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Meet the shaggy, shambolic Jeff Dowd, who inspired The Big Lebowski

The Dude: The Story Of Jeff Dowd (Screenshot: YouTube)

Though Joel and Ethan Coen jokingly claimed their 1996 film Fargo was based on a true story (it wasn’t), it was actually the brothers’ farcical follow-up, 1998’s The Big Lebowski, that drew heavily on real people and events. Lebowski superfans, or “Achievers” in the parlance of our times, are likely aware of the movie’s real-world antecedents, but more casual viewers may still be in the dark. Chief among the movie’s inspirations was Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, a 1960s radical protester turned indie-movie marketing guru. The Coens first met the colorful, eccentric Dowd in the early 1980s when they were in post-production on their debut film, Blood Simple. Years later, he became the model for Lebowski’s pot-addled protagonist, also called “The Dude” and brought to cinematic life by Jeff Bridges. As part of a week-long celebration of The Big Lebowski, Uproxx has created a seven-minute documentary about Dowd called “The Dude: The Story Of Jeff Dowd.”

Just as the script describes Bridges’ character, Dowd is “a man in whom casualness runs deep.” This is a man seemingly allergic to haircuts and neckties. If he weren’t so wired and full of energy, it would be easy to conclude that he had just rolled out of bed before being filmed. The filmmakers ask Dowd what the Coens and Bridges took from him when creating the character. For one thing, the characters share similar biographies: Both in reality and in fiction, “The Dude” was a member of the Seattle Seven, a group of anti-war protesters who went on trial for conspiracy to incite a riot. Certain other physical traits, including Dowd’s way of sitting, were borrowed as well. The most Dowd-like scene in the movie may be the one in which Bridges lights a joint while driving but then drops it in his lap, causing him to crash his car. “That’s Dude all the way,” Dowd says.


[via Laughing Squid]

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