updated 01/14/2010 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/16/2010 AT 10:20 AM ET
To get into character as hard-living country legend Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges brushed up on his skills as a musician – and consumed more than his fair share of junk food.
“Normally I watch what I eat. I feel better when I’m in shape and not too overweight,” the star told PEOPLE at Sunday’s New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend. “When you’re playing a part like [this] … If you feel like a pint of Häagen-Dazs, you hammer the Häagen-Dazs.”
Turning to food to get into character is nothing new for the celebrated actor. “It’s something I always do,” Bridges, 60, , who nabbed a Critics’ Choice Award Friday, explained. “You think of the physicality of the character and what kind of food you need to help create the physical shape you’re looking for.”
Doppelganger Kris Kristofferson, whose looks and legend Bridges channeled for the role enjoyed the actor’s look-alike performance and joked about sharing screen time in the future.
“We saw the movie together and Kris laughed at how much I reminded him of him,” said Bridges. “We looked in the mirror and said, ‘We gotta play brothers, man! We had a good laugh.’ ”
Bridges’s onscreen love interest Maggie Gyllenhaal has earned high praise for her work. “She was a wonderful actor, one of the best I’ve ever worked with. She’s so fresh and open,” says Bridges. “One of the things I try to aspire to is to make it feel like it’s happening for the first time – that you’re not really doing it for an audience, it’s real life. She approaches her work in a similar way.”
Their creative energy certainly clicked, as Crazy Heart is enjoying a wealth of positive press.
“The Oscar buzz is great because it’s bringing attention to this movie that I’m so pleased with. You can have a movie that you’re really happy about but it doesn’t get distributed,” Bridges explained. “We’ve got that going and people seem to like it. A small movie like this, you need festivals and awards to bring attention to it – it’s all wonderful.”
Watch the Golden Globes on Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, live on NBC – and catch up on all the news and style from the show on PEOPLE.com!