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Fast Chat: New 'Business' for Beau Bridges

How to succeed Tony Award winner John Larroquette in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" didn't seem too daunting to Beau Bridges, who joined the show earlier this month as the bombastic boss of corporate-ladder-climber extraordinaire J. Pierrepont Finch (Daniel Radcliffe's replacement, Darren Criss).

After all, Larroquette is a longtime friend, and the Martin Beck Theater felt like home, since it was the place where his dad, Lloyd Bridges, starred in "Man of La Mancha" in 1985. Beau also is making a splash on-screen with his colorful turn as George Clooney's greedy cousin in Oscar hopeful "The Descendants."

Newsday's Daniel Bubbeo recently chatted with Bridges, 70, about coming to Broadway, growing up in Hollywood and his anti-gun activism.

Is this your first musical?

I did one musical in college, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. ... And I did "Guys and Dolls" a year ago with Jessica Biel at the Hollywood Bowl. That's how I got this gig. The producers saw me and cast me in this.

Well, this is a little different since you have to do more dancing?

With "Guys and Dolls" I didn't have to do any dancing. I just kind of jumped around in "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat." I learned about this role about a month and a half before show time. So back in Los Angeles, I started working with a choreographer and even got in a couple of rehearsals with Darren Criss in L.A.

Growing up in Hollywood, did you have a lot of famous people coming in and out of the house?

Not really. When I got to meet the actors was usually when I traveled with my dad to filming locations.

Do you remember the first experience you had meeting a big star on one of the sets?

When my dad was doing "High Noon" in Sonora, Calif., he asked me if I wanted to visit the set. It was a big barn, where he and Gary Cooper had this fight. Dad said, "I'm going to put you up in the hayloft, and you can see the whole thing, but you're not to utter a peep." And he said, "Don't worry, this has all been choreographed, no one's going to get hurt." They started off, and they're whacking each other, and it's pretty exciting, but one thing my dad didn't prepare me for was that Cooper hits my dad in the jaw and knocks him out. Then Gary Cooper got a pail of water and threw it over my dad, and I burst out with laughter and screwed up the take. Laughs.]

Was your dad angry?

He was furious. When we went back to the hotel, going up in the elevator, he said, "I can't believe you did that. I could be fired for that." The elevator door opened up and in walks Mr. Cooper. And my dad said, "Hey, Coop," and puts his head down. Cooper looks at me and says, "Hey, you guys want to catch a bite to eat?" I was relieved. [Laughs.]

Was your father supportive when you said you wanted to act?

One of the hardest things for any actor is to get that first job, and my dad was able to get me in there. He told me, "Look, you've got an opportunity here, but this is a business and you're going to have to work as hard or harder than anybody else. A lot of people want those jobs, and they may give you this first one, but they're not going to keep hiring you unless you deliver the goods."

How did you become such a passionate anti-gun advocate?

It started with a guy putting a gun right between my eyes . It's a personal experience that gets your attention. That happened to me a long time ago. I also did some work in the Oakwood section of Venice [Calif.], where there's a lot of gang activity and saw a lot of young people get wounded and shot, so through the years, life experience made me aware that guns are very powerful weapons.

You're a devout Christian, and I understand any time the Lord's name is taken in vain in a script, you've asked directors if the lines could be rewritten. That happens a few times in "How to Succeed." Did you ask for those lines to be changed?

[Laughs.] It crossed my mind, but this is Abe Burrows. I don't think God would like it if I messed with Abe Burrows and changed his lines. It is the character, too. He also says "blithering, blathering, coal-burning, ding, ding, ding," so I'm thinking, he probably would have cursed a lot more if he didn't have those things.

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