The Coen brothers have collaborated with numerous esteemed actors in the industry, spanning from Steve Buscemi to John Goodman. Nevertheless, when they envisioned casting the iconic Marlon Brando for their 1998 neo-noir black comedy, The Big Lebowski, they aimed to partner with the absolute best.
Featuring Jeff Bridges in the most iconic role of his career, The Big Lebowski follows a hippie slacker called ‘The Dude’ as he navigates the dangerous labyrinths of Los Angeles’ criminal underworld after being mistaken for someone else. One of the defining American films of the decade, The Big Lebowski is an indispensable work.
In an interview, Joel Coen explained the narrative structure of the film and its episodic format. He said: “We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story – how it moves episodically, and deals with the characters trying to unravel a mystery. As well as having a hopelessly complex plot that’s ultimately unimportant.:
While talking about the mystique of ‘The Dude’, Ethan Coen added: “And there was something attractive about having the main character not be a private eye, but just some pothead intuitively figuring out the ins and outs of an elaborate intrigue. And then there’s Walter, whose instincts are always wrong.”
Although it was subjected to a mixed reception at the time of its release, The Big Lebowski is now seen as one of the most beloved films from the 1990s. Its influence extends beyond the domain of cinema since a group of devoted fans actually started a religion based on the character of ‘The Dude’ in the film.
Interestingly, the Coens had a lot of big names in their mind when they were thinking about the casting process for the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski (the actual ‘Big Lebowski’). They listed top targets such as Robert Duvall, Anthony Hopkins and Gene Hackman but all of them passed on the project because they didn’t believe in it.
Their ultimate ‘Big Lebowski’ was Marlon Brando because they envisioned him as the perfect conservative counterpart to the Dude’s hippie politics. Eventually, the role went to David Huddleston, who delivered a fantastic performance as the Big Lebowski, tapping into the collective consciousness of wealthy white conservative Americans.