Jeff Dowd is the real-life inspiration behind the Coen brother’s 1997 cult hit “The Big Lebowski.” He’s an affable guy, somewhere between laid back and lazy, but with an incredible outlook on life. Documentarian Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil & Daniel Johnston) followed him around and made this short documentary on the guy. Check it out:
Feuerzeig talks about their first encounter:
In 1986, twelve years before The Big Lebowski, first screenplay in hand, I flew from NY to LA, rented a car, and pulled up to The Dude’s dilapidated apartment/office on the “boardwalk” of Venice Beach for my very first Hollywood meeting. As if on cue, this Avery Schreiber-looking mop-topped behemoth clad in super-tight grape smuggling polyester shorts and a hideous floral Hawaiian shirt rolled up on roller blades and welcomed me to paradise. While I stood on his sagging balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean watching all the blonde bikini-clad beach girls in leg warmers skate by, the Dude ransacked his living room, overturning stacks of unread scripts, looking for my screenplay, which I’m still not convinced he’d read. Finally locating it, he launched into an inspirational rant, this bear-like wild tangle of hair showering me with spittle as he gesticulated wildly, telling me with a straight face that I was “the next Cassavetes” and I was going to make films my own way.
The Dude and I never did work together, but over the years we’d cross paths on the festival circuit, and it always warmed my heart that such a character, this true believer, was still carrying the torch for Independent film. When the Coen Brothers made The Big Lebowski in 1998, I sat in a darkened theater trying to reconcile the Dude I knew with the fictitious character Jeff Bridges was playing on screen — Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski — but I was not surprised in the least that the Coens found inspiration in the Dude. Jeff Dowd is a right of passage in the indie film world — baptism by the Dude — his spittle and good vibes setting you free to create a world of your own.
h/t: The Atlantic, man.