Jeff Bridges Talks About The Old Man, His Favorite TV Shows & The Dude’s Jelly Sandals | TV series

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Sometimes that’s how it goes: one minute you’re The Dude, the next you’re The Old Man. But if the title of Jeff Bridges’ new series sounds like comfy slippers and an armchair, make no mistake: The old man is an action-packed dramatic thriller, starring Bridges as Dan Chase – an off-the-grid CIA agent who is drawn back into the fray when his old life catches up with him.

Addressing the pilot tv podcast, Bridges opened up about his time on TV, the show’s brutal action sets, what it means to take on a darker role and be his own “technical advisor” when playing The Dude in The great Lebowski. Listen to the full interview on the podcast and read the edited highlights below.

PILOT TV: with the possible exception of Disappearance in 1993, it was the first time that I was really afraid of Jeff Bridges. Is it right? When you looked at this project, did you see that in this character?

Jeff Bridges: [laughing] Yeah, he’s a fascinating guy. He doesn’t want to be scary – he doesn’t think of himself as scary, it’s just who he is. But probably the guy in Disappearance didn’t consider himself scary either. [laughs] I was lucky to have a real ex-CIA, Christopher Huddleston, who was our technical adviser on the show. He let me in on what it was like to really be one of those guys. And it turns out they have a lot in common with actors – probably the best actors in the world are the vice cops and the CIA guys who are undercover and have to pretend to save their lives.

I guess when you’re a CIA agent you can never really put it behind you. It’s part of who you are.

That’s the problem – one of the challenges for this character is that you can never really relax. You are always someone else. And it ends up becoming such a habit that you don’t really know who you are anymore. As I sit here and have my jet lag and think about it, that probably goes for all of us – none of us really know who we are. I think we all get used to being who we are think we are.

Some of the show’s actions look like things you don’t see on TV – how real and brutal it feels. How much of that was in the script?

It was all in the script. John Steinberg has written a wonderful screenplay based on a book by Thomas Perry. What you mentioned about the quality of the fights and how real it feels is something I always aspire to as an actor – to make it feel as real as possible let the audience feeling like a fly on the wall watching this thing happen. And we have these stunt experts, Timothy Connolly and Tommy DuPont, the guy I worked with a lot in the movies. I asked him, ‘What is the state of the art [with] fight scenes? Because I’m not aware of that. And he said, “Well, I don’t mean to be shameless, but this is a show that I worked on.” I said, ‘What was that?’ And he said Atomic Blonde. That fight scene on the stairs, what they can do now, make it all feel like one take… I said, ‘Oh, well, I’m in good hands.’ Those were some of my favorite things about working on the show – making all of these fights feel as real as possible, without making them look like a typical movie fight where you do a lot of cuts.

There’s a sequence in the desert in the first episode, you fight with the CIA tracker. It’s 11 minutes long – 11 minutes of choking and rolling in the dirt and kicking this guy in the crotch. It’s so brutal. And I mean. How long did it take to shoot?

Oh, probably a week!

It’s amazing that you can do that on TV. If you’re making a movie, 11 minutes is a big chunk of your runtime.

It’s true. I had never thought of it that way. I had a lot of resistance to doing TV, because… Well, my dad Lloyd Bridges had done a lot of TV shows, his most famous was Hunting at sea back to the early 60s. And I saw how frustrated he was that he didn’t have enough time to produce the quality you’re looking for. But then you started seeing all these high-quality shows coming off TV, and I said, “You should check that out, Jeff.” So when I was introduced to The Old Man, I said, “Well, I have to meet these creators and find out what they have in mind.” I met John Steinberg and Warren Littlefield, and when they laid out what they had in mind, and how they were going to put the team together – so much involves the cast, not just the actors, but the directors and the directors of the photography – and they did such a great job producing this… I say film, movie, or whatever you want to call it. But I couldn’t see any difference between making a movie and doing this show. The same attention is paid to it, I never felt rushed or anything like that.

Do you watch a lot of television? Are there any shows that really appeal to you?

I do. And I love all the Brits, man, pulling that shit like Succession. Go man! It’s high quality stuff, you know. What we do in the shadows. PEN15 – which takes the game to another level, these women have done a tremendous job. It’s even hard to say, it sounds so unbelievable, but they’re 34 and they’re playing 13, seventh graders. And they do it so beautifully. I love it. There is so much a lot contents.

Part of that is down to the quality of the writing. There is a scene in episode 2 of The old man where you and Amy are going to dinner – the emotional honesty in this scene, it’s so well written. There’s a line she says, “No one ever sees themselves playing the bad guy, and maybe the only one who can play that role is someone who can’t see what’s going on.” Do you think that’s true?

This line really struck me too. Beautifully written scene, and this line particularly marked me. You mentioned Disappearance. I remember grooming this guy, and George Sluizer, the director of that movie – who directed the original, which I think I have to say was a better movie, the original – his first direction for me was “Jeff, I want you to write an essay about your character and who he is, for homework. And that was a wonderful exercise. One of the things I found out was, no, he saw it as something truly unique and special to present to humanity – that he had a certain story and was a certain type of person that he needed to express what he felt was important in life.

How much do the characters you play stick with you? Do you take them with you?

I do not think so. But I remember doing an interview at my house a long time ago, and the interviewer asked me the same question, and I said, “No, not really, the characters don’t appeal to me.” And my wife was in the room and she said, ‘Pffft!’ I said, ‘Why are you laughing like that?’ She says, ‘Don’t you think so? But it certainly is! So I think, you know, unconsciously, they’re infiltrating.

You don’t just fall into The Dude-speak in conversation?

Well, dude… We were talking about having tech advisers — I was sort of my own tech adviser on that show. [laughs] It was a bit of my cast that I could relate to. Many of these clothes were mine. Those jelly sandals were mine!

Listen to the full interview with Pilot TV’s Jeff Bridges on the podcast now – and catch new episodes of the show every Monday. The Old Man is now streaming on Disney+.

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