The Dude Abides: A Conversation with Two-Time Oscar nominated Costume Designer Mary Zophres
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, this hilariously twisted comedy-thriller stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Tuturro. Join the “Dude” and his bowling buddies on their journey that blends unforgettable characters, kidnapping, a case of mistaken identity and White Russians. Enter the visually unique and entertaining world from the creative minds of the Coen brothers and remember: the Dude abides.
‘The Dude’, Jeff Lebowski, is unemployed and as laid-back as they come. That is until he becomes a victim of mistaken identity, and two thugs break into his apartment with the errant belief that they’re strong-arming Jeff Lebowski – the Pasadena millionaire. In the hope of getting a replacement for his soiled carpet, ‘the Dude’ pays a visit to his wealthy namesake…
The Big Lebowski will be released by Park Circus in selected international territories throughout 2018. For cinema listings and further details check here.
In our interview, Sarah Cook from our network partner Movies on Weekends spoke to renowned Costume Designer Mary Zophres about how it feels to be part of this cult film experience, working with the Coen Brothers and how she developed the iconic outfits of the dude…
It’s been 20 years of The Big Lebowski, how does it feel being part of this cult film experience?
I had to re-watch the film. It’s been a while but it feels like it was just yesterday. I just can’t believe people love it just as much as people do.
How does it feel watching the film again?
It makes me laugh every time I watch it. His lines are hilarious and it makes me cringe, especially John Goodman’s character. He screws everything up. You know, no one knew it was going to have this longevity. Only a handful of these films really have stood out like this. When it first came out, nobody liked it and it had a lukewarm reception. The studio didn’t know what to do with it and then they pulled it.
Did you expect it to be as big as it is now?
You never make a movie and expect it to be as large as this. Usually you make them and hope they are going to be great. I remember being disappointed as the release was understood. Part of it was because it followed on from Fargo and that was an Academy Award nominated Best Picture. People were expecting another Fargo and The Big Lebowski was just the complete opposite. Critics were like “WHAT?!” They’ve always been like this. You know recently they made True Grit which is one of the highest grossing Westerns of all time then turned around and film Inside Llewyn Davis, which was dark and brooding and it meanders. It’s not True Grit and it didn’t do well but hopefully like The Big Lebowski, it’ll find it’s legs.
What was it like working The Coen Brothers on this project, following on from Fargo?
After Fargo, I was in Ireland doing a film and I got a call from them about The Big Lebowski. They sent me the script and I loved it. I have been fortunate to work with them and luckily enough have been hired on all their projects. They called and said, “The Dude is terminally relaxed.” I loved that. When I got back to the states, I put it on the board and something visual would just come.
How did you develop the iconic outfits of the dude?
I remember going to thrift shops and stores in the West Side of LA, looking at clothes for the for The Dude. He would never wear anything with a zipper, it’d be too much for him. So I was looking for elastic waistbands, knitted jumpers and shirts. I wouldn’t let anyone wash the costume. Jeff really is a wonderful actor. At this costume fitting, you could start to see him transform into the character. The very first thing in the order of the film was the shorts and those are old shorts of mine! I put him in this pinched waist shorts, dingey white shirt and robe and it all came together. It’s my personal favourite costume and it sort offsets the tone.
There are many different looks here from Nihilist, to hipster artist, to laid back, to militant, how important was it crafting each unique style?
All the costumes in the movie have taken on a life of their own. The Dude had to be as comfy as possible. John Tuttoro’s jumpsuit was made as if the character had designed it himself as he has such a huge ego. I had a wonderful time designing it and I don’t cringe watching it. The Nihilists were fun to do and shop for. It’s just funny working with the Coen Brothers. They have really interesting scripts and I’m the luckiest designer in Hollywood.
The 20th Anniversary of THE BIG LEBOWSKI is back in cinemas 24th September