David Huddleston, the actor most famous for his role as Jeffrey Lebowski in the movie The Big Lebowski, died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Tuesday the 2nd of August due to what his wife said to be advanced heart and kidney disease. He is survived by his wife and his son Michael Huddleston.
Sarah C. Koeppe, Huddleston’s second wife with whom he had been together for 32 years, is a casting director and acting teacher. The couple met him while Sarah was casting him as Santa, where which he drove a team of reindeer.
Koeppe gives many interesting insights about her late husband while speaking to Los Angeles Times. She said that people were the most important thing for him; he loved to entertain them and chat with them over dinner.
Huddleston had many cookbooks which he loved reading for the insight they offered to the history of people and places. He apparently asked people what would they do if the meal they were settling down for were to be their last.
Speaking of cooking, she says that when the couple was shopping in Kusadasi, Turkey, they were surrounded by people who could not speak English yet could recognize Huddleston, and wanted to cook him a meal.
Love for people and places does accord with the interest he had in government and politics. According to his wife, he had passionately wanted to attend the University of Virginia to study law to become a politician.
This may be why he apparently felt that his most fulfilling role as an actor was portraying Benjamin Franklin in the play ‘1776‘, which he performed in 1997 on Broadway. This was the role which allowed him to display all his interests.
Jeff Bridge, who played the other Lebowski in the 1998 Coen Brothers production, paid homage to him in a statement he released for THR, by addressing him with his onscreen name. Bridge had starred in two films alongside him – Bad Company and The Big Lebowski.
In the 1972 Civil War-era drama Bad Company, which was also Robert Benton’s directorial debut, Huddleston plays Big Joe, the leader of a robbery gang. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that Huddleston was beautiful in his role, comparing it to an Orson Welles touring Macbeth in the outskirts.
In The Big Lebowski, Huddleston is the wheel-chair bound, grumpy millionaire who has the same name as Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski, a hippy. There is a case of mistaken identity, which leads itself to a lot of humor.
In fact, his sense of humor was something which Huddleston was famous for. The fact that he needed a prompt for a role, which was provided by his mother, made his audience laugh at him for the first time. And surprisingly that had got him attracted to the stage, something which according to his wife, he loved most of all.
After appearing in the Broadway touring companies, he had started out as a supporting actor to Gregory Peck in Billy Two Hats, John Wayne in Rio, Bette Davis in Family Lobo, among others. He came back to Broadway in 1981 in the musical ‘The First’, which though received negatively, singled out his performance for praise.
Huddleston had once said that even while performing the traditionally loaded male characters, he tried having a twinkle in his eyes, which made it meaner when he killed.
David William Huddleston was born on the 17th of September, 1930, in Vinton Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke. The son of Ismay Hope Dooley, a teacher, and Lewis Huddleston, a steelworker, he had to make do without electricity and running water till he was ten-years-old.
To supplement the household income, he performed at church pageants and before civic groups in the hope of getting donations. Having served as an aircraft engineer mechanic in the Air Force during the war, he got into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on a G. I. Bill, from where he passed in 1958.