Who doesn’t love this loopy stoner comedy created by the inimitable Coen Brothers? The Big Lebowski tells a strange, rambling, and hilarious story of mistaken identity, stolen money, scheming, and accidental insemination. A cult classic, this movie inspires game nights, costume parties, and, of course, makes sure that bowling alleys and White Russians stay in our lives.
Read on for some fascinating stories, fun facts, and more! Plus, there’s a really cool video at the end, and lots of rarely seen photos!
The Dude is famously broke. In the first scene where he’s writing out a check for $.69, the date is September 11, 1991, but on a TV in the store, George H. Bush is delivering his famous “This aggression will not stand!” speech, which was given on August 5, 1990, indicating that the Dude is so poor he needed to post-date his check for .69 cents for a full year! In his backstory, (which was written in the original draft but was subsequently dropped), he is meant to be a descendent of the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, and living off of the royalties of that.
The word “dude” is said 160 times in this movie, and is written once, in the dream sequence. The Dude also says “man” 147 times in the movie, or 1.5 times a minute. Dude.
When The Dude and Maude are chatting, he reveals that he was a roadie for Metallica’s fictional “Speed of Sound” tour. He then calls them “a bunch of assholes.” The members of the band were excited to be mentioned in the movie, even trying to find a way to work that scene into their shows.
The Dude also hated The Eagles. T Bone Burnett, who disliked The Eagles, acted as music consultant for the film and created the Dude’s taste in music. In the scene where Jesus, The Dude’s bowling rival, is at the bowling alley, a flamenco version of “Hotel California” is playing.
Steve Buscemi’s character Donny is famously hated in the movie, with most characters ignoring him or telling him to “shut the f*** up” frequently. In classic Coen Brothers style, they’re making a joke about a previous role of his – his chatterbox character in Fargo.
The Coen Brothers were inspired by their friend, writer-director John Milius, for the character of Walter. Walter, like Milius, is famously right-wing, outspoken, obsessed with guns and militia, and even looks like him, down to the goatee.
The “f” word, or a variation of it, is said 292 times in the movie! That’s a LOT of profanity. Other things that were repeated include, “The rug really tied the room together” (5 times), and mentioning the peeing on the carpet (17 times). The Dude also drinks 9 White Russians during the film (including the one he drops).
Most of The Dude’s clothes are from actor Jeff Bridges own closet, including the iconic jellies he wears. But aside from bringing his own clothes, very little else was up to Bridges. John Goodman says there are very few improvisations in the film, The Dude’s line about The Big Lebowski being “a human paraquat” being one of the only lines. Jeff Bridges claims that there are more improvisations, but we’ll never know for sure.
Bowling is a central theme in this quirky film. The Dude, Walter, and Donald are on a bowling team together, but we never see The Dude touch a bowling ball. In the dream sequence, he can be seen helping Maude bowl, but that’s as far as it goes.
Donny is a star bowler, getting a strike every time except the last, right before his death. He is always seen in bowling shirts, however, they never actually say “Donald” on them, rather bearing other, random names.
The Dude has a framed picture of Richard Nixon, who was an avid bowler, on his mantlepiece at home. The photo was taken in the bowling alley at the White House.
Jesus, The Dude (and Walters) rival, played by John Turturro, thought his role in the film would be bigger than it ended up being. Still, his presence is short but iconic, including the scene where he goes around the neighborhood introducing himself as a sex offender. In that scene, the bulge in his pants is really just a sack of birdseed.
The Coen Brothers gave him free reign in creating his amazingly hilarious character, such as the “ball shining” scene, and his dance moves, which he claims were inspired by Mohammed Ali.
In the famous dream sequence, everything that is shown has made an appearance at some other point in the film. For example, Saddam Hussein is shown behind the counter at the bowling alley, a reference to when Walter mentioned him outside the alley and the speech shown at the beginning of the film. The scissors worn by the Nihilist can be seen in a painting at Maude’s house, and the black and white tiles are from Lebowski’s mansion.
The Coen Brothers seemed to be a little less concerned with plot, noting (and rightfully so) that “the plot is kind of secondary to things.” Perhaps because of the looseness of the storyline, the name itself has become secondary as well. In the end of the movie, everything is revealed to have been phony – the kidnapping, the ransom, the ransom money, and much more. The misleading title seems to add to the misleading nature of the movie, itself.
With the movie being as popular among the cult film world as it is, it has many theories about what the vague plot REALLY means. Comparisons to Albert Camus’s The Stranger have been made, The Dude has been compared to a Jesus-like figure (especially with that hair!) and others have likened the movie to an explanation of capitalism.
Almost stranger still, the movie has spawned a religion called Dudeism, whose main principle seems to be that “everything is just like, your opinion, man.” Those wishing to be part of the worlds most laid-back religion can even become ordained as a Dudeist Priest!
This hilariously manipulative character was originally offered to Charlize Theron, but ended up going to Tara Reid, who is perfect in the role of former porn star turned aging millionaire’s wife.
In the porn flick she acts in, she appears with an actual pornographic actress, Asia Carerra. Her male co-star in the film is one of the Nihilists, who says, “Mein dispatcher has told me there is a problem mit dein kable.”
In typical Coen Brother’s style, there are many references to their other films in this one. Some examples include:
The Nihilists have a backstory as well. These German criminals were part of a techno-pop band in the late 1970s. They are allegedly based on the band Kraftwerk, who, funnily enough, have a song called “Autobahn.” Flea, the bassist from The Red Hot Chili Peppers plays one of the Nihilists, and the two bands – RHCP and Kraftwerk – have played together.
Flea isn’t the only musician to make an appearance in the movie. Singer Aimee Mann appears as well – as the nine-toed Nihilist.
In classic film noir style, The Dude appears in every scene, in subtle ways if he isn’t the focal point. For example, in the diner scene where the Nihilists are ordering pancakes, he can be seen in a van driving by.
Initially, the film didn’t do all that well, pulling in a measly $5 million in its first weekend at box offices. However, it quickly became a classic, and has sold steadily ever since. With The Big Lebowski themed parties, religions, and themed clothing, it’s sure to keep bringing money in.
The Coen Brothers have repeatedly said that there will, sadly, be no sequel to this movie, with Joel Coen stating, “I don’t like sequels.” Rumors constantly swirl, however, and John Turturro, who plays bowling-ball-licking Jesus, has pushed for a movie that would explore his character. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.
It’s no surprise that we love The Big Lebowski, along with many other people. Some movie stars who call it their favorite movie include Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, John Hawkes, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Eva Mendes and Nick Offerman, and directors Sam Raimi and Richard Kelly. Rapper Talib Kwale loves it so much he even screened it at the New York IFC Center, and it was recently added to the Library of Congress, which stores films of “cultural significance” for the next generation.
Like most characters in the movie, his source of income seems ambiguous up until the very end when The Dude picks him up outside his store – Sobchak Security. It seems fitting that gun enthusiast, military loving, bombastic Walter would run a security store. Interestingly enough, Walter is a Jewish convert, and the initials of his store are S.S – the initials of the infamous Nazi Germany Schutzstaffel.
The Coen Brothers apparently were at a barbecue where the host kept on talking about how the rug really tied the room together. They filed that away for future reference, and created an iconic movie that featured that phrase five times.
The coffee shop that The Dude and Walter meet up in is a familiar sight to movie watchers, having been featured in American History X and Reservoir Dogs. It is in LA and is called Johnnie’s Coffee Shop, but actually is only used as a film set.
“The Dude abides” is said several times during the film. This phrase may seem esoteric at first, and is actually a biblical reference to Ecclesiastes 1:4: “One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever.” Perhaps it is referring to The Dude’s ability to survive almost any situation that he is put in, or that there will always be Dudes, the lazy, laid-back stoners of the world.
The Dude is a well known marijuana enthusiast. In fact, before beginning to film, Jeff Bridges would ask the Coen Brothers if he was meant to appear stoned in that scene, and if he was, he would redden his eyes by rubbing them with his knuckles to make it seem more realistic.
This movie also won Best Stoner Movie of all time (Rolling Stone Magazine), beating out Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Pineapple Express, and Soul Train.
In the famous scene where Walter (mistakenly) smashes up a car, he yells, “This is what happens when you f*** a stranger up the a**!” In order to clean it up for TV viewing, the line is changed to, “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!”
Lebowski Fest was started in Louisville, Kentucky in 1998. This two-day event features bowling, White Russians, and screenings of the film. People come dressed as characters from the movie, and events have been held Milwaukee, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Austin, and more. Stars from the film have even attended.
There is a British version of the festival called The Dude Abides. Full on fans can find an event near them – usually in February, or decide to host their own!
Jeff Bridges on Conan:
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