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CNN Larry King Live

Conversation with Jeff Bridges

Aired November 05, 2010 - 21:00   ET




LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges. He's given life to "Starman," a baker boy, Bad Blake and the iconic "Dude."


JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR: So, that's what you call me.


KING: Now, he's taking on a John Wayne classic.



BRIDGES: I couldn't do nothing for you, son.


KING: And maybe his most important role ever.


BRIDGES: Seventeen million kids, that's one in four, live in insecure households.


KING: The fearless Jeff Bridges for the hour -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.



KING: What a great pleasure to welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, it's been too long between visits -- Jeff Bridges, the Academy Award- winning actor, and a brilliant, brilliant talent he is. His new film "Tron: Legacy" comes out next month. He plays Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers' remake of "True Grit." That will be released Christmas Day.

He's also national spokesperson for Share Our Strengths, No Kid Hungry campaign. We'll talk about that to and we welcome him back.

It's good to see you. December is pretty busy with you.

BRIDGES: Oh, man, yes. Got a birthday, too.

KING: how old?

BRIDGES: Sixty-one.

KING: A young 61. It's weird to have two movies in a month, isn't it?

BRIDGES: It is very weird.

KING: How did that happen?

BRIDGES: Coming out about a week -- coming out about a week apart. I don't know. It's just the way those things --

KING: What did you do first?

BRIDGES: I did "Tron" first, I think. We went back and forth there for awhile, so I was kind of making both at the same time.

KING: Shooting both at once.

BRIDGES: Well, you know, I finished one, and then I did a pickup on one, and then went back and did a little pick up on the other one, you know?

KING: How did they get the idea to remake "True Grit"?

BRIDGES: You know, I wondered that same thing and when the brothers invited me to come into that project, I thought, you know why do you guys want to do that? Didn't that, you know --

KING: John Wayne.


KING: Academy awardee.

BRIDGES: Absolutely. And, you know, they said, well, first of all, we're not making a remake of the film "True Grit," we are referencing the book, a wonderful book by Charles Portis released in the '60s. And I said, oh, OK. I checked out the book, and I read the book, and then I understood. The book is very Coen-esque. I can imagine them, you know --

KING: They're insane on it, though?

BRIDGES: You know, you'd think so because their pictures are kind wacky. But, they're not. No, they're not. I mean, they're very kind of calm and, you know --


BRIDGES: Oh, yes.

KING: Is this a pure comedy?

BRIDGES: Not pure, no. It's got a lot of -- it's a bit darker than I think than the, you know, original film. But it's got a lot of comedy, yeah.

KING: Well, "True Grit" fans, will they be angry that someone is touching John Wayne territory?

BRIDGES: I don't think so because you got to go back to the book, the original material, you know, and they're very --

KING: Did they change it very much have?

BRIDGES: It's very true to the book and I haven't seen the movie for a long time, so I can't compare the two. But, you know, it's very much like the book.

KING: Are you affected at all by the work having been done by someone else?

BRIDGES: No, you know, I took that first bit of direction that they gave me that they weren't, you know, they weren't referencing the film at all. That kind of cut me loose of that. So, I said, OK, you know, I won't -- I won't look at that film. I won't try to copy, you know, John's walk or any of that.

KING: What's it like to work for them -- the Coen Brothers? What's the atmosphere like?

BRIDGES: It's very, very, you know, relaxed. They like to work with the same people over and over again, so they've got kind of a family vibe going, you know? And like I said, you'd think it would be, you know, jokes every minute -- no, it's not. It's just, you know, we're having a good time, you know, you don't get too excited, you know.

KING: Let's watch a clip from -- that will open in December. "True Grit," the Coen Brothers -- well, it isn't not a remake. It's true to the original novel starring Jeff Bridges. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Can we depart this afternoon?


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I'm going with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, you graduated from marauder to wet nurse. BRIDGES: We're being followed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we do, Marshall?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You missed your shot, Cogburn.

BRIDGES: Just let this go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you're going to say the sun was in your eyes, that is to say your eye.


KING: The sun was in your eye.

Do you like -- do you like western -- have you played westerns?

BRIDGES: Oh, man, oh, yes, that's my favorite, you know? Chances are you're making a western, you're going to do some riding. So, I love to ride.

KING: You did all your own riding.

BRIDGES: Oh, yes, yes, had a great time with that. I remember when my dad --

KING: Lloyd Bridges.

BRIDGES: Lloyd Bridges -- man, when I was a kid and I knew that he was making a western, that would make me so happy because I knew he would be coming home in his -- all his gear, you know, and he'd let me put on his chaps and his hat, you know. I could call up my friends and say come on over, I got the real stuff.

KING: What kind of dad was he?

BRIDGES: Oh, man. What a wonderful guy. Gosh, ah, I mean it just opens up such a big -- a big subject.

He was -- well, you know, he turned me on to this whole acting thing. He loved it so much. All -- you know, all the aspects, what we're doing here, you know, fans coming up in the street. He loved that and, of course, the work. You know, he brought such joy to it. I mean I got to work with him as a -- as an adult twice, once in "Tucker" and another time in a movie called "Blown Away".

KING: "Tucker" was terrific.

BRIDGES: Wasn't that, yes, a great movie. And Francis Coppola who's kind of a big kid himself and really has a lot of fun making movies, the combo of those two guys, you know, my dad and Francis and playing with them, it was like, you know, being a kid again.

KING: And he had a hit television series, right?

BRIDGES: A bunch of them. I don't know, eight, nine TV series but "Sea Hunt" was the big thing.


KING: He did "Airplane!" Was he having as much fun as we did watching it a hundred times?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. He had --

KING: Striker?

BRIDGES: -- a great time doing that.

One of his challenges in his career is that he was so good at doing these different parts, you know, that people thought that's who he was, you know. With "Sea Hunt," people thought he was Mike Nelson. He was the skin diver that gave him a few acting lessons, and it was, you know, wonderful compliment, but it turned out he was only getting scripts for skin divers, you know?

And when he did "Airplane!" -- he would only -- people thought of him as a comedian. I recommended him for a part in "Blown Away" and, you know, the producer said, oh, your father is a wonderful actor but he's really more of a comedian. I said, what are you talking about? You know, you got to be careful, you know, about those --

KING: Family, Beau, what was that movie at the piano with Michelle --

BRIDGES: "The Fabulous Baker Boys." Oh, that was -- that was a dream come true.

KING: We're going to talk about one of my favorite movies and one of the great movie performances of all time, "Crazy Heart," when we come back.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you learn music?

BRIDGES: My daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Write me five new songs, I'll get you back in.

BRIDGES: I haven't written a new song for years. Too many goddamn songs.


BRIDGES: I'm sober. You woke me up.

Thanks for coming out. So good to be home. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you know you were making a great film?

BRIDGES: It sure felt great when we were making it. I mean, gosh, you know, talking about dreams coming true. I'm, you know, doing all this great music. I love making music.

KING: Ryan Bingham wrote that.

BRIDGES: Ryan Bingham wrote that song. It's a wonderful son. He's also acted in the film too. But I got to play with my dear friends T. Bone Burnett who, you know, (INAUDIBLE) that music and Steven Bruton who died shortly after the film was completed but, he was -- man, he was my guru through that whole thing.

KING: Are you a singer? Do you sing?

BRIDGES: I do. Yes, yes. I just got back touring with T. Bone. He put together a Speaking Clock Tour. And here are the guys I got to play with, Leon Russell, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Neil Young --


BRIDGES: Yes. Reforming Buffalo Springfield.

KING: What do you call the group?

BRIDGES: No. It was The Speaking Clock Revue.

KING: The Speaking Clock --

BRIDGES: Yes. And that was just -- we just played, you know, three dates, Washington -- no, not Washington, Boston, New York and San Francisco. We had all a great time.

KING: You're so diverse. I mean, you're a classic -- most great character actors don't win Academy Awards for the lead, right? It was -- although you had been nominated Best Supporting Actor for "The Last Picture Show," Best Supporting Actor for "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," nominated Best Actor for "Starman" and Best Actor for "The Contender." And I was proud to be in that movie.


KING: I was in that movie. That was a hell of a movie. You played presidents.


KING: And carmakers.


KING: And piano players. BRIDGES: Yes, right, shake it up. Yes.

KING: And country singers.


KING: Do you -- how do you approach a role? I mean, take me into the formula.

BRIDGES: Pretty much basically the same way every time I look -- you read the script and you -- people in the characters in the script will talk about your character and that help -- your character will talk about himself. That lets you know who this guy is a bit. And I look inside myself thinking what aspects of myself coincide with this guy, and which ones don't, you know?

And the ones that don't I kind of kick to the curb and the ones that, you know, link up, I sort of, you know, magnify those a bit and then I look at people on TV, you know, I might see, you know you, and say, oh, look, how he's doing like that, that's the way the guy might be, you know, like that, you know?

And I'll, you know, look at friends of mine -- go through my phone book and say, now who, you know, might I take this from? Little bits and pieces and, then once, I engage in the role, I find that I'm like a sponge, you know, I'm just -- everything I see, all my experiences are kind of filtered through, you know, trying to glean something out of my experience that I might use in the work.

KING: Do you have to like the character?

BRIDGES: No, no, no, like him? I don't know if you have to like him. Understanding him, you know, trying to kind of get into his skin.

KING: You sure did in "Crazy Heart."

BRIDGES: Yes, that's the kind of the fun part.

KING: You became him.

BRIDGES: Yes, that's the fun part.

KING: Did you take him home with you?

BRIDGES: I guess I did. You know, I remember doing an interview in my home once and the interviewer asked me that same thing and I said, you know, I'm not really one of those actors that take my parts home. I don't make the other actors call me by my character's name. And so, no, I don't really take it home, my character home.

And my wife happened to be in the room and she -- like, why are you doing that? She said you don't think you do, but you do. You know, and there's a lot of -- talk about preparation, there's a lot of unconscious preparation that goes on that you're not even aware of.

KING: Jeff Bridges.

We'll take a look at "Tron" and we're getting to "The Dude" an iconic character Jeff brought to life. We'll talk about "The Big Lebowski" and more with Jeff Bridges. Stick around.


BRIDGES ("The Contender," 2000): Your husband may have been an adulterer. You're not. Fine. What you are is a sex-crazed home wrecking machine, the female Warren Beatty.

("The Fabulous Baker Boys," 1989): If I got on my knees and begged you to save the Baker Boys from doom? Forget it, sweetheart. We survived for 15 years before you strutted on the scene. Fifteen years, two seconds, you're bawling like a baby. You shouldn't be wearing a dress. You should be wearing a diaper.

("The Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," 1974): Woo -hoo! (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I thought you were the heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I look like heat?

BRIDGES: You look like one crazy son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) preacher. I tell you that.



KING: You know there were three sure things in life last year, every year: death, taxes, and Jeff Bridges was going to win the Academy Award for "Crazy Heart." And as we said, one of Jeff's upcoming films is "Tron: Legacy." It's a sequel to the 1982 "Tron." Here's a preview.


BRIDGES: You're here. You're here.


BRIDGES: You're big.




KING: Do you enjoy futuristic stuff?

BRIDGES: Yes, yes, it kind of tickles the kid in me. I remember when they -- you know, they asked me to come on board on the first one and, you know, it's -- you know, they said, hey, you want to play this guy who gets sucked inside a computer and you get to use all the great, you know, technological stuff that we got going now? Oh, yes, OK.

KING: Got going then in the '80s.

BRIDGES: Got going then and now --

KING: What are they doing now with this film?

BRIDGES: You know, and I got engaged in this one for a lot of the same reasons, you know? Because that -- you know, it appealed to the kid inside of me. But now, you know, and I was also curious about the future of making movies, you know, and now they've got this performance capture stuff.

KING: What does that mean?

BRIDGES: Well, it's where they make movies without cameras. There are no cameras. It's the weirdest thing.

KING: That was made without a camera.

BRIDGES: That particular scene wasn't and what's interesting is how the directors and the filmmakers use all this technology in a different way so they come up with, you know, things that look quite a bit different.

KING: How do you make a movie without a camera?

BRIDGES: Well, you're making -- you're in a room, it can be any size. It's called volume and it's -- you know, I think it's green or blue, I can't remember, and there's no cameras but there are hundreds of little sensors pointed at you as an actor, you are in tights with black dots all over your tights and all over your face and you assume the "T," you get like this at the beginning of the take.

And now, you're in the computer and now, you act, no cameras but you act and everything -- I'm talking makeup, costume, sets and camera angles are all done in post. So, you know, you might say, yes, isn't that -- so, OK, let's try -- no, let's do that same scene but let's start behind Larry and then do 360s around here and come over here behind this cup and they can do that.

KING: What's it like when you see the finished version?

BRIDGES: It's very, very bizarre. I mean, you know -- I also got to play myself 30 years younger.

You know, did you see "Benjamin Button"? Yes, so now they've done the same thing with Brad. They took him older. Now they've made me younger.

So, what's really exciting as far as, you know, being an actor what this technology means is that I can play myself or a character that I'm portraying at any age, 5-year-old. Huh? It's getting weird, Larry.

KING: Jeff Bridges is one of Hollywood's good guys, back after this. Later, we'll discuss a cause that's near and dear to him.

Next we're talking "Dude." Don't go away.




BRIDGES: I'm "The Dude." So that's what you call me. You know?


BRIDGES: Hi. The royal "we."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night, sweet prince.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to use so many cuss words?

BRIDGES: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, dude, have it your way.



KING: "The Big Lebowski," the cult hit still viewed by its fans as the greatest motion picture ever made.

Was that your first with the Coen Brothers?

BRIDGES: Yes, it was.

KING: Now, that had to be fun to make, right?

BRIDGES: Oh, man, that was great, great fun and what a great movie. I mean, gosh!

KING: How do you explain its cultish -- its following? Why does it last?

BRIDGES: Yes. Probably just because what I just said, it's such a good movie, period. When it first came out, I was kind of surprised that it didn't do better biz here in America. You know, I think it did better over in Europe and then it came back over here and really took off and sort of a cultish type way. Very happy about it, you know?

KING: Fun to do?

BRIDGES: Oh, man, oh, yes, terrific. Well, the writing is so great. That's what -- that's where, you know, the beginning of their -- the Coens' brilliance is in their writing. A lot of powerful ideas, a lot of improvisation in there. No, every -- every man, every ellipses, every, you know, F-word. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


BRIDGES: It's down there somewhere. Let me take another look.


BRIDGES: It was all in there. You didn't want to touch it. You didn't want to change one word. It was like music, you know, you don't want to mess with the lyrics.

KING: You said your late mother did not like you playing --


KING: -- like "The Dude."


KING: Why, because of the language?

BRIDGES: She didn't like any kind of scruffy guy. You know, she wanted, you know, doctors and presidents, and, you know she loved that, you know, I played the president, our film "The Contender".

KING: Our film?

BRIDGES: Our film. Shortly after, I think I maybe did one in between, but it was "The Dude" in the prez, you know, I got a big thrill out of, you know --


KING: You got to play a president which was a terrific film. What do you look for there?

BRIDGES: Well, know who I used a lot in that one was my dad, because my dad, as you know -- you knew him well. He was a very gregarious guy. He loved what he did and this president that I played, you know, he loved being president, too. So, I used my father a lot. I use him every once in a while.

KING: Any Clinton in him?

BRIDGES: Yes, sure. Clinton loved to be prez.

KING: Yes, this guy loved --

BRIDGES: Yes, yes.

KING: -- he loved the whole -- he loved ordering the food. I remember that scene, right?

BRIDGES: Yes, that's right, yes. KING: And that's in one of the closing scenes


KING: You got the guy trapped.


BRIDGES: Yes, that's right. The shark sandwich, you know, yes, right.


KING: What about working with -- with other actors. Is that -- do other actors help actors?

BRIDGES: Oh, yes. It's like my dad was, you know, a tennis player. He played -- I played with my dad. My game, you know --

KING: Got better?

BRIDGES: Get better. It's just like with other actors, they put you into the reality of the moment. You know, when you see they're so strong into it, it just kind of draws you in.

But also, you know, kids are wonderful to work with. You know, that freshness, you know, because they don't know -- they don't anything. They're just, you know, they're there. The kid in "Crazy Heart," wasn't he wonderful?

KING: Oh, yeah.

BRIDGES: Remember. Yes, no acting. He is just there. His big thing, what he would do -- you don't have a boom here. But we'd be doing a scene and he would go ha, and he would grab the boom. That made his day if he caught the --

KING: Some actors, W.C. Fields being the most famous, said never work with a kid because you can't win the scene.

BRIDGES: But you don't want to win. You want to play it. It's a dance. You want to have a good dance.

KING: What was your first movie?

BRIDGES: First movie was "The Company She Keeps." I was six months old. My --

KING: You were six months old.

BRIDGES: My mother and father were visiting their friend, John Cromwell (ph) on -- who was directing the film. And they needed a baby in the scene. Jane Greer (ph) was playing the woman in the scene. And my mom said, oh, take my baby. And I was supposed to be crying. And I was a rather happy baby. And my mom said to Jane, just pinch him. So she pinched me and I cried. KING: A star is born. We'll be back with Jeff Bridges right after this.





KING: We're with the great Jeff Bridges, got two films coming in December, "True Grit" and "Tron: Legacy," right?


KING: Two -- what are you working on now? Are you working on another one?

BRIDGES: Right now, I'm working on ending childhood hunger and my music. And I'm working on my music. And I got no movies --

KING: Are you now a musical star?

BRIDGES: I don't know about star, but I'm getting to play my music, you know, which is a wonderful thing.

KING: Is that a new discovery or did you always --

BRIDGES: No, I've been ever since I was a young teenager.

KING: Sang?

BRIDGES: Sang and wrote music and played and piano and guitar.

KING: Did your father like that?

BRIDGES: Yeah, yeah.

KING: All right. You worked with Clint Eastwood in "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot." In fact, you had a nomination for that movie.


KING: What was he like to work with? And are you surprised at his career as a director? Michael Cimino --

BRIDGES: It was Michael Cimino's first film. He's the fellow who directed "The Deer Hunter" and "Heaven's Gate".

KING: And he got lost at the --

BRIDGES: Yes, afterwards -- he got a raw deal on that movie. For my money, that's really a classic. I think that's a great --

KING: Why is it called the great bomb of all time? BRIDGES: Well, because, it got a couple of bad reviews. Then all the reviewers kind of got on board. And so much of the movie going experience I think has to do with what you, as a member of the audience, brings into the experience. And if you heard just terrible things about it, that all the experts say it's terrible, if you go at all, you're going to --

KING: Kris Kristofferson was really good in that.

BRIDGES: He was great. He was a wonderful -- John Hurt was a wonderful -- but you were asking about Clint.

KING: Yeah.

BRIDGES: He -- Clint, who gave Chimino this job -- you know, Mike had written "Magnum Force," I think. And, you know, you've heard stories about Chimino, about how many takes he would do on "Heaven's Gate" and so forth. And working with Clint running the show, he does one or two. You know, he doesn't like to go.

And I was the person of the three of us who would always say, oh, I got an idea. Can I try? And I'd go to Mike and ask him. He'd say, well, we got to go to the boss, you know. Clint would always said, give the kid another shot. I like that.

KING: What made Clint special?

BRIDGES: Ah, well, as a director too, I'm thinking, you know, like the Coen brothers, he's got a calmness about him. You know, no big deal. You know, we're going to have fun, but don't have to get all, you know, over-amped about this thing. So there's a kind of calmness, a relaxation about it. And out of that relaxation, you know, things are allowed to --

KING: Has he ever directed you?

BRIDGES: No. No, I'd love that, though.

KING: What's it like though acting with him? Because he always seems so underplayed?

BRIDGES: Yeah. It's great. You know, I don't know how you describe it. It's --

KING: No one like him.

BRIDGES: What's that?

KING: There's nobody like him.

BRIDGES: No, no, he's wonderful, very, very smooth. And he's a musician, you know.

KING: Plays piano.

BRIDGES: Writes his songs for his movies and stuff. KING: Our guest is the great Jeff Bridges. Lots more to talk about. Don't go away.



BRIDGES: do you really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you?

Always be so loyal

What are you talking about? Me and her was in love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you was. She liked me just as much as she liked you.

BRIDGES: That's a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll stay with her all night one of these nights, too. She done promised.

BRIDGES: You won't either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I will. Why shouldn't I? She done told me you couldn't even do it that time at Wichita Falls. What about that?

BRIDGES: There. No. Wait. There, in the sky. There.



KING: Our guest is Jeff Bridges. And the last two segments coming up, we'll be joined by Billy Shore, the executive director of Share Our Strength, and find out what has compelled Jeff to get so involved in that extraordinary charity.

You've said that you're the product of nepotism.


KING: You got your start in "Sea Hunt" with your father. Have your own children acted?

BRIDGES: No. You know, unlike my dad -- and I'm kind of sorry about this, that I did it differently -- but I didn't -- I didn't push it on my own kids, you know.

KING: Your dad pushed it?

BRIDGES: He didn't -- no, he wasn't like a stage father trying to live vicariously through me or anything. He just enjoyed it so much and wanted to encourage me to go into that line of work, because he thought I would enjoy it. And like most kids, you know, you don't want to do what your parents want you to do. You got your own things and you don't want to get a job just because of who your dad is, or be liked because who your parents are.

So it was kind of a -- you know, there's a downside to having a famous parent. And I wanted to -- you know, got to protect my kids against that. But now --

KING: Are you sorry now?

BRIDGES: I am a little bit. Now, I have three girls and they're all, you know, gorgeous, you know, smart, and they're at a time in their lives now, mid-20s, when they're wondering what am I going to do, you know, for the rest of our lives as far as professions. And I say, well, you could try the acting thing. You know, you got it in your blood. And I'll help you in any way I can. And they say, oh, no, no.

I think it's just a little -- I think I got it too late.

KING: Are they all single?

BRIDGES: Got one married. Isabelle is married. And --

KING: Are you a tough father-in-law?

BRIDGES: No, no, no.

KING: You're a piece of cake.

BRIDGES: I'm a piece of cake.

KING: You've been married.

BRIDGES: Thirty three years now.

KING: In a business where that seems impossible.


KING: So what, if anything, is the secret?

BRIDGES: Well, in the past, I've said don't get a divorce. Ask that question, that will keep you together. But also just practice being married, you know.

KING: What do you mean?

BRIDGES: Well, you know, if you're married -- it doesn't even take 33 years. It probably takes a week. You'll come up to some problems and some rough spots. And, you know, the impulse for a lot of people -- I know I have this impulse often -- is I just, you know, want to withdraw or avoid that confrontation or, you know, that rough spot.

But if you look at those situations in a different light, those can be wonderful -- wonderful opportunities to get deeper into a relationship and get to know each other more. I mean, the big high in life, as far as I'm concerned, is intimacy. There's nothing like it, you know, to connect like that with another person. And marriage, you know, you get -- that's what that's all about.

KING: But how do you keep it?

BRIDGES: Well, you just -- you don't -- you don't not keep it. You keep it. You know, you show up together when you have a problem. You deal with it, you know. And, you know, my wife and I have a technique that we'll do from time to time when we have a real tough, you know, situation. We'll sit a little closer than we are sitting, you know, here and just look at each other. And one person's task will just be to express themselves, what they're feeling. And the other person just listen. You know, don't be thinking that when she stops, I'm going to tell my side of the thing and I'm going to do this.

No, just listen and get it, you know. And then when she runs out of steam, then it's my turn. And we go like that. And you don't always, you know, figure it out in that session. But then you come back when you --

KING: Self-analysis.


KING: Jeff is a lot more than an actor, a lot more. He's doing what he can to see that no child goes hungry. That's next.



BRIDGES: Look around you. One in four skids in the U.S. faces hunger. It's not always easy to see the signs, but in this land of plenty, there are kids that don't know where they will get their next meal. Join Share Our Strength and Food Network, and take the pledge to end childhood hunger here in America by 2015. Learn how at Their next meal could come from you.


KING: We welcome Billy Shore, executive director of Share Our Strength. He's here to tell us about childhood hunger and how we can all help to end this tremendous, uncanny problem. Jeff Bridges is national spokesperson.

What is Share Our Strength.

BILLY SHORE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SHARE OUR STRENGTH: Share Our Strength is an anti-hunger organization started back in 1984. Jeff started an organization called The End Hunger Network a little bit before then, in 1983. And we both realized that there's a historic opportunity now to actually not just feed kids on an emergency basis, but end childhood hunger in this country.

KING: Why should there be any hunger in this country?

SHORE: It's really amazing that there is. Jeff and I have talked about this a lot. But when you look at the statistics that came out just the last couple of weeks, 44 million Americans living below the poverty line, 41 million Americans on food stamps, and half of those kids. So there's tremendous need in this country right now.

And even where our economy was good, like during the Clinton years, there were 35, 40 million Americans living in poverty.

KING: So that means there are hundreds of thousands of children right now tonight hungry?

BRIDGES: The -- the Department of Agriculture has been tracking food insecurity. And the current numbers are 17 million kids, that's one in four, live in food insecure households. Those are households where the kids aren't certain they'll get enough nutrition and food.

KING: What do they eat in a food insecure house?

SHORE: Very little. What you typically see is kids who are -- families who are really stretching their food budget, kids who are having, you know, things they can pick up at food banks. So often times that's bread. It's chips. It's not nutritious produce. It's not high protein products.

So kids really suffer. And we've seen it -- we've seen the impact in schools and health care and the economy.

KING: What do you do specifically to try to end this?

BRIDGES: Well, what this campaign, the No Kids Hungry Campaign, is all about is bringing governors and mayors into the picture and really, you know, trying to get the local public officials involved, bringing non -- you know, private funders, the nonprofit organizations, all to try to create a campaign that's got measurable goals. You know?

And the basic idea is to increase the participation in these programs that already exist, these federally-funded meal programs.

KING: So you deal with many programs?

SHORE: That's right. When you ask what kids eat, kids in America, of course, are not hungry because we lack food. We don't. We have food in abundance. They're not hungry even because we lack food or nutrition programs. They're hungry because they lack access to those programs.

So what Jeff has been instrumental in doing, what Share Our Strength is doing is finding ways to get more kids involved in programs like School Breakfast, School Lunch, Food Stamps, Summer Feeding. that's, in many cases, a local problem that has a local solution. Governors and mayors can make a huge difference.

BRIDGES: The great thing about these programs is that they're in existence. From our elections that we've just got the results in, we know that the country's divided on a lot of issues. But on ending childhood hunger --

KING: Who's in --

BRIDGES: Who's against that? We're all -- we all want to see our kids well fed. And these programs are in place, but so many kids who are eligible for them aren't participating in them. So it's a matter of reaching out and finding these gaps where they exist. And, you know, just almost like surgery, going let's fix that situation.

KING: What do you want the viewer to do?

SHORE: This is the great thing about this issue, is it's a solvable problem. There's a role that everybody can play.

KING: Like?

SHORE: We're not talking about terrorism or climate change. Everybody can get involved. People can -- first of all, there's a pledge to end childhood hunger that Jeff has done some PSAs on and that Share Our Strength and the End Hunger Network are pushing together. People can take that pledge. They can get involved.

They can be part of advocating with their governors and mayors to reduce these barriers, so that more kids are enrolled in these programs. They can volunteer at a soup kitchen. They can donate money. There's so many ways that average Americans can help end this problem.

BRIDGES: They can go to and take the pledge. And I'm going to give you the pledge right now.


BRIDGES: See if I've got my lines right. "I believe that no child in America should go hungry. By taking this pledge, I'm adding my voice to the national movement of people who are committed to end childhood hunger in America by 2015."

KING: You go to We'll be back with more after this.


KING: Jeff Bridges, Billy Shore is executive director -- you feel you've made progress?

SHORE: We've made tremendous progress on this issue. When you think about it, if you look at the bipartisan support that exists now for programs like School Lunch and School Breakfast, 30-year history of support for these programs and this enormous infrastructure of private programs, like Share Our Strengths, like End Hunger Network. Jeff introduced me to a great organization in his community called the Unity Shop, that's doing such comprehensive work to feed people. so these organizations have sprung up all over the country. We fund many of them.

KING: When you go to that website, you can learn how to give money too?

SHORE: Yes, you can learn how to give money. You can learn how to take the pledge. You can learn how to get involved in your local community.

KING: I take the pledge and I do something with the pledge.

BRIDGES: That's the thing. Talking about how important this -- participating in these existing federal feeding -- meal programs, and that is very important. But one of the big keys, as far as I'm concerned, is creating this political will to do something about this problem. And, you know, our politicians, they're our representatives.

KING: Hopefully.

BRIDGES: Hopefully. I mean, you know. But the first thing you've got to look at is creating your own will. You know, where do I stand? Knowing this problem exists and that we're all connected, you know, what am I going to do about it?

And when I ask myself that question, you know, 30-some odd years ago, I said, well, gee, I'm in the entertainment business. I do interviews. I mean, there certainly must be something that a guy like I might lend to this problem. So this is the kind of thing that I'm doing.

KING: You have the reverse thing, obesity in kids.


SHORE: That's right. Not just reverse, but in many ways an opposite side of the same coin. Same low income communities, in many cases the same low income families who don't have the resources, don't have the information to make healthy choices for their kids. It's very expensive to eat healthy and to eat nutritiously. So part of what Share Our Strength does -- we also have a nutritious education program called Cooking Matters that is spread all over the country, to help families figure out how to make these choices with whatever limited resources they might have.

KING: And you can learn a lot by just going to You get a lot of -- in addition to taking the pledge.

SHORE: No, that's right. There's lots of information there about how to get involved in your own community, how to get involved nationally, and as Jeff says, how to build the political will. These kids are not just vulnerable, they're voiceless. We're their voices. That's what's so key about this campaign, is we are their voices. And hopefully people watching this show will become voices for these kids.

BRIDGES: The thing is the kids -- it's a terrible thing to go through, you know, struggle with hunger in your life. But that doesn't just affect that individual. It affects your family, of course. But the society, a society that is not looking out for their kids --

KING: It's shameful.

BRIDGES: It's shameful. And we're headed in the wrong direction. So a way to correct course is let's take a look at what we can do for our kids.

KING: I salute you both.

SHORE: Thanks.

KING: Want more information, want to take the pledge? Thanks, Billy Shore, its executive director, Jeff Bridges, its spokesperson. Look for Jeff in "Tron" and "True Grit" both coming in December.

Natalie Cole will be our guest on Monday night. Thanks for joining us. "AC 360" starts right now.