How Jeff Bridges Dealt With Cancer While Filming The Old Man

This story about Jeff Bridges and “The Old Man” was first published in TheWrap Awards magazine’s Drama Series issue.

For seven decades, Jeff Bridges has shown an uncanny knack for disappearing into character while still resembling himself, be it a tawny-eyed alien (“Starman”), a quiet Zen master (“The Big Lebowski”) or a alcoholic country singer. (“Crazy Heart),” a performance for which he won an Oscar. Now Bridges mesmerizes as Dan Chase, a rogue CIA agent who returns to the game to protect his daughter in FX’s slow-burning spy thriller “The Old Man,” which has overcome a rocky road to completion.

Production was halted during the pandemic and again when Bridges was diagnosed with lymphoma in the fall of 2020. He underwent chemotherapy and then spent several months in the hospital after contracting covid-19. He is now in remission and healthy, and “The Old Man” it has become FX’s most-watched series of all time.

Jeff Bridges in “The Old Man” (FX)

You have mainly focused on cinema in your career. How has the transition to television been?
I worried over the years because my father, Lloyd Bridges, had done a lot of TV shows and I saw how hard he worked, how frustrating it was because the quality of TV in those days wasn’t like the quality of movies. He was a bit reluctant to enter the world of television. And then the TV quality started to get outrageously great and the execution was wonderful. Then this story came up and I got really excited.

You’ve often said that you’re a family man at heart, and I was wondering how much you connected with Dan Chase because of the show’s focus on family and fatherhood.
Well, not to the extent that Dan Chase has been away from his daughter, but being in the movie business, I spent most of my kids’ childhood working. My childhood was often like this too, with my father working, so I could relate to the challenges of that. And just speaking of acting, there are no better actors than CIA guys. They’re running for their lives, you know?

'The Old Man' Star Jeff Bridges Feels 'Fantastic' After Battle With Lymphoma

John Lithgow said that working with you on this show was amazing because you are a wonderful person and an effortless actor. What is the secret of your approach?
Well, I have to return the compliment. John and I have become dear friends during the weeks we have been working together. I think we approach it the same way, and the kind of acting that I aspire to and admire is one where you don’t see the effort. He feels like when you’re looking at him, you’re just a fly on the wall looking at the thing.

You have some serious fight scenes in “The Old Man.” You can really feel the physicality of them. How was making them?
I’ve always liked those kinds of action scenes and fights. It’s a lot of fun discovering them and we’re very lucky to have Tim Connolly, our stunt coordinator. He is a master at it. And he’s the same kind of thing about that effortless quality that you see in fight scenes that look real. It’s the same with acting: making it seem like it’s happening for the first time and like you’re seeing something real.

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