Twenty Years Later, The Dude Still Abides

Jeff Bridges, left, and John Goodman during a Q and A at a cast reunion celebrating "The Big Lebowski" Limited Edition Blu-ray release. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

You may remember Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of über-underachiever Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 cult classic which has spawned infinite imitators and even a religion called, unsurprisingly, “Dudism.” If you know Bridges only as The Dude, you may be surprised to learn of an expansive career before and after his immortalization (in an over-sized knit sweater, of course) in The Big Lebowski. In this profile at GQ, Caity Weaver reminds us that Bridges has been “nominated for an Academy Award at 67, but also at 22, and five times in between.”

Bridges knows he’ll probably be remembered best for padding around grungy ’90s Los Angeles in a cozy sweater that hugged him like the fur of a hibernating bear, but prior to that his career followed a serpentine path—from boy wonder (The Last Picture Show), to brilliant engineer who accidentally becomes a video game (Tron), to alien heartthrob (Starman), to disgraced radio shock jock palling around with schizophrenic Robin Williams (The Fisher King)—yet somehow he always seemed headed in the right direction. Then, at some point post-Lebowski, Bridges evolved into the Marlon Brando of grizzled American West prospector types. His last three Academy Award nominations—for 2009’s Crazy Heart (he won best actor), 2010’s True Grit, and last year’s Hell or High Water—have all saluted his portrayal of rugged backcountry men. This fall, he’ll star in Only the Brave, a wildfire drama inspired by real events, as the retired chief of an Arizona fire department, and you’d better believe he wears a cowboy hat.

Lucky, then, that after half a century of making movies, Jeff Bridges doesn’t seem exhausted. If anything, he seems extremely well rested. Once he’s completed his errands for the day—talking to me, taking a field trip to a nearby artist community, checking out a socially conscious grab-and-go restaurant that he hazily half-invites me to, though he has no idea when he will be there—Bridges can return to his lawn and dance slowly through the labyrinth he himself sheared into the grass. Getting lost seems relaxing for him. Maybe we should all do it.

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