Jeff Bridges played The Dude in The Big Lebowski.
The Big Lebowski initially flopped at the box office, but like Spinal Tap, which also fizzled at first, the Coen brothers' stoner comedy has become one of those movies that people can't stop talking about more than a decade after they left the theater.
Tuesday's release of The Big Lebowski Limited Edition Blu-ray package offers plenty of reminders underscoring the film's quirky cult appeal. Two thugs' decision to urinate on the hero's carpet after mistaking him for a rich millionaire who's absconded with their boss's money? Check.
Julianne Moore's performance as the feminist performance artist who makes her entrance stark naked on a trapeze swing? Check.
Bowling addicts, Vietnam vets, severed thumb? Check, check, check.
And of course, there's The Dude. Jeff Bridges' congenial take as super-loose hippie detective Jeffrey Lebowski fuels the fine madness that unspools in one utterly unpredictable sequence after another.
The Coen brothers later created Brad Pitt's doofus personal trainer in Burn After Reading and George Clooney's loopy escaped convict in O Brother, Where Art Thou, but their partnering with Bridges on the uber-relaxed Dude remains unmatched as an exercise in brilliantly rendered idiocy.
Bridges' inner Dude surfaced during an interview a few years ago. Slouched on a couch in a Beverly Hills hotel, sneaker-clad feet propped on a coffee table, he spoke about his role as alcoholic womanizer Ted Cole in 2004's The Door in the Floor. "I never really went out of my way to make him likable," Bridges told me. "It was kind of a fine line because you didn't want to make him so despicable that you wouldn't want to follow the story," he said. "At the same time, we didn't want to make him so sweet that it was unrealistic."
That ability to make characters feel real galvanized a slow-building clamor for The Big Lebowski a couple of years after its initial release. A six-week run of Lebowski midnight screenings in Santa Cruz led to the first Lebowski Fest, in 2002.
Bridges shows up in New York Tuesday for this year's edition, where he'll play cuts from his new self-titled album. The event, which also features appearances from John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and T Bone Burnett, will be webcast on Facebook.
In honor of the fest, and the movie, and the DVD, and all things Dude-like, The Morton Report presents five killer lines spoken by the Dude in The Big Lebowski:
"This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's head. Luckily I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind limber."
"I bowl, drive around, the occasional acid flashback."
"Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women, man."
"Can you turn the radio off? I've had a rough night and I hate the fucking Eagles, man!"
"Look, let me explain something to you. I'm not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. That or His Dudeness... Duder... or El Duderino, if, you know, you're not into the whole brevity thing."
The Big Lebowski Limited Edition Blu-ray, including a 28-page booklet, a "What's My Line" dialogue game and fresh interview material, is list priced at $29.98.