Jeff Bridges, star of "Hell or High Water," explains why he's so good at western movies

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Jeff Bridges plays retiring Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton on his last case in new western "Hell or High Water," tracking down two bank-robbing brothers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Wise-cracking Marcus is determined to retire and go out with a bang as he chases the bank robbers, one of whom is stealing to support his children.

Bridges talked to CBS News about his retirement plans and why he's just so darn good at western movies.

It's not really clear who we're supposed to be rooting for in "Hell or High Water." The Howard brothers, Marcus and Alberto are all very charming. Is there a hero here?

That's a good question. I don't know about hero. Everybody's doing the best they can in the movie. Maybe there are some heroes in all the characters in a way, but there are also darker sides to everybody. I guess that's pretty realistic as far as human beings go, and there's not one clear hero. That's what attracted me to the script -- that ambiguity.

c07930cc.jpg

Jeff Bridges stars as Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton in "Hell or High Water."

Lorey Sebastian/CBS Films

There are so many witty lines and lots of action in this movie. Was it as fun to shoot as it is to watch?

Oh yeah. It was a great group of guys. David Mackenzie, our director, did something really wonderful where nowadays they edit the film as they go along and there was a log cabin with an editing suite. David invited us every weekend to go there and watch what we had shot that week and kind of hang around and build a camaraderie. That was great and my partner in the movie, Gil [Birmingham] -- we both love to play guitar, so we did a lot of picking. It was a lot of fun.


Do you have any go-to songs when you're jamming?

Well, I have a band called the Abiders and we go out and play, so I go through my catalog and songs that I know. We'd so some cover songs and play some songs from "Crazy Heart" from a few years ago and play some Creedence from "The Big Lebowski."

"Hell or High Water" is set in Western Texas but it was shot in New Mexico, against a landscape that is quite barren but also kind of beautiful. What was it like to shoot out there in these very empty locations?

New Mexico -- I just finished making another movie there -- there's a lot of movies being made there because there's a rebate, so it's a place where a lot of movies are made these days. I just love it there. It's so beautiful -- the light, the clouds, the crews they had there are wonderful. So whenever I hear we're making a movie in New Mexico, I enjoy that.

You played a robber in the '70s heist movie "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" and now you're chasing the robber. You've come full circle. Do you prefer playing the robber or the sleuth?

That's one of the things that's great about acting. You can play all the different aspects of a human being. Bad guys -- it's kind of fun to explore the darker side, but I don't prefer one or the other.

Your character, Marcus, is retiring in the movie. Do you ever think of retiring?

Sometimes, but unlike the Texas Rangers there's not a mandatory retirement age in Hollywood. I can act on my deathbed if I choose to. Sometimes I think about retiring, but not stopping work. Just "re-tiring" -- put on some new tires and go on to do something else.

What would that be?

Well, this music thing is kind of taking off late in life and I'm enjoying that so I got into my music either way. I love to paint, do ceramics, photography. I got a lot of side things that I like to do.

One of the things I'm most interested in and spending time with is ending childhood hunger in our country. I'm putting a lot of work into that. I'm the spokesperson for an organization called Hear Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign, so I'd get more into that.

What pushed you into pursuing music more seriously?

I've been playing since I was a teenager and I put out a few albums when I was younger. When "Crazy Heart" took off, it gave me another reason to get into music in a more serious fashion. I figured now is the time, especially when my buddy T-bone Burnett, who's a wonderful musician and producer, I asked him if he wanted to make an album after "Crazy Heart" and he said sure, and I put out a live album with my band. All of this is available on iTunes.

Why are you so good at western movies?

You know, when I was a kid, my dad was in westerns: "High Noon" with Gary Cooper and all that. Whenever he'd come home dressed up like a cowboy, I'd get very excited and put on his boots and hat and all that. I love westerns. I grew up watching them and I think you make a few and they're very good, chances are they're going to hire you to make some more.

Did you ever think the Dude from "The Big Lebowski" would become one of your most iconic characters?

Not while I was making it. I don't think about it in those terms. It's wonderful to be part of that movie and it's wonderful it's had the long life that it's had. We just lost The Big Lebowski -- David Huddleston -- a few days ago, who I also made another movie with, "Bad Company," and it's sad, his passing.

You mentioned your music. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

Well, not too long ago, I made the sequel to "Kingsman" and was in England with that. I was in New Mexico, like I said before, and shot a movie called "Granite Mountain" with Josh Brolin about the Granite Mountain Hotshots in Arizona a few years ago. Then I got "The Little Prince." That's out on Netflix and I do the voice of the aviator in that.

"Hell or High Water" opens Friday.

  • Andrea Park On Twitter»

    Andrea is an entertainment producer at CBSNews.com