Denverites were blessed with the presence of the real “Dude”at the kickoff to the 2011 Film on the Rocks series at Red Rocks. Many of you may not know that Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski was based on Jeff Dowd, who is a close friend to directors Joel and Ethan Coen.
However, this wasn’t the first time The Dude has come to the mile high city. Dowd was in Denver to promote another Coen brothers film Blood Simple at the Denver Film Festival in the 1980s and came for the Red Rocks screening of The Big Lebowski two years ago. The Dude has close friends in the area, Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff for non-profit Peacejam. Dowd is quick to point out that his friends were nominated for the Nobel peace prize, and would’ve won if it weren’t for Barack Obama.
Click here to see an awesome slideshow from Denver Westword with pix of The Dude and his fans in costume
I was able to snag a few minutes with the incredibly interesting Dude himself, and below are a few of our questions and answers.
How did the Coen Brothers tell you that they were making a character after you?
There was a phone call that said they were doing this movie with John Goodman and Jeff Bridges, I’m kind of on the cusp, you know? It could go either way, right? It could be John Goodman or some Hollywood near nouveaux… They said, “Don’t worry, Dude, its Jeff Bridges.” So they still had a lot of fun at my expense with Jeff Bridges doing it.
So you’re pleased with how everything turned out?
It’s an odd thing, because it’s not my story or anything but parts of the character are very much like me at times.
I’m very pleased, it’s nice to come to a place like this and make new friends instantly.
Which characteristics of The Dude most resemble you in The Big Lebowski?
Not the ones that might be appealing to a sophisticated woman like yourself. But the Dude is a loyal friend to all his friends. But he’s also… a holy fool who’s not afraid, kind of like a king’s jester or most comedians who tell it like it is. They’re often absurdist and funny in an ironic way, like the likes of John Stewart, Colbert, Chris Rock, Charlie Chaplin, or Kaulfield.
So that’s what I pick up on. When I go to things like this and people tell me, “The Dude was such an inspiration for me”. I say, “Well, he’s kind of a slacker, what was so inspirational?” and they say, “Well, he tells it like it is”.
In a world where people put on a mask everyday-you may not and I may not, but some people do, at their jobs, put on a mask-in certain ways, they like that someone tells it like it is.
Is there a component in Jeff Bridges’ character that is totally off-base?
Well I know what day it is, sometimes. I work, which The Dude certainly doesn’t. I’m still very much an activist. What Joel and Ethan did is they froze the characters sometime in the ‘70s. They froze all the characters, heck Walter’s still frozen in ‘Nam. So, I did move on a little bit since the ‘70s, but not much.
When you come to CO, what are some of your favorite things to do or places to visit?
Well I don’t come that often, but I’m hoping to come back later. I used to go to Telluride all the time, and I still will, but I like to ski and such. I skied one time on October 16th when we showed Blood Simple here up at the Denver Film Festival. It snowed and I borrowed Ron Henderson’s gear and went up to the slopes-he was the festival director at the time and about my size.
I was hanging out in Morrison earlier today and Idledale for awhile and that was great. I live up in the Pacific Northwest with a lot of the same kind of outdoor qualities. I spend a lot of time camping, hiking, doing other things outdoors. So I’m kind of a big outdoors person. That’s something I like about it; the small town, big town feel.
I’m not a Broncos fan.
Who would you like to see at Red Rocks?
I’d love to see James Brown at Red Rocks. The godfather of soul would be great.
I’ve got a lot of musician friends of mine who love this venue, it’s a phenomenal venue. To be on the same stage as so many interesting people have been on, it’s an incredible privilege.
What’s your beverage of choice? Is it the White Russian?
Well right now I’m drinking water because it’s early and I’ve got to pace myself as there are 8800 people here trying to out-drink me.
The White Russian was Joel and Ethan’s idea, although it’s true we did drink them awhile, somewhere between the drink of the month; Tequila Sunrises, Harvey Wallbangers, etc. They used it because it’s a drink you can have some fun with. You can do site gags with it, riff off of it calling it the Caucasian, so it’s a funnier drink than a vodka soda. Everything those guys do is for a laugh or for irony or for satire.
My drink of choice is—well I smoke more than I drink—legally of course.
Oddly enough, I’ve had a few friends who’ve had troubles with alcohol, and I’ve realized this lately because I hope I’m not encouraging a generation of young alcoholics. I don’t think I do because I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t drink that much, but when you look at The Dude in the movie, he does drink that much.It’s all film, folks, don’t drink as much as The Dude. It’s not good for you.
When I go to events like these, people want to buy me a White Russian and I don’t want to disappoint them, so I’ll have one. It’s like an ice cream cone with liquor in it.
What is your favorite movie?
That’s always a tough question. I’ve got like a Top 50, with all the classics on it. I like movies like Some Like It Hot and Dr. Strangelove, which is a great satirical comedy. I like a lot of dramas.
What projects are you working on now?
Yeah, I’m doing a great animation movie out of Hawaii called Strange Frame, set in the 29th century on Jupiter. Two gay women in a rock and roll band, fighting for justice, having to abandon the toxic earth. You can expect to see it in the Fall or early in the Spring, it’s almost done. I’m raising a little bit of money to finish the final parts of it. Tim Curry is in it and a lot of other interesting people. It’s great.
I’m also working on another big feature film, it’s a documentary.
How many times have you seen The Big Lebowski?
I don’t know, not that many. TBL is interesting as you may know because it doesn’t manipulate you like you want to, and usually do get manipulated in a regular movie. It has almost an existentialist 3rd act. Nothing happens that you expect; there’s no bowling tournament, which is setup to be a big obligatory confrontation. The Dude doesn’t even bowl in the movie. Second viewing people like it a lot because they don’t have that expectation, and expectation is everything in life.
So I first watched it at a couple premiers and stuff, and then as I started channel surfing, I’d say, “hey this is pretty good”, so yeah, I’ve seen it. At things like this, I’ll watch 20 or 30 minutes. I don’t sit around watching it all the time.
What’s great about TBL is you don’t need to watch the whole thing. You can watch 2 or 3 sequences and it’s great. That’s why it’s become the default film of choice for bands, tour buses you know, when they only have like 30 minutes to get to the airport or between shows. Virtually every sports team, everyone in the military watches it. It’s interesting. It’s a movie to watch in parts. It’s kind of like selected songs from an album.
What’s it like to party with The Dude?
Darling, you might find out. It’s your choice. It’s a sweet experience for the women. The Dude is selective in the movie, picked out by Maude. I really try to fulfill on a nightly basis, and I’m not bad at it. I’m very sweet, it’s multi-orgasmic. I’ve made a discovery; most people think after 1 or 2 orgasms, you should stop there. They’re like, “Oh, ok”. But it’s pushing through. If you’ve never experienced that 6th, 7th, or 10th, 12th, or 14th, or 20th, when you just keep going, it’s pretty special. It really is.
How did you get the nickname The Dude?
I got it in 6th grade, some kid starting ripping on my name, Dowd, I think. It’s not a name I self-assigned, like in the movie. People started doing it and then it just kind of stuck.
In the activist days, when we got around a lot, and organizations’ publicity kind of picked up on it and that’s how Joel and Ethan picked up on it. They read about it, because they read a lot, and they called me. But for 20 or 30 years before the movie, friends were calling me The Dude.
What do you think of medical marijuana being legalized in Denver?
On the medical side, there are people who really need the stuff. It really makes a difference; cancer people who literally can’t eat, can’t sleep. Listen, I go to my mother’s assisted care place, she just turned 88. What a bunch of junkies that place is. She has like 16 pills a day, they come around and they feed all the people their pills. They’re all like these older people, and they all take a tremendous amount of pills. Some of those are cholesterol things and heart stuff, but a lot of it is pure psycho junk stuff.
I’d never taken an Ambien and I had a couple operations so I took it a couple times. It’s a really strong drug. I hated it and the hangover’s incredible. So for minor stuff, well it’s not that minor, it’s sleeping, if given the hard choice between a hard drug like Ambien or Levitra or those kind of things, and marijuana, it’s a no-brainer.
Many of these pills that are prescribed today will be thought of (and many of them already are) as bad for you. They’re experimenting around with stuff using humans as test victims of this whole thing. So the marijuana for medical reasons is a no-brainer. What are you, insane? You can get all these heavy hitting drugs, but you can’t get marijuana? I think most people, a lot use it recreationally and if that’s the way society has to deal with it, in a don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of way like with gay people, and it’s a sick and backwards way to do it.
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