Jeff Bridges Became One of the Youngest Academy Award Nominees While Serving In the US Coast Guard Reserve

Photo Credit: GLOWWORM / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: GLOWWORM / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB

Jeff Bridges is truly one of the most talented individuals of his generation. Renowned for his acting, and having dabbled in music, writing and photography, the man is truly a creative mind – not that this should be surprising, given who his parents were. While embarking on his Hollywood career, Bridges also chose to serve his country, enlisting in the US Coast Guard Reserve following his high school graduation.

Jeff Bridges came from a Hollywood family

Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges playing on the beach with their sons, Beau and Jeff
Bridges family: Lloyd, Dorothy, Jeff and Beau. (Photo Credit: Gene Lester / Getty Images)

Jeff Bridges was born in Los Angeles, California on December 4, 1949, to actor parents Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges. One of four children, he got his start in film early on, appearing in The Company She Keeps (1951) before he was even a year old. He and his older brother, Beau, also appeared alongside their father on The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962-63) and Sea Hunt (1958-61).

When Bridges was a teenager, his parents sent him to military school for discipline problems. While he reportedly disliked being there, the experience appears to have rectified the actor’s behavior, as he returned to public school without any more issues. That being said, academic pursuits still weren’t of interest to him, with him more apt to explore creative avenues.

Enlisting in the US Coast Guard Reserve

Jeff Bridges as Duane Jackson in 'The Last Picture Show'
The Last Picture Show, 1971. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Following his high school graduation and a short theater tour with his father, Jeff Bridges enlisted in the US Coast Guard Reserve. While this, at first, might seem an odd choice for someone looking to advance their acting career, it isn’t all that surprising when you learn that Lloyd Bridges served with the Coast Guard Auxiliary during the Second World War, meaning it’s very likely that his son was following in his footsteps.

Serving in the Reserve from 1967-75, he was able to balance his military duties with his acting studies. He joined as a boatswain mate and was stationed at the US Coast Guard Reserve Center in San Luis Obispo, California.

While proud to serve, Bridges wasn’t all that fond of the tasks he was assigned, such as repainting buoys and twilight watches, nor was he particularly happy with the cramped sleeping quarters. That being said, he looks back on the experience with a glass-half-full attitude, saying, “All the tough times make great memories when you look back.”

While serving with the Coast Guard Reserve, Bridges continued to score acting roles, becoming one of the youngest-ever Academy Award nominees for his portrayal of Duane Jackson in The Last Picture Show (1971), followed by another nomination for his role in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), in which he starred alongside Clint Eastwood.

When he officially left the military in 1975, Bridges had risen to the rank of petty officer second class. Several decades later, in 2011, he; his brother, Beau; and their father were honored by the US Navy Memorial Foundation with the Lone Sailor Award.

Jeff Bridges’ acting career has spanned decades

Still from 'The Big Lebowski'
The Big Lebowski, 1998. (Photo Credit: CaptainOT / MovieStillsDB)

It’s hard to think of a time when Jeff Bridges wasn’t gracing the big screen. Following his exit from the US Coast Guard, he opted to pursue acting full-time and kicked things off by starring in the Academy Award-winning remake of King Kong (1976).

Bridges’ next big role came with the 1982 sci-fi film Tron, starring as Kevin Flynn, a role he later reprised in the 2010 sequel. He followed this up with Starman (1984), which secured him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. While these were very popular films, the one critics argue is Bridges’ best was Fearless (1993), which saw him star opposite Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez.

The same year the actor received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he also shared the big screen with Forrest Whitacker and Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away (1994). Four years later, he appeared in The Big Lebowski (1998), arguably the most famous of his roles – so much so that he’s even become known by his character’s nickname, “The Dude.”

As the 1990s gave way to the 2000s, Bridges continued to act in award-winning and popular films, such as The Contender (2001), Iron Man (2008), Crazy Heart (2009) and True Grit (2010). The latter two saw him up against fellow actor Colin Firth for Best Actor at two separate Academy Awards ceremonies. Each wound up going away with a win – Bridges in 2010 and Firth in 2011.

Pursuing other creative avenues in his personal life

Jeff Bridges holding up his Academy Award for Best Actor
Jeff Bridges with his Academy Award for Best Actor, 2010. (Photo Credit: Dan MacMedan / WireImage / Getty Images)

As aforementioned, Bridges showed an interest early on in creative avenues outside of acting. One of these was music, with his mother pushing him to learn the piano when he was a child. Having since learned other instruments, the actor’s released three studio albums. He’s also published a book, 2013’s The Dude and the Zen Master, about his Buddhist beliefs, and he continues to dabble in amateur photography.

In terms of his activism, Bridges is a known advocate for environmental causes. He also founded the No Kid Hungry network in 1984, a non-profit organization that aims to feed hungry children across the world.

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Now in his 70s, Jeff Bridges shows no sign of slowing down, despite having recently battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His latest acting feature was the FX series The Old Man (2022-present), in which he stars as Dan Chase, a Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent living off the grid.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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