Jeff Bridges: 'Old Man' reflects 'bout with my mortality'

Jeff Bridges stars in "The Old Man." Photo courtesy of FX
1 of 5 | Jeff Bridges stars in "The Old Man." Photo courtesy of FX

LOS ANGELES, June 16 (UPI) -- Jeff Bridges said his health scare informed his new FX series The Old Man, premiering Thursday. Production on the show paused while Bridges, 72, was being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"That year and a-half bout with my mortality -- in times like that -- it seemed that all your philosophies and spirituality test you," Bridges said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "All of that has been made more mature by that experience."


Bridges also tested positive for COVID-19 while undergoing chemotherapy. Now that his cancer is in remission and he tests negative for the virus, Bridges called his health scare a "bizarre dream."

"I'm feeling terrific, and it's great to be back with the gang," Bridges said. "I have always approached life the same way, but this kind of made things sharper."


The Old Man stars Bridges as Dan Chase, a retired CIA agent who has been living in hiding. Dan is experiencing cognitive decline, but when the CIA comes after him again, he still can fight off their hired guns.

Bridges worked with stunt choreographer Tim Connolly and Henry Kingi on The Old Man, with Thomas DuPont doubling for Bridges in some shots. Off set, Bridges said he practices the 8 Point Plank routine to keep fit.

"This plank is calling upon you to be very stressed out in a very short period of time," Bridges said. "Life is stressful, so it's a good idea to practice stress."

A CIA adviser named Christopher Huttleston also helped Bridges portray a former agent.

"He turned me on to stoicism, that philosophy, and I kind of bathed in that in preparation for our show," Bridges said.

Bridges also cited The Obstacle Is the Way as part of his research. The book discusses practicing to cope with stress rather than avoid it.

Now in his seventh decade in the business, Bridges credits his father, Lloyd Bridges, with giving him his start. His father starred on the show Sea Hunt and let him appear on some episodes.


"If you ever watched Sea Hunt and saw an 8-year-old kid, that was probably me," Jeff Bridges said. "I am a product of nepotism."

The two later co-starred in movies like Tucker: A Man and His Dream and Blown Away. Jeff Bridges' brother, Beau, also is an actor.

"The big thing I learned from [Lloyd] was the joy with which he approached his work, or his play," Jeff Bridges said. "When you relax like that, the good stuff, the story that you're telling can come out, and you're not tense."

Though he got his start on his father's TV show, Jeff Bridges hasn't done a television series in his adult career. He said he resisted The Old Man, but thought about his father's work ethic so agreed to meet with the producers.

"One of my concerns was about how different it would be than making a movie," he said. "It is the same thing. You have enough time to do your work."

Throughout his film career, Jeff Bridges has played memorable roles, such as video game programmer Kevin Flynn in Tron, the title alien in Starman and the villain in Iron Man.

Perhaps his most popular and beloved character is The Dude from the Coen Brothers' cult favorite, The Big Lebowski. Jeff Bridges reflected on the difference between his laid-back bowler character and Dan Chase in The Old Man.


"One of the things that people dig about The Dude is his authenticity," Bridges said. "When you're in the CIA and you're a spy, you morph yourself into different identities as needed and in a way you kind of lose your real identity."

The Old Man airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT/PDT on FX and streams on Hulu.

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