The Reason John Turturro Was Embarrassed Of The Big Lebowski At First

From the Dude's sunglasses and cardigan getup to the gravely-voiced Stranger played by Sam Elliott and his perfectly sculpted mustache – every character in "The Big Lebowski" leaves a lasting impression. But perhaps no one was more potent than the volatile and eccentric Jesus Quintana. He might only appear in two scenes of the Coen Brothers' classic with just seconds of dialogue, but anyone whose watched the film can attest to the explosive memorability actor John Turturro ignites when playing the fiercely competitive bowler decked out in purple.

But despite the Jesus' irreplaceable role in the Dude's already absurd odyssey, Turturro wasn't always as proud of the role as he is today. That's a shocker given the years the actor spent trying to get Joel and Ethan Coen onboard for his character spin-off "The Jesus Rolls." Long before the Jesus first strut onscreen, Turturro had already made something of a career in reliably unreliable and oddball characters in films like "Barton Fink."  So what could've possibly made Turturro repentant of what would become one of the Coens' most hilariously enduring characters?

Turturro Struggled with His Character's Bizarreness

The Jesus might be known for his madcap bravado, but behind the scenes, Turturro was less than confident in his character's purpose in "The Big Lebowski." Even after the movie was completed the actor felt little in the way of fondness over the role. He told The Hollywood Reporter:

"The first time they showed [my scenes] to me, I was really embarrassed. I didn't even get the movie when it came out. When I saw it, I thought [Jeff Bridges] was great, but it went over my head."

So maybe he didn't "get" the Jesus' magnetizing yet disturbing allure back then, but in the decades since, no one more than Turturro seems as enthused about his character than himself. For their part, the Coens had faith in the actor's ability to bring something truly unforgettable to their story. After all, not only had they handpicked Turturro for the role, they'd also drawn inspiration for Jesus from a character they'd seen him play in the theater. In fact, Turturro's initial cringe towards Jesus is slightly ironic, given how much latitude he was given to mold the character into the bizarre being he is in the film.

Turturro Masterminded the Role of the Jesus

Given the limited number of scenes he's in and the Coens' purposeful selection of Turturro, you'd think that Jesus' role in "The Big Lebowski" was concrete from the beginning. But when the actor first got ahold of the script, he was dismayed to find very little involving his character. Turturro also told The Hollywood Reporter:

"When I got the script, I was kind of disappointed. I was like, 'There's nothing here!' So then I thought, 'I better make something up because they're all talking about him!'"

That void in the script is one of the reasons Turturro dazzles in the film — just like one of the Jesus' aggressively and erotically shined bowling balls. All of his sensational idiosyncrasies are owed to Turturro's design. Everything, from his dancing to bowling-ball-licking — even his purple outfit — came from the actor's innovations on the character. If the Dude abides, then Jesus does not. He is a firecracker of frantic passion and ludicrous hilarity, firing off expletive-filled tirades and overtly-sexual threats every time he appears. It's what makes Jesus such an awkwardly beloved personality amongst not just the cast of "The Big Lebowski" but all the Coens' films. 

Thankfully Turturro has seemingly put any and all judgment over the role behind him, at least if "The Jesus Rolls" is anything to go by, regardless of the critics who bemoaned the film. Though we're not likely to see the Jesus again anytime soon, there's still the possibility of an "Old Fink" up in the air, so the actor could be taking up the mantle of another iconic Coen character once more.