Two years ago, Jeff Bridges He announced that he had lymphoma. She needed chemotherapy and to get away from the screens. She didn’t know if she could come back. When she was receiving her chemotherapy treatments, she contracted covid. “It made cancer seem like a piece of cake,” she said in a later interview about the terrible impact the virus had on her weakened body. However, the unforgettable Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski –the cheeky protagonist of the immense film by the Coen brothers ‘The Big Lebowski’– was here to stay, giving lovers of good cinema his best performances.
“I was sick for two years and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to come back, the company was fantastic and everyone was waiting for me,” he said in an interview. “Coming back is like boom, everything seemed to have frozen, as if we had only had a long weekend.”
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The Old Man is his firm return. The series, which is already available on Star +, pits his character, Dan Chase, against his past. The former CIA agent has been an outsider since he left his post decades ago, and now even a hit man is after him. With Chase gone from him, in hiding, FBI Counterintelligence Deputy Director Harold Harper (John Lithgow) is called in to find him, due to his complicated past with the fugitive rebel.
The production is an intense espionage thriller that tries to keep its hero grounded: he gets beaten up, loses fights and is an old man whose memory is beginning to fail him. “Life is not a comedy or a tragedy, in the end you don’t know what it is, everything is mixed up here, just like it happens in real life,” said Bridges (Los Angeles, 1949), winner of an Oscar in 2010 for Crazy Heart and nominated six other times. Bridges –remembered by more than a hundred characters in the cinema– and John Lithgow talked about The Old Man.
In addition to starring, you produce this series, how did you feel and how did it go with those huge dogs that appear at your side?
Jeff Bridges (JB): (laughs). Well, I love dogs. They were incredible. There were about five of them on set at all times, and they were very sweet. Also, we had a fantastic coach. And give me the second question again. What was it? I’m the old man, remember. How I feel? Oh yeah. I feel great. I mean, I went through about a year and a half of this weird dream (her cancer) and then I came back, and what added to the effect of the dream was that there were all the people that I just left a year and a half ago, and I said: ‘What happened? This is strange’. But I feel great, and it’s great to be back with the gang.
Did you expect to be doing fight scenes and stunts at this point in your career?
“In those moments it seemed like all your philosophies and spirituality are put to the test.”
JB: I’ve always been condemned to fights. I remember asking Tim Connolly, one of our choreographers — that’s what they call them, choreographers, right? — what the ultimate fight scene type was. He said, “I want to be humble, but I have to say that I worked on what I consider to be the big fight scene in ‘Atomic Blonde.’ I don’t know if you’ve seen that scene. I raised my eyebrows and thought: ‘I’m in good hands’. And then I got to work with Tommy DuPont, my double, who I spent quite a bit of time with. So I really enjoyed everything. It was really cool.
You signed on for this series from before cancer, did going through your own health issues change your perspective and approach to the character?
JB: Yeah, that year and a half battle with my mortality, you know, totally. In those moments it seemed that all your philosophies and spirituality are put to the test. So all of this has been more mature because of that experience. I haven’t felt any different, really. I’ve always approached life the same way, but this made things sharper, a sharper picture for me. But, God, it was wonderful to work with these guys before the illness and after the illness, even though it wasn’t the same, it felt stronger. I don’t know if that’s a good analogy.
His first television role was on Sea Hunt. Do you remember anything from that moment?
JB: If you ever watched Sea Hunt and saw an eight year old, that was probably me. I am a product of nepotism. My dad set this all up and I remember as a kid sitting me on his bed and teaching me all the basics of acting. The most important thing I learned from him was the joy with which he approached his work. I worked with him twice as an adult on Tucker and Blown Away. And it was great to see him come on set. We relax and have fun. When you relax like this, the good things, the story you’re telling comes out, and you’re not tense, wondering if you’re doing it in the right and loving place. One of the wonderful things about working with John (Lithgow) is that we had a great time and we had a lot in common, we felt close with our actor parents.
John Lithgow (JL): Jeff and I, our characters, run parallel stories. Part of the suspense of the first season is: when are they going to finally collide and their stories come together? They finally did when Jeff came back after the long experience of him. And one scene, the one in the season finale: It took us six days and it was shot entirely in a car, so we sat together for six days. We never stop talking, telling stories, telling jokes, talking about our families, talking about philosophy. And the whole time we had our microphones on and the whole team was listening to that, they were listening to the birth of a great lifelong friendship. I mean, what’s left for our lives (laughs). But the most amazing thing is that I missed this man so much as soon as we finished. It is fantastic to work with him. Everyone in this family will tell you the same thing.
With material provided by Star +
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Jeff Bridges returns in ‘The Old Man’ after overcoming cancer