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[whitespace] 'The Big Lebowski'

Five Things You Didn't Know About 'The Big Lebowski'

Well, OK, maybe you did, but they're still pretty cool

By Steve Palopoli

1. It's understood that The Big Lebowski riffs on the golden-age L.A. noir of Raymond Chandler, but most fans don't realize the early scene of the Dude at the Big Lebowski's home is a thinly veiled sendup of Howard Hawks' 1946 film version of Chandler's The Big Sleep as scripted by William Faulkner. The Dude stands in for Humphrey Bogart's Philip Marlowe--both go to the home of a patriarch in a wheelchair (General Sternwood in Sleep), after which they are eventually hired to handle the case of a free-spirited young woman (Carmen in Sleep, Bunny in Lebowski). The uptight butler Brad in Lebowski replaces uptight butler Norris in Sleep, while Bunny attempts to seduce the Dude just as Carmen tries to seduce Marlowe (to which Bogart famously quips, "She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up").

2. The scene in which the Big Lebowski delivers a monologue in front of the fireplace recalls a similar setup in Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons.

3. The death of Steve Buscemi's character Donny is built up to throughout the film. Each time he is shown bowling, he bowls a strike (leading him to say things like "I'm throwin' rocks tonight!"), until the last time, just before his heart attack, when he looks puzzled after failing to knock down all his pins. This omen is not in the screenplay and was added during filming. Incidentally, Buscemi's character has also been killed off in three other Coen brothers' films: Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink and Fargo.

4. The private investigator who tails the Dude drives a blue Volkswagen--the same kind of car driven by the private investigator in the Coen brothers' first film, Blood Simple.

5. A scene in Rod Lurie's The Contender pays tribute to The Big Lebowski, as Jeff Bridges, playing the president of the United States, bowls while talking to Sam Elliott as his adviser. In a 2001 interview, Lurie told me he specifically put the scene in to attract Bridges to the project, but his plan backfired. "I put the bowling scene in when I was trying to get Jeff, because I assumed it would be helpful because of The Big Lebowski, and then I found out he doesn't bowl at all. He goes, 'Oh fuck, I've got to bowl again.'" Lurie also said that upon agreeing to the project, Bridges walked him out to his car and said, "Wow, Dude's gonna be president."

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From the July 25-31, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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