Jeffrey Leon Bridges was born on December 4, 1949, in Los Angeles, California. He is the son of show business parents, actor Lloyd Bridges (1913–1998) and actress and writer Dorothy Bridges (née Simpson; 1915–2009). His older brother, Beau Bridges, is also an actor. He has a younger sister, Lucinda, and had another brother, Garrett, who died of sudden infant death syndrome in 1948. His maternal grandfather was an English emigrant from Liverpool.
Bridges and his siblings were raised in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. Growing up, Bridges shared a close relationship with his brother Beau, who acted as a surrogate father when their father was working. He graduated from University High School in 1967. At age 17, Jeff toured with his father in a stage production of Anniversary Waltz. After graduating from high school, Bridges moved to New York City, where he studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio. Also, after turning 18, Bridges joined the United States Coast Guard Reserve, where he served for seven years.
Bridges made his first screen appearance at the age of almost two years in The Company She Keeps in 1951. In his youth, Bridges and brother Beau made occasional appearances on their father's show Sea Hunt (1958–1961) and the CBS anthology series, The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962–1963). In 1969, he played Cal Baker, a Jobs Corps crew member, in the TV series Lassie episode "Success Story". In 1971, he played the lead role Mike in the TV movie In Search of America. His first major role came in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show, for which he garnered a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He co-starred in the 1972 critically acclaimed neo-noir boxing film Fat City, directed by John Huston. He was nominated again for Best Supporting Actor for his performance opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1974 film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In 1976, he starred as the protagonist Jack Prescott in the first remake of King Kong, opposite Jessica Lange. This film was a commercial success, earning $90 million worldwide, more than triple its $23 million budget, and also winning an Academy Award for special effects.
One of his better-known roles was in the 1982 science fiction film Tron, in which he played Kevin Flynn, a video game programmer (a role he reprised in late 2010 with the sequel Tron: Legacy). The same year (1982), he also starred in Kiss Me Goodbye, an American romantic comedy film directed by Robert Mulligan that also starred Sally Field. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1984, for playing the alien in Starman. He was also acclaimed for his roles in the thriller Against All Odds (1984) and the crime drama Jagged Edge (1985). His role in Fearless (1993) is thought by some critics to be one of his best performances. One critic dubbed it a masterpiece; Pauline Kael wrote that he "may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived." In 1994, he starred as Lt. Jimmy Dove in the action film Blown Away, opposite Tommy Lee Jones and Forest Whitaker. His real life father Lloyd Bridges also featured in the film, playing the father of Bridges' character. The film managed to recoup $50 million of its $30 million budget at the box office. It was up against another explosive-themed film, Speed, which had been released a few weeks before Bridges' film. On July 11, 1994, Bridges received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture industry at 7065 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1998, he starred as what is arguably his most famous role, The Dude, in the Coen brothers' film The Big Lebowski.
In 2000, he received his fourth Academy Award nomination, for his role in The Contender. He also starred in the 2005 Terry Gilliam film Tideland, his second with the director (the first being 1991's The Fisher King). He shaved his trademark mane of hair to play the role of Obadiah Stane in the 2008 Marvel comic book adaptation Iron Man. In July 2008, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, he appeared in a teaser for Tron: Legacy, shot as concept footage for director Joseph Kosinski; this developed into a full 3D feature release in 2010.
Bridges is one of the youngest actors ever to be nominated for an Academy Award (1972, age 22, Best Supporting Actor, The Last Picture Show), and one of the oldest ever to win (2010, age 60, Best Actor, Crazy Heart). Crazy Heart also won him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
Bridges received his sixth Academy Award nomination for his role in True Grit, a collaboration with the Coen brothers in which he starred alongside Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld. Both the film and Bridges' performance as Rooster Cogburn, were critically praised. Bridges lost to Colin Firth, whom he had beaten for the Oscar in the same category the previous year.
Referring to his career as an actor and his passion for music, Bridges says, "I dug what an actor did, but it took me a while to feel it, to truly appreciate the craft and the preparation. Plus, I was still playing music a lot, and I guess I had a hard time choosing: was I an actor or a musician, or could I be both?"
Bridges studied piano at a young age, strongly encouraged by his mother. While working on the 1980 film Heaven's Gate, he often played guitar with his co-star, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, between takes. His character in Crazy Heart, Bad Blake, was later based partly on Kristofferson. He released his debut album Be Here Soon on January 1, 2000. In 2005, Bridges, known as "The Dude" in the film The Big Lebowski, showed up at a Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles singing and playing the film's theme song written by Bob Dylan, "Man in Me".
On January 15, 2010, Bridges performed the song "I Don't Know" from Crazy Heart on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. In the film The Contender, in which he co-starred, Bridges recorded a version of Johnny Cash's standard "Ring of Fire" with Kim Carnes that played over the pivotal opening credits. In February 2010, he was among the nearly 80 musicians to sing on the charity-single remake of We Are the World. On October 24, 2010, Bridges appeared at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit concert and played a set with singer-songwriter Neko Case.
On April 19, 2011, Country Music Television announced that Bridges had signed a recording contract with Blue Note Records/EMI Music Group. He worked with producer T-Bone Burnett and released his second album, Jeff Bridges, on August 16, 2011. On November 5, 2011, Bridges played Austin City Limits in support of this album.
In 2015, Jeff Bridges released an ambient/spoken-word album entitled Sleeping Tapes. All proceeds from the album go directly to Bridges' charity No Kid Hungry.
Bridges plays many guitars, including the Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen Model G6122-1959.
In 2013, Bridges authored The Dude and the Zen Master with Bernie Glassman. Bridges found himself at a party with Glassman and Ram Dass and their conversation led to discussing the parallels between "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski and Zen Buddhism. The book was formed from what has been described as a "transcript of a five-day "hang" on a Montana ranch."
Bridges has been an amateur photographer since high school and began taking photographs on film sets during Starman, at the suggestion of co-star Karen Allen. Since 1980, he began photographing on and off set shots with his favorite camera, a Widelux F8. He published many of these photographs online and published a book in 2003 entitled, Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges.
Bridges narrated the documentary Lost in La Mancha (2002), about the making of a Terry Gilliam retelling of Don Quixote, tentatively titled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which would have starred Johnny Depp as Sancho Panza and Jean Rochefort as the quixotic hero. Bridges had previously appeared in Gilliam's The Fisher King. Bridges also narrated the documentaries National Geographic's Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West (2002, IMAX), Discovery Channel's Raising the Mammoth (2000), and ABC's Heroes of Rock and Roll (1979). He voiced the character Big Z in the animated picture Surf's Up. He also hosted VH1's Top 100 Greatest Albums of Rock and Roll series in 2001.
Bridges has performed TV commercial voiceover work as well, including Hyundai's 2007 "Think About It" advertising campaign as well as the Duracell advertisements in the "Trusted Everywhere" campaign.
On December 18, 2010, Bridges hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live; he had hosted the show before in 1983 with his brother, Beau. With the December 18, 2010, episode, Bridges beat Sigourney Weaver's record for longest gap between hosting appearances on SNL (Weaver had a 24-year gap between her first time hosting in 1986 and her second time hosting in 2010 while Bridges had a 27-year gap between his first appearance in 1983 and his most recent one, also in 2010).
Bridges married Susan Geston in 1977. They met while filming Rancho Deluxe, on a ranch where Geston was working as a waitress. They have three daughters: Isabelle Annie (born August 6, 1981), Jessica Lily "Jessie" (born June 14, 1983), Hayley Roselouise (born October 17, 1985), and granddaughter Grace (born March 31, 2011) from Isabelle.
Bridges has studied Buddhism. He meditates for half an hour before beginning work on a film set. He has learned Transcendental Meditation.
In 1984, Bridges and other entertainment industry leaders founded the End Hunger Network aimed at encouraging, stimulating and supporting action to end childhood hunger. He supported President Obama's initiative to End Childhood Hunger by 2015. In November 2010, Bridges became spokesman for the No Kid Hungry campaign of the organization Share our Strength. Its goal is to present and undertake a state-by-state strategy to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. Bridges also supports environmental causes and organizations such as the Amazon Conservation Team.