Jeff Bridges is probably an Enneagram Type Seven - the Enthusiast: full of energy, and always looking for a good time. Here’s a quote from him: “I had years of partying, and I was kind of surprised and happy I survived it all. Now, being a parent, I look back on it thinking, Oh God, the things you did!” Here he is, imagining the advice he’d give to a younger version of himself starting out as an actor: “Have fun. Don't take it too seriously. Don't mistake this for reality. Be sincere, but don't get too serious. But that's a life direction too, it doesn't just apply to movies.” (The Ennegram, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a personality type system, positing nine basic types)(Follow the hyperlink on “Seven” to get a fuller description of that type in general)(And see the end note here for more Seven-ish quotes to substantiate my claim of Mr. Bridges being this type)(it’s a dicey thing, typing someone without their corroboration - the best you can do is plead your case with good, solid evidence until someone trumps your argument with stronger evidence)(and if you have the idea that Jeff Bridges is another type, please get in touch with me (with better evidence)).
Although he’s played a diversity of roles in his four decades in the movies, there’s a certain Jeff Bridges-ness that comes out in interviews, outtakes and certain roles: the smiling, easygoing, funny California good time guy. Any movie star brings a fair bit of themselves to the screen. Their personal qualities affect the kinds of roles they’re offered. If they inhabit certain types of characters particularly well, those roles leave a lasting impression in the public’s perception.
For Jeff Bridges, one of those roles (in my consciousness, anyway, having grown up in the 80s) is Kevin Flynn, computer whiz, hacker and inadvertent digital grid adventurer in Tron (1982) and now, Tron: Legacy (2010)(In the special features on the Tron DVD, costar Bruce Boxleitner says that what you see Jeff Bridges do as that character is be himself). Get this - in Tron he lives above his own arcade! He joins in the fun with his teenage customers (with Journey on the juke box), setting new high scores on the world’s most popular video game, which he designed himself. Sevens are quick learners, and can become whiz kids: Mozart and Steven Spielberg, for instance. Also, healthy Sevens display the positive characteristics of Type Five (the Investigator) becoming focused, putting in many hours and completing their wildly ambitious projects (like... Mozart and Steven Spielberg)(and Kevin Flynn, who’d spent his evenings coming in late at Encom, the computer company where he’d worked, designing a bunch of new games, which got stolen from him, hence his attempts to hack into the company’s system).
In the course of breaking in to the company building to recover evidence of his original authorship, he smiles and cracks jokes. He flirts with the former co-worker who’s helping him and hides on her, coming out from around a corner when she’s trying to figure out where he went. He’s a big kid, even when the stakes are high.
Through the machinations of Encom’s malevolent Master Control Program, Flynn gets digitized and zapped into the grid - a microscopic physical representation of the universe of computer information, where programs have human form, their bodies covered in circuitry. Flynn has to fight his way out (having been sent to the video game grid like a Christian to the lions), and keeps cracking jokes (which it’s easy to picture him improvising on set or otherwise adding to the script himself) while doing so. And of course, he saves the day.
Tron: Legacy has Flynn’s son Sam as its protagonist, but it’s what happens with Flynn that I’m interested in here. We find out he’s been existing solely in the grid since 1989, a fugitive in the hinterlands of the computer landscape. He’d made a program in his own image (programs always bear the likeness of their creators) named CLU, for the purpose of creating “the perfect system.” CLU repeats this phrase a number of times in the film, having even wiped out a species of spontaneously evolved digital lifeforms, deeming these strange new creatures “imperfect.” CLU relentlessly refines the computer world to his liking, converting programs to a uniform type, producing a stern, conformist society (we see him give a speech to a vast multitude of perfectly aligned programs - a visual nod to a Nazi rally). It comes out that he intends to travel through the portal that brought Flynn to the grid, and enter the human world. When he finds the rampant imperfection of our physical world, he’ll eradicate it with the brutal mercilessness of a maniacal dictator.
Presuming CLU originally had Flynn’s personality as well as his physical likeness, his obsession with perfection fits with a specific aspect of the Enneagram theory, a mirror image to the one mentioned earlier. In an unhealthy state, a type will show the negative characteristics of yet another type. In this case, an unhealthy Seven acts out the negative aspects of Type One (the Reformer), becoming stern, angry and dogmatic, letting themselves be ruled by black and white thinking and moral absolutism. Ones know they’re right. They know what has to be done to make the world perfect. And they do it. And of course, their interpretation of what’s right, and who is on the side of right, rests entirely on their own personal development.
American writer Sherwood Anderson opened his best known novel Winesburg, Ohio with a chapter entitled “The Book of the Grosteque” in which he lays out the book’s theme: that people will prize a certain virtue - thrift, self-improvement or chastity - and devote their lives to it, pursuing it so unreasonably that they end up wildly distorting themselves and the original virtue in the process. In his harsh One-ness, CLU shows the unhealthy side of Seven, having made a grotesque of the healthy virtue of idealism. Flynn eventually leaves the grid’s outlands to protect Sam in his attempt to return to the human world. This leads to an inevitable confrontation with CLU, in which Flynn tries to tells him that his relentless quest for perfection is impossible and misguided. Life involves imperfection. It’s natural, and necessary. CLU accepts none of this, and fights to the end, trying to disrupt (or piggyback on) Sam’s return. Flynn somehow draws CLU into himself, and both are disintegrated in an explosion of radiant light. If we think of CLU as representing a part of Flynn, the film works as a look at what happens when one’s shadow side takes over. In the case of an Enneagram Seven, their inner battles not only centre on their propensity to be scattered and hedonistic, but can also involve a struggle against an unblinking adherence to rigid dogma.
End Note: Quotes from Jeff Bridges that substantiate the case for him being an Enneagram Type Seven
Sevens are famous for being bon-vivants: “I'm glad I survived the '60s. They were dangerous. Fun, too. Everything in your life teaches you something.”
“I had a great '70s. I survived it, and that's always good news.”
“The problem with the designated driver program, it's not a desirable job. But if you ever get sucked into doing it, have fun with it. At the end of the night drop them off at the wrong house.”
Sevens crave adventure, experience and variety:
“I don't think I ever went down that movie star path. I always enjoy taking a 90-degree turn from the last thing I did.”
“I've always tried to mix up my roles as much as I can.”
“I guess I'm not like Emily Dickinson who keeps things wrapped up in a ribbon in their top drawer.”
“And that's one of the great things about actors: their willingness to play and to do something.”
The north point on a Seven’s compass is Fun. They’re perpetually chasing thrills, whatever gives them their dopamine rush. Sevens are junkies for that stuff:
“Movies are like magic tricks.”
“A large part of acting is just pretending. You get to work with these other great make-believers, all making believe as hard as they can. What I learned most from my father wasn't anything he said; it was just the way he behaved. He loved his work so much that, whenever he came on set, he brought that with him, and other people rose to it.”
“When you start to engage with your creative processes, it shakes up all your impulses, and they all kind of inform one another.”
Sevens can coast through life, going from one interest to another, and never completing anything. But at their best, they can focus, like a Five, find a purpose, and stick to it:
“For a long while I wasn't sure I was going to make acting my main focus professionally. I was interested in music, painting and other creative pursuits. I did the movies with a little more capricious an attitude; I wasn't so seriously minded as a total professional. Then came The Iceman Cometh (1973). We had eight weeks of rehearsals and then we shot for two weeks. So it was almost the reverse of how most movies are made. During those eight weeks, I was sitting around with these great actors and this great director, just shooting the breeze and, of course, going over the material. I was also getting to know how other actors of that caliber work on things like this. It was very enlightening. After that experience, I decided, ‘Hey, I can do this. And I can do this for the rest of my life in a professional way’.”