Jeff Bridges Opens Up About Nearly Dying After Covid And Cancer Battles And The Big Goal He Had For Recovery

Jeff Bridges on The Old Man
(Image credit: FX)

From playing leads in fan favorites like Tron to his turn as the loveable deadbeat bowler, "The Dude", in the Coen Brother's The Big Lebowski, there is no denying Jeff Bridges is a Hollywood treasure. So it was no surprise that there was an outpour of support from co-stars and fans when the legendary actor revealed on his Instagram that he had been diagnosed in 2020 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though he kept an upbeat disposition regarding his prognosis publicly, the actor told in a new interview that privately, his battle was far more full of emotion: mainly anger and determination. 

Speaking with The Independent, Jeff Bridges revealed that fear wasn't the emotion he felt while recovering from his near-fatal simultaneous battle with cancer and Covid. But instead, he felt pissed about his situation and determined to achieve his big goal: walking his youngest daughter Hayley down the aisle on her wedding day. The actor said his harrowing experience dealing with the combination of cancer and Covid overcame him with intense feelings of love. And that's an emotion he utilized in his recovery. While he set small goals first, like being able to stand, his ultimate goal was making it to his daughter's wedding. He said: 

It brought so many different emotions and feelings. Fear wasn't a real strong one. It was mainly kind of the feeling of getting with the program, you know. Here I am, I'm sick, I know I don't want to die because one of the things that the illness brought to my attention is how much I love being alive… it was not so much fear as me being pissed off… it exacerbated all these feelings of love for my wonderful family. The first goal was how long can I stand up, my record was 45 seconds, that's how long I could stand up. And then it was, how many steps can I take? Oh good. Now I'm going to walk down the hall – all this with oxygen, of course. Finally, one day I said, 'Maybe I can do it, you know.' And it turns out I not only got to walk her down the aisle, but I got to do the wedding dance [to Ray Charles's "Ain't That Love"]. That was terrific.

It is terrific that the Crazy Heart star could be there for his daughter on her big day, and to be able to dance was a bonus. However, it almost wasn't so. The actor says he was closer to death than anyone might have known. And that his experience with Covid was more challenging than even cancer. He continued: 

It nearly killed me. Those five weeks in an intensive care unit made the cancer look like nothing. It just kicked my ass…

For his family's and all of our sakes, I'm glad Jeff Bridges was able to kick Covid and cancer's asses right back. Though no one would ever wish for the double punch of cancer and Covid, the actor said he learned something from his time with the life-threatening illnesses that he wouldn't have any other way. Mainly to keep digging. The actor continued: 

I learnt things during those times that I wouldn't have learnt in any other way. To dig, man. Dig it all as it's coming at me. That was the specific thing: dig every little thing. And by dig, I mean, get into it, you know, get into what's happening in a very rich way, you know. As deeply as you can.

That's a message you can almost picture coming from the mouth of the "The Dude". And I think we should all abide. 

Bridges' cancer is in remission, and I'm sure I speak for all his fans when I say we hope it remains that way. I am not yet ready to imagine a world without the actor's fearless role and character choices. Though you can check out our list of some of the actor's best works and how to watch them here, let's hope there are still many more wonderful Bridges roles right around the corner. 

Though delayed for a year thanks to the Pandemic, the 2022 TV schedule saw the release of Bridges' latest project, The Old Man. Don't let the title fool you because the FX series is closer in line to some of the best action movies like John Wick than the name would indicate. The Old Man is now streaming. All you need to enjoy it is a Hulu subscription

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing.