At age 63, Bridges has discovered the secret to living in the moment and aging dudefully
By Devin Friedman
Photograph by Sebastian Kim
Certain Buddhists believe that there are nine levels of consciousness. One explanation for the apparent contradiction of Jeff Bridges—who now, at age 63, is both among the most accomplished, consistently sought-after actors in Hollywood and, by reputation and vibe, also one of the nicest and most contented—is that Jeff Bridges lives up there in the ninth level. The ninth level—it’s called, as I’m sure you know, the amala consciousness—is kind of the penthouse of the mind, and up there you’re freed from not only all that heavy karma you’ve accumulated in your lifetimes, but the entire thinking mind! You’re even blissfully unaffected by the overwhelming and cosmically unimportant stream of information the pedestrian world ceaselessly sends your way. Now, while Bridges has gone Zen in his late middle age, reads some Thich Nhat Hanh and knows Ram Dass and tries to meditate every day, he does not lay claim to living in one consciousness or another. But being both part of this earth and not would help us understand this:
For breakfast on this late-July morning, Bridges has selected a little café called Swami’s, right on the 101 in Encinitas, California. He arrives wearing comfortable jeans, canvas slip-on shoes, a kind of soft, towelly green shirt that buttons up the front. He’s got his famously beautiful hair slicked back and wears black sunglasses. His body is big, lived in; it betrays almost no kinetic energy but instead a kind of stillness, like a giant boulder you might find while hiking in Canyonlands National Park that would cause you to contemplate the unfathomable enormity of time. Anyway, we order some breakfast and sit down. Bridges, who, just to remind you, has been playing music for fifty years and has put out two albums and wasn’t lip-synching in Crazy Heart, is in Encinitas to play a show in the middle of an eight-date tour with his band, the Abiders. And GQ, seeing in him not only an accomplished gentleman of a certain age but also someone who, as we mention above, has attained a certain level of serious life contentment, has sought him out here to gather some wisdom. So our conversation begins, like awkward conversations at weddings have begun since time immemorial: Where ya coming in from?
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Jeff Bridges in the New Topcoat for Fall 2013
Life Advice with Jeff Bridges
Icon: Jeff Bridges
“Um…ha! Uhhhhh. We came in from, uh…” He laughs at this. Because it’s funny! Isn’t life funny when you’re not always hung up on the cosmically unimportant stream of information the pedestrian world ceaselessly sends your way? “Oh God, it all kind of blends! It’s very tough for me to remember what we did. I want to get this right for you! So let me think. We played Laughlin, Nevada. We slept in. And then drove the four hours here. No, no, this isn’t right. Ha!” He stands up and darts off. “Let me go find Chris”—his music director—”so I can answer your first question!”
(He came in from Anaheim on Sunday night and had the day off yesterday.)
Now, for some people this might be embarrassing. Or could cause a little anxiety: What the fuck, am I losing my mind? But not to Jeff Bridges. Hey, man, let go, the invisible currents of life force will carry you! Ha ha ha! What a ride. Bridges just isn’t an anxious dude. Sitting close enough to him that you can hear him lazily ruminate his huevos rancheros confirms what you probably suspect from watching him in the movies: He might be the least anxious person in America (who has also won an Academy Award for best actor). As the film critic Pauline Kael famously wrote: Bridges “may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived.”
When he comes back to our outdoor table at Swami’s, named for the famous surf break just the other side of the 101, a comment is made about his lack of anxiety. Can you just teach us all how to be a little more like that? But he says I have it wrong. Even playing his music tonight here in Encinitas will involve a struggle that goes something like this: “I go through the gamut of emotions. It’s kind of like emotional weather. Feeling anxious. You know, a lot of anxiety. And that’ll pass. Nothing will particularly change, except something inside. And then all of a sudden I’m saying, Hey, this is fun, being alive! Look at that! Look at this!”
Listen, if you’re going to be spending time with Bridges, you need to get comfortable analyzing your feelings.
This is the point when we get up and go inside to get something from the juice bar.
“You ever had wheatgrass before?” Bridges says, contemplating the menu.
“No,” I say. Why do I lie about having had wheatgrass before? I don’t know. You just don’t want to deny Jeff Bridges the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful health beverage.
At the counter there’s a tiny middle-aged man with a kelp bed of sun-bleached hair, sunburned eye sockets, a small puffy-lipped mouth. He’s a fixture at Swami’s, likes to call himself a co-owner. When he hears the conversation, he adds: “You know, it’s the microorganisms on the wheatgrass that are so amazing—the wheatgrass itself doesn’t do anything.”
“Far out, man!” Bridges says.
Then it dawns on the “co-owner” who he’s talking to. “Hey, man!” he says. “Will you write on our wall, man?”
“I’ll tell you what, man. Why don’t I come back later and draw you a picture!” Bridges says.
When we’re back at the table, I bring up the topic of marriage. This is another thing he seems to have figured out. If you know anything about Bridges, one of the things you know is that he’s been married for almost forty years, that he has spent the better part of his life (a) being one of the best-looking, most famous men in the world and (b) waking up next to the same woman he met in his twenties. But I’m particularly interested in something wise he said in an interview not long ago: In a marriage, every fight is the same fight, over and over again, in different forms. (Note to unwed readers: In a marriage, every fight is the same fight, over and over again, in different forms.) I ask him what his version of the fight is.
TagsJeff Bridges, Hollywood, Movies + TV, Topcoats, Entertainment, October 2013