JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges stars in a new action-thriller on FX and HULU called “The Old Man.”
The seven-part series which premiered Thursday is based on the bestselling novel by Thomas Perry, and also stars John Lithgow and Amy Brenneman.
While he’s not abiding as the Dude or constructing Tron’s grid, Bridges’ ex-CIA character in “The Old Man” does live off-grid, and has for decades. That is until an assassin shows up and begins making things messy.
During the series production, Bridges had obstacles. He was diagnosed with lymphoma after doctors found a 9-by-12-inch mass in his stomach. Then he contracted COVID during chemotherapy treatments.
But Bridges is strong-willed, seeing the series through to completion. The chemo put his cancer in remission, reducing the mass to the size of a marble.
Whether he's playing the good guy or bad guy, Bridges has the ability to meet his characters at their motivations, to understand their headspace, and to formulate his acting from there.
In "The Big Lebowski", Bridges bowls against the lavender jumpsuit-clad antagonist, Jesus Quintana. When Jesus proclaims, "We're gonna F--- you up," Bridges replies, "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
It's a line that boils down the nonchalant brawn of Bridges's technique.
Bridges spoke to First Coast News from the Santa Barbara area.
You’re doing some active acting in “The Old Man” with fight scenes and stunts. How was that?
Jeff Bridges: I certainly respect the talent of the stunt people. For the scenes I’m in there’s a point where a muscle memory kicks in, and it’s less of a thought about yourself and more what you're supposed to be in the show.
I've gone ahead and planned your next movie for you. Just doing my due diligence, you know. It's time to start combining things. Your next movie is a “Big Lebowski”/ “Tron”/ “The Old Man” combo with a nod to Ernest Hemingway's “The Old Man and the Sea”. It’s called "The Old Man and the Dude". Basically, it’s just the Dude fishing, but he’s wearing glow-in-the-dark computerized tights and the giant marlin is ex-CIA. Still working on the last part there.
Oh, yeah. I could get into that.
You seem to have the ability to wipe your own mind and assume the mind of a character. When you're playing a role, do characters you’ve played previously slip out? Jeffrey "the Dude" Lebowski must slip out from time to time. How do you contain the Dude?
You don't [laughs]. You let it slip. I try to let stuff come through me. You never know what's going to pop out.
How are you able to portray both good characters and bad characters and be believable?
I start from the same place. I always look inside myself and see what aspects might line up with the character. I'll accentuate those, then kick the aspects that don't line up with the character to the curb and let it bubble up that way.
One of the most evil people I've played was for a movie called "The Vanishing." It was quite an adventure playing a character who was burying people alive. I had to get into the headspace of how he got to that place. The director, George Sluizer, had me write an essay on the guy, and why he was the way he was. I thought it was going to be a stupid homework assignment. But it just spilled out of me in this wonderful way, incorporating parts of my own life. It really made me arrive at the reasons how and why the guy I played became this way. It was one of the best pieces of direction I've ever had.
Are there times when you take it too far? When a character becomes too much of you?
As far as going too far, that's a place I want to go with it. My work is just material for the director and the editor to make a collage out of at the end. Knowing that's the process, I want to give them as much stuff to work with as possible. The nature of making movies is you often shoot out of sequence. You don't get that linear kind of experience. So you don't know when something played in a stronger way or a lighter way might be better. What I'll try to do if we have time is to bookend my performance, so they have a couple choices in the takes when they get to the editing process.
You ever get so deep into a character you can't get out?
I don't think so. I don't think I carry parts home with me. My wife disagrees. She says I do. I think there's a lot of subconscious meshing happening that I'm not even aware of.
Trent Moorman is a Digital Producer at First Coast News.