Jeff Bridges Says He Didn't Think He'd 'Be Able to Come Back' to The Old Man amid Cancer Journey (Exclusive)

There was a time when Jeff Bridges didn't think he'd be returning to work amid his cancer diagnosis

Published Time: 11.07.2024 - 16:31:09 Modified Time: 11.07.2024 - 16:31:09

There was a time when Jeff Bridges didn't think he'd be returning to work amid his cancer diagnosis.

While speaking to PEOPLE during the TCA Summer 2024 Press Tour at The Langham in Pasadena, California, on Wednesday, July 10, the actor discussed heading back to The Old Man set after coming close to dying of COVID-19 during his cancer treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2021.

Discussing his health alongside his costar John Lithgow, Bridges, 74, admits he didn't "remember it being that difficult" when asked about being "ready to come back for more punishment" on the set of the action drama.

However, Lithgow, 78, tells PEOPLE, "Everybody was watching Jeff. I mean, he needed oxygen occasionally."

"Early days, we really had to watch him," Lithgow adds.

"I mean, I didn't think I was ... I thought, 'I'm not going to come back. I won't be able to come back,' " Bridges says.

"As far as being back into the show again, everybody was so considerate about my condition," he shares. "But I don't remember that as being particularly difficult. Even the fight scenes after I came back, I can't remember being upset about that."

Lithgow points out, "He was so relaxed about it. He put everybody else at ease. Everyone at first was so watchful and nervous, and just put everyone at ease."

"You just do your best and that's all you can do. It's something so great, actors working with actors, being a fraternity, a sorority ... You're looking out for each other," Bridges tells PEOPLE.

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Bridges stars as Dan Chase -

in season 2 of The Old Man alongside Lithgow, who plays Harold Harper.

While speaking on the TCA panel, Bridges joked of returning to work, "I'm feeling great now and I'm coming back for more punishment."

He also recalled the "bizarre" feeling of filming the first season of the show while sick: "I was doing these fight scenes. I had a 9 inch by 12 inch tumor ... in my stomach, that didn't hurt at all."

"But I'm feeling great now. Fortunately we have some wonderful stunt coordinators," Bridges added.

It's been nearly four years since Bridges revealed he'd been diagnosed with lymphoma on X (formerly Twitter) in October 2020. He announced that he was officially in remission the following September.

While speaking to Page Six in April, the Big Lebowski star said, “My health is great.”

“It’s such a learning experience being sick like that,” he told the outlet. “It’s amazing the way the mind can forget all that stuff. I’m not thinking too much about the past.”

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While speaking to PEOPLE in May 2022, Bridges said of contracting COVID-19 during his cancer treatment the year before, "I was pretty close to dying."

"The doctors kept telling me, 'Jeff, you've got to fight. You're not fighting.' I was in surrender mode. I was ready to go. I was dancing with my mortality," he added.

The Old Man season 2 begins streaming on Hulu Sept. 12.

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