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Jeff Bridges carries photo in his wallet from day he met his wife 45 years ago

"The Big Lebowski" star, who announced that he has lymphoma, keeps a special memento with him at all times from the day he met his wife.
/ Source: TODAY

As Jeff Bridges prepares to start treatment for lymphoma, his wife of 43 years will be by his side every step of the way.

Bridges, 70, and Susan Geston, 67, have built one of Hollywood's most enduring marriages, and it all started with a meeting on a Montana movie set in 1975.

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Jeff Bridges will have the support of his wife of 43 years, Susan Geston, as he begins treatment for lymphoma. Christopher Polk / NBC

"The Big Lebowski" star, who announced Monday on Twitter that he has been diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, has often spoken about the Lebowski-an story of how their love affair began by her turning him down when he asked for a date.

Bridges shared the story with Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY in 2018 and showed him a memento of that first meeting with Geston that he keeps with him everywhere he goes.

He was filming the movie "Rancho Deluxe" in Chico Hot Springs outside Livingston, Montana, when he first saw his future wife.

"I was doing a scene with Sam Waterston and Harry Dean Stanton, and I cannot take my eyes off this gorgeous, I didn't know what she was, a maid or a waitress, I couldn't take my eyes off her," Bridges said. "Gorgeous girl with two black eyes and a broken nose. The juxtaposition of that disfigurement and the beauty, it had me."

Bridges wrote in an essay for Good Housekeeping in 2014 that he later found out his wife's facial injuries had come from a car accident.

But it wasn't quite love at first sight for Geston.

"And I finally got my courage to ask her out, and she said no," Bridges told Willie.

However, she added that it's a small town, so maybe she would see him around.

"She came to the wrap party, and we danced and fell in love and boom, that was it," he said.

Ten years into their marriage, he got a letter from the makeup artist for "Rancho Deluxe," who said he took two pictures of the moment Bridges and Geston first spoke to each other. Bridges keeps one in his wallet to this day.

A makeup artist from the 1975 movie where Bridges first met Geston snapped a photo of the moment that Bridges keeps in his wallet to this day.
A makeup artist from the 1975 movie where Bridges first met Geston snapped a photo of the moment that Bridges keeps in his wallet to this day. TODAY

"Somebody just took a picture of that and I have that," he said.

Their first date came after he asked her to join him when seeing a real estate agent about a ranch house.

"As we were walking around, there was a voice in my head: 'You are now looking at a house with your future wife,'" he wrote in Good Housekeeping. "And I thought, 'Oh, no, let me outta here.' I felt cornered, not by Sue but by myself. I couldn't bear to let the love of my life slip through my fingers, but at the same time I was afraid of declaring, 'This is the one!' I was crazy in love, but I came from such great parents and didn't know if either Sue or I had that in us."

The couple have since raised daughters Isabelle, 39, Jessie, 37, and Haley, 35, and have become grandparents. Bridges and Isabelle also recently collaborated on a children's book called "Daddy Daughter Day."

"We've been doing this so long, and we care for each other so much, that our relationship is the most precious thing for both of us," he wrote in Good Housekeeping.

They have been often asked about the secret of longevity in a Hollywood business that is notorious for breaking up relationships.

"The easy answer about how you keep a marriage going is you don't get a divorce," he told Willie. "It's when those big challenges, those upsets come up in your relationship, those are real opportunities to get to know each other more and to become more intimate with each other and try to see what makes each other tick."

Bridges is certainly facing one of those big challenges now as he begins treatment for lymphoma.

Knowing he has his wife and daughters in his corner has given him strength as he begins treatment.

"I’m profoundly grateful for the love and support from my family and friends," he tweeted.