Oscar winner Jeff Bridges may be known in Hollywood as a prestigious leading man, but at Lebowski Fest he’s known as “The Dude.” The festival, that celebrates the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski, has been active since 2002 and celebrated across the country. This year’s festival was held at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles and did not disappoint with its array of costumed fans, themed decor, and appearances by the film’s celebrities including a musical performance from Jeff Bridges and his band.
Bridges and his band performed a 30-minute set that included songs from “Crazy Heart,” the 2009 film for which he won the best actor Oscar. Kyle Gass, the other half of Jack Black’s band, Tenacious D, opened the evening by singing tunes from “The Big Lebowski.”
While the musical performances were probably the most notable event of the festival, it was the screening of The Big Lebowski that gained the enthusiasm of fans. People were dressed from head to toe as their favorite characters emulating the onscreen dialogue and actions to perfection. Even though they had seen the film many times before, these doppelgangers cheered and relived each iconic moment as if it were their first screening.
The Lebowski Fest may celebrate a film but it is more than movies and music, it’s an experience according to fans. Aside from the live bands, celebrities, and film screenings, there’s an eternal bond established from the shared enthusiasm among the festival’s attendees. Steve Lewis, a seven time veteran of Lebowski Fests, described the event as “a community” while wearing a pair of customized dog tags that complimented his meticulously designed costume of John Goodman’s character from the film. Lewis’ friend, J.D. Lloyd had spared no expense to obtain the exact sweater that Bridge’s character wears in the film. Lloyd had been to Lebowski Fest an impressive 11 times and claimed to have seen the film more than 100 times.
There has to be some aspect of The Big Lebowski that inspires such enthusiasm. The film was not considered Oscar worthy and neither was Jeff Bridges’ performance, so how can a film such as this generate such a cult following? Is there some underlying element that only true fans can understand? Mike Sullivan, a four time veteran of the festival, has a more simplistic answer. “What you got here,” he said, “is a bunch of pot-smoking hippies having a good time.”