On the heels of his win at the Academy Awards, the actor talks about his legendary family
The moment was surprisingly poignant, even if it wasn’t much of a surprise. As Jeff Bridges stood on stage at the Kodak Theatre, fighting back tears as he accepted the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart, he hoisted his statuette to the heavens and said, ”Thank you, Mom and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession.” Bridges’ speech was a touching, note-perfect dedication to a pair of show-business parents — actors Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges — from their humbled son on the biggest night of his career.
Bridges, 60, entered this year’s Oscar race as the clear front-runner — not just to office-pool gamblers betting that his fifth nomination would finally bring a win, but also to his industry peers. To them, he represented everything a second-generation star, not to mention a grounded family man, should be. (Susan, his wife of 32 years, was at his side throughout awards season.) Bridges’ father, Lloyd, who died in 1998, had been a movie and TV star since the 1940s, starring on the long-running TV show Sea Hunt and, later, in comedies such as Airplane! His mother, Dorothy, who died just last year, acted at UCLA, where she met her future husband in a theatrical production. Needless to say, the Bridges kids were shaped by the profession that their parents loved. Jeff’s brother, Beau, is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner who costarred with him in 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys. Sister Cindy, meanwhile, has appeared in film and on TV. ”Jeff’s grown up around the industry, and it shows,” says Iron Man director Jon Favreau. ”Here’s a guy who’s done it all, and he still has a tremendous amount of gratitude and appreciation for what he does for a living.”
During his acceptance speech, Bridges recalled how his father would sit him down on his bed and teach him the basics of acting — lessons that began before he could even walk or talk. In fact, he made his acting debut before his first birthday, in 1951’s The Company She Keeps. And whenever a role on Sea Hunt called for a small fry, Lloyd would bribe young Jeff, telling him he’d be able to miss school and buy toys and candy with the money he’d earn. Later, the boys would also pop up on their father’s anthology series, The Lloyd Bridges Show. ”Unlike a lot of Hollywood actors, my dad really loved acting and wanted to turn his kids on to it,” says Bridges. ”As a kid, you don’t want to do what your parents want you to do. You want to be like all of the other kids. So I had a lot of resistance to acting being my path.”
But the Fabulous Bridges Boys didn’t — or couldn’t — fight their destinies. When Beau, eight years Jeff’s senior, was old enough to drive, he rented a flatbed truck and the brothers rehearsed scenes to take on the road. ”We’d pull into a supermarket parking lot, and since my father taught us how to fake fights, we’d throw a fake fight and crowds would gather and we’d go, ‘No, we’re just kidding! We’re putting on a show!”’ says Bridges, laughing. ”We’d do our scenes until the cops came, and then we’d jump in the truck and drive to the next supermarket.” Not surprisingly, all five of Beau’s children have given the family business a whirl. So far, Jeff’s three daughters (Isabelle, 28, Jessica, 26, and Hayley, 24) have not.
To this day, Bridges says that some of his happiest memories include sharing the screen with his dad in 1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream and 1994’s Blown Away. ”We had a great time,” he says. ”To play like that with my dad was a thrill. He was a wonderful actor.” And, it seems, a wonderful role model. After all, Bridges would be the first to admit that when his peers in the audience rose to their feet to shower him with a standing ovation on Sunday night, they weren’t just honoring him, they were honoring Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, too.
The Bridges Family: Like Father, Like Sons
Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges made acting a family affair. Here’s a look at the clan’s most famous collaborations.
Sea Hunt (1958)
Lloyd Bridges became a household name as scuba diver Mike Nelson on this hit TV show. Jeff and Beau appeared in two episodes apiece.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
While Jeff starred in the epic bio of auto pioneer Preston Tucker, his father stole scenes as a corrupt senator.
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
As a pair of squabbling lounge-act brothers, Jeff and Beau mined their offscreen relationship for laughs.
Blown Away (1994)
When the director of this domestic-terrorism thriller needed a seasoned actor to play Jeff’s uncle, the star had a suggestion: his dad.