WASHINGTON—Hollywood icon Jeff Bridges – famous for his harmonious, go-with-the-flow persona – opens up about his startling experiences being diagnosed, battling and then recovering from COVID and cancer in the June/July issue of AARP The Magazine (ATM).
ATM caught up with the Golden Globe and Academy Award winner ahead of filming season 2 of the drama thriller series The Old Man to discuss how he found the strength and motivation to keep fighting during his extended hospitalization for the diseases. Bridges, a creator, actor, musician, dancer, and owner of many more hats, shares how his passion for his craft and embracing the love around him saved his life and got him back to creating during a time when it was needed most.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s June/July 2023 cover story featuring Jeff Bridges. The issue is available in homes starting in April and online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
On catching COVID-19 while undergoing chemotherapy:
“I got this letter from the chemo place informing me I had contracted COVID. I had no immune system to fight it. Chemo had wiped that out, which made it really, really tough. For me, cancer was nothing compared to the COVID.”
On using stoicism to confront the possibility of death:
“For me, in that hospital bed, the obstacle was death. And that was the way. I kept thinking, here’s the problem, you know? Here’s the challenge. I asked myself ‘How are you going to go about it?’ And I thought, I’m a dancer, man, and I’m a musician. I’m going to jam with this situation, you know?”
On discovering his first signs of lymphoma:
“I’m hiking and feeling great. My shins really itch, and I think, Oh, I just got, you know, dry skin. Then I had night sweats, but thought, That’s just hot summer nights. It turns out those are lymphoma symptoms.”
On experiencing loss:
“We’ve been losing a lot recently. David Crosby just passed. His dad shot High Noon, which my father was in, so we’d known each other for quite a while. My dear friend Jackson Browne just lost David Lindley, the great pedal steel guitar player. I’ve personally lost Peter Bogdanovich, who directed me in The Last Picture Show. You asked me about the things that happen to old men. Their friends die, you know?”
On his wife, Sue, being his fiercest advocate:
“My wife Sue was my absolute champion. She really fought to keep me off a ventilator. I didn’t want to be on it, and the doctors didn’t necessarily want that. But Sue was adamant.”
On the fear of never working again:
“I didn’t think I’d ever work again, really. So at first I said, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ But eventually that became, ‘Maybe I can.’ I have to admit that I was still frightened of going back to work. Then I began to think of it as a gift being presented.”
On the motivation to keep creating:
“To get back to doing what invigorates you—it feels great, man. I’m feeling that the times are demanding us to be as creative as possible. We should all work together to make something beautiful, like we do in the movies.”
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.