Jeff Bridges has been through a lot in his 70-year Hollywood career. From first acting as a baby to playing the old man and everything in between, Bridges has captivated millions with a variety of roles. However, no character portrayal prepared him for his newest off-screen role—cancer and COVID survivor.
Bridges Took The Fight On And Off Screen
Back in 2019, Bridges was cast in the FX series The Old Man. When he was first offered the role, the 72 year old didn’t realize just how much stunt work would be in the show. “Man, in my whole career I don’t think I’ve done as much fighting as I have on this,” Bridges remarked in an interview with Independent. “It was grueling, but a lot of fun.”
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The on-screen battle scenes would turn out to be nothing compared to the battle Bridges was about to face in real life. As Bridges recalled, “The big fight scene in the first episode… during that, I had a 9-by-12-inch tumor in my body, a mass in my stomach getting punched around like that and I wasn’t even aware of it. And it’s amazing when I look at that thing again. God, it was just remarkable.”
A few months into production, filming was stopped due to COVID in March 2020. Forced to take a break, Bridges realized that something wasn’t right and saw a doctor. “I had a CAT scan,” remarked the actor. “I had felt, like, a bone in my stomach where a bone wasn’t supposed to be, and I thought I better get that checked out.”
Turns out, the star of The Big Lebowski had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After the diagnosis, Bridges quickly began chemotherapy. Although his chemo treatments were successful, it meant that the actor was spending a lot of time in the hospital during the height of the pandemic.
With a very compromised immune system, Bridges caught COVID while at the hospital in January 2021. It was so severe that COVID nearly killed him during his five-week stay in the ICU. “[COVID] made the cancer look like nothing. It just kicked my ass,” admitted the actor.
‘I Love Being Alive’
Always a fighter, Bridges wasn’t about to let COVID get the best of him. As he was getting treated in the hospital, he thought, “Here I am, I’m sick, I know I don’t want to die because one of the things that the illness brought to my attention is how much I love being alive.”
In fact, his love for life and his family ultimately pushed Bridges to fight for his life. He thought of his wife, Sue, their three daughters, and all the grandchildren he has. As he continued to fight for himself and his family, he was determined to walk his youngest daughter, Hayley, down the aisle. In order to do so, he had to be realistic and set small goals for himself.
“The first goal was how long can I stand up,” recalled the actor, “and my record was 45 seconds, that’s how long I could stand up. And then it was, how many steps can I take? Oh good. Now I’m going to walk down the hall—all this with oxygen, of course.” As Bridges continued to work with a trainer, his walks became longer and longer. “Finally, one day I said, ‘Maybe I can do it, you know.’ And it turns out I not only got to walk her down the aisle, but I got to do the wedding dance [to Ray Charles’ ‘Ain’t That Love’]. That was terrific.”