Jeff Bridges Reflects on Returning to Work Amid Cancer Recovery and COVID-19 Battle

Bridges opens up about his return to acting after battling cancer and a near-fatal COVID-19 bout

Jeff Bridges attends The Old Man panel during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour event in Pasadena, California, on July 10, 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB LATOUR/SHUTTERSTOCK)
Jeff Bridges attends The Old Man panel during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour event in Pasadena, California, on July 10, 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB LATOUR/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Jeff Bridges, the beloved actor known for his iconic roles, recently opened up about his challenging journey back to work during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour at The Langham in Pasadena, California.

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE, Bridges shared his experiences of returning to the set of “The Old Man” after a grueling battle with cancer and a near-fatal bout with COVID-19.

In October 2020, Bridges publicly announced his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma on X (formerly Twitter). As if battling cancer wasn’t enough, he also contracted COVID-19 during his treatment in 2021. This combination of health issues led Bridges to question whether he would ever be able to return to acting.

Reflecting on that time, Bridges, now 74, admitted, “I thought, ‘I’m not going to come back. I won’t be able to come back.'”

This sentiment was echoed by his co-star John Lithgow, who spoke about the collective concern for Bridges’ health on the set. Lithgow, 78, recalled, “Everybody was watching Jeff. I mean, he needed oxygen occasionally. Early days, we really had to watch him.”

Despite the difficulties, Bridges expressed immense gratitude for the support he received from his colleagues. “As far as being back into the show again, everybody was so considerate about my condition,” he said.

“But I don’t remember that as being particularly difficult. Even the fight scenes after I came back, I can’t remember being upset about that.”

Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow attend The Old Man panel during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour event in Pasadena, California, on July 10, 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB LATOUR/SHUTTERSTOCK)
Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow attend The Old Man panel during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour event in Pasadena, California, on July 10, 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB LATOUR/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Bridges’ return to the set was marked by a mix of anxiety and relief among the cast and crew. Lithgow noted how Bridges’ calm demeanor helped ease the tension on set.

“He was so relaxed about it. He put everybody else at ease. Everyone at first was so watchful and nervous, and just put everyone at ease,” Lithgow said.

For Bridges, the experience underscored the camaraderie and mutual support inherent in the acting community.

“You just do your best and that’s all you can do. It’s something so great, actors working with actors, being a fraternity, a sorority … You’re looking out for each other,” he told PEOPLE.

Bridges plays Dan Chase in the second season of “The Old Man,” while Lithgow portrays Harold Harper. Despite the physical demands of the role, Bridges has embraced the challenge with resilience and humor.

At the TCA panel, he joked about his return to work, saying, “I’m feeling great now and I’m coming back for more punishment.”

Recalling the first season of the show, Bridges described the surreal experience of filming intense fight scenes while battling a 9-inch by 12-inch tumor in his stomach.

“It was bizarre. I was doing these fight scenes. I had a 9-inch by 12-inch tumor … in my stomach, that didn’t hurt at all,” he said. Fortunately, with the help of skilled stunt coordinators, Bridges managed to navigate these physically demanding scenes.

Bridges’ health journey has been a rollercoaster, marked by moments of deep struggle and remarkable recovery.

Jeff Bridges in The Old Man. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, KURT ISWARIENKO/FX)
Jeff Bridges in The Old Man. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, KURT ISWARIENKO/FX)

He announced that he was officially in remission in September 2021, nearly a year after revealing his lymphoma diagnosis. Speaking to Page Six in April, Bridges shared, “My health is great.

It’s such a learning experience being sick like that. It’s amazing the way the mind can forget all that stuff. I’m not thinking too much about the past.”

Reflecting on his brush with mortality, Bridges spoke candidly about his experience with COVID-19 during cancer treatment. “I was pretty close to dying,” he told PEOPLE in May 2022.

“The doctors kept telling me, ‘Jeff, you’ve got to fight. You’re not fighting.’ I was in surrender mode. I was ready to go. I was dancing with my mortality.”

Despite the harrowing experiences, Bridges’ story is one of resilience and hope. His return to “The Old Man” is not just a professional milestone but a testament to his enduring spirit.

The second season of “The Old Man” is set to stream on Hulu starting September 12, and fans eagerly await Bridges’ return to the screen.

In the face of adversity, Jeff Bridges has shown remarkable strength and positivity. His journey serves as an inspiration, reminding us all of the power of perseverance and the importance of support from those around us.

As he continues to recover and thrive, Bridges’ story will undoubtedly resonate with many, offering a beacon of hope to those facing their own battles.

Bridges’ resilience and the support of his colleagues have been crucial in his journey back to work. His experience highlights the profound impact of camaraderie and compassion in the workplace, especially during times of personal hardship.

As he looks forward to more projects and continues to share his story, Bridges remains a beloved figure in Hollywood, admired not just for his talent but for his unwavering spirit.

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