Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

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

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 6, 2013 at 1:06PM

Aside from perhaps "The Ladykillers" (and even that film features a great Tom Hanks performance, at least), it's hard to find at least one Coen Brothers movie that doesn't have passionate supporters that declare it the best thing the directing duo ever made. From debut "Blood Simple" to the recent megahit western "True Grit," every Coen picture has its advocate (this writer has an unconditional adoration of their 1994 commercial disaster "The Hudsucker Proxy," for instance). But none of their films are more beloved than "The Big Lebowski."

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."

This article is related to: Features, 5 Things You Might Not Know About..., Coen Brothers, Jeff Bridges, John Turturro, Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, On This Day In Movie History, The Big Lebowski

The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.

E-Mail Updates