If you want to understand what Jeff Bridges said onstage at the Golden Globes, it helps to know about boats.
His speech, a stark contrast with Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 buzz-generating remarks last year, included references to the game of tag and something called a trim tab, which is involved in the boat-steering process. His words were both profound and incredibly confusing.
The audience appeared to agree. Throughout Bridges’ roughly six-minute speech, the camera cut to reaction shots from a smiley Chris Pine (who introduced him), an also-smiley Keri Russell, a grinning Willem Dafoe, a skeptical Idris Elba, a confused Rami Malek, an extremely confused Julianne Moore, an incredulous Octavia Spencer, a tired Ben Stiller, an unamused Alan Arkin, a now-laughing Chris Pine and more.
Here are Bridges’ full remarks
Thank you, Chris, for those kind words! And Sam (Elliott, who narrated an introductory video), where is Sam? Oh, man. The Stranger. Oh, man. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, this is really a wonderful honor. I’m so challenged up here because there are so many people to thank, you know? It’s a collaborative art form here. I’m gonna, I’m gonna thank some folks. I’m gonna thank my sweetheart, Sue. My god! Forty-five years of support and love. I wouldn’t be up here without you, my dear. And my brother Beau. Sister, Cindy. Your love and support. And how lucky are we to have our folks, man? Lloyd and Dorothy! Aghhhhh. Thank you! I’m wearing your cuffs, Dad. I’m wearing your cufflinks. They’re your dad’s, too.
Oh, man. I’ve gotta thank my representatives. I don’t know where – wave your hands, guys, I want to see if I can – they’re keeping the whole boat afloat. I can’t see ya. There they are: David Schiff, Rick Kurtzman, Jean Sievers, Bob Wallerstein, Liz Dalling, my trusty assistant Becky Pedretti. Who am I forgetting? Oh, Frank Page. You know who I gotta mention is Loyd Catlett. He’s my stand-in. We’ve done close to 70 films together. Can you believe that? He’s the thread through the whole deal, starting from “Last Picture Show.”
And speaking of Last Picture Show, I’ve gotta thank my dear friend Peter Bogdanovich, who kicked the whole party off for me, man. I’m so blessed to have him start my whole career. Let’s see, well, the brothers. The Coen brothers, c’mon. I mean, true masters. If I’m lucky, I’ll be associated with those dudes for the rest of my life. I feel so honored to be a part of that film. Great movie.
And look at my brother, Steve Kloves, right? Fabulous Baker Boys. First time out and he comes up with that great movie. I gotta thank him. I gotta thank Scott Cooper. I don’t know if Scotty is here tonight, but Crazy Heart. Yeah, man, huh? Scott, man. Sets a great vibe to make wonderful things happen.
Oh, another first-time guy I was so lucky to work with: the late, great Michael Cimino, who directed “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” That was his first movie. I can remember going into his office the day before we started shooting, and I said to Mike, “Man, I’m so sorry but I think you made a terrible mistake. I’m not feeling this guy at all. I feel so inadequate. I’m giving you late notice, I know, but please fire me.” He looked at me and said, “Jeff, you know the game tag?” I say, “Yeah.” He says, “You’re it.” I say, “What do you mean I’m it?” He says, “You are the guy. You couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to. You know, the life of this character is coming through you. It’s a done deal.” I say, “Oh, all right. That’s a wonderful vote of confidence and a great perspective to look at this thing.”
And I used it, of course, in that film – and in all the other movies that I’ve done, as well as my life. You know, I’ve been tagged. I guess we all have been tagged, right? We’re all alive. Right here, right now! This is happening. We’re alive!
Being in the life of the movies, you know, I kind of look through my life through the filter of movies. I find directors and fellow actors all over the place in my life. One guy, he had nothing to do with the movies, but I’ve taken a lot of direction from him. That’s Bucky Fuller. Bucky, he’s most famous for the geodesic dome, but he made a great observation about these oceangoing tankers. And he noticed that the engineers were particularly challenged by how to turn this thing, you know? They got this big rudder, it took too much energy to turn the rudder to turn the ship. So they came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s put a little rudder on the big rudder. The little rudder will turn the big rudder, the big rudder will turn the ship. The little rudder is called a trim tab.
Bucky made the analogy that a trim tab is an example of how the individual is connected to society, and how we affect society. And I like to think of myself as a trim tab. All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man! Towards love, creating a healthy planet for all of us.
So I wanna thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for tagging me, and I wanna tag you all. You’re all trim tabs. Tag, you’re it! Thank you!
Jeff Bridges gave an epic, long, winding acceptance speech after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2019 Golden Globes. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)