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Film

When the Coen brothers pranked Jeff Bridges filming The Big Lebowski

@TomTaylorFO

“She’s not my special lady friend, man. I’m just helping her conceive.” – Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski

As Los Angeles pans into view during the opening sequence of The Big Lebowski we hear the soaring ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’, a musical lament of acquiescing to the equanimity of aimlessness in the meandering dream of the Old West and cut above this is a conversational ode of sorts to ‘The Dude’. Within that opening stanza Sam Elliot drawls out the following – “Sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there.” And nowhere does that notion hold more water than in the realm of music. 

Throughout the masterpiece of the film, music is a vehicle of great importance. The soundtrack is one of the greatest ever created with New Morning ditties from Bob Dylan to the fist-pumping celebration of garden gazing meditation with Creedence Clearwater Revival and their brilliant ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’. 

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Naturally, music is also essential to the atmosphere when dream sequences suddenly unspool. One such segment sees a spaced-out Dude drift under the legs of various women straddling a bowling alley. It is an iconic section of the film, forming a key feature of its aesthetic; it had to be created meticulously. However, part of the reason the Coen brothers films are so beloved is that the joviality onset among the revolving cast of their acting friends clearly creates a creative haven that spills onto the screen. Thus, when this pivotal sequence came around, they saw no need to fret and, instead, looked to get one over on their leading man. 

When discussing the filming of the segment on Conan, Jeff Bridges recalled: “I made a terrible error that day. I thought ‘Ooh, it might be nice to invite my wife and young girls to the set one day.’ … Because [along with that dream sequence] we also filmed this Busby Berkeley deal with the girls with all the bowling pin hats and I thought ‘Oh that’ll be fun for the girls’.”

When he arrived that day with his 7-9 children and wife, it was a decision met with incredulity by the crew. “I get there,” Bridges recalls, “and they say, ‘Jeff what the hell are you thinking?! This is the day when you get on that skateboard on your back and you’re pulled and you’re looking at all these ladies’ vaginas, you know, what are you thinking!’.”

Adding:  “So, anyway, I take photographs when I’m on the set with this crazy wide lux camera… so I went up to the head bowling pin… I say, ‘This is a wonderful photo op, do you mind if I take a picture [while I’m going underneath for the rehearsal]?’ And she said, ‘Oh! By all means, do.’ And I think that’s kind of strange.”

Musing over the alluring tone of her response, Bridges decides to shrug it off, much like The Dude would himself, and he climbs onto his back. “I get on my little skateboard and I get my camera ready and I look up and there – beneath the leotard – are these tufts of pubic hair coming out of these leotards that I just.. I mean… amazing!” He humorously remembers. 

Concluding: “And I go ‘Ahhh okay, and I push the camera and the lens goes tssst, and as I go, the next lady’s unit, vagina whatever you want to call it, there’s more tufts and then the next one and it’s like forests! What they had done is they went to the makeup man, and they had crepe hair put there. Fortunately, my wife and the whole crew and everyone was in on it, so it was a joke on The Dude, Ha Ha.”

And I’ve even gone to the trouble of sourcing that photo which you can view by clicking here. Thanks to an amassment of pubic hair it is also just about safe for work, owing to the amusing prank it looks more like badger saviour Brian May doing a handstand.