You might have a hard time picturing "The Dude" as a member of the United States military, but Jeff Bridges is no stranger to working hard for the government. Bridges was born in December of 1949 to actor Lloyd Bridges and writer Dorothy Bridges. Despite his family's Hollywood cred, Bridges made his way with hard work and perseverance. His first brush with the military came in his freshman year of high school when he attended a military academy, which he hated. He later attended University High School and, after graduating, toured on stage plays with his father.
When Bridges turned 18, he travelled to New York to attend Herbert Bereghof Studio and join the Coast Guard Reserves. His service lasted for a full seven years, and taught the budding actor about hard work and discipline.
Among his tasks, he not-so-fondly recalls needing to chip paint off of buoys as a buoy tender. Bridges and his mates would start at the bow to chip paint, work their way to the stern, then red lead everything, and finally apply a coat of paint. By the time they had finished painting, it was time to start the process over again. His memories of the Coast Guard aren't sugar-coated.
"The ceiling is about 7 feet tall and below the racks where you sleep there's three or four racks stuffed into that space and you're out in the ocean at sea in a flat-bottomed boat up against the wind and the swells and everyone is puking. You return from the watch at about 4 a.m. and get dressed in your wool suit and go up there—that was a pretty terrible living condition. But, again, all the tough times make great memories when you look back. Like, I'm glad it's in the rearview mirror."
Despite some of the grueling tasks he needed to perform, Bridges did enjoy his time in the Coast Guard. He enlisted out of a sense of obligation, and knew at the gate that he wasn't going to stick with it as a career path. Bridge's parents strongly encouraged him to become an actor, so much so that he initially resisted and thought about becoming a musician or artist. Today, he looks favorably on his father's words.
"He proved to be right and I'm glad I followed his advice."
Although Bridges acted in movies and shows since he was young, his first major role came in "The Last Picture show" when he was 22 years old. From then on, Bridges was a commercial and critical success in Hollywood. He acted next to stars like Clint Eastwood and earned recognition in iconic roles such as Kevin Flynn in "Tron" and The Dude in "The big Lebowski." His success hasn't slowed down over the years: he acted as the chief villain in 2008's "Iron Man," reprised the role of Kevin Flynn in "Tron: Legacy" in 2010, starred in the 2010 remake of "True Grit," and more.
Aside from a stellar acting career, Bridges has earned respect as a musician, author, photographer, and humanitarian.