Think actor Jeff Bridges is really the Dude? In the way that John Wayne was, well, John Wayne, on-screen and off?
You may be surprised to learn the star of The Big Lebowski, the Cohen brothers’ 1998 film in which Bridges created the quintessential do-nothing, laze-about Dude, isn’t like his most famous character at all, even if it’s the one young fans most often identify him as while he’s out in public. The Academy Award-winning actor is busy, driven, committed, and very tuned into a happy, healthy life. With two hit movies, True Grit and Tron: Legacy in theaters now and a longstanding dedication to fighting hunger in America, Bridges’ life isn’t about slacking off.
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How does he handle such a busy life and keep his renowned laid-back cool all the while? Bridges, 61, tells WebMD that the lessons that he draws from life often find their way into his work, and vice versa. By making time to meditate, for example, he feels he grows as an actor. And his acting has brought him a greater understanding of the world and those in it. Here, Bridges shares with us a few of the healthy habits he’s learned along the way, while enjoying a career that has included dozens of movies:
He meditates. Bridges tells us he practices meditation to empty his mind of all the things that clutter it. And he finds joy in that empty place. “That joy that you feel when you are in that space ... that joy keeps you doing it,” he says. “Getting down to that basic stillness is so beneficial to my life, to my work.”
He works out. Bridges prefers to stay in shape and is blunt about why he watches what he eats: “It doesn’t feel good to be overweight and out of shape.” And if there’s one thing about his work as an actor that he’s learning to dislike, it’s that some parts require him to gain weight and go to pot -- last year’s Crazy Heart (for which he won the best actor Oscar) being the best example. “The older you get, the harder it is to get that weight back off.”
He’s happily married. He and his wife, Susan, a stay-at-home mom, have been wed for 33 years and have three daughters.
He gives back. Bridges encourages others to find ways to help those less fortunate, just as he has made hungry kids in America his cause. In 2010, his End Hunger Network allied itself with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Share Our Strength to support SOS’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, a nationwide effort to end childhood hunger in the U. S. by 2015. However you contribute, he believes, when you help others, you help yourself. “You have to do it in a way that doesn’t scratch the selfish itch, but my perspective is that the selfish and the selfless are often the same thing. It feels good to help.”
He puts the focus on others. Bridges says that putting himself in others’ shoes is what he does for a living, but he finds that it helps him empathize with others. “My profession involves getting into someone else’s shoes and seeing what that experience is like, trying to imagine what it must be like. But to imagine what it must be like to not be able to provide for your kids -- that’s available to all of us. I think we can all look inside and feel that.”