Tom Wopat in: The Big Lebowski

as: “The Dude”

This one’s a tough sell, no doubt about it. Jeff Bridges is brilliant in The Big Lebowski because he more or less is The Dude in real life. (If you’ve seen him on The Tonight Show or any other late night talk show, you know exactly what I mean). But, because he pretty much is The Dude anyway, is Bridges’ performance actually that great?

Yeah. It is.

But! What if, instead of casting an actor who more or less played himself, the Coen brothers instead chose an actor who had to stretch a little more? We are, of course, referring to Tom Wopat.

lebowski

Key Changes

At one point in the film, the character of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is described as being “maybe […] the laziest man on the planet.” And, indeed, The Dude sets a new standard for laid-back heroes. It’s hard to imagine that any actor other than Jeff Bridges could’ve brought that championship-caliber laziness to the role, no matter how hard said actor tried. (Trying hard to be lazy is your oxymoron of the week, folks.) So, with Tom Wopat in the role, we imagine His Dudeness as at least a bit more energetic.

As is, the story of The Big Lebowski kind of just unfolds around him, and none of his actions necessarily have any effect on the eventual resolution of the plot. In The Big Wopatowski, the slightly-invigorated Dude would be a bit more pro-active. Instead of just following along on Walter’s (John Goodman) crazy scheme to confront Larry about the stolen million dollars, El Duderino himself hatches the plan. The over-the-top conclusion of the scene, in which Walter finds a stranger in the Alps, would remain the same.

Similarly, near the end of the film, when The Dude, Walter, and Donny (Steve Buscemi) are ambushed and (rather pathetically) assaulted by the bizarre trio of Nihilists, Wopat’s The Dude would not stand idly by while Walter does all the fighting. Instead, some of Wopat’s stunt training from The Dukes of Hazzard would come into play, and Duder would trounce all three villains on his own.

This last point would add an extra layer of depth to the character, in a very Zen, Kane from Kung Fu kind of way. He’s lazy, and a self-described pacifist, but when the chips are down, he can completely kick @$$. Ultimately, we discover, that’s why he’s such a laid-back guy—he could knock the snot out of almost anyone, but instead, The Dude abides.

Photo credit: Profound Whatever via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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