Actor Beau Bridges Reflects on His Famous Family, Barack Obama, and the Cornerstones of Success

Beau Bridges
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Beau Bridges, co-star of Showtime’s Homeland and the new Netflix series Messiah, reflects on sibling rivalry, playing for John Wooden, and watching Gary Cooper beat up his dad.

Men’s Journal: What’s the best advice you ever received?

Beau Bridges: A word that I heard a lot when I was growing up was respect. Respect for self, for parents, for fellow human beings—if I could get that down, the other things would follow.

Who were your heroes growing up?

My father and my mother were my first heroes. Then my hero was my basketball coach at UCLA, John Wooden.

You played for John Wooden?

I played on the freshman team in ’61.

What did you learn from him?

For Coach, success had nothing to do with winning. The two cornerstones of success, as far as he was concerned, are enthusiasm and industriousness. Coach used to say: Anybody can bring hard work to the table, but when you bring it in combination with joy, that’s when special things happen.

How should a man handle getting older?

Be grateful for the chance to get older.

What was it like, growing up with such a famous father?

He used to take me along on movie shoots sometimes. When I was 6, I went to the set of High Noon, in Sonora. I was up in a hayloft watching the classic western fight between my dad and Gary Cooper.

Your brother is pretty famous, too. What role has sibling rivalry played in your life?

There’s an eight-year difference between me and Jeff. My dad traveled a lot, and when he was gone, I would take over some of the fatherly stuff with Jeff—teaching him how to throw a baseball, how to do all kinds of stuff. So whenever anyone asks me about sibling rivalry, my answer is, “No, it doesn’t bother me because I taught him everything he knows.”

How should a person handle criticism?

You just have to do your work and hope for the best.

What human traits do you most admire?

Compassion and a loving spirit.

What adventure most changed your life?

When the insurrection went down in South Central Los Angeles in 1992, my buddy Eddie Olmos was on TV; he had a broom and was cleaning up the streets. He said to the cameras, “My friends, hear me. We really need help down here.” I picked up my two kids, who were about 16 and 18 at that time, and drove down there with some medical supplies. Getting off the freeway, I got my windshield blown out. The city was on fire. That shook me pretty good, made me aware of a lot of things.

What living person do you most admire?

Barack Obama. I think he is a brave, superintelligent, and loving man. He was a good representation for all of us.

Do you think about him when you’re portraying President Warner on Homeland?

Definitely.

How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?

My son-in-law is a physicist, and I was talking to him about black holes, how they’re sucking everything out of the universe. Where does it go? He said there are theories coming into light that the physical part disappears, but the information remains. I like that. You can apply it to us folks. When we pass on, our bodies are gone, but our information—what we were—lives on. I guess if that happens, that’s good enough for me.

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