Why Jeff Bridges is Responsible for my Fear of Flying


In the next couple of days, I will be boarding an airplane for the first time in about seven years. This delay has been completely intentional.

Oh, I’ve used a lot of excuses: pregnancy, my smallest son being too small to enjoy the flight, lack of money, isn’t Ireland just gorgeous in the summer, won’t a week in Kerry be just as nice as Spain (it isn’t: not when its drizzling, grey and 10 degrees). That kind of excuse.

They were nonsense. The truth is, and I have mentioned this elsewhere, I am terrified of flying. What I have not mentioned is that it is all Jeff Bridges’ fault.

Years ago, I flew frequently and with blithe disregard for any potential consequences rather than the obvious one of getting where I was going, I flew to England, America, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, without giving it a second thought. I descended on Glasgow once in a minute plane called a Focher that bounced around like a toy being waved about by a small and somewhat boisterous child. I didn’t, as they say, turn a hair.

Now, thanks to the film Fearless, I am filled with panic at the mere thought of flying. Even as I write, my stomach feels as if it is full of snakes.

Let’s be fair to Jeff Bridges. He didn’t make Fearless. Peter Weir was the director, but Peter Weir is not the person who features in my imagination every time I even think of getting on a plane.

In Fearless, Jeff Bridges is traumatized by a plane crash, and spends much of the film trying to overcome that trauma, most notably by getting into a car with Rosie Perez and driving into a wall.

With all due regard for the substantial talents of Jeff Bridges and Peter Weir (who directed The Truman Show, one of my all-time favourite films), Fearless is not a particularly good film. But, its depiction of the plane crash scared me witless.

The most frightening bit, the bit that flashes into my mind whenever I even consider leaving the country, is the bit with Q. Or rather, John de Lancie, the guy who acts Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen Fearless, Q (sorry, John de Lancie) is sitting beside Jeff Bridges when the plane goes belly up; but where Jeff Bridges somehow survives, Q loses his head. Graphically. Chillingly. Horribly.

What I see, whenever I think of being in a plane, is Jeff Bridges, sitting beside a headless John de Lancie.

This is why I cannot fly. Or at least, not without the help of some serious sedative, which I will look up on the Internet as soon as I finish writing this (only joking).

But I am going to Sweden, because my brother lives there, and even if he didn’t live a plane journey away, I would be getting on an airplane this year. The world is a big and fascinating place, and I have run out of excuses not to visit it. I cannot show my fear, either, that wouldn’t be fair on my children, who have never seen Fearless and hopefully never will.