For thirteen years and seventy-five issues, Twin Peaks fans had one safe haven in a media landscape completely indifferent, even hostile, to the strange, wonderful world they loved. Publishing its first issue in October 1992, a month after the critically-reviled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me bombed at the box office, and going on permanent hiatus in September 2005, two years before the Gold Box DVD collection would introduce a new generation to the TV series, Wrapped in Plastic carried the torch during the long dark age of Twin Peaks. Or rather, it ensured that this dark age was in fact a golden era, with vital new interviews, deeply insightful essays, and the latest cast-and-crew news bundled into a slick, appealing package every couple months. Wrapped in Plastic was a fanzine but it was also something more: a vital source of scholarship in an era when one of the most iconic, original, and influential TV shows of all time was rarely discussed.
I discovered John Thorne's work this past spring, as I gathered quotes for a massive round-up of Twin Peaks commentary, trying to trace the elusive history of the show, the film, and their reception. Intrigued by his long-dormant blog (particularly a post called "The Subject of Laura Palmer"), and heartened by his quick responses to my inquiries, I contacted him to propose an interview. Having come to Twin Peaks only after the magazine went out of print (like many others wooed by the show in the digital/social media era), I was only dimly aware of Wrapped in Plastic and had never had the chance to sample its contents. John shared some of his work with me and I investigated the descriptions of previous issues to get a tantalizing sense of the magazine's treasures (though I haven't been able to yet, I plan to invest soon in its archives - as Gordon Cole would put it, "MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES" of back issues!).
Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the big news. Rumor has it that later today, Mark Frost and David Lynch will announce one of the greatest comebacks in TV history: the return of Twin Peaks in some form, probably a miniseries on premium cable. [As expected, a few hours later Showtime declared that it will be running a brand new nine-episode Twin Peaks miniseries in 2016, which will be entirely written by Frost & Lynch and directed by Lynch. Later in the day, John Thorne posted on his blog for the first time in over two years, declaring that he is now planning to renew the mission of Wrapped in Plastic in one form or another.] In an amazing reversal for a series ignominiously cancelled after a season and a half, maligned in the mainstream media, and viciously shot down when it attempted to take cinematic form, it looks like - as Lynch and Frost simultaneously and cryptically tweeted last week - "that gum you like is going to come back in style." If this is true, we can expect the deluge of new, curious fans of the classic Twin Peaks to dwarf anything since the original series aired nearly twenty-five years ago, and it is my hope that as the torch ignites once again, we can remember the folks who carried that flickering flame in the years when the show was nearly forgotten. So let's part the red curtains, cross the threshold, and unwrap Wrapped in Plastic one more time...
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FALLING INTO TWIN PEAKS
Well, I was definitely a science fiction genre fan. And a big, big movie fan. But to go back in time, it was rare to find a show that was very outstanding. The closest thing was St. Elsewhere which spun out of Hill Street Blues and was a really good show. You had to pay attention, it had dream episodes, and it was complicated in its own way. But I always thought TV had a great potential. It was a serialized form, it could get you involved and thinking. When Twin Peaks came along, I had read a review of the pilot about four months earlier that said “Mark your calendars, this is something big.” When it came on I remember vividly that Sunday night, it was just: Wow! I’d never seen this on TV! And so I was hooked, not only because of the uniqueness of Twin Peaks but because it really was using the medium. I would attest a lot of that to Mark Frost, his understanding of how to spin a story out over time and plant little clues in one episode that are going to build.
What TV expectations did you feel Twin Peaks subverted?
I will tell you, the second episode, with the dream sequence, I watched that and I can remember vividly…this is not an exaggeration. It’s going to sound like a cliché but I literally fell off the couch! I got to the edge of the couch and I remember watching the backwards-speaking and the inundation of imagery and data and I just dropped to the floor! I was just like, I’ve never seen anything like this on TV. For free! I’m watching TV, and here’s this show that is involving me in all kinds of ways. I’m trying to decipher the dream and not expecting it to be so unusual and demanding. The other aspect of the show is just the serialized mystery. Every week we’re gathering clues. Where are they leading? Between episodes…I had many friends and we would sit down and try to parse it out: where do we think it’s going, who do we think the killer is? That part of it was lots of fun. I was a big fan of comic books, a big fan of novels and movies, saw those different media were asking more of me than TV was. I started videotaping [Twin Peaks] at the pilot and watched [episode 2] three or four times that week just trying to absorb the dream.
I remember the pilot being incredibly mesmerizing. I knew something special was going on there, and that was Lynch: there’s sequences in the hallway when the kids are rushing to class and the camera is going and you see this kid do this little funky dance in the background. And Cooper walking down the hall of the morgue and saying, let me just stop you here for a second, Sheriff Truman. And his quirky – I hate to use the word quirky, everyone uses the word quirky, I try to shy away from that - his unique style of detective work...you knew right away Cooper was different. You have the Archie Bunker, Homer Simpson humor, they are beneath us in intelligence, as a viewer we watch them and we’re superior to them, and then you have most of the characters you would watch that are equal to us. And then there’s two categories above that, the category where there’s a superior character and finally a godlike character. Potentially you have God or Odin or Thor or whatever, but Cooper was one level above. And that was also very rare. People called him Sherlock Holmes at the time but he was a level above. And that was a great appeal.
At the time, a lot of people were hooked on it. It was a very popular show during the first season. It had, I think, a 33-share for the [pilot], whatever that means!
Not a lot of people know this, but it’s a true, true story. At the time Twin Peaks was on, I was selected as a Nielson viewer! It never happened before, and it never happened again. They recorded data on viewership different ways. Some people had a diary that asks you to record what you watched, what you videotaped, and what you watched on videotape. I wasn't trying to pump up the numbers, I was literally watching Twin Peaks again and again and I wrote it all down in this diary and mailed it in. So I was one of the 5,000 people who were chosen and I really watched Twin Peaks! I don’t know if it had any impact on the ratings, but they picked the best person to possibly monitor!
Maybe. Everyone still that I was around, they were all still interested in who killed Laura Palmer. They did want to know, and so there was enough there to keep all the people I was around watching. I will say I remember very distinctly after the Laura Palmer storyline [ended], particularly I think the episode where M.T. Wentz, the food critic, is gonna come in. And I remember a good friend, one of my best friends at the time, said, it’s just a show. It’s just a show now. I said, stay with it! It’s gonna get better! It’s gonna improve again. But that I remember very distinctly. It’s just a show now.
Who did you think killed Laura Palmer when you were watching it?
Josie. I thought Josie was the killer. I had a lot of good reasons for it but I also thought Josie was the one who shot Cooper.
What was your reaction when it was revealed? Do you remember other people’s reactions as well as they were watching it and you heard about it after?
I think, more than anything, the reaction wasn’t the fact that it was Leland but that Bob kills Maddy. Even now, my son’s fifteen and I was thinking I’d sit down and watch Twin Peaks with him. And then I thought, man, this scene is so vicious. The reveal that Leland was the killer was very quickly supplanted by that scene. The murder of Maddy. It was almost like, so what? Look what just happened. And then of course, one of the most fantastic sequences in the [series], Cooper at the Roadhouse and the giant saying it is happening again. And the amazing scene where Bobby is there and he turns, he’s bewildered, and Donna is starting to cry, for no reason at all, and there are all these people connected with Laura and suddenly they knew something had happened. And they didn’t know what! That was just an amazing, amazing sequence.
PUBLISHING WRAPPED IN PLASTIC
It was after the show had ended. I was such a massive fan of the show, the ultimate fan of Twin Peaks and I couldn’t contain it. So I was drawing charts. There was a chart in People Magazine or US Magazine to show how the characters were connected. I was like ok, you know what? I’m going to do the ultimate chart, I’m going to show you how every single character is connected to every single other character. I had lines – there’s one line for the business relationship, one line for the romantic relationship, one line for the friendship relationship. I had to lay out how they were interconnected. So I was developing these, and I had a trivia list I put together. And it’s all fan stuff, nothing substantial, nothing critical, but super-engaged. I was printing these things out and taking them to all the comic stores and giving them to people. Every week I’d make a new chart and update it.
Were you selling it or just showing it or giving it away?
Just giving it away. I loved the show and I wanted everyone to love the show! One of those charts made its way through the comic-book store chain to Craig Miller, who was about three miles away and worked at the same chain of comic-book stores. And he got one and was impressed. Then I was asked to speak at a comic-book convention for a panel on Twin Peaks. Craig was in the audience. He approached me after the panel discussion and said, look, I publish these magazines. Do you want to do a magazine? And I was like, do I want to do a magazine? Absolutely. It took about a year. We were trying to make it an official magazine, contacting whoever owns the copyright, and told, you know, it’s going to be $5000 to get license fees! Craig investigated the idea that you can put out a magazine of critical commentary, and it’s all covered under First Amendment.
It really was, it really was. I thought oh, it’s not gonna happen. And then Craig called me one day and said, we can do it. And so we started on it. If you look at the first issue, it’s really like a fanzine, it’s pretty primitive. But it hit at the right time and there was still a lot of interest in that show. There was a core group of people who loved it, and here we had interviews with the actors, producers, and directors, and we were putting together essays and getting people to submit essays. I had somebody say, I got a subscription as a Christmas present and it was the best Christmas present I ever got. Wow!
Would you describe your and Craig’s collaboration as yin/yang or were you pretty much on the same page?
Neither of us had our ego get in the way. We were really just there for the magazine. And there were times where I’d write something and he’d be like, you know it’s not working, and he’d show me. Craig was the kind of person who was really, really open to whatever idea you had. Even if he totally disagreed with it: ok, let’s hear it, let’s see where it goes. And so we weren’t really facing each other, we were turned together in the same direction.
Would you say you had similar sensibilities?
To a great extent. When I met Craig the first time, we started talking and somehow we got onto the comic Cerebus, by Dave Sim, and he said that’s my favorite comic, just my favorite comic. I knew then we had the same views. We both love Blade Runner, we both love Apocalypse Now, we both love 2001: A Space Odyssey. Our favorite movie. We had all these similarities.
We started down that path, analyzing, reading other articles about "Twin Peaks and the Gothic Nature," "Twin Peaks and Vampirism" and ate that up. Good film criticism makes you want to go back and watch the movie or the show again. It’s like adding spices to the stew - I've got to get another taste of that. That what we were trying to do, and people could continually engage in the show. Go back and watch it again! Here’s this interesting way of looking at it. I think we were both interested in getting into the meat of it. A lot of the stuff we wrote, as we studied not only the show but Lynch, and I went and studied film and TV, we got better at what we were doing. It was just – almost trying to figure things out. God, I’m sure Craig and I used to say, oh we would never publish this now! And so we evolved and got, I think – I hope! – much better at doing that. I did a Blue Velvet essay and it was just, Lumberton is a lumber town, Twin Peaks is a lumber town… (laughs) I think not much later, it got into Lynch’s approach and how the characters are depicted, what’s going on in their minds.
Do you disagree with the conclusions of some of those, or just the argumentation?
I mean there was a lot of good stuff in there but...yeah, the presentation of it.
Did you co-author a lot of pieces together, or did you have separate essays: this is by John Thorne, this is by Craig Miller.
Most of the essays were by a single author because we were trying to break it up. I think Craig took on Eraserhead, and I thought, Oh my God, I’ve got to get ahold of my end! And that’s when I started doing the final episode essay, which is one of my favorites. What Craig would do (and I would do too), we would read them very carefully, make the extensive edits, discuss them at length. Sometimes we would say – I know he did it on one of mine – let’s rearrange this section entirely. Put this section here and it’s like yeah, yeah, ok.
It was fairly steady. There were people out there who were hungry just to write something about it. We had one piece that came in that we were thrilled about, that had been rejected by the Literature/Film Quarterly Periodical. The Literature/Film Quarterly did a whole issue on Twin Peaks. We got one of those and we were like, I can’t believe they rejected this, this is great! Once that happened there were other people, people who had written a cult book on Arthurian legends and they wanted to write something about Twin Peaks. There was no other place for it.
When you were operating the magazine, you paid for contributions. Did the subscriptions pay for the publication?
We never ever made a lot of money on Wrapped in Plastic. Except one time. We were the first magazine to put X-Files on the cover! It sold out. We did a second printing. It sold out. We did a third printing. And it almost sold out. We made some money. That’s why we kept X-Files in the magazine. There was always a little section in the end, an X-Files extra, and there were people who bought it for The X-Files. That kind of kept us going and David Duchovney [who appeared in Twin Peaks] was in it, starring as an FBI agent investigating the paranormal! Good enough. I don’t think it works this way anymore, [but] we would submit a solicitation for the magazine through Diamond Previews, the catalog that comes with the comic book stores. And people would order it! You could go up to your comic book store owner and say I want this when it comes out, and then they would order it for you. Then we would receive the Diamond orders which were usually enough to pay for the printing. Then we got people who found out about us and Tower Records contacted us. They had their own distribution. And they said we want to put you in our stores. Now Tower Records got us in South Africa, in Israel, they had centers from all over the world. So that was… We never made a lot of money but we made a little money. I had enough to buy, you know, laserdiscs and comic books. I had enough to sustain my hobbies.
You mentioned David Duchovney in X-Files. I noticed sometimes you covered different people’s movies and TV shows that were coming out.
Yeah, we had a great little section at the end of the magazine called "The World Spins," which comes from the Julee Cruise [song]. And we would just throw in news items, Sherilyn Fenn’s in this, so-and-so's in that, to keep track. This is pre-Internet, so here’s what they’re doing.
It was very rare for anyone to say no, although I think it did happen. Catherine Coulson was great. Catherine Coulson was our first. We did interview a TV critic that was kind of a big deal, and we just loved his stuff. And it wasn't Twin Peaks-related. And somehow we got Catherine Coulson. She’s friends with David Lynch, and is a big fan of the show herself. Then we went to the Twin Peaks festival, shortly after that, and got Frank Silva. Mark Frost was putting a book out, and we contacted the publisher: yeah, he’ll do an interview if you promote the book. And so that’s how we started. And there was a time when we were around enough and had interviewed enough people, that when we contacted some of the cast they knew. If they had a movie or something, we’d say hey, put it on the cover. We’ll promote the film, put it on the cover, it’ll be on the newsstands and you know, publicity agents were usually eager to get coverage. If we arranged an interview, we’d get an interview. That was great fun. Great!
Separate. Simultaneous to [Frost’s interview] we got ahold of the [final episode] script. While we heard the script had been changed, we actually had it on our hands – this is content right here, we’re going to talk about how it was going to be and how it changed.
Did you ask [Frost] at all about that?
It was tough to talk about it at the time. It was very, very soon after the show had ended. And I think he still had some bad feelings about it. And again, Mark Frost is a great guy and without Mark Frost Twin Peaks wouldn’t be what it was. No question about it. He is not given enough credit for it. But you know Lynch had a little more creative say. When he would step in and, certainly in that final episode, where he threw away the second half, and I think [Mark Frost] said something you take this and do what you do with it. And [he said] something like, David rewrote the last episode. And we just left it at that, we didn’t want to focus on that. I’d be very interested, I think in the new book [Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, by Brad Dukes].
I just started reading it about an hour ago actually. Apparently [executive producer/head writer] Harley Peyton and David Lynch didn’t get along that great. I thought that was interesting, and kind of revealing, of some of the differences in the show’s tone as it went along.
We interviewed Peyton, a great interview actually – he was making a movie. We actually got to go and interview him with the two actors, they’re famous actors, my mind is drawing a blank… They were making fun of us, we were these Twin Peaks geeks, and it was fun! But Peyton said, or maybe it was [story supervisor/head writer Robert] Engels, that it basically divided into two camps: the Peyton-Frost camp and the Engels-Lynch camp. [But] Peyton was very generous about working with Lynch. He did say, he always said: It was David Lynch’s world, I was just lucky enough to play in it.
Oh yeah, I think Mark Frost basically was the showrunner. He was like ok, here’s the arc, here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna break it down, like what Game of Thrones does. They sit down and say, we’re gonna have a cliffhanger here. I think he’s giving it the momentum. And Lynch was giving it the mood, the ability to stop and have a scene last minutes with nothing happening in it, but still have a palpable effect on the viewer. So that combination was a blast to see, for me.
I think they said your Frost interview will be on the upcoming Twin Peaks blu-ray. [For the 2001 DVD release, John and Craig Miller interviewed Mark Frost over the phone, but had to re-record their half of the interview which was then intercut with the original footage of Frost’s response.]
Oh gosh, I hope not. (laughs) I really do, I – aah. I think originally I might have signed something, you know in perpetuity you have it, so… The interview itself was great. I don’t know if you know the story, there was a little copyright issue.
Yeah, they show it in the video. You showed the card up your sleeves: "we interviewed him but this shot of us talking to him isn’t actually us talking to him."
Yeah, it’s ridiculous. We had an Italian poster of Fire Walk With Me on the wall. And they were all, you can’t do that. We can blur it out; nah, let’s just redo it. They even made us do the little joke we did at the end, which was very natural when you see the original version. And I hate that we did that. And they wanted us to do it again. And we had a script at that point! Oh my gosh…anyway…
So that’s the biggest suspense. Not what’s the “missing pieces” gonna be, but am I on this disc?
Oh please, I hope not! I really do hope I’m not on there. I’d love that if it was just audio.
I remember the interviews vividly. Part of the reason we said what we said about interviewing him is we knew he didn’t answer questions! I watched every David Lynch interview. I used to say to Craig, if we ever interviewed Lynch we ought to interview Lynch about interviews. Let’s say, why is it when you go to an interview…and sort of get meta about it! He might want to talk about that! [Our first interview with Lynch] was Eraserhead on DVD. He was putting it out himself, you had to order it on DavidLynch.com and he wanted to promote that. And by then he knew about us. He knew we had a fan base that would pick it up. So most of that first interview was about Eraserhead. Which was great to me – we actually got him to answer one question, we got a little significant information out of him. I remember he broke. He went, oh, gave a little bit of something away there!
Was it about Eraserhead or Twin Peaks? What did he say?
About Eraserhead. We asked him about Henry. We had studied the film very, very carefully before we did the interview. We said, do you think Henry’s problems are external or internal? Do you think he’s causing his own problems? And he said, well I don’t really want to talk about it. But if you look at it, almost every problem we have is our own doing, it comes from inside us. And I was like, oh, that. You start going back to other Lynch films, particularly even Cooper in Fire Walk With Me, or Cooper in the series. The last episode. It’s Cooper in the way of himself, he’s got to overcome himself. And so I thought that was critical. That was the philosophy of David Lynch, that you’re bringing your own issues with you, your own internal problems, your psychological problems, and he would often, in films, show those psychological problems as literal manifestations. Mulholland Drive is all of that, you know. Naomi Watts – she’s a failed actress, she’s struggling to overcome what other people’s opinions of her. She can’t get over that. Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here.
I just did whole marathon viewing of all of his works chronologically and you can see the arc incredibly. It’s always internal problems, but starting off, he shows them as external problems in the movie itself, Blue Velvet, Eraserhead. Twin Peaks is the real turning point and after that it’s all internal, it’s all split personalities.
It’s really what’s going on in your head and trying to solve your own problems. Or fail at it. Lost Highway may be the one where the character fails, it’s more of a sense of tragic ending.
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
Well, to be honest, I don’t have a clue about those issues because you’re asking me about twenty years plus! I will tell you this, Twin Peaks made me go back to college. I finished my Bachelors and went back for a Masters in TV and radio production because of Twin Peaks. I went to SMU; they have a really great program there on the TV/film industry. And as a result I had access to all kinds of information, pre-Internet, I had access to every newspaper. I would track them down and I would find all of their reactions to [the film]. So that’s why that [article] was there. Was your question also about my reaction?
Yeah, how did you guys respond, and were you surprised by the way other people did?
I’ve got another story – I got to see Fire Walk With Me in a private screening before anyone else had seen it. There was a contest going on in Dallas, you had to go and enter your name and different House Party stores, and they were going to choose single names out of every store, and then those ten names, one name was going get chosen. I drove to every House Party store and stuffed the ballot box in every single one of them. I knew I had about a 60% chance of winning, and I did. So I won a private screening with twenty of my friends. Craig of course was the #1 and I had a bunch of other people, mostly work people. We went to watch it in a private, not even a theater, like a conference room in a building. They had a film projector and they had a screen, we sat at a conference table watching this movie. I remember thinking, I love it: the owl cave symbol on the ring, seeing the characters again, I was blown away by it! I remember a lot of people in there who were just regular old people – they were into Twin Peaks but they weren’t into it like I was – feeling a little beat up after it: I don’t know how I felt about that, or I didn’t like it. Craig’s came around very quickly, watching it again and again, but his first reaction was I’m not so sure.
Did it surprise you at all that film critics, whose job it is to look at things a little closer, were so overwhelmingly negative?
Yeah, well, it’s a very, very tough film for a lot of reasons. My favorite quote, I think it might be Michael Chion: “There’s no way in.” You can’t get into the film. In some way that’s true, there’s no access point for the movie because you have to watch the whole series to get to the film but then you get to the film and it’s so different [from] the series. And it takes place before the series, so where do you go? I sort of disagree with that quote now, but I think it’s still a great quote. I think certainly everyone, you’ve heard this a thousand times, just same old thing: why didn’t they continue the story? What happened to Audrey? She blew up! Why didn’t they do that? Where was all the humor? It’s dark. It’s a tremendously dark movie. Even Norma…Peggy Lipton was down on it. She made a quote somewhere where she was like, it just didn't have what Twin Peaks had. It didn't have what made Twin Peaks special. And plus, as with many things, there’s always a backlash. Whatever’s popular now, somebody on cybermedia is gonna take it down. I mean, True Detective is a great example. Have you watched True Detective?
No spoilers…I thought it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. If I had to put a list of the three best shows ever: Twin Peaks, The Wire, and True Detective. Man, how do you get that high that quickly? But of course now there’s backlash, I read it all the time on the Internet. Like oh, you know, they screwed up this or they were too pretentious. At the time it was on, you loved it! And that’s so true of Twin Peaks; suddenly there’s a backlash, and it’s trendy to start in the middle of it. And boy, Fire Walk With Me just gave everybody [an excuse]. Let’s kill it now. Let’s put a stake in it. I think people like to do that.
Many of the people who actually come to Fire Walk With Me and don’t see the series first actually like it. The conventional wisdom is, don’t see it, you won’t understand what’s going on, but as long as they’re open to Lynch or they like avant-garde films...horror fans, especially, have their own special affection for it. Whenever I see a strongly negative reaction, it’s always preceded, unfortunately, by “I love the series but…” They bring those expectations to the movie and sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been more successful to call it [simply] Fire Walk With Me and not make it the Twin Peaks movie. Because it seems like somehow the connection to Twin Peaks actually hurt it.
Hmm. That’s a really interesting way of looking at it. In a different world, let’s say, if they’re all different characters, I’m certain you wouldn’t have all the weight of the series. I will say this, the series appealed to different people. It had a broader appeal and there were people like me and Craig and many, many others who were sucked into Lynch, the vision, and everything about it. So the film came out, as much as it was abruptly different, particularly for me, I was still heavily involved. I must be an anomaly in some respect – it just didn’t bother me.
Exactly. Dale Cooper did go investigate Teresa Banks, he was there, he couldn’t make sense of it, and it troubled him so much he dreamed of it. [As in the series] his dream opens him up to more data from another world. The dreaming entities of the Black or White Lodge or whatever were trying to communicate with him and you see it happening within the dream. And the dream ends when we see the Twin Peaks sign and the movie starts. It was one of the most controversial pieces we put out. I had people write, you’re absolutely wrong! How dare you suggest it! And I was just like, you know, look. If you can give me a theory that can explain all the anomalies I will be happy to accept it as another potentially valid theory. But there’s still all these anomalies and I don’t see anything else to help resolve them all. But you know, I’m not telling you that’s what it is. I’m telling you that’s exactly what I believe now. But you can interpret a Lynch film any way you want. You can throw my idea out the window!
Well, just to clarify, with your idea for it, Chet Desmond doesn’t exist at all, right? Not that Cooper used him as a fellow agent, as a surrogate within the dream but that there is no Chet Desmond within the world of Twin Peaks.
Well, there’s no evidence to say for sure that Chet Desmond doesn’t exist in the film or that Cooper knew him.
So you believe there’s not necessarily a Chet Desmond, and if there is, he certainly had nothing to do with the Deer Meadow investigation.
Right, right. I really believe that Chet Desmond is a part of that, Cooper’s dreaming world. If we could go back investigating, and we see the investigation, for whatever reason, you know, "maybe he’ll have more luck than I did." The plain fact is MacLachlan wasn’t there! And they had Chris Isaak and I really believe that Lynch felt, we’re losing Cooper. We can’t lose Cooper. And here’s a way to keep him there. So this is Cooper’s experience – we’re seeing his dreaming memory of it and since his dreaming memory ends, and as is true of many Lynch depictions of dreams, you have a dream ends, part 1 is over. But part 2 [in which Cooper mentions a dream to Gordon Cole, and is then visited by Philip Jeffries before going to Deer Meadow], it’s still dreaming. In Eraserhead Henry wakes up and you think, oh the dream is over. But he wakes up again! A second time!
Ok, and you see it in Fire Walk With Me again with Laura. She wakes up but she’s still dreaming. Then she wakes up again!
That was one of the most interesting parts to me, where you noted that the prologue [Cooper’s alleged dream] has the exact same structure as Laura’s dream, where we have just her point of view: she’s not there [onscreen, just as Cooper is not onscreen during the first part of the prologue]. And then waking up, re-dreaming, presented with a figure from another world. [In Laura’s case, she is visited by Annie in her bedroom, in Cooper’s case, he is visited by Philip Jeffries, at FBI headquarters.]
And information from another world. She’s vulnerable perhaps, whereas Cooper was open to getting critical information in his dream. After he re-enacts or re-visits Teresa Banks’ investigation, he continues to dream and in that second part he has been opened. When Phillip Jeffries appears, data-dumps Cooper with all this stuff, I would argue that first part of the dream prepared him for the second dream. Now he knows all this stuff, and he is the Cooper we see when he arrives in the series.
Why do you feel Cooper does have to be a big presence in the film? Why couldn’t it just be Laura’s story or why couldn’t it be another investigator? What is it about Cooper or the film Fire Walk With Me that Cooper needs to be structured into it whether or not Kyle MacLachlan wants to take part?
He was intended to be. That was the intention from the beginning.
I think they intended him to be there from the beginning, they scripted it in sequence that he would be there. Why show us the Teresa Banks investigation if not to bring Cooper into this whole world of the odd things that are happening? Later he’s standing [in the Red Room with Laura Palmer], the guiding presence to a higher world. I believe that’s the good Dale Cooper that is trapped in the Lodge. And the good Dale Cooper is there to transition Laura from one world to another. The last thing that Lynch shot before he did Fire Walk With Me was the final episode that he re-wrote entirely. In that final episode, a lot of people at the time thought Cooper was possessed by Bob. That’s not really what happened. You could arguably say that the bad side of Dale Cooper in cahoots with Bob escaped. In the final episode, the two Coopers are running. And everyone interpreted, for a long time, that one Cooper was chasing the other Cooper. I interpret it as they’re racing each other to see who can get out. And the bad Cooper makes it, gets out. Good Cooper is trapped. That’s the last thing Lynch shot. That’s what’s interesting to him. He was interested in Cooper and what was going on with him. And I think he wanted to continue with that. And I think it was important to him to connect the two most important characters in the story. Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer. And so he really felt that Cooper had to be a stronger presence and the movie and to be in part about Cooper’s journey to the pilot episode of Twin Peaks and all the way through to that last sequence that Lynch shot. So I think that was very important to him.
Again, there’s so much difference between the script and what’s shot. I’m trying to put myself there, what was happening? Why deviate from the script? Shooting it scripted? It all works. Why are we suddenly getting strange lines if he wasn’t at least contemplating the idea of doing it. You know, maybe all of this is a dream. I don’t know if it’s that literal. It’s hard to say with David Lynch. He was making it an abstraction of what was real. He was aware that there was something else there, that scene with Carl Rodd, Sam Stanely turns to Chet Desmond and says, "We sure do need a good wake-me-up don’t we, Agent Desmond?" Not scripted. And Sam Stanley repeats the line – "We sure do need a good wake-me-up, don’t we Agent Desmond?" And it’s like he’s suddenly frozen – he can’t move. Is Cooper about to wake up? Why wasn’t all of that scripted, why was it thrown in there? Why do that when the original line was something else. "We sure could use a good cup of coffee, couldn’t we?" That was the original line or something to that effect. Why change it? Why add in the line, "we live inside a dream"? Why add all of that in? The repetitive lines, are you here to investigate about that girl who was murdered? You know, the guy in the bar. Are you here to investigate …again, the second time which to me signifies, this the second time, where Cooper’s re-living it. No doubling occurs in the second half of the dream, it only occurs in the Chet Desmond part.
Why do you think [Lynch] would come up with a solution or reading and then hide it from people? Why would he say, ah it’s a dream but then conceal it from the viewer even more so than he does with Mulholland Drive?
I don’t think he’s trying to conceal it, I know that sounds like, what? You’re crazy! The dream sequence, I think he’s trying to sort of give you enough.
He wants you to feel like you’re dreaming, and not know it’s a dream?
In Fire Walk With Me he’s stuck by a lot of factors. Really stuck. He’s stuck by the existing storyline, he’s stuck by Kyle MacLachlan not committing. He’s stuck. I think he makes the Deer Meadow prologue, he finds a way that satisfies him, and then he starts throwing out some evidence, saying you know what, think of dreams. I don’t think that Lynch would ever – maybe Lynch didn’t explicitly go, It’s a dream! But I think he felt yeah, this works. There’s a presence here.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF LAURA PALMER
When we talk about Laura Palmer, I certainly feel that Lynch was trapped by the series and the information that we knew. And this gets back to David Foster Wallace, which got me thinking about it. [In his essay “David Lynch Keeps His Head”] Wallace says that Lynch attempted to turn Laura from object to subject. Laura is simply an object, she’s something they talk about in the series and now he’s trying to make a film about her. And she’s a victim. And the series establishes her as a victim. She has no real say other than becoming aware that she must die in order to stop Bob, to prevent him from taking over her. And the series says this is something she allowed herself to do. The movie is trapped by those facts. Laura is a victim, and she’s passive. I think Lynch is a careful filmmaker and a good storyteller. And when he’s doing a story about a character that’s important and that he cares about, then that character has to be an active character. The character has to have some say in their own fate. Whether it’s a failure or a success, they have to still be playing a part and not just be victim to whatever other forces are around them. And I think he understood that the strength of what happens in the story of Laura Palmer’s arc is completely lost if, as it was scripted, she turns to Leland and says, you have to kill me. And Leland kills her. He does the action. She says, you have to, but Leland doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. Laura is begging to be killed at that point.
And that’s how it’s written in the episode where Leland dies, saying, she told me to kill her. That’s how she was active and they leave it at that.
Right. And so Lynch is stuck with that. He’s really ultimately still stuck with that. But I believe he wanted to make her, as Wallace says, a subject and not an object, a character who is rounded or who has control, or some say in their fate, who attempts to plot their own course. If you carefully watch, and again if you read the script, you see these changes that were made. In some cases, particularly in the train car scene at the end, you have these odd edits. If you look very, very carefully, and I’ve studied that scene shot by shot, you have these things happen. Laura’s bound but she reaches and grabs the ring. How did that happen? She was bound but Lynch knew he had to give her an action, she had to take control. So I believe that as a good storyteller, it goes back to the original question. Lynch understands that a character has to – Henry has to stab the baby, so that’s the kind of thing, he understands the basic mechanics of storytelling. And so if you’re gonna depict a character, they’ve got to have some say. They make a decision and act on it.
I will say this...you talk about the other stuff in the script that got cut out and the focus became on Laura. I think with many of Lynch’s films you can argue that they’re evolving processes. I think he’s commented that the script is just a skeleton, it’s just a guide post. He’s moving in this direction but he’s open to changing things and new ideas come to him and he explores them. I think Fire Walk With Me was seen as an experiment that was ongoing, that he was tinkering with it. He wasn’t sure how the final piece was going to be and he had all kinds of problems. Not only the problem of MacLachlan saying he’s not going to do much, but [also being] confined by the plot [of Laura’s murder as established on the series].
And he wrote it super-fast and got to shooting it with almost no time. It’s incredible, when you look at it.
I think he wanted to get back to it quickly.
Like right away!
I often wonder if he waited, what would have happened over time?
Maybe not. So I think the film was something he was tinkering with, and he’s fighting against it. The material forces you in a direction you might not want to go. In the series you have all these facts: what happens. Well, you’ve got to conform to that story. How do you make it something else? How do you make it bigger? How do you transcend that? And so I think he was struggling with that, and I think you can see it, the film fighting against itself sometimes, I’m sorry, Twin Peaks fighting against itself sometimes if that makes any sense. That’s just another factor that you have to keep in mind when you’re looking at that film.
It’s interesting reading your perspective because it seems like you’re very keen on cohesion and it’s a perspective I appreciate. Personally, I almost take it as a given that the film is something of a mess. And at this point it’s probably my favorite Lynch film, so I don’t say that as a bad thing but I take it as a given that there are things that aren’t going to fit together or that he was compromised on and yet it’s powerful enough. But reading your pieces you get more of a differing perspective: of things, maybe just last minute or just by the seat of their pants, but eventually cohering and coming together and making sense in a holistic sense.
[When I wrote that essay] the film was ten years old. I’d lived with it for ten years. A day probably didn't go by I didn't think about Twin Peaks. We thought about Fire Walk With Me a tremendous amount, more than I've ever studied any other film, trying to make sense of some of the strange things that are in there. I was haunted by the film ten years, trying to make sense of it, feeling that Lynch had made sense of it to satisfy himself, whether it satisfied anyone else. He must have felt this works. Pieces fit together. I believed that Lynch felt that. I wanted to figure it out, what’s a reason that might work, that it all fits together. And feeling that Lynch really wanted to make Laura come alive and give her some sort of redemption. So all of that time spent on that film thinking about it led to these various essays.
One of the biggest influences on [“The Transformation of Laura Palmer”] was David Foster Wallace’s essay in ’96: “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” in which he posits the idea that you run with, that Lynch took Laura from being an object to a subject.
David Foster Wallace is my all-time favorite writer, I've read everything that he’s ever written. That was my first exposure to Wallace. We did a little article once, what are the things that Twin Peaks led us to? Oh my gosh, it led me to David Foster Wallace! So Wallace makes that point, discusses Fire Walk With Me more than I expected. He talked about that idea which I hadn't really thought about specifically. It was in the back of my head.
Lynch made this film to make Laura a dramatic subject, not dramatic object. And Wallace says he didn't entirely succeed. Well I thought, ok. So if he was trying to do that, how was he trying to do that? And then I went back to the film and started looking at it, trying to figure out how you take an object and make it a subject. What were the tactics that Lynch was using? And that’s what interested me. I looked carefully at the film and I do believe there’s enough evidence there that he did succeed. He did make Laura a subject. But it’s a hard place to get to because no one has ten years to spend looking at a film. (laughs)
I’ve never quite known what to make of the ring until I read your piece and that made it a little more coherent to me but it always was kind of like, I don’t know what he’s doing here.
No, I do really believe this, Engels says explicitly the ring is a bad thing. The ring is not a good thing. And that Lynch and Engels were scripting it, the ring was a bad thing. The little man says, "with this ring I thee wed." You get that ring, you’re a victim, you’re gone, you’re done for. Cooper, who should be the most reliable character, says don’t take the ring. But then she takes it at the end and it seems to contradict everything. It seems to make no sense at all. To me, you know, for a long time, why would she take the ring? Cooper says not to, it’s a bad thing and then I started to look at the way the angels were presented. I love the way the sound drops out in the train car scene. What’s happening there? Something is happening there. How does Lynch make sense of it? Why would he have shot that? And we interviewed Al Strobel so many years ago. He said if the ring gets to Laura, the one-armed man didn’t throw it. He says something like that and it stuck with me.
In other words, "I wasn’t carrying it on-set."
Right. And so I started to think about it, I started to think, you know, Lynch was deliberately doing something. It seems to contradict what he was saying before. What else was he doing to explain that contradiction. That’s the trick: how do I get from this point to this point. What’s in between? Looking very carefully at it. The positioning of the camera, for example, when Laura’s talking to Donna is directly over her head, an angelic presence. Earlier when Laura says, if we fell through space we’d burst into flame, and the idea that Laura has given up on herself and the angels have fled her. They disappear from the picture, she has given up on herself. The angels have not left her, they are there, they are obviously positioned above her looking at her. We are given that angelic perspective. They reappear – and that’s what Lynch is doing. Lynch is using that, Laura’s despair of herself, he gets to that, he finds a way of saying here’s what Laura realizes: no, I’m still a good person. And then what do you do with that? How do you make that a power, a powerful act? Well, I think maybe it came to him. She takes the ring and instead of having it imposed upon her, she takes it from them. She switches roles.
Maybe. Why would the one-armed man take it off? How could he, first of all. Why would he take it off and throw it into the train? It makes no sense at all, obviously, and look at the editing of it, he didn’t. They edit it in three shots: the ring rolling across the car, Laura putting it on her finger, and then holding her hand up. You know, and then suddenly all the energy really explodes. Everything goes crazy, and Laura put the ring on. Well, he gave her an action. She did it herself. She took their weapon from them and used it against them or just removed it from their plane. And it all sounds so tactical and forensic, and these are not the words that Lynch would use by any means!
Yeah, I don’t know, it’s tough, it’s sort of tough to reconcile.
Lynch is stuck there. It’s not just tough because we’re failing at this, it’s tough because Lynch didn’t know how to succeed at presenting. He does his best. So I think you get the idea that the ring finds its way to Laura, it’s very Tolkienesque and I don’t like that but…if a good person, who’s pure, takes the ring, and again, this gets almost into like fanboy talk, but ok, she takes the ring…they wanted Laura. Again, it’s so non-Lynch, Lynch would never talk about it in terms of that. But in terms of the character transcending, the character perceiving their demons, and I can see that in a figurative sense. He does it.
In another part of the essay, you talk about Laura in the painting [when she stands in the doorway during her dream, and looks out at her sleeping self] and you see her at that point as sort of “the bad Laura.” You know, like the good and the bad Dale in the Black Lodge. You see a good and a bad Laura. The bad Laura’s in the painting, looking out on her. I feel like, honestly, personally I’m a little more with Martha Nochimson with that. Because I feel like it’s an empowered Laura looking out from the painting, or a distanced Laura, but I don’t necessarily know that she’s “bad.” Do you feel that it’s the “bad” Laura because of the narrative structure, because after that she goes and she does sort of these crazy things [prostituting herself in the Roadhouse] and that it’s a transition into that? Or do you feel there’s something in that dream sequence itself to indicate that this is sort of her “bad” side taking over?
I’ll just answer it by saying that the film seems better for me if I start to interpret it that way. With any Lynch film, and that’s the beauty of his films, if you interpret it in a different way and it’s sensible and it works and you come out of the film feeling yeah, that’s satisfying, I understand it, then that’s it. For me, if she’s behaving this way in [the following scenes] why would you think she would be this visionary figure, already seen transcending at that point? It doesn't work for me.
Wow. That’s excellent, yeah.
What this started me thinking is well, ok, we know the Donna-Laura arc, which is that Laura saves Donna, right? And she saves her because of the light she sees, and the way you put it was very nice. You disagreed with Nochimson and I actually agree with you here over her. I think it’s at least more compelling to think that white light is not an angel showing Laura the way, but Laura herself realizing she’s got to save her friend, right?
So then I though how does that happen with Ronette? At the end of the movie you said you feel like the angels are coming, they’re giving her the ring, I thought – and, to be fair, I did read someone else suggest this, I think it was Christy Desmet. She says Laura is the angel, or Laura manifests something, and I didn’t quite know what to make of that before. But looking at it as her saving Donna setting up her saving Ronette at the end, it makes me think, what if she manifests the angel for her friend? Because she doesn’t think she’s worthy, but she thinks she has that goodness in her to save Ronette and maybe that’s what brings her the ring.
That’s a great way of looking at it. You know, I’d have to go back and look at it, but it does seem that Laura is a little surprised at the presence of the angel.
Oh yeah, I don’t think she does it in the sense that she knows what she is doing, I think it’s almost a psychic thing. That she, in her goodness or whatever, hears Ronette praying – and this is interesting too, Ronette begins the prayer by saying “Father,” “Father help me”… “Father look at me,” she says. Meanwhile Laura’s father is murdering her. So she can’t, she can’t relate that prayer to herself. But hearing that…it plays into your idea of her becoming more active at the end. So that’s my little tangent that you sort of started me on, so thank you for that!
That’s a very interesting way of looking at it. I hadn’t considered it. That’s intriguing – the idea that maybe Laura is the source of Ronette’s angel. Yeah, I want to go back to look at it! That’s a good thing. Yeah, I have to think about it, but certainly intriguing.
THE BLACK LODGE: PARANORMAL PSYCHODRAMA
Yeah, I’d have to say both. I have to say both because I don’t think Lynch likes to be stuck with one or the other. That makes some of the film difficult.
I definitely agree!
[Co-writer Robert] Engels has this whole thing: well, they came from the planet of creamed corn, they’re stuck here on this planet. I remember the first time I heard that, just being like almost horrified and yet at the same time just totally fascinated. Weird, it’s almost like I had two selves, you know? Part of me was just embracing it, trying to calculate out how the story goes. And another part of me was like no, no, no…Lynch would never say the word “planet of corn,” you know? That they came from another planet. So you get these strange things and while there is that one sequence where the subtitles say, “And I want all my garmonbozia,” and it’s just “pain and suffering" in parentheses. And so you can make all the connections that creamed corn is garmonbozia which is pain and suffering and it is some sort of life essence that is sucked out of the victim. And so Teresa Banks is killed and they got a big bowl of it! In the convenience store, you know, on the formica table, they got some and they’re gonna eat it up, and that’s a good thing, that’s keeping them alive. And these are all weird, literal ways of looking at it but at the same time it’s also very metaphoric. The idea that your pain and suffering is feeding some spiritual evil or something, there’s that too. So short answer is “both” because the show really pushes you to a supernatural…the series Twin Peaks is basically saying there’s a Black Lodge, there’s an evil in the woods, Josie’s haunting the Great Northern now as a doorknob, you know what I mean? It’s all rather definitive that it’s supernatural. But Lynch is struggling. Again, Fire Walk With Me is a struggle for Lynch to adhere to that and to also say no, it’s Laura concocting this crazy scenario to deal with her…the idea that there’s a Bob because she can’t face the truth.
The tragedy of her life.
The tragedy of her life, so she concocts this thing, you could argue that and again, the solo viewer who never saw the series…
Way back in issue 2 of Wrapped in Plastic, I had a friend who’d never seen Twin Peaks and I invited her to see that screening of Fire Walk With Me. And she watched it and I said, I’d really like to hear your thought. Her thoughts were so different! So unique. She said, right at the top, who killed Teresa Banks? That was the narrative. I go, woah! No! It’s who killed Laura Palmer? You know, and so anyway…
You also have a blog post about Judy and where it came into the drafts of the screenplay and the different conceptions, and how it changed while Lynch was shooting it. [In the original script, Philip Jeffries talks a bit more about the mysterious character of Judy; when cutting the film, Lynch removed most of the references but was stuck with one line embedded in the middle of essential dialogue and action. John suspects that it was at this point that Lynch overdubbed a shot of a monkey with the whispered “Judy” which appears at the end of the movie – an attempt to redefine the earlier reference he was stuck with.]
Right. That was another piece I wrote for Wrapped in Plastic. I struggled to make sense of Judy and I liked the fact that, again, you already know that the monkey says Judy and then we cut to Laura’s face. And so I was like what the heck? Lynch is trying to say, this is Judy. Laura is Judy. And again, all this came after the fact. I don’t think they knew in the script…it was a separate victim altogether. But Lynch is trying to keep it cohesive so he’s got Jeffries saying, “I’m not gonna talk about Judy. We’ll leave Judy out of this.” Well, he’s like, ok, again at a loose end: What do I do? How do I, the filmmaker Lynch, reconcile this random name? Ok, I’ll have the monkey say Judy and then show Laura in this section. I found some other evidence, lyrics Lynch wrote [for the song “Floating”] where you have a secret name. The name unleashes a great power or something. It could be like secret names. Oh, that’s kind of nice. That fits. So I think there’s a satisfactory interpretation and Laura is…yeah.
THE END OF WRAPPED IN PLASTIC
We went to a quarterly publication. We were doing bimonthly for most of the run and we were hitting it like clockwork. We did not want to delay, one of the philosophies of self-publishing: do not delay. They’ll keep buying it if it keeps coming out. But at a certain point we were running out, honestly, we had really written a lot about Twin Peaks, we’d interviewed a tremendous number of people, and then [there was] the internet without a doubt. Anything that was news was already out. The internet was pervasive. So magazines, all magazines, suffered because of that. And then Craig was working on his little service magazine that he started and that was taking up more time. And we just realized, maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to finish it off. And [issue] 75 was coming up. We thought well, ok, it seems like a good place. I always felt like oh, Neil Gaiman did 75 issues of The Sandman, wow, we did 75 issues of Wrapped in Plastic so I think we left the door open as I recall. I think we said maybe we’ll come back and do some special issues and for a long time there we discussed putting out a special issue. When it was the Gold Box, we’re thinking about doing another something and we talked for a long time about compiling everything into a book and putting it out there but it wasn't to be. But yeah, 75 issues…the shorter answer again: 75 was designed to be the last issue so that’s what we did.
You did a blog for a little bit but you haven’t updated it in a while. Are you thinking about getting back into, not necessarily Twin Peaks content, but just in general blogging or writing in any capacity?
Yeah, I would love to. I guess I always thought of blogging as if you were whispering in a loud, loud medium, you know, a loud stadium of cheering fans. The World Cup stadium, imagine that, and one person sitting there whispering. Well, no one hears them. And I’m certainly not trying to put down blogging, I know everyone is doing it and there’s good ones and there’s ones worth going to and looking at, but just, for me at the time in my life it’s just a little more work than I wanted to do. I guess I didn't know what I wanted to do. I do love still to think about all this stuff, and I love to write about it, and it just didn't seem to come together for me and I may go back. I haven’t really thought, oh, I’m never gonna do that again. I guess I may go back to it but other things in life just took over.
TWIN PEAKS "TODAY" (I.E. THREE MONTHS AGO)
You know it’s funny, my daughter was a freshman last year and she gets assigned a roommate, and her roommate had a little profile of her likes and dislikes. On the things they liked: Twin Peaks was on there! She was born after the show but she’s watched it, obviously, and she’s interested in it and it’s like that with any generation. Stuff that happened before you were there to experience it, but yet you do it again, it’s got an appeal. I think Twin Peaks will always be around, I think people will always discover it, particularly college students and younger people who are looking for something different and demanding. They hear about it and it’s going to draw some people in. So yeah, I’m not sure the new DVD set is really going to change anything to be honest with you…
You wouldn’t think so, because nobody has blu-rays – at least I didn’t till now! But suddenly it’s like everybody’s talking about it and they’re sending it around, people I didn’t even know had it on their radar, it’s interesting.
I think the deleted scenes is going to be a big deal. I think there’s going be people who are going come back to it, who may have left. Whether it draws new people in…I think it’s already on Netflix.
Yeah, that’s a big one I think, a lot of people watching it on streaming.
Yeah, so I mean, it’s there. It’s out there. One day you’re like, I’m gonna watch Twin Peaks...well, you can sit down and watch it now. And that was not always the case, it was prohibitive. It was on laserdisc but it was $100 a box so it was $400 for the whole series, because you only got a quarter of the series in each box. You know, no one’s gonna pay – well, I say no one, I did! – but few people are gonna pay that kind of money back then.
Even when I tried to start to watch it, I couldn’t watch the pilot, I had to wait a year. Luckily the Gold Box came out a year later.
The pilot was not available when they originally released the videotapes, it was a rights issue. You’re missing the entire first chapter of the story! So how do you get into it, how do you get in? So there was difficulty back then, throughout the decade of the 90s, to get into Twin Peaks. People would go and see it at festivals. But now, people can see it whenever they want and I think it’s there. They hear about it and they discover it. And they will continue to have it.
• • •
Two months later, John Thorne and I had another long conversation, extensively discussing our thoughts on The Missing Pieces, other features of the new blu-ray, revelations from the Reflections oral history by Brad Dukes, future availability of Wrapped in Plastic back issues, and more about the TV series itself. We also discussed the possibilities of Twin Peaks seizing the pop culture moment and returning to the limelight. Little did we know…
Tune in for Part 2 next Monday.