The bowling alley scenes were filmed at the former Holly Star Lanes near Santa Monica and the 101 Freeway exit ramp. The bowling alley has since been torn down and a new elementary school stands in its place.
The house in which the dude meets with Jackie Treehorn was designed by architect John Lautner. The movie makes it look as though it sits on the beach, in actuality it sits on the side of a hill overlooking the city of Los Angeles.
Almost all the music on the soundtrack is revealed to be playing on a radio at some point. Examples: "The Man in Me" in the first dream sequence fades out after The Dude wakes up, but we still hear it, tinny and distant on his Walkman. "Hotel California" plays through out the entire scene with Jesus at the bowling alley, and even during the brief flashback, apparently as a song playing on the alley's PA system. The big band music that plays as The Dude leaves his house fades and is heard playing on Da Fino's car radio as they talk. Additionally, at the beginning of the film, the opening song, "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds", fades into a muzak version of itself as the Dude shops for his creamer in the grocery store; when it cuts to the Dude outside the store, the song has faded back into its original version.
Nearly all of the visible symbols in The Dude's second dream sequence are taken from earlier scenes: - the black and white tile is seen earlier in the Big Lebowski's entry way when The Dude walks with Brandt and again at the end - the tool belt and workman outfit The Dude is seen wearing is identical to the one worn by Karl Hungus in Logjammin' - Saddam Hussein is mentioned briefly by Walter in the car outside the bowling alley; in the opening credits, we see a man looking a bit similar to Saddam spraying the bowling shoes at the alley - Maude's gold bowling ball bra cups are taken from bowling balls seen on the rack behind Walter in an earlier scene at the bowling alley - the scissors wielded by the red-clad Nihilists are seen in a painting with a red background on Maude's wall - the red-on-black bowling ball is the same as the one in the earlier dream sequence and is also visible on the rack behind Walter and The Dude at the bowling alley. - The initial scene of The Dude's exaggerated walking in while casting a big shadow is similar to his landlord's shadow dance to "Pictures at an Exhibition." - Maude Lebowski's trident is from a statue at The Big Lebowski's home.
The Dude was based on independent film promoter Jeff Dowd (aka Jeff "The Dude" Dowd), who helped the Coen brothers secure distribution for their first feature, Blood Simple.. Like his fictional counterpart, Dowd was a member of the Seattle Seven and takes a casual approach to grooming and dress. The Port Huron Statement that The Dude refers to himself as being one of the original authors of, is a real document/statement written by The Students for a Democratic Society at a national convention meeting in, Michigan, June 11-15, 1962. Jeff Dowd was not one of those students, being not quite 13 years old, as he was born on November 20, 1949.
The fictional German techno-pop band in the movie, Autobahn, is a parody of (or homage to) the legendary electronic band Kraftwerk. The Autobahn album cover is stylistically similar to the cover of the Kraftwerk album "The Man-Machine," and the group name Autobahn is the name of a Kraftwerk song. The title of Autobahn's album "Nagelbett" is German for nail bed. In Swedish, Peter Stormare's native tongue, it means nail bite.
The private detective that's following Lebowski says that Bunny's family is from a farm "outside Moorhead, Minnesota". Moorhead is the home town of Jeff Bridges' wife and is located directly across the state line from Fargo. (Fargo was the title of the Coen brothers' previous film). Bunny's high school cheer-leading photo shows her wearing orange and black, the real school colors of Moorhead.
The Dude has a habit of repeating phrases he hears from other characters. The George Bush speech "This aggression will not stand" is repeated by the Dude. Maude Lebowski uses the phrase "Parlance of our times" Dude repeats this one in the limo. The Big Lebowski says he "Will not abide another toe!" at the end of the movie "The Dude abides"
One of the inspirations for the character of Walter is the Coen Brothers' friend, writer-director John Milius, an infamously bombastic right-winger with an obsession with all things militaristic and an enthusiasm for guns. His girth, beard, hair style, and shades are also all reflected in Walter's physical appearance. The Coens had tried to cast Milius in the film Barton Fink in the part eventually played by Michael Lerner.
The Dude is in every scene of the movie. Even in the scene where the Nihilists are ordering pancakes you can see the van in which the Dude and Walter are driving. This is in keeping with the traditional film-noir, in which the protagonist is the narrator and acts as the audience's guide throughout the film.
The man shown bowling in the picture on The Dude's wall is President Richard Nixon. Nixon was an avid bowler; the picture in the movie is a well-publicized shot of Nixon in the bowling alley underneath the White House.
The Dude tells Maude he was a roadie for Metallica on their (fictional) "Speed of Sound" tour and refers to the band members as a "bunch of assholes." Metallica themselves were flattered to be referred to in a Coen Brothers movie, with guitarist Kirk Hammett once noting in an interview that they'd tried to think of a way to incorporate that scene into their live shows.
Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers plays a character in a band called Autobahn, which is a jab at the German band Kraftwerk (Kraftwerk had a single called "Autobahn"). The two bands have played venues together in the 80's.
The lawyers that the dude mentions, are William Kunstler and Ron Kuby, radical lawyers noted for defending numerous controversial defendants including suspected terrorist leaders and the daughter of Malcolm X.
The photo that the Private Eye shows the Dude of Bunny Lebowski's farm is that from Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". Oddly enough, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Brandt, plays Truman Capote in 2005's Capote, and 'Mark Pellegrino', who plays Blond Treehorn Thug, plays Dick Hickock (one of the murderers of that farm's inhabitants) in Capote.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, John Goodman stated that The Dude referring to The Big Lebowski as a "human paraquat" was one of the only improvised lines to make it into the final film. Virtually every other line, including every 'man' and 'dude,' was scripted.
When we're introduced to the Dude's (bowling) arch-nemesis Jesus, a flamenco version of The Eagles song "Hotel California" plays (and is portrayed as playing on the bowling alley's PA system). Later, we learn in the taxicab scene that the Dude "...hate(s) the fuckin' Eagles, man."
While urinating on the Dude's rug, the Threehorn thug says "Ever thus to deadbeats, Lebowski!" This is a play on the Latin phrase "Sic semper tyrannis!" (Thus always to tyrants!), which was allegedly spoken by the murderers of Gaio Giulio Cesare and Abraham Lincoln during the assassinations.
The Dude calls The Big Lebowski a "human paraquat." Paraquat is an herbicide. During the late 1970s, a controversial program sponsored by the US government sprayed paraquat on marijuana fields in Mexico.
The initials for Walter Sobchak's security company (Sobchak Security) are "SS". The Jewish Walter's company shares the same initials as the Schutzstaffel, or SS. The Schutzstaffel were arguably the most demonic force of Nazi Germany. The Nuremberg Trials attributed most of the Holocaust atrocities to this group.
The $0.69 check the Dude writes at Ralph's for half and half is dated September 11, 1991, exactly ten years before the 9/11 attacks. While he is writing the check, George Bush can be heard on the television railing against Saddam Hussein.
DaFino refers to himself as a "brother Shamus", which was a common slang term for a private investigator during the interwar years, incidentally when the Raymond Chandler story the Coen Brothers were inspired by to make this film, was written. The Dude, of course, has no idea what it means.
In a version that was edited for television broadcasts, the famous line "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!" was changed to "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!", which is regularly cited as one of the most "creative" edits made for a film to be aired on TV.
The checque that The Dude writes in the beginning of the movie, for only $0.69, is post-dated. He clearly writes the date as 9/11/91 and when he speaks to his landlord later in the movie the landlord reminds him that "Tomorrow is the tenth."
When The Dude and Walter are bowling after the botched ransom drop off, Walter says "Aitz chaiim he, Dude, as the ex used to say." This is the first half of a Hebrew verse, which means "It is a tree of life" (the second half of the verse is "lamachazikim ba", which means "to those who take hold of it") and it refers to the Old Testament.
The Dude's line, "The Dude abides," is a reference to Ecclesiastes 1:4, "One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever." It is a reference to how the Dude, much like the Earth, can weather change and chaos around him, but still remain the same.
There is only one exchange where the Dude speaks directly to Donny. Mostly he ignores him while Walter yells at poor Donny. As the Dude is walking home from the Bowling Alley, Donny says, "Phone's ringin' Dude." The Dude responds, "Thank you Donny."
The diner where Walter and the Dude have a cup of coffee during the toe scene is the same diner from the later scenes of American History X. It is located at Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles. It's called Johnie's Coffee Shop and is only open for filming.
The Coen Brothers were inspired by several sources and stories. Possibly the leading source was their friend Peter Exline, who coined the phrase "It really tied the room together" to describe one of his own rugs. Pete and a friend of his "Big" Lew Abernathy (a private detective who the Coens don't know) are considered to be the partial basis for the character Walter. Pete, a Vietnam veteran and college professor, once jokingly tried to scare his students by exclaiming "First Vietnam, now this?!" while hitting a chair, similar to the way Walter (non-jokingly) inappropriately compares everything to Vietnam. Pete also told the Coens about a story where his car was stolen and Abernathy helped him investigate. They found the homework of a 14-year-old and, instead of telling the police, they put the homework in a plastic bag and drove out to the kid's home to confront him (though unlike the movie, the kid did not actually steal the car and Abernathy did not end the confrontation by bashing a car outside the kid's house). Another story related by Pete was the time that Abernathy was arraigned by a Santa Monica sheriff who, as in the movie, insulted him and told him to "stay out of my beach community!"