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What Jeff Bridges Fans May Not Know About The Star

In October of 2020, fans around the world were shocked when beloved Hollywood star Jeff Bridges, the Dude himself, announced that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma. The actor tweeted, "As the Dude would say..New S**T has come to light. Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good." 

The outpouring of love and sympathy from Bridges' peers and fans was immediate, because not only is Bridges one of Hollywood's best and most dependably excellent actors, but he also seems to be one of the nicest guys in the business. (Bridges responded via Twitter, "I'm profoundly grateful for the love and support from my family and friends...Love, Jeff.")

In fact, if you only know Bridges as the Dude, you really don't know the man or his great body of work in movies and philanthropy, so we're more than happy to let you know more about a beloved actor who's also a mensch of a man. Here's a look at some facts that Jeff Bridges fans may not know about the star.

Jeff Bridges learned about acting from his famous dad

Jeff Bridges comes from a Hollywood family. Lloyd Bridges, his dad, was the star of Sea Hunt, a very popular TV show in the '60s, and Jeff's brother Beau is an underrated actor as well. In fact, Jeff made his acting debut as a baby — he had a little cameo when he was six months old, appearing in the 1951 movie The Company She Keeps.

As Bridges recalled, "I was supposed to be a crying baby in the scene, but I was a pretty happy baby in general, and they were having problems getting me to look upset. So my mom said, 'Just go ahead and pinch him!'"

Lloyd encouraged his sons to get into showbiz, and he got Jeff onto an episode of Sea Hunt when he was eight. "Come on, Jeff," he told him. "Come do it, come on and play with Dad. You'll get out of school, it'll be fun." After Jeff became a star himself, he starred in two movies with his father, sharing the screen with Lloyd in 1988's Tucker and 1994's Blown Away. Jeff and Beau have also co-starred together, memorably playing a pair of piano-playing brothers fighting for the affections of a singer in 1989's Oscar-nominated The Fabulous Baker Boys.

Jeff Bridges performed on a traveling truck stage show when he was a teen

It took Jeff Bridges some time to figure out if he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, so when he was younger, he and Beau tested the waters by acting out little plays on a rented flatbed truck.

As he recalled to NPR, "Beau, who must've been 15, 16 years old, he came up with this great idea of renting a flatbed truck... We would pull into a supermarket and our father, Lloyd, taught us how to stage fight, and we'd stage this fake fight, and a crowd would gather around in the parking lot watching these two guys go at each other, and then [they'd try to] break our fight up and we'd say, 'No, we're putting on a show!'"

Naturally, the cops eventually got involved — but as Bridges went on to add, he and Beau managed to get out of those situations without facing much of any consequences at all. "We'd try to do improv with them and try to bring them into our show," he continued. "And when they were really starting to get serious we'd say, 'No, we're leaving!' and we'd get back into the truck and we'd go the next supermarket... we'd play the supermarket circuit that way."

Jeff Bridges is an accomplished photographer

Jeff Bridges has been taking photographs on the sets of his films for many years, and has published several gift books of his work.

He told CBS News that at first he used to borrow his father's Nikon and set up "a little darkroom in my bathroom, you know, putting tin foil on the windows and being in there with that red light with my tunes going on. The whole concept of time goes out the window." (Bridges also started taking selfies on his movies long before they became wildly popular.)

When Bridges starred in the 1976 remake of King Kong, his character, Jack Prescott, was a photographer. "And I said, 'Well, I'm gonna load that thing and take pictures, you know?'"

These days, Bridges can get the same satisfaction out of taking great pictures that he gets from being in great movies. As he explained, "You always have high expectations when you're making a movie, and every once in a while, it exceeds those expectations... And that happens in the photographs too... the thing is just captured and it feels great."

Jeff Bridges' marriage has defied the Hollywood odds

While Jeff Bridges is a terrific photographer who has accumulated a great body of work, one of his favorite pictures is a photo that was taken when he met Susan Geston on the set of the movie Rancho Deluxe in 1975. He keeps the picture in his wallet, and as he told CBS News, "I have a photograph of the first words that my wife and I shared, me asking her out and her saying no!"

Eventually persuaded, Geston finally went out with Bridges, fell in love, and they married in 1977. They've been together ever since, which has to be some kind of record in an industry where marriages can last mere weeks or less.

"I knew I was madly in love with my wife the minute I saw her," Bridges recalled. At first, he was terrified of marriage and commitment, but then he realized, "I had this vision of an old guy thinking there was this girl from Montana, man, why didn't I marry her." 

They officially tied the knot five days after he proposed.

Jeff Bridges almost turned down the role of the Dude

He's played dozens of characters, but for many people, Jeff Bridges will always be best known as the Dude from The Big Lebowski. It was almost not to be — in fact, he almost turned down the role.

"I'll tell you what, on that one, it was tough," Bridges explained. "I read the script; I loved the script, but I'm playing this pothead guy, not that I have anything against potheads... [But] I know there's kind of a downside to being the kid of a famous person; there's a lot of baggage. I thought, you know, I don't know how my girls — I had three young girls at the time — how they were going to feel. How they were going to get teased or how they would feel about that."

Thankfully, Bridges decided to go ahead, delivering one of his best, and funniest, performances in the process. It wasn't a big hit during its theatrical release, but Lebowski has become a genuine cult classic for the ages, and a lot of that is due to Bridges' effortlessly relatable work.

Jeff Bridges' long road to Oscar glory

As we've seen throughout cinema history, a lot of wonderfully talented actors have waited an awfully long time before they end up taking a little gold guy home from the Academy Awards. Jeff Bridges is no exception — he was nominated six times before finally winning Best Actor for 2009's Crazy Heart. (He was nominated again in 2017 for Hell or High Water.)

Bridges' first flirtation with Oscars glory came right out of the gate, when he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Last Picture Show. He was also nominated for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, The Contender, True Grit, and then finally (for now) for Hell or High Water. When Bridges finally won for Crazy Heart, it struck many observers as long overdue.

During his acceptance speech, Bridges held his Oscar high and said, "Thank you, Mom and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession." Later he explained, "They loved showbiz so much, I feel an extension of them. This is honoring them as much as it is me."

Jeff Bridges' unusual home

He's done some fairly outlandish things onscreen, but the most colorful Jeff Bridges story might just come from real life — specifically, the fact that he purchased a set from one of his films and ended up living in it. 

Bridges was part of the cast of Heaven's Gate, one of the most notorious flops in Hollywood history. The film was director Michael Cimino's anticipated follow-up to The Deer Hunter, and it went wildly over budget and over schedule. Once the word got out that the movie was in trouble, the press practically killed it before it was released, but Bridges, who'd worked with Cimino before on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, wasn't in any hurry to distance himself from the project.

Once shooting was over, he took the building that was constructed to serve as a whorehouse in the film — dubbed the Hog Ranch — and had it rebuilt in Montana. He still lives in it, and says watching Heaven's Gate can feel like a home movie when he sees his home on the big screen.

As he later explained, "We disassembled the buildings, numbered the logs, put them on a flatbed truck, and drove 200 miles south to [our] ranch. Since that time, we've added to the buildings a bit, but the core of the main house is built around the Hog Ranch. The bullet holes [from the film] are still in the walls."

Jeff Bridges' strong spiritual side

Jeff Bridges has often talked about his spiritual beliefs, and as he told Science of Mind, "I enjoy all different types of philosophies. But I'm built sort of 'Buddhistically,' if that's a word. I meditate when I'm working and not working."

Bridges even co-wrote a book, The Dude and the Zen Master, about the spiritual connections in The Big Lebowski. At first, he didn't see them himself, until Zen master Bernie Glassman, who'd later write The Dude and the Zen Master with him, pointed them out, saying the film includes a number of koans — a sort of philosophical riddle designed to free a person from the restrictions of logical thought. 

"I think in Buddhism, Buddha abides; and where does he abide? He abides in the land of 'nonabiding,' and that's kind of a koan in itself," said Bridges. "To me, it's one of the koans that Bernie pointed out in The Big Lebowski. It's one of my favorites: 'Well, that's your opinion, man.'"

Jeff Bridges' work to end child hunger

Aside from being consistently active onscreen, Jeff Bridges has devoted himself to a variety of causes when he isn't working on a set: He's been an environmentalist for many years, and he's also the national spokesman for the charity No Kid Hungry.

As Bridges explained to CNN, "Kids who come to school hungry get sick more frequently. They have more trouble concentrating on their schoolwork and struggle with their studies. This has a huge effect on their potential for success later in life, and that's not good for our country... we can't have a strong America with weak kids. Our children are our future, and it's up to me — and to all of us — to make sure we prepare them to be productive citizen and thrive in our communities. Ensuring our kids have the nutritious food they need is the very first step to getting them there."

An initiative launched by the organization Share Our Strength in 2010, No Kid Hungry is poised to keep fighting an uphill battle — according to the non-profit group's website, more than 11 million children in the United States face some level of food insecurity.

Jeff Bridges' recording career

Like a lot of actors, Jeff Bridges also has a musical side — one he's indulged repeatedly over the years, even occasionally incorporating it into his screen roles. Mainstream audiences became aware of Bridges' musical gifts when he contributed to the Crazy Heart soundtrack — which made sense, seeing as how his character was a singer — but his discography goes deeper than that. In fact, Bridges released his first album, Be Here Soon, on his own Ramp Records imprint in 2000; this was followed 11 years later by a self-titled album that followed in the wake of his Crazy Heart success. While the Jeff Bridges LP wasn't a major hit, that hasn't dampened Bridges' passion for musical pursuits; in 2014, he released a live album with his band the Abiders, and the following year brought The Sleeping Tapes, a collection of ambient and spoken-word tracks designed to put the listener at ease.

In October 2020, shortly before going public with his lymphoma diagnosis, Bridges premiered a new song, "My Welcome Mat," alongside the unveiling of a signature line of guitars made with sustainable wood. "We're really connected, man," Bridges told SPIN. It hopefully invites people to celebrate our diversity, our differences. Not only us humans — animals, insects, trees. One of the things I tried to do with this guitar was to make people realize this connection we have — to the music, to each other, to the world. And we're connected to our trees, man. Take care of our trees, and they'll take care of us."

Jeff Bridges, eclectic actor

If you know Jeff Bridges best as the Dude, you're missing out on a lot of great roles he's played over the years: He broke through in the acclaimed 1971 drama The Last Picture Show, and he's performed in a wide variety of genres ever since. Bridges can play a great cowboy — he starred in the acclaimed westerns Bad Company and Rancho Deluxe, and he played a country singer in Crazy Heart, the role that won him an Academy Award — but he's also comfortable in sci-fi, as he showed in Tron and Starman.

In addition, Bridges played a great Marvel villain in Iron Man, and has also played idiosyncratic roles like in the acclaimed indie The Man Who Stared at Goats, just to name a few. And of course, as The Big Lebowski has proven, Bridges also has a wonderfully deft gift for comedy.

Whether he's a leading man or a supporting character, Bridges has proven he can handle a wide variety of roles with great skill. Whether you associate him with blockbuster pictures or indie films, comedies or dramas, love stories or action thrillers... well, no matter how you look at the man's career, you're right.

Jeff Bridges is still finding new acting challenges

Jeff Bridges has accumulated several careers' worth of challenges and accolades, but he isn't finished finding new ways to test his acting chops. For his next trick, he'll be heading back to the medium that started it all for him — television.

In the summer of 2019, the FX network announced it had landed Bridges for the leading role in The Old Man, a drama about a retired CIA officer forced to resurface after years off the grid. As reports at the time noted, the show will mark Bridges' first leading role on a TV series, and his first regular television work since his youthful appearances on Sea Hunt and The Lloyd Bridges Show a half-century before. Although the show was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic — as Bridges told SPIN in late 2020, "we got stopped in the middle of making that" — it remains one of the more highly anticipated shows in development. Not only is Bridges starring, but he'll be joined by fellow screen legend John Lithgow, and the pilot episode will be helmed by none other than Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far from Home director Jon Watts.