When a Lebowski Fest Founder Met ‘Big Lebowski’ co-writer Joel Coen and Frances McDormand

For 12 years now, Will Russell and others have put Lebowski Fest—an annual celebration of the 1998 cult favorite film “The Big Lebowski.”

But, until recently, Russell has had virtually no contact with Joel and Ethan Coen, the brother duo who wrote and directed the film, along with others ranging from “Raising Arizona” to Academy Award winners “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men.”

In fact, the most contact was a message relayed between representatives during the making of “I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski,” a fan book written by Russell and his Lebowski Fest co-founders, Scott Shuffitt, Bill Green and Ben Peskoe.

That message from the Coens was a terse:  “You have neither our blessing nor our curse.”

So  Russell was thrilled when he found out that Joel Coen and his wife, actress Frances McDormand (of “Fargo” fame) were wandering around Louisville recently.

A meeting did take place—near Russell’s WHY Louisville store on Market Street.

“I was hoping that maybe they would come into my store. So I called the person working and I said, ‘Listen, I want you to Google them’—because she’s like 20—I was like, ‘Google, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, so you know what they look like. If they come in call me and see if they’ll let you take their picture.’”

“So I get out of the shower and my phone is already ringing. I’m soaking wet, I pick up the phone and there’s a very abrupt, ‘Someone want to talk to you.’ And, so, all of a sudden, Frances McDormand is like, ‘Will, this is Frances McDormand.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ I thought by her tone that I was in trouble, because I thought she was going to be like, ‘Please quit stalking us on Facebook, it’s really creepy. We’re going to call the cops.’”

“No, she was like, ‘Hey, we want one of these Lebowski Fest posters.’”

He added later: “Joel—you know, it was interesting—because he did seem genuinely, like, kind of intrigued by like who is this person. Who is this guy that started this weird festival about my movie.

“They seemed genuinely interested in meeting me, which is nice.”

Here’s how the meeting played out, in Russell’s own words:

The 12th annual Lebowski Fest in Louisville kicked off Friday night. It continues today. Here’s more info.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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