It is no secret that many of the characters and plot elements in the movie were inspired by friends of the Coen brothers. The Dude is based upon Jeff Dowd. Like Dude Lebowski, Dowd was a member of the anti-war radical group Seattle Seven, and it is said that Jeff Bridges adopted many of his mannerisms in creating the character. Coen brothers met him while they were trying to find distribution for the feature film Blood Simple. Dowd is also known as a big fan of White Russians, and is nicknamed "the Dude".

To a lesser extend, Dude is also based on another friend of the Coen brothers, Pete Exline, who found a twelve-year old's homework in his stolen car. It is interesting to note that Pete, unlike Dude, was a Vietnam War veteran- which is closer to Walter's character. Exline was a member of an amateur softball league. Coens changed it to bowling in the movie because "it's a very social sport where you can sit around and drink and smoke while engaging in inane conversation," Ethan said in an interview.