'Lebowski' cast joins fans and U releases Blu-ray version for anni

After 13 years, one thing is clear to Will Russell: The Dude will always abide.

Russell founded Lebowski Fest, an annual gathering of enthusiasts devoted to the Coen brothers’ neo-noir 1998 comedy “The Big Lebowski.” Now, to celebrate the cult pic’s Blu-ray release, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is teaming up with the fest to hold a cast reunion during this year’s shindig Tuesday at Gotham’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

In what is sure to produce squeals of delight among fest-goers, the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, is set to attend, along with John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Julianne Moore and frequent Coen collaborator T Bone Burnett.

“It’s been really great to work with (Universal),” Russell said. “They said, ‘the Blu-ray’s coming out, we’d like to get the cast back together — are you interested?’ And I said, ‘I’m trying not to explode with joy.’ ”

Lebowski Fest, once a gathering of fewer than 200 fans, now attracts thousands of brother shamuses; “Ace of Cakes” chef Duff Goldman graced the gathering in 2008 with a giant confection shaped like a severed toe and served on an edible rug (if this makes no sense to you, go watch the movie. Sober). Tonight is the annual bowling tournament — “We have a ‘Highest Bowler’ contest, and there are a lot of high bowlers,” Russell said.

Universal homevid marketing guru Hilary Hoffman told Variety sponsorship of the fest was, in part, a way to say “thank you” to Lebowski-ites who rescued a movie that came and went pretty quick at the B.O. from obscurity. “We knew we wanted to design this release with fans in mind,” she said.

And is Bridges uptight about any of this? No way, man. In fact, he’s attended Lebowski Fest before. “He wore his jellies from the movie,” Russell recalled. “He let me try one on, and he made me take my sock off when I did it.” And how was it? “I definitely felt the spirit of the Dude.”

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