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Jeff Bridges and his passion for photography

Jeff Bridges on his love of photography
Jeff Bridges captures life on set in new photo book 07:04

Over the past 60 years, Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges has gone from child actor to leading heartthrob to laid-back counterculture icon. But he's also a bit of a Renaissance man, adding painting, music and photography to his artistic repertoire.

"CBS This Morning" co-host Anthony Mason asked, "Where did your love of photography come from?"

"I guess 'borrowing' would be the kinder word, rather than 'stealing' my father's Nikon," Bridges replied. "Setting up a little darkroom in my bathroom, you know, putting tin foil on the windows and being in there with that red light with my tunes going on. The whole concept of time goes out the window."

When he started acting, he left the darkroom behind, until 1976 when he starred in "King Kong." 

"My character, Jack Prescott, had a camera. And I said, 'Well, I'm gonna load that thing and take pictures, you know?'"

Jeff Bridges with his 35mm Widelux panning camera. The actor's black-and-white panoramic photos are in a new book, "Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume Two."  CBS News

That started a tradition of taking pictures on his film sets. 

Photographs from "King Kong," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," and "The Big Lebowski" were included in a first volume of his pictures. Now Bridges has released "Pictures: Volume Two," including photos from the sets of "True Grit," "Crazy Heart," and "Seabiscuit," in which he starred with Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks.

Jeff Bridges' self-portrait on the set of the Coen Brothers' "True Grit." Jeff Bridges

What happened in the photo, seen below, of Elizabeth Banks with a tissue hiding her face? "I gave her a bloody nose," Bridges said. "Yeah, I was, 'Seabiscuit, he's winning!' — Boom! I just cracked her in the nose. Oh gosh! And I said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, can I take your picture?'"

A bloodied Elizabeth Banks on the set of "Seabiscuit." Jeff Bridges

He also turned his camera on the inflatable figures who made up the crowd in the racing scene. "You got all these extras up there and they're all dressed. It's amazing. Then I got closer and I saw it was these guys!"

Non-union extras help fill the stands during filming of "Seabiscuit." Jeff Bridges

Bridges, whom Mason met at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, said the tool of his trade now is a 35mm Widelux panning camera, which allows him to shoot distinctive dual-image comedy/tragedy shots of his acting friends.

He gave Mason a demonstration: "Yeah, sad! Look right over here, yeah!  There you go, sad! Shift! Nice!" 

Two sides of Anthony Mason. Jeff Bridges

Bridges was encouraged to go into acting by his father, Lloyd Bridges, who starred in the 1960s TV show "Sea Hunt," in which young Jeff made several appearances. He told Mason that at one point he was on the fence about following his dad into acting. 

"Yeah, I sure was. For quite a while. I had maybe 10 movies under my belt before I said, 'You know what? This is for me.' I mean, I'm the product of nepotism. I don't think I would have gotten into the movies without my dad saying, 'Come on, come on!', you know?'"

"But you had to be good to stay in the movies," said Mason.

"Well, that's also true. But in the beginning I said, 'I don't wanna get the part just 'cause who my dad is!'"

That changed, Bridges said, after he initially passed on a part in the 1973 film, "The Iceman Cometh." And a director he'd just worked with called him. "He had a very low voice, and he goes 'You've turned down John Frankenheimer, "Iceman Cometh"?' I said, 'Oh, yeah. I'm bushed.' 'Bushed? You're an ass!' And he hung up on me!"

Bridges took the part, and eventually found ways to include his love of music and photography in his acting career.

But his favorite photograph is not his own: "Oh yeah, my prized possession you're talking about!"

In his wallet he keeps a snapshot of the moment he and his wife, Susan, met in 1975. "And so, I have a photograph of the first words that my wife and I shared, me asking her out and her saying no! And here's that moment. Look at that! Isn't that wild?"

He was smitten, he says, by her beauty, and her pair of black eyes from a recent car accident: "Here's a closeup of her with the black eyes. And isn't she something!"

Pictures from when Jeff Bridges met his future wife, Susan, on the set of "Rancho Deluxe." CBS News

Bridges didn't even know that the photo of him meeting his future wife Susan existed until about a decade after they'd married in 1977. The makeup artist who took the picture on a film set in Montana found it among old files, and mailed it to Bridges out of the blue. The actor keeps it with him everywhere he goes.

Susan appears in the book, visiting the set of "True Grit." So does Bridges' stand-in, whom he's been working with even longer. "There's my old buddy, Lloyd Catlett. You know, we've done nearly 70 films together. We met on 'The Last Picture Show.'"

Jeff Bridges' stand-in, stunt man Lloyd Catlett, with bowling ball. Jeff Bridges

Mason asked, "How unusual is it to have a stand-in through your whole career?"

"Completely unusual, I think. Gotta hold the record, I would think."

"What satisfaction do you get out of taking pictures?" asked Mason.

"Opening that proof sheet and seeing what you took, you know, I just love that surprise," Bridges said. 

"You always have high expectations when you're making a movie, you know? And every once in a while it exceeds those expectations and you go, 'Oh yeah, man!' And that happens in the photographs, too, every once in a while. You've gotten out of the way appropriately and the thing is just captured, you know? And it feels great."

  • "Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume Two" (powerHouse Books), in Hardcover, available via Amazon. Bridges' proceeds from the book will be donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.
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