Jeff Bridges on starring in The Old Man: 'TV is just as good as film nowadays'
The star spoke exclusively with RadioTimes.com about playing an ageing action hero in the new Disney Plus drama.
Jeff Bridges is returning to the small screen after more than 50 years - but he insists it’s not a step down. The Oscar-winning actor, who stars in new Disney Plus drama The Old Man, believes that TV is just as good as film nowadays.
The seven-part spy thriller series, based on the bestselling 2017 novel of the same name by Thomas Perry, sees Bridges play Dan Chase, an agent who absconded from the CIA decades ago and has since been living off-grid.
When an intruder arrives at Chase’s remote cabin and attempts to assassinate him, the veteran operative is forced out of hiding. He realises that to ensure his future, he must reconcile with his dark past.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview, Bridges says filming the series taught him there is "absolutely no difference" between creating film and TV.
"The only difference really is that across a full series, you get a chance to learn more about the characters. You don’t have to rush and tell the story too quickly. You can stretch it out and go more in-depth. It’s almost more like a novel."
The 72-year-old star also admits that TV has changed since the 1960s.
"The quality now that comes out of the television is incredible," he laughs. "My father, Lloyd Bridges, did a bunch of TV series and back in those days, there was never enough time to make the quality work you wanted. He struggled with that. But then seeing these great TV shows coming out now, I thought, wow, I want to explore that medium."
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Throughout The Old Man, there are plenty of bone-crunching, bruising fight scenes - but how did Bridges enjoy playing a mature action hero?
"I had a lot of fun," he says. "I don’t think I’ve ever done that many fight scenes but we had masterful stunt co-ordinators. Thank God for muscle memory. You think you’ll never pull it off but then your body remembers it somehow."
The actor shares lots of screen time with his character’s two trusty guard dogs in the new series, defying the old showbiz adage that you should never work with animals or children.
"See, I don’t hold with that," Bridges continues. "I’ve learned a lot of acting lessons from children and animals. Basically, acting is an advanced game of pretend, like you play when you’re a kid. And the dogs were wonderful to work with.
"My character has these two Rottweilers but in reality, there were half-a-dozen dogs, each hired for a particular trick or speciality. The trainer, Sarah Crawford, trained me just as much as the dogs. She taught me how to work with them and make it seem like they were my pets. We spent a lot of time together. They’re very sweet."
The Old Man is adapted for TV by Jonathan E Steinberg and Robert Levine. The first two episodes are directed by Jon Watts, who helmed three Spider-Man movies.
The series co-stars John Lithgow (Dexter, The Crown) as the FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, Harold Harper. He’s called upon to lead the man-hunt for fugitive Chase due to the pair’s shady past together.
Working alongside Harper are his protégé Angela Adams (Search Party’s Alia Shawkat) and CIA liaison Special Agent Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla). Also on Chase’s tail is Julian Carson (The Wire’s Gbenga Akinnagbe), a highly-trained special ops contractor.
While on the run, Chase rents a room from divorced single mother Zoe McDonald (The Leftovers' Amy Brenneman), whose life is turned upside down when she learns the truth about her new tenant.
"Amy was such a wonderful actor to work with," Bridges adds. "As was John Lithgow. We got along well. My favourite thing is when I get to act with these other artists and jam with the story. That’s really terrific."
And it seems Bridges will need his new-found dog-handling skills and combat muscle memory for a while yet. Well-received in the US, The Old Man has already been renewed for a second season.
The Old Man streams on Disney Plus from Wednesday 28th September – sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.
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