Jeff Bridges Headlines New Thriller on FX Canada

Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges embraces his age in an eight-part action thriller

Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges embraces his age in an eight-part action thriller 

For a 70-year-old actor to take on a role that requires extensive stunt work is bold. But in his career, Jeff Bridges has never shied away from a challenge. “I have always been doomed to fights,” cracks Bridges, who for the adaptation of Thomas Perry’s bestselling novel The Old Man, worked with multiple stunt coordinators to embody the absconded CIA agent that suddenly must face old enemies.  

But just as he was starting to embrace the physicality of Dan Chase, Bridges was hit by another challenge altogether. In 2020, the Oscar winner was diagnosed with lymphoma, forcing him to take a leave of absence. “I went through about a year-and-a-half of this bizarre dream,” says now-72-year-old Bridges, adding he currently feels terrific. “The team was so considerate and gave me all of the time and all of the support I needed to heal. And the protocol for COVID made me feel very safe and eager to get down to play.”  

The Old ManFX CanadaAnd play he does. After initially resisting the project, because of preconceptions about TV, Bridges was ultimately won over. “I read the book and then I read the script—oh, the script is good. I met the creator of the thing and all of a sudden it gets too exciting to turn down. One of my concerns was about how different it would be from making a movie, and it is absolutely no different. But it is an exceptionally good one, with the artists that have been assembled.”  

One of those artists is Bridges’ longtime friend John Lithgow. He plays FBI agent Harold Harper, a figure from Chase’s past, who is now tasked with finding the man on the run after a 30-year hiatus. Lithgow says it was the layered characters of the piece that drew him in. “This is international espionage, and it is high-stakes action, but it’s so driven by intense emotion. A lot of it is family emotion, a lost friendship, betrayal—and these are great parts for actors.”  

The cast also includes Arrested Development and Search Party alum Alia Shawkat, who takes a break from her comedic track to play Angela Adams, a young FBI agent whom Harper has taken under his wing. “I was excited to try something very different, for sure—someone who seems like they went to college, for one,” she jokes, before echoing Lithgow’s sentiment. “It was fun to try and find the truth in the layers, especially playing a character who thinks they have their act together and who has always been the top of the class, and then everything is starting to unravel.”  

The Old ManFX CanadaPrivate Practice’s Amy Brenneman portrays Zoe McDonald, a woman who gets caught in the crossfire and is forced to go on a journey with Chase that she would rather have passed on. While the role initially reminded Brenneman of a girlfriend character she played in the 1995 action thriller Heat, she was soon convinced otherwise. “I am so proud of that movie, but at the time, I had no language. Literally, Eady just went with Robert De Niro—which was a great person to go with—but I was like, ‘An actual woman would have a lot more to say,’” she reflects. “Decades later, Zoe felt a little bit like Eady. But [producers Jon Steinberg and Dan Shotz] said, ‘We think of this as Eady evolving.’ Rather than staying silent, she says to Dan Chase, ‘Who the f*** are you and what are you talking about?’”   

This series, says co-creator Steinberg, stands apart from other action thrillers due to its tackling of the three-quarter-life crisis. “What is it like to feel like you’re in the final act of your story and realize there might be another act ahead?” At 76, Lithgow notes that getting to mull over the loss of one’s viability through characters like Harper and Chase, who at one point were matchless, feels extraordinary. “Jon has written beautifully on this subject. The notion of mortality, it just hangs over this series in a completely unique way.”   

The Old ManFX CanadaThough they find each other on opposite sides of the onscreen battle, Bridges and Lithgow thoroughly enjoyed their time together, so engrossed in stories from their past and dirty jokes that it almost caused delays in production. “The director comes up to Jon and Dan and goes, ‘Look what time it is.’ These guys are doing their thing, and we don’t have anything shot yet,” recalls the show’s executive producer Warren Littlefield (The Handmaid’s Tale). “Jon said, ‘We are not interrupting them. This is a moment in history that we all should value and cherish, and we will get through the day. We’re not cutting them off.’ ” 

The Old Man debuts Thursday, June 16th at 7 p.m. & 8 p.m., (repeating at 10 p.m. & 11 p.m.) on FX Canada