The Kingsman meet their American counterparts, the Statesman, in Matthew Vaughn’s bigger and barmier sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. So who better to play the leader of the US spy organisation than the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges.
Now he’s the Champ – short for Champagne. Operating undercover as cowboy whiskey distillers, Statesman agents are named after assorted beverages – there’s Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Ginger (as in ale, Halle Berry), and of course the aforementioned boss man, who considers Champagne “too frilly” a moniker.
“Champ can be laconic at times, and quite tense as well. And he loves his booze, that’s for sure,” offers Bridges, who has a wealth of experience playing iconic cowboys to draw upon for the role.
“There are some very different brands [of cowboy],” he notes. “You’ve got cowboys like Gary Cooper. My father was in High Noon with Gary, who was very stoic and straight-ahead. You’ve got ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Slim Pickens, John Wayne; there are all sorts of different characters to draw from. I love playing cowboys. They’re a lot of fun.”
While not your traditional rancher, the actor considers his Statesman character to be kind of a modern day cowboy. “With his appearance you’d think he was, of some sort. There’s been talk of a third film and we’ll figure out more of his history at that time.”
In preparing for a role, Bridges says that the first thing he does is consider aspects of himself that could best serve the character. “I might boost some of those up, and those things that don’t fit I kick to the curb.”
He also looks for role models. “My dad, Lloyd Bridges, was one of those for this film,” he says, adding that Champ’s fondness for play and work was something he had observed in his father. “Ted Turner was another guy. I liked Ted’s moustache and ripped that.”
Champ can be laconic at times, and quite tense as well. And he loves his booze, that’s for sure
The Statesman and their British cousins are united by a mutual desire to save the world, but the inevitable clash of cultures does result in some fractious moments. Fortunately that wasn’t the case on the set, according to Bridges.
“I was talking about this with Colin [Firth] – there is a commonality with actors. You think there might be a clash between American and English actors but that’s not really true. We are all players – it’s like advanced ‘let’s pretend’ when you’re a kid. We are all just having a good time. It’s, ‘we’ve got something to do here and so let’s do it with as much joy as we can muster.’”
As head of the Statesman, Champ is more likely to be found sitting behind his desk with a whiskey on the rocks than performing daredevil stunts in the field. With his co-stars involved in all the action, did Bridges experience any pangs of envy, or was he content to let the others do all the hard work?
“A little of both,” he admits. “I was so impressed with Colin – that fight scene with Colin in the church, in the first movie, that’ll be a benchmark for a hundred years! It was done so well and I thought, ‘It might be fun to do something like that.’ Inside myself there is a kid and an old guy, and the kid is saying, ‘Yeah, man!’ And the old guy is saying, ‘Ouch!’”
THE BEST OF BRIDGES
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The shambolic slacker at the heart of the Coens’ classic is a role the actor was born to play. One of his most beloved performances and a career-defining one.
True Grit (2010)
Playing the eye-patched US Marshal synonymous with John Wayne, Bridges makes the role his own. The Dude outperforms the Duke!
Crazy Heart (2009)
Bridges received a well deserved and long overdue Oscar for his portrayal of a boozing, washed-up country singer. Possibly the seediest he’s ever been on screen.