Amy Brenneman Talks About Working With Jeff Bridges While He Was Battling Two Major Illnesses During Shooting To the old man.
Sunday at the 28th annual Critics’ Choice Awards – where Bridges received the Lifetime Achievement Award – Brenneman spoke to PEOPLE about working alongside Bridges while the actor dealt with cancer and COVID, and why he is her role model.
“I was with Jeff Bridges every day for 60 days,” Brenneman, 58, said. “I mean, we literally didn’t treat anyone else, and I changed because of it.”
The actress then described what happened when Bridges suddenly disappeared from the set due to illness.
“I was always with Jeff, and … then he was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “Honestly, he was really lively during his cancer,” she said. “I think you’re going to win this,” he told her.
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Brenneman said he kept in touch with her during treatment. “When he was taking some kind of steroids, he would call me. I was saying, are you in that part of the chemistry cycle? So cute,” she recalls.
But things were different when he contracted COVID, he said, recalling that “it was like crickets” when it came to hearing from his partner.
“There it’s like … because he’s a tremendous communicator,” Brenneman shared. “I feel like, f—, he’s fighting for his life, and he has been.”
Brennenman is relieved that her “role model” is doing well and considers her an inspiration.
“You look at people from 15, 20 years ago, who are still creative, still brilliant, and you go, that’s what you do,” he praised.
CONTACT: Jeff Bridges says the goal of his recovery from COVID was to walk his daughter down the aisle
“The only thing that parallels his artistry is his generosity and connection, and that’s kind of the deeper reason why we all do this, the human connection.” Private practice the star said. “And Jeff is very open about it, and so am I. So I feel like I’ve met my mentor.”
“He brings me out the little kid who’s in the musical at five years old. It’s like, oh my god. We just have to pretend to be other people. It’s fun.”
Bridges told PEOPLE last year that she’s just grateful to be alive after recently surviving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph system) and nearly dying from COVID-19.
It started when he was exercising at home one morning and felt something unusual in his stomach. He went to the doctor and was shocked by what they found. “I had a 12-by-9-inch tumor in my body as a child. It didn’t hurt or anything,” he said.
The Big Lebowski the star was diagnosed with cancer and quickly began chemotherapy with an infusion followed by oral chemo.
But in January 2021, his health took a turn for the worse when he contracted COVID (a vaccine was not yet available). Chemotherapy had weakened his immune system and the virus hit him hard.
He spent almost five months in the hospital, where he was in extreme pain and could not roll over in bed without calling a nurse to help him with oxygen. “I was very close to dying. The doctors kept telling me. “Jeff, you have to fight, you don’t!” I was in surrender mode, ready to go, dancing with my mortal self,” he said at the time.
The Oscar winner is now in remission.