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Jeff Bridges On Dogs, COVID, and FX’s ‘The Old Man’

6 min read
The Old Man (2022)

The man, the myth, the legend… yep, FILMHOUNDS got to sit down with Mr himself. In this exclusive roundtable interview, the king of the white russian discusses his latest TV show , coming to + from 28th September. Bridges plays Dan Chase, who absconded from the CIA and lives off the grid. When an assassin arrives and tries to take Chase out, the old operative learns that to ensure his future he now must reconcile his past.

Through the production of The Old Man, you've had to face many obstacles. First, you had the pandemic, then you'd been diagnosed with cancer on top of COVID. Were you able to source extra strength for projects after this? 

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I didn't know if I was gonna make it. I was on death's door there for a while in the hospital. And after a two-year hiatus, going back to work. It was the most bizarre kind of thing. I come back to work after two years, with all the same faces and all the casting crew. And it was like we had a long weekend, coming back was like I had the most bizarre dream. I was sick and now but it all seems very grey but I am as you say kind of left with this aftertaste of the preciousness of life and gratitude for all that I've been given — in my relationships, my family. So much to be thankful for.

Did your way of approaching the show and your character change after all this? 

No, I didn't really approach it in a different way. The way I approach all of my roles is you read the script and that tells you so much about who you're playing and what your character says. I look into myself to see what matches my life and the life of the character in this sense. I'm an actor and so is Dan Chase. These guys, these CIA operatives, they're acting. They're probably the best actors in the world because they're acting for their lives, you know? So we had that in common. Then also I was very fortunate to have a fellow on board with us Christopher Huddleston, who was a CIA operative, so he could fill me in. He helped me both before I got sick and after, and the approaches really weren't much different. 

How much did you prepare for and participate in the show's combat scenes? 

We were fortunate to have some really master stunt coordinators, Timothy Connolly, Henry Kenji, and Tommy Dupont. They're the state-of-the-art stunt coordinator. The challenge of those kinds of scenes are making them as real as possible and seem like they're happening for the first time. Sometimes you just wing it in some scenes, you say it's improvisation. That doesn't work so well in fight scenes because you're getting probably a broken nose, then you've got the next scene to do so you got to be careful. So in this case, we practised for weeks to get it. So it would seem very natural and very real.

It's reported that you chose the musician for the soundtrack. What was it about him that felt like the right fit? 

We made Heaven's Gate together. And then we worked together in . He's just such a wonderful, talented musician and composer. And I thought “Gee, he could be an executive producer on the show” when again casting is so important. It was great to work with him — and wow, what a score he gets. 

The Old Man (2022)
FX

Did you find that you had to wrestle with the dichotomy of Dan Chase's character, or did you identify with him as a quintessentially good guy, or as an antihero?

I think that goes for all of us. I don't think any of us are one way, we all have selfish or ignorant qualities. I think it goes for all of us as part of our species. I look to those sides in myself that I could identify with my own regrets. And then we had Christopher Huddleston, who was a former CIA operative, who couldn't really give me more detailed information about what it felt like he went through things like this. 

Does older mean wiser? 

Not always the case, unfortunately. But I hope so. 

Your character certainly has to confront his own character a lot. 

We will constantly be challenged by that. Ramifications, consequences. That's kind of one of the things that brought me to this piece in the first place was the theme of consequences that we all have in when our chickens come home to roost. And that goes for all of us. That's something I think everybody can identify with. 

The dogs both seem incredibly obedient yet terrifying at the same time. Was it a better experience than you anticipated working with them? 

Yeah. I love dogs. I've got one now, Monty, who's a Cavapoo Cavalier King Charles combination. I've had Yorkies, Australian Sheepdogs, a whole slew. And so I was anxious to work with these Rottweilers. It looks like there are two in the show, but there are actually five or six. Each one is used for whichever skill they excel in, whether it's biting a guy or whatever the different dogs are for each of the scenes. We were also fortunate to have Sarah Clifford who was the trainer of the dogs on the show, and I worked with her weeks in advance getting to know the dogs and letting them know me to create the illusion that these are my dear buddies. 

Everyone that works with you talks about the way that you make them feel comfortable. You make people feel at home. It put them at ease and you have a way of doing that, whether that's picking up a guitar or asking about them. Is that a skill that came naturally to you? And when did you start to realise that people started looking up to you as the elder statesman on set and how did you take that responsibility?

My father, and my mother, are both actors. And their approach was one of love. You know, when we feel love in the room, when we're being loved and we're given love, we relax. And when we relaxed, the best stuff comes out of that. I think as an actor, and as just an artist — I like to paint — and when I'm relaxed, that's when I can just receive the stuff that's coming through that wants to be expressed. And for actors, it's interesting. There are some actors who only want you to call them by their character's name and don't want much in-between when the cameras are rolling. Then the other style, which is kind of my style, is that we only have a certain amount of time together. Let's get to know each other as dearly as we can and become friends so we can relax around each other. Actors can't be anxious, man. You gotta laugh and you gotta cry at this time, and if you can't, we got to move on. So that's anxiety-provoking, that's what actors go through. We all have that commonality and to acknowledge it and then to love each other makes the whole process better. 

For that second part, one of the highlights of my life was while doing a movie called Masked and Anonymous. Not too many have seen it, but it's one that Bob Dylan and Larry Charles wrote amd Charles is one of the creators of Seinfeld, so an interesting combination of those two guys. And it was Larry's first movie. And he said, “Jeff, I consider you the senior actor here on the show.” Bob and I got to play with him like a kid for half a day just improvising and all coming together, and that was a real joy. So being considered this senior actor on that show was thrilling and a really wonderful experience.