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5 Things You Might Not Know About The Coens' Cult Classic 'The Big Lebowski'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
March 6, 2013 1:06 PM
23 Comments
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The Big Lebowski
3. The Dude's hatred of The Eagles helped the film land a Rolling Stones record for the soundtrack.
As much of a legacy as the film has, it's almost matched by the film's soundtrack, which along with "O Brother Where Art Thou," has to rank as the Coens' most memorable. Regular collaborator Carter Burwell provided a score (and the hilarious Kraftwerk pastiche "Technopop (Wie Glauben)" for the nihilists), but for the first time, the Coens enlisted music legend T-Bone Burnett to put together a selection of soundtrack cuts to go with the movie (almost all of which are diagetic, at least by the time they've played out). The film helped to popularize tracks like "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" by Kenny Rodgers & The First Edition, and the relatively obscure Bob Dylan track "The Man In Me," but one potential stumbling block came with Townes Van Zandt's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," which the filmmakers wanted to use over the closing credits. The publishing rights to the song were held by former Stones manager Allen Klein, who initially demanded $150,000 for the track. But Burnett managed to persuade Klein to watch the film, and when Dude says "I hate the fucking Eagles, man!," Klein stood up and immediately granted the filmmakers the rights. Still, the line came back to haunt them in other ways: Bridges later said that he was confronted by Eagles frontman Glenn Frey. "He gave me some shit," Bridges said. "I can't remember what he said, exactly, but my anus tightened a bit." Despite Burnett's crucial contribution, he refused to take a Music Supervisor credit, not liking the idea of having supervised anyone or anything; instead, he's listed as Music Archivist. 

The Big Lebowski
4. The film hasn't just spawned a long-running festival, but also a bona-fide religion.
Famously, the cult has grown so large around the movie that it's now the center of a festival dedicated entirely to the film. Starting off in Louisville, Kentucky in 2002, four years after the film's release, Lebowski Fest generally involves a bowling night, a screening and a garden party, and has, over the last few years, spread to New York, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Boston, London and L.A. (where Bridges himself made an appearance one year, performing his own version of Bob Dylan's "The Man In Me"). But the film's following doesn't stop there. In 2005, Thailand-based journalist and Lebowski-super fan Oliver Benjamin set up Dudeism, a religion/philosophy/lifestyle inspired by the central character of the movie. Officially called The Church Of The Latter-Day Dude, it's inspired by the way that The Dude lives his life, mixing elements of Taoism (minus its more metaphysical elements) with Epicurean philosophy. The religion (which might sound like a joke, but is taken seriously by many) includes Epicurus, Laozi, Buddha, Christ (another long-haired bearded guy in sandals, though not jellies, it should be said), Walt Whitman and Mark Twain as among their ancient prophets, and has spawned its very own holy book, The Dude De Ching. So far, the church has ordained 160,000 ministers, and you can do the same and find out more about it on their website. Bridges himself approves. The actor just published a book, "The Dude and the Zen Master," with Zen teacher Bernie Glassman, and at a Q&A, when asked what the Dude himself would thing of the growing church, he said "He'd be flabbergasted. And he would dig it."

The Big Lebowski
5. John Turturro still hopes that a sequel/spin-off focusing on his character, Jesus Quintana, might come to pass.
For a character who barely gets five minutes of screen time, Jesus Quintana, the aggressive, bowling superstar pederast played by Coen veteran John Turturro, is one of the most memorable in a film positively stuffed with unforgettable figures. And for a few years now, word's been circling about a possible sequel/spin-off to the movie focusing on the Jesus. Back in 2008, Turturro told ESPN: "We hope to make a sequel. I can't talk about it, but it comes down to Jesus in the jumpsuit." Apparently called "100 Minutes of Jesus," the idea appears to be very much Turturro's baby, as the Coens said in 2009 that they're not wildly interested: "That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us." But the actor was only a couple of years ago still talking it up, telling the AV Club that he'd written an outline, which the Coens liked. Turturro told the site, "The only reason I wanted to do it was so that people will stop asking me questions about 'The Big Lebowski.' Because people are obsessed with the movie and obsessed with that guy." But he acknowledges the Coens' lack of interest saying, "They wouldn't do it. It would have to be something that maybe I'd have to do. Maybe they would help me write it or something." So for now, the closest we may get to a sequel is probably the Direct TV commercial below that reteams John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, who played Walter and Donny, as the voices of an animated chicken and egg. But there is one other potential Coens sequel that does seem to be a more serious prospect: a "Barton Fink" follow-up called "Old Fink," which Joel described back in '09 as "...another 1967 movie [much like 'A Serious Man']. It's the summer of love and [Fink is] teaching at Berkeley. He ratted on a lot of his friends to the House Un-American Activities committee. We told Turturro this is one sequel we'd actually like to make but not until he was actually old enough to play the part. He's getting there."


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23 Comments

  • CG | April 12, 2014 9:11 PMReply

    The Ladykillers is terrible if only because it's a re-make of a film that needed no re-making and features one the painfully unfunny Wayans clan - probably the worst Coen casting decision of their careers. Intolerable Cruelty is not good exactly, but it's probably a shade better than its reputation. It is eminently forgettable and fly-away slight, but in retrospect actually approaches a reasonable homage to screwball comedies past (neo-screwball?). Hudsucker Proxy is too arch for its own good (maybe even by a long shot), but it most definitely better than the two aforementioned films. It's a strange film, mostly because it's a very straight, period rendition of a kind of movie that was winking at the audience even at its time. The rigidity of its reconstruction is mesmerizing and a showcase for the production talents of the Coens, but this very fact, along with its failure to truly re-interpret/meld genre (unlike, say, Miller Crossing/Lebowski/Blood Simple et al), are also perhaps its biggest failing. While a film like True Grit (also a re-make, of course) played it pretty straight, there was a feeling of the Coens taking their characters and story seriously - it just seemed obvious that they were truly invested in creating another revisionist Western (Another Country is basically one as well). While the milieu of Hudsucker was no doubt close to their hearts, it ultimately reads (despite its many redeemable qualities) as a bit masturbatory... Ultimately The Ladykillers & Intolerable Cruelty are the Coens weakest films because they could have been made by a number of other directors. This is not the case with the rest of their films (save maybe True Grit, though as noted its much better than the other two)... Also, Woo peed on the rug... Also, Dude, Chinamen is not the preferred nomenclature...

  • Spoon | April 5, 2013 11:59 AMReply

    I was inspired by The Dude to make this doormat! It really ties the porch together...
    http://damngooddoormats.indiemade.com/product/bowling-big-lebowski-dude-door-mat-outdoor?tid=222

  • Jimbo | March 8, 2013 3:22 AMReply

    I think 'Intolerable Cruelty' is worth reappraisal. To me, it's a super-fluent tribute to the screwball romances of old, by far one of George Clooney's best performances, and he and Zeta-Jones certainly do crackle in the requisite way. The supporting characters are all wonderful Punch-and-Judy-esque caricatures in the best Coens fashion and the plot every bit as deliciously bonkers as the Howard Hawks capers. Geoffrey Rush is also fantastically entertaining in his small role. I love it.

  • JD | March 7, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    I recently revisited all the Coen flms -- and Intolerable Cruelty/The Ladykillers do continue to be the reigning duds. As for Hudsucker, anyone who denies its greatness is simply wrong. Also: there's a new Blu-ray out!

    Another title for the Jesus/Lebowski sequel I've heard thrown around is The Second Coming, which is clearly what it needs to be called.

  • Chandler | March 7, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    Though the film takes its tone from Altman's spin of The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski is actually based on the title and plot of The Big Sleep. It's almost a point by point adaptation. Shame you left this fact out.

  • Martinis are for squares | March 7, 2013 8:45 AMReply

    I thought I was the only fan of Hudsucker. Good to know there's are least one more.

    I had the mailroom supervisor's orientation speech as my desktop picture for a while. It reminded me of my place in the corporate world.

    Oh, yeah. This is about Lebowski. I liked that, too.

  • William KIng | March 6, 2013 11:31 PMReply

    I would have written the ending such that the Strangers final words were..."And I met Walter
    in Nam. He worked as a postal clerk in Sai Gon the entire tour.

  • Bucky | March 6, 2013 11:17 PMReply

    netflix should pick this up now.

  • DeanOdin | March 6, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    Leads?!

  • Twkeez | March 8, 2013 9:38 PM

    They have us working in shifts.

  • Overnight Failure | March 6, 2013 3:21 PMReply

    Does no one remember that Jeff Bridges and John Goodman also reunited in the Bob Dylan/Larry Charles movie 'Masked and Anonymous'? ...although they shared little screen time together, it's a little more than providing voices for a Direct TV commercial (the relevance of which makes more sense if you read the article about the reunion).

  • Dave | March 6, 2013 1:56 PMReply

    'Starting off in Louisville, Kentucky in 2002, four years after the film's release, Lebowski Fest generally involves a bowling night, a screening and a garden party, and has, over the last few decades, spread to New York, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Boston, London and L.A. (where Bridges himself made an appearance one year, performing his own version of Bob Dylan's "The Man In Me").'

    How can it be the 'last few decades' if it's only been eleven years since the fest started? Also, that's one hell of a long sentence!

  • wes | March 6, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    I support Ladykillers and even Intolerable Cruelty. I don't think they're their best, but I support them nonetheless. However, I am not a fan of Hudsucker. Everything else is pretty much genius.

  • P-DUB | March 6, 2013 3:46 PM

    I think there are a lot more supporters of The Ladykillers than there are Intolerable Cruelty, so I have to disagree with Oliver's opening. I think all of there films have fans but IC certainly has the least. I certainly prefer The Ladykillers. It's a very (VERY) minor work, but Tom Hanks' performance is wonderfully ridiculous and it has some hilarious moments.

    "I want that donut money!!" "You brought yo bitch....to the waffle hut?!?!?"

  • Greg | March 6, 2013 2:56 PM

    Yes, all of this is correct.

  • Neil | March 6, 2013 1:33 PMReply

    Thanks for using "You Might Not Know" instead of the obnoxious "You Didn't Know"

  • yod | March 6, 2013 10:15 PM

    You're weird.

  • MC | March 6, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    The Nihilists didn't beat him up and piss on his rug at the beginning. It was Mark Pellegrino and "the Chinaman," which is not the preferred nomenclature.

  • RC | March 8, 2013 9:20 AM

    I just want to understand this, sir. Every time a rug is micturated upon in this fair city, I have to compensate the owner?

  • CT | March 6, 2013 4:16 PM

    Also, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature

  • nice_marmot | March 6, 2013 2:30 PM

    Also, like I said, uh, Woo peed on his rug. This is not some guy who built the railroad!

  • nice_marmot | March 6, 2013 2:26 PM

    The chinaman is not the issue here!

  • jacque demolay | March 6, 2013 1:22 PM

    Thanks, MC I was just about to say something about that...

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