Jeff Bridges: Making Pictures

Jeff Bridges, who plays a compassionate race horse owner, stopped by The Early Show to discuss the movie, "Seabiscuit."
CBS/The Early Show
It's opening night for Jeff Bridges -- complete with friends and fans, autographs and flashbulbs.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Rita Braver reports, the actor isn't attending the premiere of his latest movie. It's a show of his still photography that's in the spotlight at the prestigious Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery in Manhattan.

Bridges says of photography: "It's fresh, it's newer to me. That makes it a little bit different."

The actor is donating his profits from the photos and a new coffee table book to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a charity that helps folks in the movie industry. It is fitting because the work focuses on behind-the-scenes moments on film sets with co-stars such as Jane Fonda, Robin Williams and Michelle Pfeiffer.

"I had a dark room when I was a kid and all that, but when I did the remake of 'King Kong' in the mid-'70s, I guess my character had a camera on him," says Bridges. "And I thought, 'Oh well, why not just throw some film in there and take some pictures.' And that kind of got me re-hooked on my photography."

Bridges says he doesn't think of himself as an actor-turned-photographer.

But the renowned photographers who came to Bridges' exhibit opening party say the pictures from the actor are much more than snapshots.

"What really distinguishes these pictures is the fact that they're beautifully designed, they are incredibly atmospheric, they have content they have humor and are sometimes sad," says photographer Mary Ellen Mark.

Photographer Joel Meyerowitz says, "This is disciplined work here and I think that is what saves these pictures from being a movie star's pictures. Here's a guy holding a boom, which goes out 20 feet, but he's standing there resting against the a pole and Bridges see a moment of grace."

Bridges' pictures, like a shot on the set of "Wild Bill," are panoramic -- encompassing much more than a conventional photo.

"This is what they call a Wide Lux camera," Bridges says of his camera, which has a 28mm lens that pans nearly 180 degrees.

The Wide Lux camera allowed him to capture pals such as Cybil Shepard, William H. Macy, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Michelle Pfeiffer doing both the tragic and comic mask of drama in the same frame.

And if Jeff Bridges has rapport with other actors off screen, it is nothing compared to his on-screen chemistry.

Bridges was a star at 22 -- earning his first of four Oscar nominations as Duane Jackson, Shepard's boyfriend in "The Last Picture Show."

Fans may agree that Bridges has a "hunk" factor, which the actor laughs at.

"If the role requires some 'hunkiness,' I'm there for that," he laughs. "But it's also fun to play anti-hunk as well."

It was no surprise that young Jeff Bridges blossomed into a hunk and an actor -- considering his family history.

"Unlike a lot of actors, my father loved show biz so much, and encouraged his kids to go into it," remembers Bridges. "Not in a obnoxious, stage parent, type of way. But, he just loved it so much."

Bridges and his older brother Beau, a well-known actor too, loved to tease their dad about his popular '50s television show, "Seahunt," which was a family affair.

Jeff Bridges would grow up to act with his father. They appeared together in "Tucker" and "Blown Away," filmed four years before the death of Lloyd Bridges in 1998.

"I could go on and on about my dad, but it was so much fun to play with him as an adult … it was just so damn great," says Bridges.

The actor says there was no rivalry with his brother Beau.

"We always root for each other," says Jeff Bridges.

The brothers' work together in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" was captured in one of Bridges' snapshots.

"The joke going around that day was, because we started in the toilet, 'I hope the picture doesn't end up there'" laughs Bridges as he examined a photo taken on the set of a bathroom in "The Fabulous Baker Boys."

In many of Bridges' pictures, he let the viewer see things that they wouldn't normally know are going on when a movie is being made.

"I'm kind of conflicted about that," says Bridges. "I hope it doesn't take the enjoyment out of watching movies."

At the gallery, there are candid shots of some of Bridges' favorite directors: Peter Bogdonavich checking a shot for "Texasville," the sequel to the "Last Picture Show"; Francis Ford Coppola getting a head massage from actress Joan Allen on the set of "Tucker"; and then there's the photo of Julianne Moore in a dream sequence from "The Big Lebowski."

As for his own dream, Bridges, now 54, seems to be living it. He's been happily married for 26 years. He and his wife Susan have three daughters. And he still lands plenty of juicy roles, such as playing the horse's owner in "Seabiscuit."

The actor has made more than 50 films, but Jeff Bridges is one movie star who saves the drama for the silver screen.

To some, Bridges seem remarkably well adjusted for somebody in the entertainment business.

"It's an act! I'm in acting," says Bridges.

And, he has the pictures to prove it.