“My mom [Susan] and dad were great examples,” Bridges, 64, tells PEOPLE, noting that his father (remembered for his turns in Airplane! and Sea Hunt) played a big part in helping him find his place in the industry.
“How my father dealt with fame – it didn’t seem that unusual to me,” he says. “He was such a lover of showbiz, loved [doing interviews], loved signing autographs.”
But it wasn’t his dad’s comfort and ease with the glitz and glamour that sold him on a life in entertainment. “He taught me the basics of acting, but what I really got from him was the joy he experienced while working,” Bridges says of their shared passion for the craft.
Bridges appeared with his father in 1994′s Blown Away, a memory the actor still cherishes today.
“I remember when he came on the set, in a genuine way he was just joyful – it was contagious. It would go through the community,” he says.
“With joy comes relaxation about the way things are, and with that comes getting out of your own way. And you end up with some good work.”
Acting wasn’t the only passion the acting veteran instilled in his son, though: His fervor for philanthropy “comes from my folks, who were very civic-minded and my father bringing home the book The Family of Man. [It's] all about what being alive on our planet means,” Bridges says. “He said, ‘This is what it’s all about: We’re a family. We have to look out for each other.’ “
“I kind of took that on as well,” says the actor, who is a founding member of the End Hunger Network, which aims to provide food to the impoverished and eliminate hunger in America.
Today, Bridges is the spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign, which is sponsored by Share Our Strength. “We all have strengths we can share,” he says. “I thought, ‘What are you going to do, man?’ And not just give a couple hundred bucks and scratch the itch but do something I could sustain and make a difference.”
For more on Jeff Bridges and The Giver, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
• Reporting by MARY GREEN