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15 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'The Big Lebowski' That Show Why The Dude Abides

Updated June 23, 2021 3.2k votes 510 voters 30.2k views15 items

List RulesVote up the best Lebowski stories - but it's just, like, your opinion, man.

We're absolutely certain you'll abide by these Big Lebowski behind-the-scenes stories. A masterpiece of eccentricity, the 1998 Coen brothers comedy tells the story of Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), a perpetually stoned, middle-aged hippie and bowling enthusiast. Some lowlife criminals mistake him for a millionaire of the same name when they come looking to collect money. In the process, they ruin the rug that really tied the room together. The Dude enlists his best buddy, the intense 'Nam vet Walter (John Goodman), in seeking restitution. Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, and John Turturro co-star. 

The making of this cuckoo cult classic is full of mind-blowing tidbits. Aspects of it are based on real people and events, a major action star was once considered for the lead role, and a professional bowler was called in to help the cast members look legit on the lanes.

Which of these making-of stories from The Big Lebowski is the most far-out? Your votes will determine the answer. 

  • 1

    A Music Manager Waived A $150,000 Licensing Fee Because He Liked A Line In The Movie

    Music plays a significant role in The Big Lebowski. One of the songs the Coens wanted to use was Townes Van Zandt's cover of "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones. The band's former manager, Allen Klein, owned the rights. He was initially willing to license the tune for $150,000, but decided to give it to them for free after hearing a line of dialogue in the screenplay. 

    Upon being shown an early cut of The Big Lebowski, Klein was delighted by the moment when the Dude says, "I hate the f*cking Eagles, man!" Apparently no fan of that popular '70s group, Klein immediately told music supervisor T Bone Burnett that there would be no charge to use the song. 

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  • 2

    Before Filming Each Scene, Jeff Bridges Wanted To Know Whether The Dude Was Stoned In It

    You've got to hand it to Jeff Bridges - he takes his work seriously. To play the Dude, he wanted to make sure his motivation was correct at all times. To that end, he asked Joel and Ethan Coen whether the character was stoned before filming each scene. 

    Explains Ethan, "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. 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."

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  • 3

    The Part Of The Dude Was Initially Offered To Mel Gibson

    Once the script was written, the Coen brothers had to decide who could bring the role of the Dude most fully to life. They initially offered the role to Mel Gibson, whose career was at its peak thanks to the popular Lethal Weapon series, the blockbuster Ransom, and the Oscar-winning Braveheart. Gibson, whose sense of humor famously veers more in the direction of the Three Stooges, didn't click with the material.

    From there, the Coens met with Jeff Bridges. Unlike Gibson, he not only got the story's humor, but also identified with the character. Of course, it's impossible now to imagine anyone else in the role.

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  • 4

    The Rambling Dialogue Was Carefully Scripted And Improv Was Almost Nonexistent

    Because of the rambling manner in which the Dude speaks - which is full of stops and starts, as well as awkward pauses - it would be easy to assume there was a fair amount of improvisation in the making of The Big Lebowski. In fact, the opposite is true. The dialogue was carefully scripted, with improv strongly discouraged.

    According to Bridges, "I tried to put an extra 'man' in or an extra 'f*ck,' or a pause or something, and it didn't feel as right. It felt undone. It was just written so perfectly."

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