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David Huddleston, Actor Who Portrayed ‘The Big Lebowski,’ Dead at 85

Humorously cantankerous character actor famous for cult role

David Huddleston

David Huddleston, who portrayed the title role in 'The Big Lebowski,' has died at the age of 85.

Bennett Raglin/Getty

David Huddleston, most famous for his role as the real The Big Lebowski in the film of the same name, has died, Los Angeles Times reports. He was 85.

His wife, Sarah Koeppe, confirmed to the newspaper that he died of advanced heart and kidney disease on Tuesday in Santa Fe, N.M.

The character actor played a number of parts over the course of his more-than-50-year career. He acted on Broadway, television and also in commercials. But it was his breakout role later in life that brought him the most notoriety, his titular role in 1998’s The Big Lebowski, in which he played the humorously cantankerous character who avoids capture by thugs who instead mistake Jeff Bridges’ character, “The Dude,” for the millionaire Lebowski. Though Huddleston only appears sporadically, his moments were scene-stealers and key to the film. The movie wasn’t a blockbuster when it debuted, but it has since gained cult status and became widely popular.

Prior to his Big Lebowski role, he played guest characters in numerous shows, including parts on Gilmore Girls, The West Wing and Murder She Wrote. As Variety points out, he was nominated for an Emmy for his role as the grandfather on The Wonder Years. Huddleston also appeared in the cult classic comedy Blazing Saddles, 1985’s Santa Claus: The Movie and The Producers.

Huddleston was born in Vinton, VA, on September 17th, 1930, and grew up in Villamont, VA, where he began acting in community productions. He later served in the Air Force before moving to New York to study acting.

Of all his performances, his wife Koeppe told Los Angeles Times that her husband felt his “crowning achievement” was playing Benjamin Franklin in the 1997 Broadway production of 1776.

In This Article: Obituary, The Big Lebowski

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