There aren’t many films that can generate their very own ideology, but the premise and performance of the Coen brothers seminal 1990s cult film The Big Lebowski is one such movie. Thanks to the persuasive nature of the story’s main protagonist, ‘The Dude’, played by Jeff Bridges, the film has become a cult phenomenon, touching all corners of the cultural landscape. Though the film is rooted in the grand opulence of the Indiewood explosion of the ’90s, it also has a hilarious connection to past icons: The Rolling Stones.
Naturally, the band, comprised of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, have had their hand in a fair few films over the years. With nearly six decades of work in the bag, much of which is considered the pinnacle of the swinging 1960s rock revolution, the Stones have found their music plastered over some of the greatest films ever made. But their appearance in The Big Lebowski only came about for one reason — an iconic line from The Dude himself.
There are countless stories derived from the making of The Big Lebowski that only further embolden its case as a cult classic. Whether it is the fact that the seemingly rambling dialogue was all scripted, or that the Dude was set to be offered to Mel Gibson before Bridges took on the role, the further down you dig into the well of Big Lebowski information; the more and more gold glitters in the muck. However, there is something quite poetic about how The Rolling Stones song ‘Dead Flowers’ featured in the movie.
In fact, it wasn’t the Stones’ version of the track that made the cut; it was Townes Van Zandt’s rendition of the song that would be used by the Coens. However, they still needed to go through the arduous process of having the track signed off by the original songwriters, as well as working out a suitable fee. Such a licensing fee can be plucked from a broad spectrum of figures. Some can go for as little as $100, while other big-name acts commanded something far heftier, much like The Rolling Stones.
The Coens approached The Rolling Stones‘ former manager Allen Klein about licensing the song. Klein sent back his asking price of $150,000, and it appeared that the sign-off from production was forthcoming. However, things took a turn for the better when Klein was shown an early cut of the film and picked up on one line of dialogue. Klein was reportedly delighted when he heard the Dude say: “I hate the f*cking Eagles, man!”
Seemingly sharing the sentiment of distaste for the soft-rock merchants, Klein immediately contacted T Bone Burnett — the man at the helm of the soundtrack for the film and an old friend of Klein’s — and waived the entire fee completely. It ensured that the song was perfectly placed within the incredible soundtrack and proved that despite their business-first attitudes, The Rolling Stones and their management could see the funnier side of life too.
Listen to The Rolling Stones song ‘Dead Flowers’ below.