Jeff Bridges What I Know Now

Family is never far from Jeff Bridges’s mind. “My father loved doing interviews,” he says, leaning his tall frame back in an office chair at PEOPLE’S New York headquarters. The son of the late actor Lloyd and his wife, Dorothy, Bridges learned early on to love making movies. He set out to repay the favor when he optioned The Giver, a 1993 bestseller about teens rebelling against a repressive future society with the help of a wise elder. “I originally wanted to direct my dad in it,” he says. “But it took so long to get made, I ended up playing his role.” After 62 films and six Oscar nominations (he won in 2010 for Crazy Heart), Bridges, 64, says he’s most proud of his kids and his 37-year marriage to Susan, 61: “I have three wonderful daughters—and I give that credit to Sue!” He shares some lessons he’s learned along the way.

If you have great parents, listen to them.

What I got from my dad was the joy he experienced while working. I don’t know that I’d be an actor if I didn’t have a father who loved making movies so much. My dad would say, “Come on, Jeff, be an actor!” I’d say, “I’m kind of into the music thing. I have a lot of other interests.” He’d say, “Jeff, come on, don’t be an ass. You can do all of those things—that’s what’s so great about being an actor.” I’m glad I followed the old man’s instructions.

We fondly called my mom the General, because she was the one who really held the family together. I went through the drug stuff and upset my parents when I was growing up, like all kids. My parents were my example when I looked for my own spouse. I can’t imagine not having Susan and her support.

Find time to play with your grown-up kids.

I try to create as many experiences as I can to hang with my kids. When you’re an adult, you gotta work. So I invented this word—plorking—a combination of playing and work. My daughter Jessie, 31, was my assistant on many of my films, and she’s opening for me on my tour. [It kicks off Aug. 22 with his band the Abiders, and a live album comes out in a few weeks.] Isabelle, my oldest girl, 33, we’re working on a children’s book together. And Hayley, 28, is going to design our new home.

Acting isn’t everything.

I took over my brother Beau’s electric guitar when I was a teenager and began to write songs. And on just about every movie, I produce a book of behind-the-scenes photos and give it to the cast and crew. The photographer who shot our wedding used a Widelux [panoramic] camera, and I was blown away by the pictures. Susan gave me one for a wedding gift, and that’s all I shoot now.

It’s important to give back.

My dad used to say, “We’re all a family on this planet. We have to look out for each other.” Now I’m the national spokesman for the No Kid Hungry campaign, sponsored by Share Our Strength to fight childhood hunger in America. I wanted to do something I could sustain and make a difference.

The Dude still abides—and rules.

People still approach me often as the Dude [from The Big Lebowski]. There’s so many permutations of this thing, it’s wild. Somebody gave me a whole script as if Shakespeare had written it, called Two Dudes from Verona.

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