Bridges said he channeled the legends of country music, among them "Highwaymen" Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, a group of hard-living musicians of whom Cash once joked from stage, "I miss those criminals, er, guys."
"Scott Cooper -- one of his first directions to me was that if Bad was a real person, then he would be the fifth Highwayman,'' Bridges said. "So that was a nice piece of direction, and of course I used all those guys as role models. I'm a buddy of Kris's."
Cooper previously sought the elusive rights to the life of troubled country icon Merle Haggard. Haggard's mythos stretches from the late 1950s -- when he spent three years in San Quentin prison -- through last year, when Haggard played two triumphant shows following lung cancer surgery. Haggard's anthemic ballads have been covered by everyone from The Everly Brothers to the Grateful Dead.
Cooper "wanted to make Merle Haggard's story, but Merle Haggard has a bevy of wives himself…ex-wives I should say,'' Bridges said, smiling. "It's tough to get the rights to Merle's story, so he came across this wonderful book called 'Crazy Heart' written by Thomas Cobb, and [Cooper] figured, well, he's a big fan of country music and he could use elements of all of his favorite country musicians in the character of Bad."
Bridges said it took time to achieve a pitch-perfect portrait of a man in free-fall. And it wasn't easy.
"It's fun for a couple weeks to remove the governor and just eat whatever you want to eat and drink whatever you want to drink,'' he said. "That's fun for a couple of weeks, and all of the sudden, it just doesn't feel as good…"
"I've made the mistake of, uh, being actually drunk when I needed to be drunk in the scene, and that did not work for me. It works for some guys -- you know, a lot of roads to roam, but that's not one that I take."
Bridges is a California native and the son of actor Lloyd Bridges. His talent seemed evident right out of the gate when he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role in 1971's "The Last Picture Show." He played alongside Clint Eastwood in 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," and was nominated for another Academy Award, this time Best Actor, for his role as the alien in 1984's "Starman."
Bridges told ABC News that he approached the peculiar role of an alien "the same way I approach all of my roles, where I look inside myself and see aspects of myself that I could use, then I look at my close circle of friends or my family, and I look in my phone book and I say, 'hmm, I wonder what friends remind me of - or that wouldn't surprise me - if they were an alien."
Bridges hired a dancer friend to train for him the first scene in "Starman," where the alien is born.
"I would take those lessons home and I would take a video camera and I would video[tape] myself. And I remember one day I was doing that in the nude, 'cause that's how Starman had to be," Bridges said. "And I was going like this [he mimics a fetal position] and I remember my wife coming in and her opening the door, and we made eye contact and the expression is just in my mind,'' he said, smiling.
"What did she think I was doing, photographing myself in the fetal position in the nude?" he said, laughing.