Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"
"The Dude abides."
A single, unemployed slacker living in Venice, California, who does nothing more than enjoying cocktails and bowling.
He is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, a member of the anti-war radical group the Seattle Liberation Front (The Dude tells Maude Lebowski that he was one of the Seattle Seven, who were members of the SLF). A friend of the Coen brothers, Vietnam War veteran Pete Exline, also inspired aspects of the character.
- Humble Goal: "All The Dude wanted was his rug back." Which is weird because his rug was never stolen, it was just peed on and he presumably threw it away after that introductory scene. The only rug that was taken from him was one HE stole in the first place, later rightfully reclaimed by Maude who won't return it as part of their bargain. If the Dude wanted his rug back, he could've just taken it to a cleaner and returned for it on Thursday of next week. But as Walter comments, "This is about drawing a line in the sand."
- Insistent Terminology:
- "I'm The Dude. So that's what you call me."
- "She's not my special lady; she's my fucking lady friend!"
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Displays this on a handful of occasions as he attempts to decipher exactly what's going on - and only gets called out on it by Maude when he jokes about the plot of Bunny's porn tape.
- The Slacker: Oh boy...
Stranger: The Dude, from Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man - and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: The Dude and Walter are, to an outside observer, completely incompatible people who, true to form, spend most of their time loudly arguing with each other. However, they're practically inseparable.
"AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES?!?!? MARK IT ZERO!!!"
Played by: John Goodman
veteran, the Dude's best friend and bowling teammate. Walter places the rules of bowling second in reverence only to the rules of his religion, Judaism
, as evidenced by his strict stance against "rolling" on Shabbos. He has a violent temper, and is given to pulling out a handgun (or crowbar) in order to settle disputes. He says the Gulf War
was all about oil and claims to have dabbled in pacifism. He constantly references Vietnam in conversations, much to the annoyance of the Dude.
Walter was based, in part, on screenwriter John Milius.
- Cassandra Truth: Walter speculates what really happened throughout the movie and is right almost every time. No one believes him. "Am I wrong?" The only thing he wasn't right about was Bunny kidnapping herself, but that wasn't his idea anyway, and he was right that she was safe all along - and she might as well have kidnapped herself, anyway. Though he was right that "that's not her toe, dude."
He's wrong when he thinks the Big Lebowski isn't disabled and throws him on the floor, except he might have been right about that, too: the Big Lebowski's leg visibly kicks when Walter throws him down. Probably an acting mistake, could be very subtle confirmation of Walter's theory. Which would make Walter correct about absolutely everything.
- Catch Phrase:
- "Shut the fuck up, Donny!"
- "Am I wrong?"
- "Donny, you're out of your element !"
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: "Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling." The last of which was preceded by a manhug.
- Hidden Depths: For all his apparent psychopathy, Walter deeply loves his ex-wife Cynthia, even though she's long since moved on with another man. He frequently does random favors for her at the drop of a hat, and it's heavily implied that he only clings to Judaism because it's the only connection that he has with her (he was raised Catholic, and converted to Judaism when he got married).
- Insistent Terminology: "Also, Dude, 'Chinaman' is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please." And then he promptly subverts it: "The Chinaman is not the issue here!"
- The Load: He is less-than-useful to the Dude for most of the film.
- Memetic Outfit: The fishing vest, the short pants and the boots.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The character of Walter was inspired by writer/director John Milius, who is a longtime friend of the Coen Brothers.
- Phony Veteran: In the original screenplay. The reveal was cut from the movie, although from his bluster he can still be read this way.
Theodore Donald "Donny" Kerabatsos
A member of Walter and The Dude's bowling team. NaÔve and good-natured, Donny is an avid bowler and frequently interrupts Walter's diatribes to inquire about the parts of the story he missed or did not understand, provoking Walter's frequently repeated response, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!".The aforementioned line is a reference
, in which Buscemi's character was constantly talking.
- Phrase Catcher: "Shut the fuck up, Donny!"
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Walter spends a lot of time browbeating and yelling at him yet is clearly cut up when Donny dies from a heart attack.
Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Big Lebowski"
Played by: David Huddleston
The titular character
. He is a wheelchair-bound (he lost the use of his legs in the Korean War) apparent multi-millionaire who is married to Bunny and is Maude's father by his late wife. He refers to The Dude dismissively as "a bum" and a "deadbeat", and is obsessed with "achievement". Although he characterizes himself as highly successful and accomplished, it is revealed by Maude that he is simply "allowed" to run some of the philanthropic efforts of her motherís estate, and that he doesn't actually have very much money of his own.
- Hypocrite: The crux of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the Dude is that where the Dude's a lazy slacker who hasn't accomplished anything, he is a successful Self-Made Man who built everything he has himself despite being deprived of the use of his legs. It turns out he just married into money and likes to act the role.
The Big Lebowski's eccentric daughter and stepdaughter of Bunny (she's older
than her stepmother). A post-feminist
and avant-garde artist
whose work "has been commended as being strongly vaginal
", which she believes inherently bothers men. She introduced Bunny to Uli Kunkel. She beds The Dude solely to conceive a child, and wants nothing else to do with him.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Subverted. She offers herself to The Dude, albeit without love and solely to conceive a child.
- Ms. Fanservice: At times, she comes off as a warped version of this trope.
A group of German nihilistic thugs (Uli Kunkel, Dieter and Franz respectively). They were once techno musicians (Kunkel, as "Karl Hungus"
, appeared in a porn film with Bunny), who, along with Kunkel's girlfriend (Aimee Mann), pretend to be the ones who kidnapped Bunny.
The character of Uli originated on the set of Fargo
between Ethan Coen and Stormare, who often spoke in a mock German accent
- Batter Up: Though they aren't above using other weapons as well.
- Catch Phrase: "We believe in nothing!" (which Uli pronounces "nossink!")
- Cool Pet: Uli's ferret, which is used to threaten The Dude in his bath.
- Wimp Fight: They have one of these with Walter who ends up handing them their asses more or less single-handedly over the course of about a minute.
Bunny Lebowski (real name Fawn Knutsen)
Played by: Tara Reid
The Big Lebowski's young wife. Born Fawn Knutsen, she ran away from the family farm outside Moorhead, Minnesota, and soon found herself making pornographic videos under the name "Bunny La Joya"
Played by: Ben Gazzara
A wealthy pornographer, who lives in Malibu and employs the two thugs who assault The Dude at the beginning of the film. Bunny owes him a large sum of money.
Jesus Quintana, a.k.a. "The Jesus"
Played by: John Turturro
The extraordinarily loathsome opponent of The Dude's team in the bowling league semifinals. He serves literally no plot purpose and shows up for only two scenes, but is hilarious enough
that he's one of the film's most memorable characters. A Latino North Hollywood resident who speaks with a thick Cuban American accent, and often refers to himself in the third person, insisting on the English pronunciation of his name rather than the Spanish. "The Jesus", as he refers to himself, is a "pederast" (according to Walter) who did six months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight-year old.
Turturro originally thought that he was going to have a bigger role in the film but when he read the script, he realized that it was much smaller. However, the Coen brothers let him come up with a lot of his own ideas for the character
, like shining the bowling ball and the scene where he dances backwards, which he says was inspired by Muhammad Ali.
Played by: Sam Elliott
The narrator, who sees the story unfold from a third-party perspective. His narration is marked by a thick, laid-back Texas accent. He is seen in the bar of the bowling alley, and converses directly with The Dude on two occasions. He expresses disapproval of The Dude's use of profanity and laziness, and adds the qualifier "parts of it anyway" when concluding that he enjoyed the film. He is unaware
that it isn't a western.
- Badass Mustache: Sam Elliott's trademark mustache. Not badass but still impressive.
- Drink Order: "Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsaparilla?"
- Fauxlosophic Narration: He is not only Wrong Genre Savvy, but can't keep his fauxlosophy straight and keeps getting sidetracked. At one point he repeats "Sometimes there's a man" a few times before trailing off and stating that he lost his train of thought. He eventually just gives up ("Aw, hell, I done introduced him enough."), and at the very end even lampshades it ("Huh - I'm ramblin' again."). Ironically, the last time he realizes this and gives up is when he's actually on the verge of making a sage, relevant point for once.