Why Jeff Bridges Almost Turned Down One Of His Most Famous Roles

Jeff Bridges was just a babe when he made his big screen debut in the 1951 movie "The Company She Keeps," and when he got old enough to talk, someone who knew Hollywood like the back of their hand encouraged him to keep making films. "My father, Lloyd Bridges, was so enthusiastic about all his kids going into showbiz," Jeff told W Magazine.

But the late star of the classic Western "High Noon" and the comedy "Airplane!" had to convince his resistant son that acting was the key to making his other dreams come true. Even after Jeff scored an Oscar nod for his performance in the 1971 drama "The Last Picture Show," he did not immediately catch the acting bug. In a "Good Morning America" interview, he confessed to telling his father that he was more interested in art and music. "He says, 'Don't be ridiculous — you're gonna get to do all that. That's what's so wonderful about the acting is that you call upon your different interests,'" Jeff recalled.

He would follow in his father's footsteps by establishing himself as a Hollywood heavyweight, appearing in a few Westerns of his own — including the "True Grit" remake — and winning an Oscar for playing a musician in "Crazy Heart." He's starred in other critically acclaimed movies including "Fat City" and "The Fabulous Baker Boys," as well as box office hits like "Iron Man." But the actor had to be convinced to accept one of his most iconic starring roles.

Having daughters made Jeff Bridges hesitant about playing The Dude

After agreeing to star in the 1998 dark comedy "The Big Lebowski," Jeff Bridges helped the Coen brothers create a cult phenomenon. Right off the bat, he established his character's slacker mindset by shuffling into a supermarket in a bathrobe and opening a carton of half-and-half to give it a sniff. It's slovenly behavior like this that made Bridges hesitant about accepting the role of the man, the myth, the movie legend known as The Dude. Bridges' three daughters were young and the actor presumed they were also impressionable. "I went through a big thing in my head worrying if this was going to be a bad example for my girls," he told Cigar Aficionado. "The guy was kind of an anti-hero, a pot-smoking, slacker kind of guy, and I was really racking my brain about it." In an appearance on "Conan," he further explained that he feared his kids' classmates might tease them about the character.

But it turned out that Bridges' negative feelings about His Dudeness were just, like, his opinion, man. He called a family meeting to discuss the role with his daughters, informing them about aspects of the character that he felt made The Dude a bad role model. "My middle girl, Jessie, said, 'Dad, you're an actor. It's pretend. ... When you kiss other women on the films, we know that you still love mom. So, go for it,'" Bridges recalled.

How The Dude influenced Jeff Bridges' life

After Lloyd Bridges convinced his son to keep acting, Jeff Bridges' career became a lucky bowling ball that scored him strike after strike. He met his wife, Susan, while filming the 1975 movie "Rancho Deluxe" in Montana, per W Magazine, and the couple later turned the whorehouse set featured in the 1980 Western "Heaven's Gate" into their home, Bridges told Business Insider.

Earning his daughters' blessing to star in "The Big Lebowski" also helped make one of Bridges' big dreams come true. In an interview for Variety, he fondly spoke about his band The Abiders, which is named after Lebowski's iconic line, "The Dude abides." Bridges recalled what it was like performing with the band at Lebowski Fest. "That's my Beatle moment, playing to a sea of Dudes and bowling pins," said the star. He also revealed that he still loves it when fans recognize him from the film, which he adores so much that he can't turn it off when he sees it on television. "Whether I was in it or not, it would probably be one of my favorite movies," he stated.

When Bridges announced that he had cancer, he even quoted The Dude on Twitter, writing, "New S**T has come to light." The actor caught COVID while undergoing chemotherapy, but survived it all and finished filming his FX series "The Old Man," per Vanity Fair. To quote The Stranger, "I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there."