Jeff Bridges is known for being one of America's favorite actors, but the part that gets him stopped on the street the most, according to him, is his role as The Dude in the 1998 cult classic, "The Big Lebowski." It's an absurdist dark comedy that got mixed reviews when it first hit theaters. (Most critics had no idea what to make of the Coen brothers' film.) In it, the Dude is a White Russian-swilling, pot-smoking, pacifist bowler, and along with John Goodman playing an hilariously warped Vietnam vet, a pre-botched-plastic-surgery Tara Reid as the ridiculous ingenue, Julianne Moore as a painfully serious feminist painter, and a cluelessly obsequious Steve Buscemi as the buddy-sidekick, it's a film that was never meant to be a blockbuster.
Much has changed in the years since, and now not only does the movie end up in top 10 lists of "favorite films of all time," it's endlessly quoted and riffed on in pop culture. It's praised by the New York Times for its "deep unseriousness," and in-real-life events and gatherings of fans have grown in size and popularity in the U.S. and all over the world. (Full disclosure: I'm a fan and my 29th birthday party was 'Big Lebowski'-themed.) For those who call ourselves fans, the movie is perfectly hilarious, and endlessly weird, even after 50 viewings.
In April, there's the annual Big Lebowski Fest, and on March 6 of every year (or the weekend following), the Day of the Dude is celebrated — it's the date that the film was originally released.
And there's even Dudeism, which the webpage describes as, "An ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible, and above all, uh … lost my train of thought there. Anyway, if you’d like to find peace on earth and goodwill, man, we’ll help you get started. Right after a little nap." Yes, they even ordain Dudeist priests — for free! (Hold on, I'll be right back.)
Speaking of spirituality, many people have noted the connection between Bridges' character in the movie and the philosophies of Buddhism, and indeed Bridges practices meditation, though until he met Bernie Glassman he hadn't fully explored Zen.
"In Buddhist circles, The Dude is considered a Zen master," Bridges told Jon Stewart, when he was invited on "The Daily Show" to discuss the book he wrote in collaboration with Glassman called "The Dude and the Zen Master." The book is basically a long conversation between the two men.
"Interconnectedness, realizing that we're all in this together, you know, that we are one," says Bridges of what he got out of their conversation. And so the Dude and Bridges come full circle: "The Dude abides," as he says in the movie, and appears to be doing as Bridges too.