Whether you want to call him the ‘Dude’, his “Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing,” Jeff Bridges iconic Big Lebowski character has become known as one of the most loveable slackers in movie history. Appearing alongside John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Tara Reid, John Turturro and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bridges gives the standout performance in an influential ensemble cast of actors.
Cinema’s most infamous stoner was inspired by the American film producer Jeff Dowd, an individual that the director’s of The Big Lebowski, the Coen brothers, had met whilst trying to secure distribution for their debut feature film Blood Simple. With a sweet tooth for a White Russian, Jeff Dowd’s persona was merged with that of the Coen brother’s friend Peter Exline, a Vietnam war veteran who lived in a chaotic apartment room.
Meeting Dowd to prepare himself for the role, Bridges recalls: “I drew on myself a lot from back in the Sixties and Seventies. I lived in a little place like that and did drugs, although I think I was a little more creative than the Dude”. In keeping with this, Jeff Bridges also went through his own clothes with his wardrobe assistant to pick the many long-sleeved, baggy outfits that the ‘Dude’ might wear in the film. Many of the Dude’s iconic shirts, including the Kaoru Betto T-shirt, were Jeff Bridges’ own, sporting the very same T-shirt in Cold Feet, and The Fisher King.
As relaxed on set as his bohemian character would suggest, the Coen Brothers recalled that directing Bridges was a pleasure to work with, needing very few requirements from the crewmembers for his performance. In fact, one of the very few things Jeff Bridges asked of the Coen brothers, Ethan outlines, stating: “At the start of shooting every scene, he’d walk up to one or the other of us and ask if we figured the dude burned one on the way over”.
Making reference to his character’s heavy weed-smoking habit, Bridges was curious as to how he needed to approach the scene, stoned or sober? Recalling the on-set conversation, Ethan Coen adds: “So thinking about it, usually we’d say, ‘Yeah, he probably burned one on the way over,’ and Jeff would go over in the corner, rub his knuckles in his eyes to turn them red, and do the scene”.
Alluding to how easy it was to work with the iconic actor, Ethan Coen concluded by saying, “That was kind of the extent of what you had to do to direct Jeff,” as he praised his professionalism and good nature working on set.
Jeff Bridges worked with the Coen brothers for the second time in 2010 for True Grit where the actor would take up a similarly stylish character, albeit one who had a taste for justice at all costs. Starring alongside Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, the film would reignite the compelling combination of the Coen brothers and Jeff Bridges, even The Big Lebowski still remains their most celebrated outing.