BY REBECCA PORTER
“It would feel odd not to have my partner with me,” says Jeff Bridges of Loyd Catlett, who’s spent five decades on set with the Oscar winner, stepping in for long hours on camera shots in one of Hollywood’s least heralded but most crucial roles, detailed here by five high-profile pairs.
“Coatimundi!” shout Jeff Bridges and Loyd Catlett when asked about their favorite workplace story. A coatimundi is a type of tropical raccoon native to South and Central America, and, for one afternoon after leaving the set of 1984’s Against All Odds in Mexico, it was a hazard for the Oscar-winning actor and his longtime stand-in.
Along with the rest of the cast and crew, the duo found themselves in standstill traffic. “Loyd opens the door and goes to the head of the line, and there’s a rabid coatimundi stopping all these cars,” recalls Bridges, 69. Adds Catlett, 65: “It takes off after me. I flip the goddamn thing. It does a somersault and lands. It comes running right at me.”
After some action movie-esque choreography, Catlett evaded the coatimundi thanks to the production designer and a passing public bus (and little to no help from Bridges, who laughs about this).
The story is one of many that Bridges and Catlett have amassed from working together for five decades on nearly 70 films, ranging from Westerns to Marvel movies to awards contenders. They first met in Texas during the ’70s, when Peter Bogdanovich tapped a then-rodeo cowboy Catlett for a role in The Last Picture Show, where one of the born-in-Lubbock teen’s jobs was to teach “the California kids how to be Texans,” says Bridges.
After the movie wrapped, Catlett made his way to Los Angeles, where, strapped for cash, he would call on his actor friend to see whether he knew of any parts for him. One day, Catlett remembers, “[Bridges] said that he was leaving for Germany next week and he could get me a job standing in for him.” He packed his bags for what would turn out to be a lifelong career.
Starting with 8 Million Ways to Die in 1986, Bridges had it worked into his contract on every production that Catlett would be his stand-in. It’s impossible to ignore the resemblance between the two, from their flowing gray hair and laid-back demeanor to charming twangs and a penchant for casual button-down shirts.
Bridges describes their relationship as a marriage: “We’ve been doing it so long that it would feel odd not to have my partner with me, you know.” Heading into productions, the two rehearse and run lines together. Bridges is quick to praise his longtime collaborator’s acting prowess. Notes Catlett: “This town has a tendency to put people in a box. If you’re a stand-in, that’s all they see you as. ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a stand-in; we’ll just throw him a line.’ They don’t take you seriously no matter how hard you try. But we’re not done with them yet.” (Stand-ins are SAG-AFTRA members and have a starting rate of $199 per day.)
Off set, the two spend time together, playing guitar and seeing bands at local bars. “We grew up together,” says Catlett, whose son, Jeffrey Cole, is named after Bridges. (“His mother had another name picked out, and then I went, ‘You know what? Jeff’s got three girls, maybe we oughta switch that around'” — in other words, “Let’s give him this.”)
While accepting the Oscar for Crazy Heart, Bridges thanked Catlett in his speech. “That one made me cry. I hear it and I go, ‘I can’t believe he just did that,'” says Catlett, who got another shout-out during Bridges’ Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes. “The second time it’s like, ‘Yeah, you better fucking do that.'”
Adds Bridges, “I imagine I’ve probably spent, over the years, more time with this guy than I have with my own family.” Catlett deadpans, “Gosh, you’re lucky.” And then they both laugh, in unison. — MIA GALUPPO
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