Big Lebowski Star Thought People Didn’t Understand The Movie At First

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Jeff Bridges, who starred as The Dude in The Big Lebowski, reflects on why the Coen Brothers film failed to hit it big during its original release.


The Big Lebowski star Jeff Bridges has reflected on why the film took a while to become a minted classic. In the Coen Brothers film, which premiered in 1998, Bridges plays a laid back character named The Dude who gets embroiled in the world of crime when he is mistaken for a kingpin who shares his last name. The film, which also stars John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Tara Reid, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, John Turturro, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, only became a cult hit after its initial release, when it barely made its $15 million budget back at the domestic box office.

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The Hollywood Reporter recently sat down with Bridges to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Big Lebowski. The star expressed his consternation at the fact that the film wasn’t a huge hit, which he expected. He supposes that “people didn’t get it,” potentially thanks to its unique sense of humor. Read his full quote below:

I thought it was going to be a big hit. I was surprised when it didn’t get much recognition. People didn’t get it, or something.

Related: Marlon Brando Almost Starred In The Big Lebowski


The Big Lebowski Earned Its Classic Status Over Time

The Dude in a bowling alley in The Big Lebowski

By the time its 25th anniversary has rolled around, The Big Lebowski has become enough of a mainstream classic that it has earned this kind of retrospective tribute. Now, elements of the film including the name The Dude as well as lines of dialogue including “that rug really tied the room together” are iconic pop culture references. In fact, a Golden Globes clip package celebrating a career achievement award for Bridges in 2019 featured 1883 star Sam Elliott reprising his role as the film’s mysterious narrator, highlighting its importance in the star’s overall career.

However, in order for the film to earn its current status, it had to slowly build up a cult over time. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the film survived thanks to its status as a more obscure gem, allowing many film fanatics to feel like they were uncovering something truly special. The film’s word-of-mouth success pushed it to the heights of public consciousness far more than its theatrical release could have, as it found the audience that was most in tune with its kooky tone.

The Big Lebowski‘s reputation was also aided by quite a few films that followed. Stoner comedies like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and other genre-bending Coen Brothers films including Burn After Reading gave wider audiences a much more clear road map as to how to approach the 1998 project. While it can now be hard to imagine the movie not going over well originally, the film’s path to success was just as lackadaisical and meandering as The Dude himself.

More: The Big Lebowski: What “The Dude Abides” Means

Source: THR

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