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Interview: Jeff Dowd and "The Big Lebowski"

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Now, secondarily, one of the reasons is that it's a really fun movie to watch with your friends. And you can't watch all movies with your friends. But you know you can watch this movie with your friends. And this is one you know if you watch it with your friends, you'll have a bunch of yucks.

It's kind of like "Austin Powers." I hadn't seen "Austin Powers." I'm not a name dropper, but Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn are friends up in Seattle, and they had just seen it. And they did "Austin Powers" for me for about an hour. They did the whole movie in an hour. You might not think of Sean and Robin as the funniest people in the world, but they really are. And they did the whole—they mimicked the entire movie—did their own hour-long version of it—in their hotel room, because it's the same way people like to do lines from "The Big Lebowski."

Then there's a deeper level. If you go on my Website, JeffDowd.com, there is a letter from a New York fireman, who I met at a Lebowski Festival in New York. And he came up to me with his wife, and they said, "Look, we got to give you a big hug." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Well, because you had something to do with 'The Big Lebowski,' and let me tell you a story. I was a New York City volunteer fireman during 9/11, and I had seen people die before, and I had saved people's lives, but I had never seen people choose their own death—jumping out of buildings and stuff. And a lot of my good friends were firemen, and other people died that day. And I was like for months [speaking figuratively] comatose from post-traumatic stress." His wife said he was worthless as a husband and a father. They have five kids. The guy went to doctors, and shrinks, and therapists, and tried drugs, and this and that. Nothing worked. "And then one day, several months later, I was sitting in the living room, and I saw my copy of 'The Big Lebowski' on the shelf, and I put it in the DVD player, and for the first time in months I smiled, and I started laughing, and then I played it again and again." Then his wife turns to me and says, "It totally changed him. It brought him out."

And that's kind of interesting. It's like the Woody Allen movie "Manhattan" or whatever, and he goes into the movie theater and sees the Preston Sturges movie "Sullivan's Travels," and he realizes the power of humor. And in a sense, when people take drugs, whether they are recreational drugs, or whether they're alcohol, or whether they're the drugs doctors prescribe to make them feel better or less depressed. I mean, so what's wrong with doing that by watching a movie? It doesn't have the bad side effects of some of that other stuff.

Page 4: Jeff Dowd on why some ordinary people had an easier time connecting with "The Big Lebowski" than many critics.

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