Skip to main content

Obsessions: 'The Big Lebowski'

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN
Red carpet reunion: Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman celebrate Lebowski Fest and the film's Blu-ray release.
Red carpet reunion: Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman celebrate Lebowski Fest and the film's Blu-ray release.
  • Fans of "The Big Lebowski" gathered in New York this week for Lebowski Fest
  • The Coen brothers film, which initially flopped, became a pop culture phenomenon
  • Stars including Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi participated in a Q&A
  • Goodman: "It's the most fun I ever had working on a film.

(CNN) -- Achievers, raise your White Russian tumblers because this "Obsessions" is for you.

Do you hate the Eagles? Do you bowl? Compulsively drink White Russians (er, Caucasians)? Is your only form of identification a Ralph's Value Club card? Got a rug that really ties the room together? You're not alone, man.

When the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski" hit theaters in 1998 it was, well, a gutter ball, earning just $17.5 million. The film starred Jeff Bridges as "The Dude," John Goodman as Vietnam vet and Judaism convert Walter, Julianne Moore as feminist artist Maude, Steve Buscemi as loyal pal Donny and John Turturro as bowling rival/pedophile "The Jesus."

But the Achievers (the fans of the movie) eventually found it, on VHS and then DVD and now Blu-ray, making it the cult phenomenon it is today.

It soon inspired the fan-run Lebowski Fest -- an event that takes place in various cities throughout the year. This week, Achievers gathered in New York City for a very special incarnation of Lebowski Fest marking the film's long-awaited Blu-ray release. The event was held at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom. The red carpet was the film's famous stolen rug that "really tied the room together."

We media folk on the red carpet were a mix of Achievers, and those who really only wanted to talk to Bridges about his new album and to Buscemi about "Boardwalk Empire." We abided, and I was lucky enough to be standing next to two guys who debated which fictional porn movie was better: "Logjammin' " or "Gutterballs."

Goodman spoke to CNN on the red carpet. He told us that the line from "Lebowski" he is asked to quote most often is, "Shut the f**k up, Donny."

The actor maintains he had no idea the film would be so highly worshipped by fans. "Absolutely not," said Goodman. "It's the most fun I ever had working on a film. I never thought about it actually being released."

He also noted that his favorite scene "Changes all the time. (He laughs.) I like the scene where he's getting grilled by the Malibu police, but really, it changes a lot."

When asked if he is ever as intense as his "Lebowski" character, the hot-headed Walter, Goodman said, "God, I hope not!"

Bridges admitted that he shares some character traits with The Dude, including a laid-back attitude and a fondness for the tunes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Also, he stated that the clear plastic jelly sandals The Dude wears in "Lebowski," along with some other clothing items, were his own.

Red carpet arrivals were followed by a Q&A moderated by Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis. The panel consisted of Bridges, Goodman, Turturro, Moore, Buscemi and music archivist T Bone Burnett on the Hammerstein's stage.

Turturro gave a shout-out to his costume which can best be described as a grape-bubblegum-colored polyester jumpsuit.

"All actors have to credit their costumes," joked Turturro, who said that after the film's release he "got a lot of sex mail."

When Buscemi had the floor, the Achievers shouted, in unison, "Shut the f**k up, Donny!" To which the actor replied, "First of all, YOU shut the f**k up!"

Buscemi said he had the cast sign a bowling ball as a keepsake, and that when he approached actor Sam Elliot (the sarsaparilla-sipping Stranger) for an autograph, the actor replied in his signature folksy voice, "Man, I don't usually do this."

Moore told the crowd that what attracted her to the film was Maude's unique way of speaking.

"I loved the language," said the actress, who joked, "It's not an accent, it's an affectation."

Moore also told the crowd that her most cherished memento from the set isn't one of the coveted bowling pin hats, it's her 13-year-old son. The actress became pregnant in the middle of filming.

After leading the crowd in a yoga-inspired Ohm (Yup, we Ohmed with The Dude), Bridges wrapped up the talk by telling the group what message he hopes people take away from "The Big Lebowski," which just happens to be one of the film's most quotable lines, "that's just, like, your opinion, man."

"The Big Lebowski" is one of those movies where you notice something new during every viewing. For example, did you know the opening scene takes place exactly a decade before 9/11? The next time you watch the film, you'll see that when the Dude purchases a $0.69 carton of half & half, which he pays for by check, the date he writes is September 11, 1991. And, as he's signing the check, President George H.W. Bush is seen giving a speech on the store's little TV set about how aggression against Kuwait "will not stand." Strange but true.

A screening of the film was held after the Q&A, but the greatest entertainment of the night was by far the Achievers. They showed up in costume, smoked pot in the balcony, sipped White Russians, shouted dialogue (even while the actors were speaking on stage), and frankly, they really tied the room together.