The Dude, Joel and Ethan Coen’s timeless stoner character from their cult classic, The Big Lebowski, might just be one of the most iconic characters in cinema history. Throughout the two-hour-long movie, The Dude flaunts his erratic mannerisms as he mindlessly and haphazardly floats through all the surreal and, at times, dangerous scenarios he somehow finds himself smack dab in the middle of. The character was an ingenious amalgamation of the hyper-laidback Californian hippie attitude; a larger-than-life persona living out of his time, as if he were transported via time machine straight from the late 1960s. In that respect, The Dude was a person of the past seen through the lens of hindsight, and it’s that retrograde quality that made him such an iconic character. But what if we told you that such a person actually existed?
Ok, that may not come as such a surprise. After all, there are still Elvis personators out there making a living, so the fact that there are a few hippies here and there really shouldn’t be that big of a revelation. But The Dude wasn’t just based on an archetypical hippie, he was completely modeled after one person, a certain Jeff Dowd.
Jeff Dowd is an American film producer and activist that the Coen brothers met by chance while they were in the midst of finding distribution for their first feature film, Blood Simple. The resemblance between the two would be uncanny were it not intentional; they both shared a political past, they both drank White Russians, and they were both known simply as ‘The Dude’. This, however, makes sense given the fact that Jeff Dowd’s surname is already quite similar to the word ‘dude’. Unlike the Hollywood version, the real-life Dude was actually quite the hard worker; he is renowned as a film marketing and distribution guru, an excellent producer, a founding member of the Sundance Film Festival, an astute writer, as well as a father to two daughters.