Beyond a 5 decade-long acting career, Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges has more to celebrate. He recently revealed his cancer is in remission, and he survived a debilitating case of COVID-19. The 71-year old actor, musician, and producer served in the Coast Guard Reserves before his illustrious work on screen.
Bridges enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1967 and served as a Boatswain's Mate primarily at the USCG Reserve Center in San Luis Obispo, CA. He finished his service as Petty Officer Second Class in 1975, by which point he had already been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.
Both his father and brother, also actors, served in the Coast Guard. Lloyd Bridges, his father, served during World War II. Jeff’s brother, Beau Bridges served eight years, working on the USCGC Dexter as both a cook and editor of the ship’s newspaper.
Beau told The Washington Post that when he enlisted in the 1960s, Kennedy had just put up the blockade on Cuba. “I thought we were going to war…My father said, ‘Maybe you should enlist. Pick your service.’ I picked the Coast Guard.” A few years later, Jeff followed in the family’s footsteps. All three Bridges won The Lone Sailor Award in 2011, which honors veterans of the sea services for their achievements in later life.
Jeff was born in Los Angeles and his acting family appeared together on the television series “Sea Hunt” when he was just 7 years old. He studied piano at an early age and went on to train in acting in New York City at the Herbert Berghof Studio. His Oscar-nominated roles include The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, The Contender, True Grit, and Hell or High Water. He became one of the oldest to ever win Best Actor for his role in Crazy Heart in 2010. He also won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for that film.
When the AV Club news site asked him what the worst job he ever had was, he recalled tedious work in service, and yet they were wonderful times.
“I was chipping paint when I was in the Coast Guard while on a buoy tender and being stationed there for several weeks. We would start at the bow and chip paint, and then red lead, and then paint it. Actually, with the chipping you’d start all the way at the bow, then chip to the stern. And you go up and red lead the whole thing then you paint the whole thing and by the time you’re down at the stern, it’s time to start all over again. But even as I describe that work as a kind of labor, I actually had wonderful times doing that and great conversations and fond memories.”
In October 2020 he announced he was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system. But in early September 2021 he posted on his website that after months of treatment, his condition was in remission and “the 9" x 12" mass has shrunk down to the size of a marble.”
While undergoing chemotherapy, Bridges contracted COVID-19 before he could get vaccinated and was in the hospital for 5 weeks.
“My dance with COVID makes my cancer look like a piece of cake,” he wrote on his site. Thankfully, both illnesses are behind him.
Bridges is married to long time wife Susan Bridges and has three daughters and a granddaughter. He is slated to appear next year in the FX on Hulu series “The Old Man.”