The Dude will abide… and then some, 15 years later.
The Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” opened on March 6, 1998, to a disappointing first weekend box office of $5.5 million, and the head-scratching of most critics, who declared it a puzzling, profanity-laced disappointment as the siblings’ follow-up to 1996’s “Fargo,” which earned seven Oscar nominations (among them Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for William H. Macy), winning two, including Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Screenplay.
The movie was intended as a film noir parody of Raymond Chandler, with the Coens basing the main character, Jeff Bridges’ slovenly, pot-smoking slacker The Dude, on Jeff Dowd, a White Russian-drinking member of the radical anti-war group, the Seattle Liberation Front, whom they met while trying to find distribution for their debut feature, “Blood Simple,” as well as Vietnam vet Pete Exline, another friend, and now a faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. The movie’s wacky, mistaken identity plot is launched when two thugs demanding money allegedly owed to their boss, piss on the Dude’s rug in his shabby apartment, thinking he’s the other Lebowski.
John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak, a character reportedly based in part on “Apocalypse Now” screenwriter John Milius, is a Vietnam vet, devout Jew and even more devout bowler who helps his pal Bridges after he gets involved in the botched kidnapping/ransom scheme with his namesake, David Huddleston’s “The Big Sleep” heavy Jeffrey Lebowski and wife, Tara Reid’s Bunny, the apparent victim, a one-time porn actress (“Logjammin’”) on the wrong end of a bad debt.
Toss in Steve Buscemi as their bowling buddy Donny, Julianne Moore as a proto-feminist, avant-garde artist and potential mother of the Dude’s unborn child, Ben Gazzara as a porn mogul, John Turturro as a moonwalking Latino bowler and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Jeff Lebowski’s personal assistant—along with a group of German nihilists (including Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist Flea)—and you have the ingredients for a shaggy dog story that is the perfect example of a cult movie.
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Since its release, “The Big Lebowski” has since inspired its followers to annual conventions where participants dress up as the original characters, indulge in Dude-speak and bowl, while the movie, made for $15 million, has gone on to gross $28 million internationally, and $17 million in the U.S. for a total of almost $46 million.
The film remains among the most popular Streampix offerings, and to celebrate, here are 15 of our favorite lines from its Oscar-winning screenplay to celebrate this year’s milestone.
1. Walter to The Dude on discovering Bunny’s missing toe: “Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish.”|
2. Walter to the Dude on the German “nihilists”: “I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
3. The Dude, on what he does for recreation: “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.”
4. Walter on why he doesn’t “roll” on Saturday: “Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit ‘don’t fucking roll.’”
5. Walter on being Jewish: “Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax.”
6. The Dude answering the Blond Treehorn Thug, who holds up a bowling bowl and asks what it is: “Obviously, you’re not a golfer.”
7. The Dude: “That rug really tied the room together.”
8. The Dude, being forced into a limousine with a drink in his hand: “Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here!”
9. The Dude, asking his cab driver to change the radio station: “Come on, man. I had a rough night… and I hate the fucking Eagles, man.”
10. The Dude confronts the thugs looking for “his wife” Bunny: “Do you see a wedding ring on my finger? Does this place look like I’m fucking married? The toilet seat’s up, man!”
11. Walter on whether the “nihilists” are German or Nazis: “Oh, come on, Donny, they were threatening castration! Are we gonna split hairs here?”
12. Sam Neill’s The Stranger, who narrates the movie, at the bowling tournament: The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.
13. The Stranger: “I guess that’s the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself.”
14. The Dude on the Seattle Seven: “That was me…and six other guys.”
15. The Dude on his name: “Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not ‘Mr. Lebowski.’ You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”