Jeff Bridges’ Dude-est Roles That Aren’t The Dude
For 25 years, fans of The Big Lebowski have quoted the lines, shared the memes and shit-talked the Eagles with reckless abandon. Such die-hards definitely still abide the Dude, and so do we, which is why we’ll be spending the next five days celebrating a quarter century of Lebowski. So grab yourself a White Russian, lay back on your favorite rug and take it easy — just like, you know, the Dude.
Jeff Bridges has played a variety of characters during his illustrious career that didn’t involve him donning that exquisite robe and proclaiming, “I’m the Dude!” However, his iconic image in The Big Lebowski has embedded itself deep in our collective pop-culture subconscious. In fact, the Dude hit such a perfect note that he has become a piece of Americana, even spawning his own religion in the form of Dudeism.
And since Bridges is the face of “El Duderino,” it can be difficult not to see “His Dudeness” shine through in other roles that remind us of the time he played the man who just wanted to chill and go bowling with his friends like…
Terry Gilliam’s 2005 dark fantasy, Tideland, is like Pan’s Labyrinth meets Weekend at Bernie’s, with some drug overdoses thrown into the mix. It sees Bridges play a terrible dad more concerned about getting high than taking care of his daughter. Oh, and he dies quite early on, but his corpse gets propped up (and later taxidermied) to make it look like he simply passed out with his sunglasses on for the remainder of the film.
There’s an argument here that Bridges’ character in this neo-Western comedy, Jack McKee, actually grew up to become The Dude. McKee has a laid-back approach to life, and although he shoots and cuts up cattle with a chainsaw to pay his landlord in meat instead of money, one could theorize that this younger, gun-loving character could’ve found enlightenment, left all that behind and taken up bowling and rug appreciation instead.
Hear me out: Bridges’ character in True Grit feels like if McKee from Rancho Deluxe grew up to be The Dude, who then grew up to be Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (all of this playing off in the Old West). An absurd theory, no doubt, but such is the life of our Abiding Dude anyway. Cogburn, as a character, is definitely a hardened fella, but he still has that complacent attitude and dismissive demeanor The Dude embodies so well.
I mean, sure, he actually dabbles in proper hair care here, but the man is in a robe, people. Robe couture is classic Dude fashion, even when it makes him look like a Jedi. Also, Bridges’ character (old guy Kevin Flynn) at one point says, “Bio-digital jazz, man,” which is a line dripping in Dudeness — if the Dude was into isomorphic algorithms.
’The Men Who Stare at Goats’
One of the core philosophies of Dudeism is the idea of keeping cool, calm and collected through life’s many trials and tribulations. In this 2009 satirical comedy, Bridges’ character (Bill Django) goes from military colonel to enlightened New Age hippie with a Rapunzel braid preaching about untapped potential while holding a bouquet of pretty flowers. Dude Approved, for sure.
Even getting animated into a giant penguin couldn’t separate Bridges from Lebowski. In Surf’s Up, the actor did the voice of Geek/Big Z, a famous penguin surfer who faked his own death to go and live out his life in isolation, away from the competitions and penguin folks’ expectations. It’s a very Dude character, as Geek doesn’t take anything too seriously. Except for making surfboards, naturally.
Bridges’ character, Richard Bone, in this 1981 neo-noir thriller is very much Proto Dude. In Cutter’s Way, he has a best friend who is a Vietnam veteran, his character gets mistaken for a criminal on the loose (a wealthy tycoon, no less), and he’s a suave, skeptical charmer who doesn’t want to be the hero. All he wants to do is hang out with his friends and have great hair. It’s like an alternate reality where Jeffrey Lebowski was a Christopher Nolan character — a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dude knight.