23 Huge Facts About The Big Lebowski

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

You’re a Lebowski. I’m a Lebowski. These days, pretty much everybody loves The Big Lebowski. But it wasn’t always the case. Since its initial release and modest reception in 1998, the Coen brothers' oddball slacker-hero tale has enjoyed modern movie history’s most unusual (yet fairly inevitable) ascent to classic status. Here are 23 facts that might have eluded even the most accomplished Lebowski achievers.

1. THE BIG LEBOWSKI GOT SOME LOVE FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

In December of 2014, The Big Lebowski became one of 700 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" films preserved for future generations through the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. The 2014 class of 25 films included the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Rosemary’s Baby, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Registry praised the “tale of kidnapping, mistaken identity, and bowling” for its exploration of “alienation, inequality, and class structure via a group of hard-luck, off-beat characters suddenly drawn into each other’s orbits.”

2. ACCORDING TO JOEL COEN, THE PLOT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER.

Think about the many things you love about The Big Lebowski: the performances, the musical sequences, the endless onslaught of brilliantly quotable lines, the Jesus. Strangely, the actual plot of the movie is secondary (or fifth-dary) to most people’s enjoyment of the movie. Do you remember what happens to the missing money in the end, or if there even was missing money to begin with? According to Joel Coen, they knew the plot would probably be a bit confounding to most viewers on the first watch, and they also knew that it probably wouldn’t matter. “The plot is sort of secondary to the other things that are sort of going on in the piece," he said in a DVD extra for the film. "I think that if people get a little confused it’s not necessarily going to get in the way of them enjoying the movie.”

3. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON'T LOVE THE MOVIE AS MUCH AS YOU DO.

 Directors Ethan Coen (L) and Joel Coen attend the 'Hail, Caesar!' photo call during the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 11, 2016 in Berlin, Germany
Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a 2009 interview, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

4. IT'S PARTLY INSPIRED BY RAYMOND CHANDLER'S THE BIG SLEEP.

In the rare interviews where the Coen brothers have discussed their inspiration for The Big Lebowski, they name-drop noir crime writer Raymond Chandler—in particular, his 1939 novel The Big Sleep. According to Joel Coen, Chandler novels “usually follow the main character as he encounters these different characters on a journey to uncover a mystery, or find a missing person, or whatever it may be in the novel. In this case, that was the model for this story.” But unlike hardboiled The Big Sleep protagonist detective Philip Marlowe, The Dude is dropped in "the most impossible of situations" and is “the person who seemed least equipped to deal with it."

5. THE DUDE IS PRESENT IN EVERY SCENE.

In true noir fashion, the lead character—in this case, The Dude, of course—is present in every scene in the movie. This includes the scene where Peter Stormare and the rest of the Nihilist crew are ordering pancakes in a diner, where Walter and The Dude’s van can be seen through the diner window in the background.

6. THE DUDE IS NOT THE LEBOWSKI REFERENCED IN THE TITLE.

This may seem obvious to some, but it probably comes as a surprise to others. The title The Big Lebowski is a reference to the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski, and not The Dude. Jeffrey Lebowski is referred to as “the Big Lebowski” many times throughout the script, but in the movie, the only evidence that he’s the “Big Lebowski” comes when the Dude refers to him as such sporadically, just a few times throughout the film.

7. THERE'S A MUSICIAN CAMEO YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED.

Peter Stormare, Flea, and Torsten Voges in The Big Lebowski (1998)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Most Lebowski diehards know that Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea pops up a few times throughout the movie as one of the ne'er-do-well nihilists trying to shake The Dude down for ransom money (his credited name is “Kieffer,” in case you were wondering). It’s worth noting that gives Flea a not-too-shabby cult classic film resume, considering his appearances in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the last two legs of the Back to the Future trilogy, and Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. But they might not know that singer/songwriter Aimee Mann also pops up as a nihilist—indeed, the one who has sacrificed a pinky toe for the cause. Mann would play a major part in another now-classic movie that had a hard go of it at the box office the next year, writing music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

8. WHILE THERE ARE TONS OF FAMILIAR COEN BROTHER FILM FACES, THE FILM DOESN’T FEATURE THEIR MOST FREQUENT COLLABORATOR.

When it comes to familiar faces from the Coen-verse popping up, The Big Lebowski just might be the ultimate Coen ensemble movie. Major players include John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Jon Polito, John Turturro, and Peter Stormare. Missing, however, is the Coens' most frequent collaborator: Frances McDormand. McDormand, who has been married to Joel Coen since 1984, has had roles in eight of the Coens' movies (most recently, 2016's Hail, Caesar!). In 1997—more than 20 years before she won the Best Actress Oscar for Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which was promptly stolen, but quickly recovered)—she took home an Oscar for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson in Fargo.

9. THE COENS WANTED MARLON BRANDO FOR LEBOWSKI (EVEN THEY THEY KNEW IT WAS A LONG SHOT).

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide: The Coen Brothers and the Making of the Big Lebowski about his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming commenced. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine. The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous (but pitch perfect) veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

10. A WHOLE MESS OF PEOPLE CALL THE BIG LEBOWSKI ONE OF THEIR FAVORITE MOVIES.

It probably comes as no surprise, but you’re not the only one who loves The Big Lebowski. Actors Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, John Hawkes, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Eva Mendes, and Nick Offerman—plus directors Sam Raimi and Richard Kelly—have all name-checked it as one of their “Five Favorite Films” on Rotten Tomatoes. Rapper Talib Kweli is such a massive fan that, in 2013, he hosted a screening of the film at New York City's IFC Center.

11. A SEMI-SPINOFF IS COMING. MAYBE.

The Coens have repeatedly shot down anything vaguely resembling the idea of writing and directing a sequel, with Joel Coen flatly stating, “I just don’t like sequels.” Still, the rumors persist, and they reached a fever pitch in October of 2014 when unfounded claims that a sequel would start filming in January 2015 started swirling around the internet. However, in 2016, it was reported that John Turturro had begun filming a sort of spinoff that would feature his character from the film, the bowling-ball-licking, smooth-rolling, sex offender Jesus Quintana. It’s hard to believe, but Turturro’s legendary character pops up in just two scenes. Turturro (correctly) thinks the character needs more face time, and has been bothering the Coen brothers to revisit the character for years, or at least give him permission to go ahead and direct some kind of Jesus-centric spin-off. Currently titled Going Places, there is not a lot of information available on the film, though IMDb does note that it's scheduled for release this year.

12. JOHN TURTURRO WAS ORIGINALLY EMBARRASSED BY HIS SCENES AS JESUS.

Turturro may be giving new life to his Big Lebowski character, but the actor wasn't immediately enamored of Jesus. “The first time they showed [my scenes] to me, I was really embarrassed,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of The Big Lebowski in 2017. "I didn’t even get the movie when it came out. When I saw it, I thought [Jeff Bridges] was great, but it went over my head." But Jesus ended up being a fan favorite character, and Turturro explained that the new film is "not a spinoff of The Big Lebowski. It’s much more sexual. You find out that he was framed [as a pedophile].”

13. SINCE ITS RELEASE, SOME CRITICS HAVE CHANGED THEIR MIND ABOUT THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

Turturro isn't the only one whose opinion of The Big Lebowski softened over time. When you’re a cult classic, initial confusion just comes with the territory. As such, Lebowski—the ultimate cult classic—was hardly met with the near-universal acclaim it receives today when it was released in 1998. Roger Ebert didn’t hate, hate, hate it, giving it three out of four stars upon its initial release, but he didn’t praise it as an all-time great either. It wasn’t until 2010 that Lebowski entered Ebert’s pantheon of “Great Movies” when he awarded it a perfect four out of four stars. Ebert wasn't the only critic who changed his mind over time. Peter Howell of the Toronto Star initially wrote, “It’s hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year for the original screenplay of Fargo.” But in 2011, he wrote a piece chalking his original poor review up to “festival fatigue,” and saying, “It may just be my favorite Coen Bros. film, and I’m generally a fan of the Coens.”

14. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE BOMB.

Steve Buscemi, Jeff Bridges, and John Goodman in The Big Lebowski (1998)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The Big Lebowski was a total slouch at the box office, making an anemic $5 million over its opening weekend, and barely covering its $15 million budget at the domestic box office. But since its initial release, the movie has been nothing short of a cash cow, selling incredibly well on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.

15. THERE ARE SEVERAL CLEVER COEN EASTER EGGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED.

There are several Easter eggs throughout The Big Lebowski for fans of the full Coen filmography. Steve Buscemi’s character Donny, who famously can never get a word out without Walter telling him to “shut the f**k up,” is the polar opposite of Buscemi’s character Carl Showalter in Fargo, who chatters nonstop to his near-wordless crime accomplice played by Peter Stormare. One of the only reasons Stormare opens his mouth in Fargo is to mention his desire to find a “pancakes house.” He never ends up getting the chance in Fargo, but his nihilist character orders them in The Big Lebowski. It’s also Coen lore that Buscemi's dead body has ended up in smaller and smaller parts throughout their filmography, finishing up as a corpse in Miller’s Crossing, a disembodied leg in Fargo, and ashes in The Big Lebowski.

16. ONE FARGO EASTER EGG DIDN'T MAKE THE FINAL CUT.

In the film, it’s eventually revealed that Bunny Lebowski, Jeffrey Lebowski’s trophy wife, is named Fawn Knutson, and was born in Moorhead, Minnesota before running away to Los Angeles. But in the script, Bunny’s real name is Fawn Gunderson, and thus shares a surname with Fargo heroine Marge Gunderson, implying a possible relation. Moorhead is also notably a twin city of Fargo, North Dakota, sitting directly across the North Dakota-Minnesota border.

17. DUE TO THE PROFANITY, CABLE CUTS OF THE BIG LEBOWSKI HAVE REQUIRED SOME VERY CREATIVE EDITING.

“Do you have to use so many cuss words?” It’s surprising that Lebowski is a film that gained much of its following via post-theater cable television airings, considering “f**k” is uttered 260 times throughout, making it one of the most f-bomb-laden feature films ever made. However, even the edited-for-cable versions have gained something of a cult following for their, shall we say, creative word replacements. One version that aired on Comedy Central famously featured Walter bizarrely screaming, “Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?" in place of a much more straightforward profanity.

18. SEVERAL OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE INSPIRED BY FOLKS THE COENS HAVE MET IN HOLLYWOOD.

According to the Coen brothers, The Dude is based in part on Jeff Dowd, a film producer they met while working on their directorial debut, 1984’s Blood Simple. Dowd, who also goes by “The Dude,” was 1/7 of the “Seattle Seven”—seven members of the Seattle Liberation Front that helped organize a 1970 Vietnam War protest at downtown Seattle’s federal courthouse and were charged with "conspiracy to incite a riot" after the protest turned violent. John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak also had a real-life, Hollywood inspiration: writer and director John Milius, who had a hand in the making of Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, Jaws, and Conan the Barbarian. Milius, who sports glasses, a beard, and a figure similar to Walter's, claims to be obsessed with the Vietnam War. But unlike Walter, he was never actually able to serve: After attempting to enlist in the 1960s, he was turned down due to his chronic asthma.

19. THE BIG LEBOWSKI WAS ONCE CITED IN A TEXAS SUPREME COURT DECISION.

In 2014, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann cited the movie in a legal decision on a freedom of speech case. Lehrmann noted that it’s common knowledge that prior restraint, or censorship prior to an expression taking place, has been largely rejected by “the Supreme Court, this Court, Texas courts of appeals, legal treatises, and even popular culture." A footnote attached quoted Walter Sobchak's claim that “the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.”

20. DUE TO THE VAGUENESS OF THE MOVIE'S MESSAGE (OR LACK THEREOF), THERE HAVE BEEN SOME VERY CREATIVE INTERPRETATIONS.

The Coen brothers’ indications that The Big Lebowski is about little more than oddball characters crossing each other’s paths has led to some interesting and creative analyses regarding what it all really means. Some of the more interesting takes have included Lebowski as a “a parable of Global Capitalism,” a “modern adaptation of Albert Camus' The Stranger and an illustration of the philosophy of Absurdism,” and even The Dude as “a contemporary Jesus," with the essay’s author noting, among other things, the similarity in hair styles. Oh, and did we mention Lebowski birthed a religious movement called Dudeism, which “preaches non-preachiness,” “practices as little as possible,” and shares common ground with the laid back ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism? Because it did.

21. THE RUG ALMOST ENDED UP TYING THE MOVIE TOGETHER.

Jeff Bridges stars in 'The Big Lebowski' (1998)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The Dude’s rug is, in many ways, the driving force behind The Big Lebowski from start to finish. The notorious Lebowski rug was such a central part of the film, the Coens even participated in an interview with Floor Covering Weekly while promoting the movie. In a DVD extra, Ethan Coen notes that producer Joel Silver thought the film should end with The Dude getting his rug back, but the Coens never followed through.

22. FORMER ROLLING STONES MANAGER ALLEN KLEIN LOVED ONE LINE IN THE MOVIE SO MUCH, HE WAIVED THE LICENSING FEE FOR "DEAD FLOWERS."

From the Sons Of The Pioneers’s “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” to The Dude’s hallucinatory, vaguely pornographic odyssey set to Kenny Rogers’s “Just Dropped In,” the T-Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack is one of the many reasons Lebowski is an enduring classic. Former Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein even offered up the rights to the song “Dead Flowers” gratis. Initially, Klein wanted $150,000, but so adored the scene where The Dude talks about hating “the f**kin’ Eagles,” he waived the licensing fee. The Eagles crack apparently ended up causing some friction when Jeff Bridges later ran into Eagles member Glenn Frey. "I can't remember what he said exactly," Bridges said, "but my anus tightened a bit."

23. YOU'VE ALMOST CERTAINLY SEEN JEFFREY LEBOWSKI'S MANSION SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Mr. Lebowski’s not-so-humble Beverly Hills dwelling is known as Greystone Mansion in real life, and has popped up in The Muppets, The Prestige, Rush Hour, The Social Network, The Dirty Dozen, and, perhaps most notably, in the music video for Meat Loaf’s "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That).”

11 Surprising Facts About George R.R. Martin

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Game of Thrones fans know the epic HBO series is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, but beyond the TV show, how much do they really know about the author? Sure, they know it’s taking him a really long time to finish The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the series, but what about him as a person? Here are a few things you might not know about the man who brought us the world of Westeros.

1. As a kid, he made money selling monster stories.

The famed author grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, where his father was a longshoreman. "When I was living in Bayonne, I desperately wanted to get away," Martin told The Independent. "Not because Bayonne was a bad place, mind you. Bayonne was a very nice place in some ways. But we were poor. We had no money. We never went anywhere."

Though his family didn't have the means to travel outside of Bayonne, Martin began to develop a love of reading and writing at a very young age, which allowed him to imagine fantastical worlds beyond his New Jersey hometown. He also learned that writing could be a profitable endeavor: he began selling his stories to other kids in the neighborhood for a penny apiece. (He later raised his prices to a nickel.) Martin's entrepreneurial efforts came to an end when his stories began giving one of his kid customers nightmares, which eventually got back to Martin's mom.

2. He is obsessed with comic books.

In 2014, Martin sat down for a Q&A about his career at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Though, given his love of fantasy worlds, it might not be surprising to learn that Martin is a comic book fan, he also credits the genre with inspiring him to begin writing in the first place.

"I’m so grateful for comic books because they were really the thing that made me a reader, which in return made me a writer," Martin said. "In the 1950s in America, we had these books that taught you to read, and they were all about Dick and Jane, who were the most boring family you ever wanted to meet ... I didn’t know anyone who lived like that, and it just seemed like a horrible thing. But Batman and Superman, they had a much more interesting life. Gotham City was much more interesting than wherever it was where Dick and Jane lived.”

3. He built a library tower in Santa Fe.

In 2009, Martin bought the home across the street from his house in Santa Fe, New Mexico and turned it into an office space with a library tower built inside. The tower is only two stories tall, because of city building restrictions, but it seems only fitting that the author/history buff would want to be surrounded with books while he writes.

4. A fan letter got his professional writing career started.

Martin's love of comic books is what got his professional career rolling, too. "I had a letter published in Fantastic Four, and because my address was in there I started getting these fanzines and I started writing stories for them," Martin said during the same Santa Fe Q&A. "Funny enough, people writing stories in these fanzines at the time were just awful. They were just really bad, which was good because I looked at these awful stories and knew I could do better than that. I may not have been Shakespeare or J.R.R. Tolkien, but I was certain I could write better than the crap in the fanzines, and indeed I could."

5. A failed novel led to a television writing career.

More than 10 years before A Song of Ice and Fire debuted in 1996, Martin wrote a book called The Armageddon Rag in 1983. Though it was a critical disappointment, producer Phil DeGuere was interested in adapting the project with Martin's help. While that never came to fruition, DeGuere thought of Martin when they were rebooting The Twilight Zone in the mid-1980s and brought him on board to write a handful of episodes. He later did some writing for the live-action Beauty and the Beast series, starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton.

6. Network television standards were not a fit for Martin's style of writing.

Though Martin found success as a television writer, the constant back-and-forth about what they were or were not allowed to show proved to be too much for the writer. "[T]here were constant limitations. It wore me down," Martin told Rolling Stone. "There were battles over censorship, how sexual things could be, whether a scene was too 'politically charged,' how violent things could be. Don’t want to disturb anyone. We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people ... The character had to remain likable."

7. He owns an independent movie theater.

In 2006, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe closed its doors, which saddened many locals who were regular patrons, Martin among them. Several years later, Martin decided to give the theater a second life and, after a slight makeover, reopened its doors in 2013. Today, in addition to independent films, the theater holds regular special events—including screenings of Game of Thrones episodes. There's also an onsite bar that serves Game of Thrones-themed cocktails, like the signature White Walker.

8. Martin credits HBO with changing the rules of television.

Network television standards may have been too tame and regimented for Martin's tastes, but all that changed with HBO and The Sopranos, which he credits as paving the way for a series like Game of Thrones to exist in its current form at all.

"I credit HBO with smashing the damn trope that everybody had to be likable on television," Martin told Rolling Stone. "The Sopranos turned it around. When you meet Tony Soprano, he’s in the psychiatrist office, he’s talking about the ducks, his depression and that stuff, and you like this guy. Then he gets in his car and he’s driving away and he sees someone who owes him money, and he jumps out and he starts stomping him. Now how likable was he? Well you didn’t care, because they already had you. A character like Walter White on Breaking Bad could never have existed before HBO."

9. Martin thinks it's important for writers to break the rules.

While he's an admitted fan of William Goldman, Martin has a very different opinion of noted screenplay expert Syd Field. "There is a book out there by Syd and it’s his guide to writing screenplays and it’s probably one of the most harmful things that has ever been done for the movie industry,” Martin said. “For some perverse reason, it has become the bible not for writers but for what we call 'the suits,' the guys at the studios whose job it is to develop properties and give notes to supervise screenplays. They take Syd Field’s course and they buy the book and they start criticizing screenplays like, ‘Well you know, the first turn is supposed to be on page 12 and yours is not until page 17, so obviously this won’t do!'"

"Syd just writes downs these ridiculous rules," Martin continued. "If there really was a formula as he says, then every movie would be a blockbuster. We would just connect A, B, and C and we would have a great movie and everyone would pack the theater to see it. But every movie is not a blockbuster. Many movies that follow his rules precisely actually go down the toilet."

10. He’s a skilled chess player.

"I started playing chess when I was quite young, in grade school," Martin told The Independent. "I played it through high school. In college, I founded the chess club. I was captain of the chess team." Eventually, Martin discovered that he could actually make some money off this skill.

"For two or three years, I had a pretty good situation. Most writers who have to have a day job work five days a week and then they have the weekend off to write. These chess tournaments were all on the weekend so I had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but then I had five days off to write. The chess generated enough money for me to pay my bills."

11. He has a very specific way of writing, which is why he hasn't finished the winds of winter.

Fans have been waiting for a while for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Martin has been honest about why it's taking him so long. "Writer’s block isn’t to blame here, it’s distraction," he said. "In recent years, all of the work I’ve been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It’s like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who’s passing up a free trip to Dubai? I don’t write when I travel. I don’t write in hotel rooms. I don’t write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life no body did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day."

Can You Guess the Meaning of These Dothraki Words?

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