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(Credit: The Big Lebowski)

Film

The insane theory about Donny in ‘The Big Lebowski’

@Russellisation

There may be no other stoner movie quite as iconic in the history of filmmaking than the cult classic, The Big Lebowski, directed by the Coen Brothers, a comedy that remains as beloved today as it was when it was released in 1998. Displaying vibrant, eccentric characters, the brilliance of the Coen’s classic is in the frenetic flamboyance of its central main cast, from Jeff Bridges Dude to John Turturro as Jesus Quintana.

Though it might be Bridges’ Dude who often hogs the limelight of the film’s success, it is the range of supporting characters who bring the real fuel to the 1998 movie. One such character is Donny, played by Steve Buscemi, a bowling partner of the Dude and a Vietnam veteran alongside his friend Walter Sobchak, played by John Goodman. 

Staying loyal to the lead duo, Donny eventually sees his demise at the end of the film following an altercation with nihilists who set the Dude’s car on fire, which leads to him having a heart attack. Such leads to one of the most comedic movie endings of all time when the two lead characters go to spread his ashes over a clifftop, only for it to blow back in their faces in the wind. 

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Though, what if Donny was dead all along? This is what one wild fan theory on the cult classic suggests, with lovers of the movie suggesting that Steve Buscemi’s character was a ghost during the entire story. 

The basis of the theory states that as a Vietnam war ‘veteran’, Donny died during the conflict, with his frequent interactions with Walter being a figment of his own imagination, devising the image of Donny as a way of dealing with his own PTSD. Considering that Walter is essentially the only character who interacts with Buscemi’s throughout the movie, this theory does hold some solidity. 

With this considered, one could also interpret that only the viewers can see Donny, with the characters in the movie seeing Walter speak in two different voices, simply too polite to him to question him or his peculiar actions. 

This theory isn’t just one restricted to movie message boards either with the actor who plays Donny, Steve Buscemi, commenting on it too, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about his thoughts on the hypothesis. “There’s this new theory that Donny is just a figment of Walter’s imagination,” the actor told the publication, adding, “like he’s an old army buddy that had died or something. It almost works.”

With the actor entertaining the theory, the Coen Brothers have also discussed their own position in an interview with The Huffington Post in 2016, giving a cryptic, poetic response over the new take on the movie. “You could say any of the characters are imaginary if you wanna stretch it that far,” Ethan Coen stated, before his brother, Joel, stepped in, adding, “Ethan just pointed out something that’s very important, which is that all the characters are imaginary. They were all imagined. They don’t exist in reality. They were just made up for the movie”.  

So, whilst there is certainly good evidence to suggest the fan theory rings true, by the mouth of the filmmakers and actor, Steve Buscemi, the ghost of Donny wasn’t their intention, even if it makes for a compelling thought and a perfect rabbit hole to fall down when watching a cult classic for the 20th time.