The Big Lebowski or “The Dude” shuffled into theaters 20 years ago — and people are still talking about him (or like him) today. But how was this cinematic phenomenon born, exactly?
The film was one of two scripts created by the Coen brothers after a series of movie flops. The second of the two was “Fargo,” which helped the brothers gain back their credibility and encouraged them to take a chance on making "The Big Ledowski."
The brothers are huge fans of Raymond Chandler who wrote “The Big Sleep,” and the “The Long Goodbye” and wanted to do a script inspired by his strange style. The movie’s unforgettable lead was based off of an indie producer named Jeff Doud — whose laid-back attitude and love for comfy sweaters made for a lovable protagonist. In fact, most of the movie’s characters were based off of real-life personalities.
When the movie came out, it was competing against successful flicks like “Titanic” and started out at the box office in a pitiful sixth place. Although it initially bombed, it has since grown into a film-nerd staple, beginning with midnight screenings then exploding into a massive fandom that has spawned costumes, challenges and festivals. It just goes to show you that a movie’s initial popularity doesn’t necessarily inform its long-term success.