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).”

10 Dramatic Downton Abbey Fan Theories

Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Despite its exhaustively polished veneer, Downton Abbey was always a soap opera. Julian Fellowes's historical drama about a family of aristocrats and their many servants could never resist a good shocker, and it deployed plenty of them over the course of six seasons. The valet was suspected of murder (twice). One of the Crawley sisters got knocked up by her older married boyfriend, who promptly went missing. And another sister’s first sexual encounter ended in death. Considering all this, it should come as no surprise that fans have developed similarly wacky theories about the show. These fan theories include secret parentage, undercover spies, and, of course, poison.

Brush up on the best of them before the Downton Abbey movie hits theaters—just in case the whole miscarriage curse comes up.

1. Mr. Carson is Lady Mary’s father.

This theory all comes down to eyes. As you may recall from science class, certain genes are dominant and others are recessive. This is perhaps most easily understood through eye color, where brown eye color, a dominant gene, is expressed as BB and blue eye color, a recessive gene, is expressed as bb. A parent with brown eyes might carry the recessive blue eye gene (i.e. Bb), but if you plot out genetic probabilities on a basic Punnett square, two blue-eyed parents with double bbs have seemingly no shot at producing a Bb baby. Now, what does any of this have to do with Downton Abbey? Both Lord and Lady Grantham have blue eyes, but their eldest daughter, Mary, has brown eyes. This has led some fans to speculate that Lady Mary is actually the daughter of Carson, the family’s beloved butler who has always acted as as sort of second father to Mary. As debunkers have noted, two blue-eyed people can have a brown-eyed child, because recessive genes aren’t that simple. But isn’t it wild to think of Carson and Cora having an affair?

2. Thomas Barrow poisoned Kemal Pamuk.

One of the soapiest subplots of Downton Abbey's first season involved “poor Mr. Pamuk,” the dashing Turkish diplomat who makes a fateful visit to the Abbey. After enjoying a day of fox hunting and an evening of sparkling conversation, Kemal Pamuk drops dead ... right in Lady Mary’s bed. The cause, it is later revealed, was a heart attack, but many viewers suspected something more sinister. Earlier in the episode, the Crawleys’ closeted footman, Thomas Barrow, made a pass at Pamuk, which the diplomat rejected quite forcefully—so much so that he threatened to get Thomas fired. That placed the footman in a tricky situation, but it was nothing a little poison couldn't fix, and that’s exactly why some fans believe Thomas slipped something into Mr. Pamuk’s dinner.

3. Lady Grantham’s miscarriage started a curse.

In the Season 1 finale, tragedy strikes. The newly pregnant Lady Grantham slips on a bar of soap, falling onto the bathroom tiles and inducing a miscarriage. It’s a sad moment, but it’s also, Reddit claims, the source of the house’s future misfortune. According to this theory, the miscarriage kicks off a curse of deadly pregnancies: Lady Sybil dies in childbirth; Matthew Crawley dies in a car accident soon after the birth of his son; and when the maid Ethel Parks becomes pregnant with Major Bryant’s child, he dies, too.

4. Mr. Bates is actually a bad guy.

Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Downton Abbey invests a lot of time and effort in convincing us that John Bates, Lord Grantham's trusty, is a great guy—despite his checkered past and multiple murder allegations. But what if everyone’s assumptions about Bates are exactly right? Some Redditors believe Bates is just a remorseless serial killer, pointing to his intense hatred of his first wife and “creepy vibes” as evidence. Anna had better watch out.

5. Michael Gregson is a spy.

Lady Edith’s boss and lover Michael Gregson is the publisher of a London magazine, The Sketch. Thanks to his job, he knows tons of important people, travels all over the world, and speaks multiple languages. He eventually disappears inside Germany in season 4, and later dispatches to the Crawley family imply that he was a victim of Adolf Hitler’s “thugs.” (The show timeline places Gregson in Munich right around the time of the Beer Hall Putsch.) Or at least, that’s the official story. Another one suggests that Gregson was a British spy gathering intel on the insurgent Nazis—and he might not have died at all. His superiors simply needed to feed Edith a lie that would discourage her from poking around, so they made up a cover story that someone who follows the news would believe.

6. Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lady Edith’s mother.

When Lady Edith becomes pregnant with Michael Gregson’s child, she finds a strong support system in her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick. Upon learning Edith’s secret, Rosamund travels to Downton Abbey to help her niece through her pregnancy, and suggests adoption options as the due date draws near. Some fans have interpreted this empathy as a clue that Rosamund, not Lady Grantham, is Edith’s true mother. It could also explain why Edith looks (and behaves) so different from her sisters. Or it could just be a sign that Rosamund cares about her niece.

7. Lady Mary’s “operation” was IVF.

In season 3, Lady Mary claims to have undergone a “small operation” that will help her start a family with Matthew. It’s maddeningly unclear what this operation entails, but one wild guess is that she had an early version of IVF. The complete crackpot theory is that this was a cover for Matthew’s infertility, which the doctors wouldn’t disclose to him, presumably to preserve his 1920s masculinity.

8. Lady Mary’s son George becomes a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II.

Lady Mary’s son George is only five years old in the series finale of Downton Abbey. But that means he would theoretically be 18 in the fall of 1939, which is exactly when World War II broke out in Europe. He would almost certainly enlist, as show creator Julian Fellowes himself has suggested. But Decider has more specifically theorized that George would join the Royal Air Force (RAF), “with a desire to rebel against his emotionally distant mother and find purpose in a greater cause.” Sounds like George would be taking part in some dangerous missions, putting the entire family’s future at risk.

9. Public tours keep the estate alive.

The Crawleys spend much of Downton Abbey fretting about the future management of their estate—partially because Lord Grantham is kind of bad at it. But Lady Mary has taken over when the series ends, and Fellowes believes she’d find savvy ways to keep her family’s home in their hands. “She would probably have opened the house to the public in the 1960s, as so many of them did,” Fellowes told Deadline. “And she’d have retreated to a wing, and maybe only occupied the whole house during the winters. My own belief is that the Crawleys would still be there.”

10. The Dowager Countess keeps Denker and Spratt around for the drama.

Gladys Denker is a maid to the Dowager Countess. Septimus Spratt is her butler. These two do not like each other, and they’re quite public about it. Denker and Spratt’s unprofessional squabbles would’ve gotten plenty of other servants fired, but fans believe the Dowager Countess keeps them employed for her own amusement.

You Can Rent This Wizard of Oz-Themed Cottage in North Carolina

Airbnb
Airbnb

This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the classic 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. In addition to watching the film, you can opt for a more immersive way to celebrate the occasion. As Travel + Leisure reports, a cottage in West Jefferson, North Carolina offered on Airbnb is perfect for any traveling Oz fan—and it’s only $35 a night.

The studio cottage is considered a glamping destination and is slim on amenities—it has a breakfast nook, porch, sofa bed, and a Porta John—but the Oz-themed details more than make up for the lack of luxurious perks.

A pair of stockinged feet are visible under the home, hinting at a witch’s untimely demise; a character mural of Dorothy and her three escorts, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, appears on the side of the cabin; inside, various other decorations pay homage to Baum's books, including a pair of ruby slippers and a few stuffed Totos.

A cottage with a 'Wizard of Oz' theme in West Jefferson, North Carolina is pictured
Airbnb

If you go, you’ll have to act quickly. The cottage is open only in the spring, summer, and fall, as it has no heat.

The Airbnb listing has a perfect score across 16 reviews. You can book it here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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