“The Big Lebowski” is a cult movie in every sense of the word. Apart from the superb direction and acting, it’s the sense that here is this guy, “the Dude”, who basically chooses lead a totally hedonistic lifestyle drinking his White Russians and smoking dope and lazing around in the bath with candles, and in one sense he’s a total loser, but on the other hand he knows exactly what he is doing, he has made his choices and that can be very appealing to many of the rest of us, slaves in one sense or another.
If you flirted with that kind of excess in earlier years and then straightened out there will always be a part of you that wonders whether at the end of your long and worthy life you may look back and say: “I had a choice: I could have just hung around smoking dope all day like the Dude or I could have gone to the office doing a job I don’t like that much with people I don’t feel much affinity with. And I chose the second option—why the hell did I do that?”
Anyway, I somehow stumbled on an interview with Jeff Dowd, the guy “the Dude” was based on. Since the Dude is a minor hero of mine, I was glad that his real life version came across as a pretty smart and funny guy. He’s good on the reasons for the film’s appeal too.
But what I think is interesting about it is that this movie brings so much pleasure to people in a world where so many of us have to put on a mask everyday to go to work and be somebody that we’re not. And it helps us relax. It’s a hell of a present to give to a friend who, during the day, has to be a little more uptight than they actually are. My friend Huey Lewis would say, “I want a new drug.” Well, in a certain sense, “The Big Lebowski” is one. If you go on my website, JeffDowd.com, there’s a letter from a New York fireman who was a 9/11 fireman and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome for months; it was just a terrible situation, and he tried therapy and drugs...and then, one day, he picked up a copy of “The Big Lebowski” that he had sitting on a shelf. And he put it in, and, for the first time in months, he started to smile again...and, then, laugh again. And his wife sat there and talked to me and said, “This is what brought him back as a husband and father, and thank you for being in some way a part of this ‘Big Lebowski’ thing.” And, so, I think that’s...for a movie that, on many levels, is just a lot of fun, let’s not underestimate how important fun is in this world, y’know, and having fun with your friends is. And I think that’s kind of why this movie endures in so many ways.