Like much of the Coen Brothers filmography, it took me two viewings to completely wrap my head around the greatness of The Big Lebowski. While it was met with a somewhat tepid response upon its release, years later it would become a modern cult classic, spawning fan conventions — specifically, Lebowski Fest — and a dedicated following of fans who enjoy dressing up as their favourite characters from the film. What some of you might not know is that The Dude, played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges, was actually based on a real person; Jeff Dowd, the real life inspiration for the Coen Brother’s carefree, robe wearing, white russian sipping hero. In reality he was a member of the Seattle Seven (as was his on-screen counterpart) and has worked in the film industry as a producer/promoter. Now, thanks to Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston), we get to spend a little time with The Dowd and learn a little about his background and how he came to be the real life counterpart of a cult film icon.

Meet the dude behind The Dude. As the inspiration for the beloved central character in the Coen Brothers’ cult-favorite film The Big Lebowski, Jeff Dowd has become a popular figure at annual Lebowski Fests around the country. This film follows Dowd to one of these events, offering a glimpse into the fascinating world of this subculture and the colorful real-life character behind the iconic fictional Dude.

Anybody who has followed this site will know that I’m a huge fan of Jeff’s film The Devil and Daniel Johnston and it’s great to see him taking on another project that looks at a character who holds a spot in an especially unique corner of popular culture. The film was made as a part of the ‘Character Project’, a series of shorts presented by the USA Network, RSA Films and Ridley & Tony Scott. Here’s some info on the series:

Character Project is an ongoing artistic initiative committed to celebrating America’s characters – the interesting, dazzling, and distinctive people, from all walks of life, who make this country extraordinary. Inspired by USA’s “Characters Welcome” brand, Character Project launched in 2009 with a focus on photography. For its second act, USA has partnered with RSA Films and Ridley & Tony Scott, to once again turn a lens on America’s characters, this time through the medium of the moving image. Together, they commissioned eight talented filmmakers to each explore the theme of character from their own unique perspective. From lost loves to loyal friends, private heroes to public personalities, the subjects of these short films – some real, some fictional – show the courage, connection, humor, and hope that give shape to the American character. After all, characters are what make us USA.