The son of actor Lloyd Bridges, Jeff Bridges made his screen bow as a petulant infant in the arms of his real-life mother, Dorothy, in the 1950 Jane Greer melodrama The Company She Keeps; his troublesome older brother in that film was played by his real older brother Beau. The younger Bridges made a more formal debut before the cameras at age eight, in an episode of his dad's TV series Sea Hunt.
After serving in the Coast Guard reserve, the budding actor studied acting at the Herbert Berghof school. While older brother Beau was developing into a character player, Bridges, thanks in equal parts to his ability and ruggedly handsome looks, became a bona fide leading man. He had his first major success with a leading role in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Two years later, he won yet another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). Bridges worked steadily throughout the rest of the 1970s, starring in a number of films, including Hearts of the West (1975) and Stay Hungry (1976). The 1980s brought further triumph, despite starting out inauspiciously with a part in the notoriously ill-fated Heaven's Gate (1981). In 1984, Bridges won yet another Oscar nomination for his leading role in Starman and continued to find acclaim for his work, in such movies as The Morning After (1986) and The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). The latter featured Bridges and brother Beau as struggling musicians, as well as Michelle Pfeiffer in a performance marked by both the actress' own talent and her ability to roll around on a piano wearing a figure-hugging red velvet dress.
Bridges began the 1990s with Texasville, the desultory sequel to The Last Picture Show. Things began to improve with acclaimed performances in Fearless (1993) and American Heart (1995) (the latter marked his producing debut), and the actor found commercial, if not critical, success with the bomb thriller Blown Away in 1994. More success followed, with a lead role in the Barbra Streisand vehicle The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), and as a hapless and perpetually stoned bowling aficionado in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998). In 1999, Bridges returned to the thriller genre with Arlington Road, playing the concerned neighbor of urban terrorist Tim Robbins, and then switched gears with Albert Brooks' comedy drama The Muse. In addition to his acting achievements, Bridges has also written some 200 songs, a talent which he memorably incorporated in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Bridges delivered a typically strong performance in 1999's Simpatico, which featured the actor as a horse-breeder embroiled in a complicated scam orchestrated by a once good friend, while The Contender (2000) found him playing a happy-go-lucky U.S. President suddenly forced to decide if his Vice Presidential candidate's rumored sexual escapades will affect his ultimate decision. Though K-PAX (2001) fared badly in theaters, Jeff's performance as Kevin Spacey's character's psychiatrist was solid, as was his role of a soft-spoken kidnapping victim in director Dominique Forma's Scenes of the Crime. 2003 was a polarizing year in terms of critical success -- despite an A-list cast including Bridges himself, Penelope Cruz, and Jessica Lange, Masked and Anonymous went unseen by most, and disliked by the rest. Luckily, Seabiscuit catapulted Bridges back into Hollywood's spotlight, as did Tod Wiliams' Door in the Floor, based on John Irving's novel A Widow for One Year.
In 2008, Bridges landed the plum role of the bad guy in the box-office blockbuster Iron Man, but it was his turn as fading country music star Bad Blake in Crazy Heart that earned him the accolades that had eluded the respected actor throughout his career. For his work in that film Bridges captured the SAG award, the Golden Globe, and his fifth Oscar nomination -- marking his second nod in the lead category 25 years after his first for Starman.
The next year Bridges would be up for the Best Actor award again, this time for the way he tackled one of John Wayne's iconic role's, Rooster Cogburn, in the Coen brother's hit remake of True Grit. That same year, he would return as Kevin Flynn in the sequel Tron: Legacy.