Real-life 'Dude': 'It would have been a hugely different film world without Roger'

Real-life 'Dude': 'It would have been a hugely different film world without Roger'

CHAMPAIGN — Jeff Dowd is the inspiration for Jeff Bridges' "The Dude" in the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski," and has been friends with them since their first film, "Blood Simple."

They even call him "Doodinator."

He's been an exhibitor, marketing genius and adviser of sorts to directors, and he helped found the Sundance film festival, along with being a political activist.

He'll be in Champaign-Urbana on Saturday for the Ebertfest screening of "The Big Lebowski," and there will be more on that later.

But first off, The Dude wanted to say a few words about his friend, an advocate for that first Coen brothers film.

Roger Ebert was different from other critics, Dowd said.

"Roger was very, very proactive, and he understood the positive nature of what a single critic could make in terms of launching a film or launching a career, and he did that many, many, many times," Dowd said in his gravelly voice.

The critic could lead the parade for "films with a very strong word of mouth (that) might need a helping hand," Dowd said.

As independent filmmakers like Joel and Ethan Coen, Martin Scorsese and John Sayles tried to get their films out at events like the Sundance Film Festival, "their films weren't exactly 'Superman 3.'"

"It would have been a hugely different film world without Roger," and there are many films people might have never heard of, Dowd said.

"They not only saw the light of the day, but they were extremely successful" through Ebert and "bridge-builders" like those at film festivals.

He also said Chaz Ebert, who'll be back as host Wednesday at the Virginia Theatre, has played an important role in the film world.

"They were inseparable," Dowd said. "They were separable at Sundance. Chaz didn't like the weather that much at Sundance."

Topics (2):Film, People