Rosie Perez: Studio ‘Had a Problem’ Depicting Interracial Relationship with Jeff Bridges in ‘Fearless’

Rosie Perez is crediting former co-star Jeff Bridges for her casting in “Fearless” (1993). Perez says the studio “had a problem” with their on-screen “interracial relationship,” but that Bridges went “to bat” for her.

“Fearless” was distributed by Warner Bros. It centered on Bridges’ character Max Klein surviving a plane crash and connecting with his fellow survivor (Perez). Isabella Rossellini and John Turturro co-starred.

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“Early in my career, I had auditioned for ‘Fearless,’ directed by Peter Weir. Although I knew I nailed it, they could see I was really, really, extremely nervous, so I wasn’t really sure,” Perez said during the 2024 Chaplin Award Tribute gala honoring Bridges. “I was extremely surprised to get a callback – surprised because I also knew the studio didn’t want me for the role. Then they said for round two that they wanted me to meet with Jeff Bridges. Holy shit! That’s Jeff Bridges! He’s this big movie star [with a] family dynasty. I was a little beyond nervous. I was shaking and couldn’t stop shaking. Jeff could see it and he tried to help me. He sat next to me. He was so relaxed that it kind of pissed me off, he was so calm. And then he gave me that weird little half smile and somehow he was saying to me ‘relax.'”

Perez continued, “So we read together and afterwards I knew three things: That I was right for the part, that he would be there for me, and that he would take care of me.”

If only things were so simple.

“As I left, everyone said that I did great which meant of course, I’ve got the part, right? Well, actually, no, because this was 30 years ago. Are you ready for this? The studio had a problem with an interracial relationship between me and Jeff,” Perez said, “and that’s the reason why I didn’t [immediately] get the part. Are you fucking kidding me?”

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment.

Still, Perez perservered.

“My agents called and said, ‘They want you for round three, do you not want to do it?’ And I said, ‘No, I am going to do it because that’s my part and I will do anything to get it,'” she said. “I went in there knowing that [director] Peter Weir wanted me. [Producer] Paula Weinstein, god rest her soul, wanted me. Jeff wanted me to play the part. Well, you never hear that. You never hear an actor of his caliber going to bat for someone who still is fairly kind of new and regulated only to certain type of parts. He just gave me so much confidence. I went in, again, and they offered me the part.”

Perez went on to land a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.

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