the ball, but by then, I'm hooked."

If The Dude overshadows so many of the memorable roles that Bridges has amassed during a 40-year, underrated career -- The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot , The Fabulous Baker Boys, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Seabiscuit, Iron Man, The Contender and Crazy Heart -- well, Bridges abides that, too.

The son of a famous actor -- Bridges appeared on episodes of Sea Hunt as a kid with his father, Lloyd, as a way of getting out of school for the day -- has never been a Hollywood-type; never one to be anything less than immensely grateful for whatever attention comes his way.

But spend a few minutes on his website, and you'll learn there is so much more to Bridges. His End Hunger Network has quietly been saving lives for 25 years. He is a talented artist and photographer who shoots behind-the-scenes photos on most of his movies. He's a musician and a self-proclaimed doodler.

When, at the conclusion of our interview, he even squiggled an indelible image of The Dude on a bowling pin, I was dumbfounded.

I shouldn't have been.

He made it look easy.

Welcome to Cowtown, Jeff.

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