John Lithgow had long wanted to work with Jeff Bridges when he came aboard the FX limited series ‘The Old Man’, which was in the midst of filming season 2 when we met on Zoom, but has since been shut down due to the writers’ strike. . “We had just met,” Lithgow said. “The whole city is divided between the people who worked with Jeff and the people who worked with me. That we are finally together as two degrees of Jeff and John.
For his part, Bridges had long thought that Thomas Perry’s 2017 novel would make a strong film. But at first he resisted the bait. “I read the script and that was a page turner,” Bridges said. “And the novel was the same thing. And I said, ‘Well, I got to meet these guys.’ And I resist, because I know that when I start meeting another creative cat, we start dreaming together. And then I’m in the vortex of that.
As soon as Bridges met with showrunner Jonathan Steinberg, he was able to say, “Yeah, we can do this. This could be really good.
Lithgow happily cast himself in the complex role of devoted FBI man Harold Harper. “In the first three minutes of the series, you learn this huge backstory that he has this personal loss, he lost his son and daughter in a car accident, he and his wife have to take care of his five year old grandson, they are grief stricken And he’s at a terrible time in his life. And he’s already an old man. And all of a sudden he gets a phone call that throws him back into a crisis 30 years ago with this very complicated and troubled relationship with the guy who plays Jeff Bridges. All of this was just fascinating to me.
Both men are equally charming and likable but capable of terrible acts of violence. Recent windower Dan Chase is the CIA through and through, and she’ll do what he’s gotta do when he’s suddenly thrown back into action after decades of hiding with his wife. That volatility makes “The Old Man” compelling and unpredictable.
Even before falling ill, Bridges had to perform some strenuous stunts, including a long fight scene at the beginning of the film, directed by John Watts. He knew he was in good hands when he asked stunt coordinator Tim Connolly about the current state of the art. He showed him his film “Atomic Blonde”.
“I’ve always loved doing action fights,” said Bridges. “It’s just fun. And yes, along with that comes the feelings: ‘Can I do this? I can do it?’ It’s been a while since I did a fight scene. I like what he did in ‘The Old Man’”.
The fight reminded Lithgow of another a much younger Bridges had executed in “Bad Company” (1972). “That’s what life is really like,” Lithgow said, “if you ever miss it completely. A tooth and claw fight with someone. Here’s how it looks.
The essence of the series is that these two men often do bad things. “They are essentially good people who have tried to do things, for all the right reasons, but there have been circumstances,” Lithgow said. “And the whole world of espionage and covert operations has forced them to do some scary things, including some scary things with each other. And they had a good friendship that was poisoned by circumstances. It’s a great tension to create, don’t you think? Geff?”
“YES. And then they have a real genuine love for each other,” Bridges said, “that transcends all these obstacles that they have with each other. Something keeps them together. There are so few people In our life, if we’re lucky, we have one or two that you might communicate with and they know who you are, they know aspects of you that you feel ashamed of or hide, and those relationships are so important.
Clearly Bridges is referring to both the characters they play and the friendship that was born when they finally got to work together. “That’s true,” Lithgow said. “And the fact that you and I found each other so quickly, and went so deep in the short time we’ve known each other, made playing these parts so much easier. But he’s also knowledgeable around here. Without revealing anything to anyone who hasn’t seen the first season, one of these kids attempted to have the other assassinated. And to tell a story where you understand why this had to happen. And one character basically forgives the other, or at least accepts that it had to happen. You just don’t see those stories very often.
It seemed like they would never work together. Bridges was already experiencing for the first time the unknowns that come with filming a series. “Unlike a movie, it’s more like life,” he said. “You don’t know what will happen. And during the filming of that first season, when I got sick, I didn’t think I’d go back. I figured I’d be lucky just to live, let alone be well enough to go back to work. I didn’t think I would. So it was just a complete surprise. When I was sick, I said, “Oh, it’s over, that dream of working with John, it’s not going to happen.” Man, I’m trying to get used to it. And then life will say ‘no, it’s not like that.’ Then it was like a dream, to go back after two years of one long, bizarre weekend, and see all the same faces, cast and crew.
When Bridges joined the series, the two actors embarked on an intense dialogue sequence in which they drive across the country together. “Thank goodness Jeff was able to play this long, important and essential scene, sitting in the car for six days,” Lithgow said. “Because he wasn’t 100%. He was doing great. He was a good 8%. But it was a relief for both of us to be able to practically play a scene just like a one-act sitting in an automobile. We waited two years for that to happen. And it was such a joy to be able to do that. Acting out the scene was about a tenth of the time we spent together in that car on that set. The rest of the time was just to get to know each other deeply. And that was the beginning of this wonderful friendship. And I don’t think the show would have all the substance it has without that friendship.
Of course, with these two shrewd old pros, you can always expect to be surprised.