David Huddleston, the titular actor of The Big Lebowski, died Tuesday at the age of 85.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the longtime actor’s passing was confirmed by Sarah Koeppe, his wife of 32 years. The report states that David Huddleston “died of advanced heart and kidney disease” in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 5, 2016
His real name may not be easily recognized by most movie fans and critics. However, the fact that he played The Big Lebowski in the 1998 cult film will more than likely ring a bell of familiarity with quite a few people. Reflecting on her husband’s career, Sarah Koeppe shared a statement that David Huddleston would often say about his starring roles.
“I was in every cult film, but it never got the money when I needed it to.”
David’s statement was definitely proven true with the commercial success of The Big Lebowski. After the Joel Coen-directed film was released in March of 1998, according to Box Office Mojo, it only generated a domestic total of $17.45 million. That total includes the relatively low $5.5 million that the movie made during its opening weekend. With the James Cameron-directed film Titanic still ruling the box office at the time of its release, The Big Lebowski was a hit with critics but peaked at the No.6 spot at the box office.
“Are you employed Mr Lebowski?” RIP David Huddleston. Dudeists worldwide salute you Watchin Lebowski now in ur honor pic.twitter.com/qMyYqp4SwH
— Richard Christy (@cwotd) August 5, 2016
Over the course of the next decade, though, The Big Lebowski started drawing a massive fan base which progressively turned the box-office flop into a cult classic.
More than 20 years before the release of The Big Lebowski, David Huddleston made waves in another cult classic, the 1974 film Blazing Saddles. Huddleston played Mayor Olsen Johnson in the Mel Brooks-directed Western spoof which also starred Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.
RIP David Huddleston
The title character of THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Mayor Johnson in BLAZING SADDLES, has died at 85 pic.twitter.com/HTSeryq80g
— Rhett Bartlett (@dialmformovies) August 4, 2016
According to a 2014 interview with Santa Fe New Mexican, the popularity of his performance apparently followed him for decades after the film’s release.
“People still come up to me and recite lines from that movie. It was probably the most fun I ever had on a set.”
David Huddleston first met his longtime spouse Sarah, a casting agent, while working on the 1985 film Santa Claus. David starred in the titular role while Sarah Koeppe worked as an assistant casting director behind the scenes.
‘Big Lebowski’ actor David Huddleston dies at 85.MORE > https://t.co/63PPQTxhdx (Photo from AP/Sarah Koeppe) pic.twitter.com/frXL1ONNst
— CBS46 (@cbs46) August 5, 2016
During the same interview, David reflected on his own life and the wonderful places around the world to which his acting career allowed him to travel.
“I’ve had a very, very, very good run at this stuff. I have been all over the world, made pictures in Mexico, Canada, Israel, France and England. I’ve met people who I never dreamt I would meet, all heroes of mine.”
David Huddleston may never have received the notoriety and popularity of the leading stars in some of his most memorable films over the years, including Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, John Goodman, and Jeff Bridges. However, the fact that he was able to build an acting career that spanned more than five decades is still an impressive accomplishment.
In addition to his acting roles on the big screen, David Huddleston also starred in a number of commercials, television shows, and Broadway plays.
[Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images]