USC Twin Peaks Retrospective: April 14
“This place of power is tangible, and as such, can be found, entered, and perhaps, utilized in some fashion. The dugpas have many names for it, but chief among them is the Black Lodge.” Former FBI agent and Cooper’s nemesis Windom Earle continues his quest to locate the Black Lodge. And he succeeds. Recently, @ThatsOurWaldo conducted a poll on Twitter, asking, “What color is Twin Peaks? #RED #GREEN #BLUE #BLACK or something else...” I believe Twin Peaks is red – the color of deep red contrasted against the white bark of an American sycamore tree. According to the poll, the majority believes Twin Peaks is red, too. For me, the last episode is all about the Red Room with its scarlet curtains and its floor, which is the color of dried blood. It's a dark place. But, strangely, it feels like a real place. Just like Twin Peaks feels like a real place. According to David Lynch's recent revelation at the Beaune International Thriller Film Festival, Twin Peaks is "a real place. All the characters are real. The place is real." I couldn't agree more. Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks (Intellect Books - Fan Phenomena)
Sunday marked the seventh day of the USC Twin Peaks Retrospective. Tonight’s episodes marked the end of season 2 and the end of the television series. One more retrospective to go, which includes the May 5 screening of the prequel/sequel “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” Alex Ago (Moderator) announced the following are attending the May 5 panel – Phoebe Augustine, Ian Buchanan, Bob Engels, Sherilyn Fenn, Miguel Ferrer, Jennifer Lynch, James Marshall and Ray Wise.
Before the screening began, I saw Moderator Alex Ago sneak behind the red curtains of the stage of Norris Theatre. Moments later, a strobe light flashed against the red curtains. Ago emerged from the curtains onto the center of the stage, dancing a la Michael Anderson (Actor, “The Man from Another Place”). It was brilliant.
The April 14 USC Twin Peaks Retrospective screened the following final episodes of season 2: episode 2.20 (“The Path to the Black Lodge”), episode 2.21 (“Miss Twin Peaks”), and episode 2.22 (“Beyond Life and Death”). The final episodes of season 2 are a whirlwind of fight and flight. Cooper and Truman discover the bonsai tree is not what it seems. Earle has been several moves ahead of them the whole time. Major Briggs is captured, and we learn that his greatest fear is “that love is not enough.” Audrey bids adieu to Wheeler and then lures some rainbow trout by moonlight with Pete Martell. In the final episode, Pete and Andrew open the safety deposit box with Eckhart’s key while Audrey Horne is practicing civil disobedience, chaining herself to the vault door of the Twin Peaks Savings & Loan. All are blown into the breeze by the bomb left by Eckhart. Did anyone survive? Will we ever know? Lastly, Windom Earle captures Miss Twin Peaks and the queen of Cooper’s heart, Annie Blackburn, and whisks her off to the Black Lodge. Cooper follows him to the entrance – a circle of 12 sycamores ensconced in Glastonbury Grove and surrounding a hole filled with scorched engine oil. Cooper follows Earle and enters the Black Lodge, but this time it’s not just a vision or a dream – it’s the real place. Cooper encounters his old acquaintances – The Man from Another Place, the Giant, the Bellhop, Maddy, Laura, Leland, Windom and Bob. He also sees Caroline and Annie, who appear to be fused in the same entity. Cooper is overrun by his doppelgänger and taken over by Bob. Cooper and Annie escape, but we discover in that final haunting scene with Cooper in the bathroom of his hotel room at the Great Northern that he is not what he seems. How’s Annie? Wow, Bob, wow. Fire Walk With Me. And all that delicious kind of stuff.
After the screening and some delicious donuts and David Lynch Signature coffee, the panel entered the stage. This week’s panel included some actors and a songwriter/performer. Unfortunately Ian Buchanan and Sherilyn Fenn had to reschedule to the May 5 panel.
1) JULEE CRUISE (Songwriter/Performer)
2) DAVID PATRICK KELLY (Actor, “Jerry Horne”)
3) KYLE MACLACHLAN (Actor, “Special Agent Dale Cooper”)
Kyle MacLachlan (actor, “Special Agent Dale Cooper”) began the panel discussion by recalling how he became involved with “Twin Peaks.” MacLachlan had worked with Lynch on “Blue Velvet” and “Dune,” but he did not meet Mark Frost until he was in talks to do “Twin Peaks.” He said he met Frost for lunch at a Border Grill on Beverly Boulevard in LA, which seems like such an ordinary place for such an extraordinary meeting. He was excited to play the character of Special Agent Dale Cooper, but there was always the question of how a 30-year-old who looked young could play a seasoned FBI agent. According to MacLachlan, David Lynch never wavered in his support for Kyle to play Cooper. And so it was.
MacLachlan said the intro speech by Dale Cooper as he drives into the town of Twin Peaks in the Pilot says so much about his character. He said there are similarities between himself and Cooper. They are both fastidious. They both like donuts. They both love coffee. They both go off on tangents. By the way, my favorite moment at the retrospective was getting my photo taken with Kyle while we each held coffee mugs. Kyle looked at me and said we should take a photo drinking from the mugs. Pure genius. So gracious.
MacLachlan said although he had a few things in common with Cooper, he didn’t care for Cooper’s flat, gelled Elvis hair. He kept trying to perk up his hair a little bit more each episode, but whenever David Lynch directed an episode Lynch would flatten his hair back to square one. Alex Ago asked about the scene in which Cooper gets out of bed and a portion of his hair is sticking straight up. Kyle said it was a happy accident – his hair was really unkempt one day, but Lynch loved it and decided to use it in a scene. Lynch called it “Cooper askew.” MacLachlan recalled several happy accidents including the scene in the autopsy room in the Pilot episode. The lights were flickering off and on, but Lynch decided to use it rather than replace the lights because it added to the tension of the scene. MacLachlan said David Lynch “just loved those happy accidents. It’s so rare to have it encouraged in the work.”
MacLachlan recalled the scene in which Ray Wise (Actor, “Leland Palmer”) dies after discovering what he/Bob did to Laura. MacLachlan said it was a hard scene to shoot emotionally and physically – he had rain, hair and hair gel in his eyes as he was cradling the dying Palmer, but he said it worked well.
David Patrick Kelly (Actor, “Jerry Horne”) asked Kyle MacLachlan how he memorized all of his lines since Cooper had a lot of them. He recorded all of his speeches and then played them back. He laughed recalling how he learned all of the opening lines in the Pilot, but then they put him in a car and had him do business. He said it was not always as seamless as it seems.
Kyle MacLachlan told the audience he had many favorite scenes he performed, and he loved performing with Michael Ontkean (Actor, “Sheriff Harry Truman”) in particular. MacLachlan said his brother was a production assistant on the show. When Ontkean would come off set, he would make a beeline for his trailer and shed his Sheriff’s gear along the way. By the time he got to his trailer, he was down to his underwear. MacLachlan’s brother was tasked with calling Ontkean to set, but he had to wait until Ontkean dressed himself. MacLachlan laughed telling the audience no one knew what he was doing in there. (I’m not sure, but the owls were definitely watching!)
MacLachlan said everyone was excited when Lynch came to the set – except for the writers. Sometimes Lynch would rework the scripts and tell the writers it “doesn’t need to make sense.” He loved the unusual, the unexpected and the mistakes.
Alex Ago asked MacLachlan about the “Twin Peaks” craze in Japan and the commercials he shot for Georgia coffee, which aired there. MacLachlan said “Twin Peaks” hit very hard in Japan. He said the coffee commercials were inspired by “Twin Peaks,” but we amplified it. Click here to view one of the commercials.
MacLachlan said he had a lot of fun shooting the recent “Harlem Shake: Twin Peaks Edition” viral video. He said they asked me to do it, and I asked them, “So, you want me to play Cooper, right?” The audience laughed. He said everyone had these crazy costumes, and the experience was a lot of fun. See it again here.
Kyle MacLachlan said it was difficult to keep a straight face when David Lynch was performing “Agent Gordon Cole” on set. Even when Lynch was directing, he was always “right there in your face.” Kyle said David would mess with him regarding direction, asking him to do business like picking up a donut and taking a large bite out of it. He would make Kyle continue to do these tasks until he caught on that Lynch was kidding.
Regarding the prequel/sequel film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” MacLachlan said he wasn’t as involved with the character Cooper in the film as he was in the television series, and he felt like more of a “peripheral player, which was fine.” He said there was a lot of excitement on set when David Bowie was there. And, Kyle said it was fun to go back to Seattle and shoot on location. During the Q&A, an audience member asked MacLachlan about an early interview he did in which he was not happy with his role in the film. MacLachlan responded that he was young and “felt very unhappy and out of sorts. When it came back around, I thought we already tried this, and it didn’t work.” He said, it “wasn’t a triumphant thing because it was hard to go through the last few episodes and know the writing was on the wall.” Julee Cruise agreed. She said she felt “abandoned.” David Patrick Kelly said the ending was a “bittersweet feeling.” He recalled a New York Times writer who wrote “Who cares who killed Laura Palmer?” Kelly said he wrote an angry letter to the newspaper, but it was never published.
Also during the Q&A, an audience member asked MacLachlan how he got in touch with the “mystic warrior” and spiritual side of Agent Cooper. MacLachlan responded that it was about believing in the process. He said he recognized who the character was but so much of the character was David Lynch and Mark Frost. As the series progressed, “Cooper became more about talking about what happened than a moving force,” but “in the Pilot, he was like a stiletto.” Cooper was “strongest and best when he was commenting on the world.” MacLachlan said Lynch helped him approach his character in different ways. In the scene in which Cooper interrogates Bobby Briggs, MacLachlan decided to come at him hard, but Lynch told him to go softer, smiling first at Harry Truman, and it worked. MacLachlan thought that calm, courteous demeanor of Cooper reflected a side of Lynch.
One audience member who saw the final episode for the first time at the retrospective was devastated when she found out Bob had taken over Cooper. She asked MacLachlan how he felt about what happened to his character. Kyle said, “For me, it was very exciting as an actor.” MacLachlan would have loved the challenge of playing a possessed Cooper. I would have enjoyed that, too.
Another audience member from Romania asked MacLachlan what he had discovered about himself. And, BREAKING NEWS, MacLachlan responded that he is “not crazy about cherry pie. It’s a texture thing.” Poor Kyle. I cannot imagine how many takes he had do in which he had to gobble bite after bite of cherry pie! He also discovered “Twin Peaks” opened him up and relaxed him as an actor.
One question addressed similarities between the character of Jeffrey Beaumont from “Blue Velvet” and Agent Dale Cooper. MacLachlan said the character of Beaumont “fascinated me. I could see why he was obsessed and why he drove himself forward.” However, he noted a difference between the characters as they traveled through “dark corridors” – Jeffrey couldn’t process it. Cooper processed it. MacLachlan said when he met Dennis Hopper on the set of “Blue Velvet,” Hopper was wearing a hounds tooth jacket, slacks and shiny shoes. He looked like a “gray wolf.” MacLachlan said, “We laughed more on the set of ‘Blue Velvet’ than on any film.” He added, “Hopper was so nice – a wonderful, wonderful man and really gracious.”
Someone asked MacLachlan if we are going to see him 25 years later – referring to the rumors of a possible season 3 continuation of “Twin Peaks.” During the first retrospective, Mark Frost said, “Twin Peaks” is “a continuing story. That comes from David and myself.” MacLachlan replied, “I guess. In our heads.” Everyone laughed. It’s definitely happening in my head.
Julee Cruise (Songwriter/Performer) first met David Lynch when he sought her out because he needed an “angelic” singer for “Blue Velvet.” Cruise said she was belting out songs in the East Village at the time, so when she met Lynch the “Broadway belter became the ethereal one.” Meeting David was quite an experience, and he is “so down to earth.” While she, Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch were working on the album “Floating into the Night” (released in 1989 through Warner Bros. Records), Lynch had her read a script for “Northwest Passage” – the original name of “Twin Peaks.” She described the amazing energy and working relationship among the three of them – especially between Badalamenti and Lynch. A lot of the musicians were “jazz scene cats from Angelo’s old days.” Lynch had this unique way of communicating with the musicians. He would tell them to play “big chunks of plastic,” and they would. They got it. That’s how “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” got its throwback 1950s sound.
Cruise said it was difficult to find a side of herself who could be “beautiful, soft and vulnerable – it was hard.” She said she wasn’t supposed to sing on the show. Badalamenti wanted her to find someone with an “angelic voice,” but there wasn’t anyone, so she brought her voice “down.” She described how wonderful it was working with Badalamenti and Lynch. Lynch’s lyrics “were so beautiful and sparse.” She said Lynch and Badalamenti worked as if they had a “call and response. And I was the one who had to drive the car.” She and Badalamenti were perfectionists, but “David liked flaws.”
Cruise said Badalamenti would bring in musicians like drummer Grady Tate who would “excuse himself for an hour. Come back smashed. He did the whole album in one take.” Badalamenti was very connected to the musicians because he grew up with them in Brooklyn. However, she said it wasn’t always easy working in this “man’s world.” There was a musician named Vinnie Bell who Cruise found to be very crass. According to Cruise, he told her he had a wet dream about her. Vinnie Bell also came up with the idea of using the particular type of that bass guitar strum for those opening notes of the show. Despite some negative experiences, she loved working with Badalamenti and Lynch. Cruise said Angelo had everyone “check their ego at the door.” She said even David Lynch was “just one of us.”
Cruise told the audience she was there tonight to not only speak for herself but to also represent Angelo Badalamenti who could not attend the retrospective. She explained how music contributes so much to the comedy and/or drama of a scene. She said it is 50 percent of the scene. Cruise said she tried to perform the music as pure as she could, saying she is a French horn player as is Angelo Badalamenti. Cruise said the pure expression of the French horn and Lynch’s background as a trumpet player helped get to the purity of the music.
Cruise talked about her costumes in the show, including the biker outfit and the prom dress. She said the biker chick look seemed obvious since she was performing in the Roadhouse, which was a biker bar. Her normal attire at the time was a Catholic schoolgirl skirt (which she felt found its way into the wardrobe of many Twin Peaks actresses) and Doc Martens. When she wore the prom dress, she had a lot of discussions with Lynch about his high school experience. According to Cruise, David Lynch was a very popular student. Cruise told a story from Lynch’s high school days. He approached a very homely classmate named Winslow. She was always very quiet and down. One day she wore pearls, and Lynch told her how nice she looked. Her entire demeanor changed. Cruise said that is the type of person Lynch is – he is kind to everyone. Lynch gets the best of the best to work with him, and so does Angelo. Cruise told the audience that Badalamenti did not become successful until later in life even though he had long been a talented composer and musician. She said he couldn’t even be “Angelo Badalamenti” until later in life. He had to call himself “Andy Badale.” Thank God he is now Angelo Badalamenti – a much more beautiful (and musical) name.
During and after “Twin Peaks,” Cruise was involved in many different projects including performing as one of the B-52s. She also performed on Saturday Night Live at the last minute because Sinead O’Connor disapproved of the host, Andrew Dice Clay. She returned to Broadway. Cruise said it “is so easy to cry while I’m performing because of the music.” Before coming to the retrospective, Cruise asked Badalamenti what she should say. He said, “Just tell them the story of how we met and how I said it was love at first sound.”
David Patrick Kelly (Actor, “Jerry Horne”) said he got involved in “Twin Peaks” through the famous casting agent Johanna Ray. Ray helped him get cast as “Tommy Ray Glatman” in the film “Dreamscape,” which premiered in 1984. He later met with Ray in New York to discuss a role in “Blue Velvet” but nothing was available at the time. When he was working on the film “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” he was also reading some Greil Marcus (“Lipstick Traces” and “Mystery Train” – both books detailing unusual histories of music in the U.S.), and he was into this pop artist from Athens, Georgia. He was using these artistic muses to help form his character. The artist had an exhibit in New York with this room full of suitcase shrines to country music stars, including Elvis Presley. Kelly contacted her to get a prop for the obsessed fan he was playing. She gave him a red suitcase with traveling lights. When he opened the suitcase, he said it was like “looking into your grandmother’s jewelry box.” However, in the middle of the suitcase was a fresh Stayfree maxi pad. When he met with David Lynch in Los Angeles, he brought the suitcase. Kelly said Lynch loved the suitcase, but he “had a few corrections” and provided notes to him as if the suitcase were Kelly’s art project, Kelly laughed. Lynch found a part for Kelly in “Wild at Heart” and eventually asked him to play a role in “Twin Peaks.” Initially he did not want to do the show, but while at lunch with his “Wild at Heart" co-stars Nick Cage and Laura Dern, they convinced him. Kelly said the script for “Twin Peaks” was amazing.
Moderator Alex Ago told him the scene in which his character eats the baguette with Brie and butter received some of the most laughs at the retrospective. See a clip here. Kelly said Lynch asked him to dance around with the baguette like a saxophone player. The scene didn’t make it to the final cut, but if you watch the scene in which Ben and Jerry are talking and eating the sandwiches, Kelly is out of breath.
Kelly said the Horne brothers are based on the “National Enquirer version of the Kennedys.” He was 12 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He cultivated the character of Jerry Horne by looking at the pre-assassination 1950s and reading authors like Ayn Rand. It was his idea to use the line “We are all Icelanders” in season 1 when Ben and Jerry are courting the Icelanders in the Great Northern. He asked the crowd if they knew John F. Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin in which he says “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Alex Ago talked about a video in which “Twin Peaks” is summed up in one minute. It involves Leland Palmer dancing and singing “Mairzy Doats” while Ben and Jerry Horne dance in their office at the Great Northern. Kelly said it was a kind of happy accident and just happened. Lynch just asked them to dance around. Kelly said he used his training from mime school in Paris where he studied under Marcel Marceau – the famous French actor and mime. Everyone in the audience clapped.
Alex Ago asked the panel if they remembered any discussion about what a season 3 would be like. No one remembered, but David Patrick Kelly recalled when David Lynch went on Letterman and discussed the change in the airdate being a problem for the show. Kelly said “Twin Peaks” was a “breakthrough series” because “you remember the name of the victim,” and you can’t say that about most victims in crime TV series. While shooting the series of “Twin Peaks,” he attended karate school. One day, he was at the school doing knuckle push-ups, and his karate teacher asked him who killed Laura Palmer. He told him he didn’t know; so the teacher made him do 50 more knuckle push-ups.
Kelly said that after “Twin Peaks” his agent hated his guts because he wanted to perform the classics. He wanted to do the ancient play “Iphigenia” by Euripides. My agent said, “you are out of your fucking mind,” but “I wanted to keep shooting for the highest poetics.” Kelly said he started working with the avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman.
But Kelly looks back on the experience of “Twin Peaks” fondly. He said working on “Twin Peaks” was revolutionary because Lynch created such an open feeling on set. He said, “You don’t just have to hit the jokes and go. You take your time with it.”
Toward the end of the Q&A, the performers discussed their favorite “Twin Peaks” characters. David Patrick Kelly said Dale Cooper is his favorite character. He compared Cooper to Ralph Waldo Emerson and their shared love of nature. He said it goes back to St. Augustine and his “Confessions.” He asked the audience, “and we all remember that Latin phrase from when we read Augustine in Latin – ‘God make me chaste but not yet.’” Kelly recited the quote in Latin, too, much to all of our surprise! Julee Cruise told Kelly that she really loved his character, Jerry Horne. She said he was “like a breath of fresh air.” Kyle MacLachlan said he loved Miguel Ferrer’s portrayal of Albert Rosenfeld – the cranky FBI agent. MacLachlan said Albert “is so caustic but Cooper was not judgmental at him at all. That’s David really.” I can’t wait to see Miguel Ferrer at the May 5 panel!
Kyle MacLachlan summed up the Lynchian experience really well when he said that David keeps developing as an artist, and “Now he’s going to places I don’t understand. You just have to go on the journey and know you’ll be altered by the end.”
All three performers graciously stayed and signed every autograph and posed for every picture with the fans, especially the very in demand Kyle MacLachlan. This is the largest crowd I have seen attend the retrospective. A hearty thank you to the panelists for indulging the fans.
Thus concludes the penultimate panel before the end of the retrospective. Remember, on May 5, you and I have an appointment at the end of the world, my friends.
We interview Alex Ago, the moderator from USC on this podcast. Click here to listen.
Stay tuned for my next blog about the May 5 USC Twin Peaks Retrospective, which screens the prequel/sequel “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” The panel includes Phoebe Augustine, (Actor, “Ronette Pulaski”); Ian Buchanan (Actor, “Dick Tremayne”); Bob Engels (Co-Writer); Sherilyn Fenn (Actor, “Audrey Horne”); Miguel Ferrer (Actor, “Albert Rosenfeld”); Jennifer Lynch (Author, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer), James Marshall (Actor, “James Hurley”); and Ray Wise (Actor, “Leland Palmer”).