Watch a Short Doc on the Dude That Inspired “The Dude”

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 28 2012 8:03 PM

Did You See This? The Real Lebowski

JeffDowd_TheDude
Jeff Dowd (center), who helped inspire The Big Lebowski, poses with his fans.

Still from The Dude from Vimeo.

In a short documentary directed last year by documentary filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston), and posted today at The Atlantic, Jeff Dowd, the real-life inspiration for the iconic character the Dude in The Big Lebowski, tells his own story.

As he recalls his past adventures, Dowd details some experiences that the Coen brothers called upon for the Lebowski character. Early on, for example, he describes his arrest as one of the “Seattle Seven,” an experience cited by Lebowski in the Coen brothers’ film. Like the Dude of Lebowski lore, he seems incredibly cool and self-aware, noting that while he and his fellow rebels may have projected a rock star image, they were still "articulate" advocates who were serious about their cause. Later, Dowd recounts his move into the film world. He worked with Robert Redford on the early stages of the Sundance Institute, and has executive-produced a few projects, including FernGully: The Last Rainforest.

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And of course he tells how directors Joel and Ethan Cohen incorporated his quirks and eccentricities into Lebowski. While Dowd’s political activism remains a large part of who he is—as we noted on Brow Beat last fall, he even showed up to show his support for Occupy LA—he is just as eager to embrace the cult status of his fictional persona. We see him appear as a  guest of honor at one of the annual Lebowski Fests, in Florida, and he seems happy to embrace his celebrity (especially when it might impress lady Lebowski fans). As he asks his driver, while en route to the airport, “You ever seen The Big Lebowski, Robert?”
 
Previously
The Dude Visits Occupy LA, Abides

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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