Bridges plays elite gymnastics coach Burt Vickerman, who holds a bad reputation in the gymnastics world for pushing his students to the point of injury. And in this world where one injury can demolish your entire career, he is not the most popular with the judges.
Vickerman agrees to coach a young delinquent, Haley (Missy Peregrym), a former gymnastics pro turned teen-criminal who is facing jail time if she doesn't clean up her act. Rather than sending her to juvenile hall, the judge sentences Haley to Vickerman's Gymnastics Academy with the hopes of getting her excited about gymnastics again. Despite the fact that their personalities severely clash, Vickerman realizes Haley may be his only hope for winning the major international tournament for his team, thus putting him back on top of his game.
Bridges, who helped mold the character, says Vickerman is a lot more like Haley than he would want to admit. “I think he was probably quite a bit like Missy's character when he was her age,” says Bridges. “Pushing the envelope and really testing himself and getting hurt … when he got into coaching he probably encouraged the girls to do it like he did and really push hard.”
Pushing hard, however, is not the only moral to this story. Stick It also draws on female power and the right to question authority and rules. Drowning in a sea of strong-minded women is no different than just about every day for Bridges, who has a wife and three daughters (even the family dog is female, he points out). So it wasn't much of a stretch playing a father figure to the young actresses on and off set.
“Going into a situation where there was all those young girls their same age – the fact that I had daughters really helped me a lot,” explains Bridges. “I didn't have to think about it. There's certain things that come with the package. Doing Baker Boys with my brother, Beau, we didn't have to think ‘How are we going to appear to be brothers?' It's just a given. It was a similar kind of thing.”
His daughters may have been into things other than gymnastics growing up, but Bridges agrees there is a coach inside every father. “I coached them in surfing and playing guitar and that kind of thing.”
His co-stars often saw the comforting father in Bridges emerge. When one of the young girls was having a bad day and couldn't stop crying, Bridges whipped out his guitar and sang to her until she felt better. “It's almost like a reflex action. You get a girl that's that age and they start to cry and you fall into that ‘Come on, let me show you how to play the guitar.' I miss all those girls,” he says.
While admitting he is proud to be part of a film that provides such a positive message to young women, Bridges also admits the real reason why he took on Coach Vickerman. “I learned I got to be really careful about developing too strong a persona because it not only makes it not as interesting for me, but also its tougher for the audience then to imagine me in the different roles. So I really try to mix it up. [Then I] get a variety of scripts.”
Whether his fears of being typecast are valid or not, Bridges can always be counted on to deliver a remarkable performance be it serious drama or light-hearted comedy – and Stick It is no exception.
Stick It releases in theaters April 28.