The Dude was seen walking the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, yesterday as thousands of political activists, delegates, journalists and others gathered for this week’s Democratic National Convention. Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges was in town to promote the No Kid Hungry campaign, as he was last week at the Republican Convention in Tampa, seeking bipartisan support for measures to end childhood hunger in the U.S.
Sitting with Rolling Stone blocks away from the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the convention begins today, Bridges looked a lot like the Dude from 1998’s The Big Lebowski, with long blond hair combed back and a graying goatee. He was spending the day meeting with Democratic governors and the media, but he also squeezed in a couple of live gigs with his band the Abiders, performing songs from last year’s Jeff Bridges album and the film Crazy Heart, which won him an Academy Award in 2010.
Do you get more accomplished by being bipartisan?
Yeah, that’s the good news. The bad news is that we’ve got millions of kids waking up every morning not knowing if they’re going to get enough food: nearly 16 million, one in five. I’ve been dealing with the hunger issue for about 30 years now. This campaign, No Kid Hungry, is really taking a different tack. It’s all about creating public-private partnerships, local solutions for local problems and going through the governors and getting all the powerful guys in their state to make ending childhood hunger a priority. They’ve got the food, and they’ve got the food program, but it’s the access, and for the kids who need it, it’s not available for a number of reasons. It’s so prevalent in our country, and our country’s future depends on our kids, man. I think both parties recognize that.
As a public figure, you must get approached for a lot of causes. What about this one got your attention?
I first got involved with ending world hunger, and I got hip to the facts about it – what a huge problem it was and how it wasn’t a matter of not having food or not knowing how to end it, but it was a matter of creating the political will. Not just making a gesture to scratch the guilt itch, which kind of relieves you to say “I did my part.” It’s engaging in the thing in a deeper way. The idea is to look inside yourself, see what comes naturally to you. So we’ve got chefs working on it, teaches, people from all sectors.
You’ve been on TV a lot talking about this.
I spend as much time as I can. Probably the most exciting thing that happened to me at this convention was last night, I was meeting all these governors at the Democratic Governors Association, and these two little kids – 10 and 11 – come up to me looking like little businessmen. They say, “We’re entertainers,” and they hand me their card and they say, “We want to get involved.” It was perfect timing, because we’re trying to start a youth task force for No Kid Hungry. One of the big problems is they have no representation. They don’t have any lobbyists, so to get kids fired up with the passion that kids have about any issue, that would really be a great thing. We’re trying to get kid celebrities involved. We need some leadership from that side.
Have you ever been politically active in a campaign?
Not really. More issue-oriented than the guys. That vilifying the other side, God, it’s so tiresome. That’s what so good about this issue – it’s something both sides agree on. Maybe you can start to get a different groove going if you can make this happen.
Clint Eastwood, your costar in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, made an impression at the Republican Convention last week. Did you see that?
I heard he did that pretty wild scene, man. Thunderbolt! I’m going to Google that, check it out. I heard he got a good review from Bill Maher. He just went for it. Jazz, man.
You’re looking a little like the Dude right now. Is that for a role?
I’ve got two movies in the can, and I’ve got to do some more shooting on both of them. I’ve got to hold this look.
Which movie is this look for?
One is called Seventh Son. I play a witch hunter from the Dark Ages. And the other one is R.I.P.D. – the Rest In Peace Department. I play a dead sheriff who’s teaming up with Ryan Reynolds, who is a dead cop, and we’re looking for dead people who are pretending to be alive. Really bizarre. A lot of spin on that one.
Last night Iron Man was on TV. Your bald head had the opposite look.
Oh yeah? That’s my favorite cut, really – bald. I dig that. Have you ever done that?
Try it, man. It’s really a good feeling.
Are you in Charlotte all week?
No, I leave tomorrow. My ranch in Montana caught on fire with all these fires, so I’ll probably go and see what’s going on up there.
Isn’t that where you did Heaven’s Gate?
Yeah, I live in the whorehouse from Heaven’s Gate – the Hog Ranch. [Director] Michael Cimino said, “They’re going to burn this place down. Anybody want it?” I raised my hand and he gave me the cabin. Didn’t get the girls inside.