Let’s think about what we know about The Dude from The Big Lebowski: he loves bowling, drinks white Russians, was a member of the Seattle Seven (…along with six other guys), authored the Port Huron statement (but not the compromised second draft), and isn’t much for the whole vanity “thing.”
Now, imagine all those things were true of a real person, and you’d have Jeff Dowd (okay, except for the Port Huron Statement part, as far as we know). Dowd was an acquaintance of the Coen Brothers, an independent film producer they’d met when he was hired to market Blood Simple. Dowd apparently made enough of an impression on them that the idea for the entire movie grew directly out of him as a character. “It just seemed interesting to us to thrust that character into the most confusing situation possible. The person who would seem – on the face of it – least equipped to deal with it. That’s sort of the conceit of the movie,” as Ethan Coen famously described it.
The similarities between Bridges-Dude and Dowd-Dude are uncanny. As Dowd — who, by the way, claims he’s been called the Dude since sixth grade, when “classmates would ‘twist around the name Dowd, and in Irish-Gaelic my name actually is Duda, and was later switched to Dowd'” — describes it, “the physicality is about 80 percent me.”
But while much has been made of their similarities, there are differences too. For one thing, Bridges-Dude enunciates better. Even after he’s been roofied by Jackie Treehorn. One writer described Dowd’s speaking voice as “Keith Richards with a mouthful of pudding.”
For another, while laidback, Dowd-Dude can be a lot more intense than Bridges-Dude. In fact, the first time Jeff Dowd showed up on this site was in 2009, when he badgered Variety critic John Anderson so much after a Sundance screening that Anderson finally snapped and punched him in the face. Twice. That’s somewhat un-Dude-like, but classic Dowd.
On the flip side, Dowd is also a lot more accomplished, a “marketing guru” who worked on enough touchstones of independent film that he’d be important to cinema even if the Coen Brothers had never turned him into an icon. He’s also an activist who, as previously noted, really was a member of the Seattle Seven, and later worked with the Occupy movement. And all this while looking a lot like a sentient pile of dirty clothes. Far out, man.