Monday, March 23, 2015

Shattering the Screen: a conversation with Andy Burns, author of Pop Classics: Wrapped in Plastic (Twin Peaks)


We are living through a golden age for Twin Peaks fans, despite recent concerns about a snag in the new Twin Peaks (my take: rest easy, neither Showtime nor David Lynch wants to lose this opportunity). In addition to the return of the series and the release of the deleted scenes from the film, new Twin Peaks books are finally hitting the shelves. If Brad Dukes' oral history Reflections explored the offscreen world of the series, Andy Burns' brand new Wrapped in Plastic (Twin Peaks), part of the ECW Pop Classics series, examines what's onscreen. Through seven elegant chapters, Andy investigates the partnership of David Lynch and Mark Frost, the fifties influence, the complicated relationship to soap opera, the theme of doubles, the treatment of family, the supernatural mythology, and the impact Twin Peaks has had on subsequent TV series.

In our discussion, Andy describes the process of creating the book, but we also delve deeply into the show and film itself: charting its rapid rise and fall, analyzing the twists and turns of Lynch's mass media image, and parsing a revelatory Jennifer Lynch quote featured in Wrapped in Plastic, in which she offers her own analysis, and critique, of the "Bob" issue. If that's not warning enough, there are major spoilers on the horizon.


How did writing this book change your view of Twin Peaks?

There's a few things. It's my go-to, but I say it because I think it's important: Jennifer Lynch really helped make Laura Palmer an iconic character with the work that she did on [the spin-off novel] The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. That had a big impact on how Sheryl [Lee] portrayed that character. Sheryl felt very in-sync with that world that Jennifer helped create. And I didn't know just how fundamental that diary was. Lynch and Frost, once they told her whodunit...basically she had carte-blanche. I do think that's really important and I want people to know that. [Secondly] we think of Lynch so much as that auteur figure. You talk to these actors that work with him and you realize what a nice guy he is with his actors as well. I don't think that would ever come across to be honest with you. I don't think it comes across in the work because he puts his actors through a lot of hell sometimes. It's that trust. Look at all these people willing to go back and re-visit this world. [Thirdly] it was very easy for me to see a certain impact the show had on pop culture throughout the 90s and into the 2000s and straight up into today. The final chapters starts off with Bryan Fuller talking about the impact that Lynch's work had on Hannibal, which is an incredible television show. Being able to look at it from a high level: hey guys, you can see it here, here, here; this initially plays on a show I wouldn't have thought of, but you see it. Those are, I would say, my three really key takeaways.

Can you discuss the trajectory of being a Twin Peaks fan, and becoming a writer, and eventually deciding to add to the Twin Peaks literature?

Twin Peaks just stuck with me. In 2008 I started a pop culture website called BiffBamPop and every so often I would find a reason to write about Twin Peaks. And in the fall of 2012 two women from ECW Press, Sarah Dunn and Jenna Illies [told me] we're launching a new line, our Pop Classics line: why don't you put in a pitch? And I was like ok, I'll do a pitch on Twin Peaks. [ECW is] an incredible place. It's the one place that if I were ever to have been published, that's where I would have liked to have been published. While I was working on that, I had the opportunity to do the cover story for Rue Morgue magazine [on the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me]. Along the way I got to talk with Sheryl which was incredible. We talked on the night that the twenty-fifth anniversary of Laura's death. Neither one of us knew it until that day, so that was pretty cool! I got to talk to Ray and that was incredible. For the book I ended up talking to Kimmy Robertson, Jennifer Lynch, Harley Peyton, Bob Engels, James Marshall, Dana Ashbrook. All of them were very giving of their time to me.

How did you settle on the structure of the book? You go by theme, not so much chronology.

That's a great question. The structure to a certain extent [stayed] the same, but as we went through the editorial process my editors made suggestions about combining certain themes. The Pop Classics line is really thesis-based and theme-driven for lack of a better term. And it's clear, the book is not a making-of. If it was strictly that sort of book then to go chronologically would have made sense. But really it's an editorial decision based on the concept of the series.

It worked really well. It was very elegant - that was the word that came to mind when I read it. It was well-organized and things flowed nicely.

Here's something that no one else knows. When I started working on my first draft I hadn't seen any of the other books. So you're flying blind in a way. At that point I was throwing stuff out there: how am I gonna do this, what do I want to do? And my original idea...because I've got a background in fiction, and I wrote fiction in university, the things that I liked doing best were writing voices. It's something that I felt I was pretty good at. So in the first draft of the book, in the first chapter, I wrote it basically in Cooper's voice. Not the full chapter, but just the introduction along the lines of, "Diane, it's 11:30, driving this, reading, Gordon has sent me this list of these two guys that I have to look into." And then the next one was written as an entry in Laura's diary. And that took you into the idea of looking at the family structure and everything. The third one was I was just writing backwards like the Man From Another Place. So that was in the first draft. I thought that they would say, this might not be working. But they kept them in which was interesting! When I was working on the next draft it was me that decided to take them out. It didn't fit as things got fleshed out more and as I honed the tone. Honestly it was a fun exercise as a writer. I think I probably nailed Cooper's voice more than I nailed Laura's voice! I haven't told anyone that, no one except my wife and my friend who read it. But that's not what this book is. That's the interesting thing about doing something like this too. It's my first book so you go for broke on a few things to test yourself, right? And see what works.


Talk a little bit about getting into Twin Peaks at a pretty young age, at thirteen - seeing that whole phenomenon unfold as a fan at that time.

After the first season aired, ABC went right back and did the repeat for it. So that's when I watched it and I just immediately got into it. I liked the characters and I liked the storyline and it was creepy and I've always liked really surreal creepy things. It just had that vibe to it. I'm in Toronto, and we had a store called the It Store. The It Store was this weird catch-all store where you'd find board games and random T-shirts and all kinds of weird shit. But it was a chain store, that was the weird thing about it. You would go into malls and they had two t-shirts: they had an "I Killed Laura Palmer" t-shirt and an "I Shot Agent Cooper" t-shirt. You'd go in and you'd maybe see a Spiderman t-shirt or a Batman t-shirt. And Dick Tracy had come out that summer so maybe you'd see some kind of Dick Tracy paraphernalia, but seeing a TV show? Not a Saturday Morning cartoon but a drama?

Something created for primetime network television.

Exactly, it was weird. Everywhere you went it was around. At the same time, maybe I've always been a little media-savvy, but I remember being really disappointed when the second season premiered on that Sunday night and it lost in the ratings. It came in #2 to Perry Mason. It wasn't a bad rating but it lost to Perry Mason. I remember being thirteen and thinking uh-oh. Here's this show I really like and it lost to Perry Mason. Twin Peaks really burned bright for those first seven, eight episodes and then it really came down very very quickly. I think quicker than people tend to remember.

Yes, totally agree with that.

This is a great question because I haven't actually talked about this stuff yet. And I get the shivers a little bit just thinking about it because it's just very vivid in my mind about that time period. I was young enough that I had never loved a show that way before. And so you love something and you want to see it succeed and I remember just thinking so clearly it doesn't seem like it is, from the beginning of that second season. And I don't think that there's any real explanation for it other than maybe it was so much hype that couldn't sustain itself.

I'm really glad you brought that up right off the bat because just yesterday I started watching the USC retrospectives on YouTube. In one, Gregg Fienberg and another producer go on quite a bit about how solving the mystery was the death knell, how that killed the show. And if you look at the ratings that's not true at all. The clear turning point was the season two premiere. Right after the season two premiere that's when we start getting bad reviews, and columnists writing who cares who killed Laura Palmer and David Lynch is just pulling our legs. And the show was moving to a Saturday [immediately after the season two premiere] so it was already gonna slip in ratings after that episode.

Moving it to Saturday was just insane. It was such a horrible decision. It was really the definition of the whole "water cooler" experience where people would be talking about it the next day. Well, one, people aren't going to be talking about it the next day because it happens on a Saturday night so you lose that immediacy. If you look back at the time, what was on Saturday night? Saturday nights was Empty Nest, it was Golden Girls, right? Those were NBC shows but that's who was watching TV on a Saturday night.

These episodes of Golden Girls and Twin Peaks aired on the same night (October 6, 1990)

Do you have any thoughts on why the critics chose that moment of all moments to turn on it, when the main storyline and the style of the show were getting deeper, richer, more intriguing? It isn't when the quality slipped.

We know the show was groundbreaking, yet you're still working in a medium where people want answers. I mention this in the book, the whole Dallas and "Who Shot J.R.?" phenomenon: you got an answer relatively quickly. Lynch and Frost's idea, as you know, was for the series to start with Laura, you start with the murder, you start with the investigation, and then that's the branching-off point. For them that wasn't what was going to keep people coming back. But it wasn't said at the time, and I think it's easy to understand the frustration of critics and viewers. I don't know 100% but I think that would partially be why you start to get those critics starting to turn. And it's also worth noting that not everyone loved Wild at Heart when it came out and I think that there was a little bit of backlash because of that as well.

You could almost make the argument that the Palme d'Or at Cannes was the high point and from there the Lynch popularity started to maybe take a slow decline. It becomes really visible at the season two premiere but maybe it was building from the backlash to Cannes forwards [even as] they were in the process of making him into a legitimate pop culture celebrity. Jonathan Rosenbaum compared him to Disney and Hugh Hefner which is an odd comparison for many reasons. That was the level they were pushing him on, the cover of Time and all that. And then he didn't play the role well enough for them, I guess.

To even think of him that way - in hindsight, but even at the time, it's ludicrous! Because look at the art that this guy had created even prior to Twin Peaks, there was nothing accessible about the art. The one time where he courts the mainstream with Dune is a disaster. It's amazing that Lynch himself is as widely known in mainstream pop culture as he is. And so many people know about him because of Twin Peaks. I can't imagine he knew what to make of it. I don't think he's ever viewed himself as someone on the pulse of contemporary mainstream culture. It might be indicative of something that he pulled away during that second season. There's circumstances that were involved, whether it's his work circumstance or feeling like the network forced his hand with the Laura reveal. [Twin Peaks writer/producer] Harley Peyton made the point that those first six or seven episodes of the season are as good as anything that was ever on TV and he's right. The run up until Leland's death is fantastic. You solved the murder that everyone was talking about and there was not that brilliant follow-up. Perhaps it all would have been way better to end on Leland's funeral, I don't know.

A better version of the funeral! But I know exactly what you mean. In a weird way, when I watch the show it feels to me like something ends, like the Twin Peaks two-season miniseries ends with Maddy's murder and Cooper sitting in the Road House just broken, like what happened? That feels like the Sopranos ending or something. That would have been a powerful ending. Now, I'm glad it continued. The two big reasons I'm glad it continued are the finale and Fire Walk With Me. Lynch could have gone off and made Fire Walk With Me [if the show ended with the reveal] but the finale never would have happened. Do you think they should have revealed the killer? Put it this way: should they have revealed him at the end of the show? Or should they have revealed him when they did? Or should they have never revealed him (which Lynch says, which I think is a terrible idea for many reasons)?

Yes, I think they should have revealed the killer. I think they had no choice but to do it when they did. I think it wasn't a bad time to do it. I think that yeah, they did it at the right time. It's so full of guesswork, maybe they would have been better off saying we're gonna give you two seasons of seven episodes each to tell your story? But that's not what they went in there with. But yeah, it's unfair to drag an audience along for that long without any form of resolution, then you're slapping your audience a little bit. The X-Files did that. Lost did that. I had no problem with the way that Lost ended but I know millions did. But it's a bullshit and somewhat lazy thing to do, when you don't answer the questions that you posed in your storytelling. Certain things can always be ambivalent. But if you don't know why those fucking polar bears were on the island you'd be pretty pissed off, because it doesn't make any sense and you deserve an answer!

At least even a buried one. I honestly don't understand what Lynch means when he says it never should have been solved because a) someone pointed this out to me, why would you go on to make Fire Walk With Me if you think the answer to that question doesn't matter? And b) there's an odd paradox/contradiction in David Lynch's insistence that the mystery should never have ended, it stands in very stark contradiction to how he actually handled it on the show itself. So that always fascinates me.

I think that's fair.


You mentioned Invitation to Love [the fake soap opera that everyone in Twin Peaks watches], that you didn't like that aspect as much.

No, I can't stand that aspect of it. I still can't. Invitation to Love is just...I get it, I get it, I know what they're doing. I just didn't like it. I thought it was too over-the-top. Too snarky. I don't need that stuff explained to me. I didn't like the actors that were on the show. It was just so ugh, yuck. I did not dig it at all. Are there things in the second season I didn't like? I like Ian Buchanan, he's a good dude. I like the idea of the little bit of the love triangle there, he does good work. Kimmy's great. Harry's great. But then you get that, what is that, Little Nicky? Fuck, man... None of us really like the James and Evelyn Marsh stuff. And I think one of the reasons we don't like it is because we like James, we like that character.

Well, some people do. I've never disliked the character. I'm not a huge fan, but people hate him and Donna. They just crap all over them all the time and I'm like, really? To me they're just Sandy and Jeffrey in Blue Velvet, those sort of doo-woppy 50s teen characters and you need them there as a gateway into all the other stuff.

I agree with you there. There's transitions that are not well-done. Donna's transition from nice girl to sexy ingenue wearing dark sunglasses and smoking the cigarettes, I don't really like that. I don't think it's particularly well-written, that transition. I think that's an issue. And that's where I say, it's not a perfect show, it's so far from a perfect show, right? But then you get, in that second season, cool things like Piper Laurie dressed up as an Asian businessman. That's cool! That is pushing things and that's really clever and Pete's reaction when he discovers Catherine, it's so great. It's fantastic. Andrew Packard being there, that's cool. That kind of stuff, that stuff I love. But introducing that Evelyn Marsh character, it's not interesting. Fucking Little Nicky shit. Not interesting.

It seemed like you kind of liked Ben Horne's story arc? You mentioned it in a positive way in the book.

Yeah! I think looking back, once again it's not perfect, but it's interesting. It's an interesting way for this character to search for redemption. That's cool. Trying to sweeten Bobby Briggs' character? That's not so cool. I didn't love that and I know Dana didn't love that either. He talked about that, that they tried to soften up his character and he wasn't so cool with that.

Twin Peaks is one of the most uneven things that I love, and I love it probably more than things that are more consistent. And part of that is the high points. It reaches such high points, but it's also because there's something fascinating about that inconsistency. The fact that you can have episode 19 and the movie be part of the same thing...

It is such an imperfect show. I say this all the time when I'm talking about it with other people. It's my favorite show but it's so far from perfect. In my estimation, and keep in mind that I'm still a couple of episodes behind, but for me the most perfect show that I've ever watched is Mad Men. I think Mad Men is perfect.

Episode 19 & Fire Walk With Me: other than the jean jackets, not much in common

I'm starting to get into that, when I'm done with True Detective (I'm only on episode three). They are ambitious in a sense but I don't think any show, even Sopranos, no show was willing to experiment as much as Twin Peaks. The yin/yang of that is you would never get - there's not gonna be an episode of True Detective where Matthew McConaughey is ogling Robyn Lively while flute music is playing...

No.

...but by the same token, I'm guessing there's not gonna be anything like Cooper in the Red Room with doppelgangers.

Well, keep watching True Detective.

The Sopranos certainly got experimental with the dream sequences and it was a great show but I've never seen anything that was as willing to go far afield as Twin Peaks was.

And by doing what they did they gave license to other shows to do that.

You write a lot about the supernatural, mystical stuff in the book, and you obviously had an interest in that. Can you talk about what fascinated you at the time, and what you've learned since?

I grew up in the 80s and I don't know if things were just easier back then for parents. I have great parents, but my dad took me to horror movies, to see Gremlins and Goonies and Fright Night. My mom let me rent horror movies and I watched The Nightmare on Elm Street and Ghost Story and I love all that stuff. The Universal Monsters - there was a channel out of Buffalo, WUTV, Buffalo-29, that we would get in Ontario. Fridays and Saturdays they would air horror movies and I watched those religiously. So take that love, and then you get Twin Peaks where you got this supernatural world full of the evil that's in the woods and the notion of possession which you have with Leland, if you want to take it that way. The Red Room, and the mythology that starts to go along with it. For me that was super super cool stuff. I didn't know anything about occultism or things like that until I got into my late twenties, my thirties. And the vibe of the "dweller on the threshold" that's incorporated, your mirror self and things like that. As a kid I thought it was just kind of cool and spooky stuff. Then you rewatch it, you become a teenager and then you become an adult and you see all that stuff there. It comes from myths, or some people's occult fascinations. Mark Frost is obviously quite familiar with the occult. I sent him a tweet and I was like, is it fair to say you're familiar with the work of Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky? And he's like, that's very fair to say.


Was there anything else you learned about Mark Frost, about his role and the impact he had as a showrunner?

It wasn't just David Lynch, it was these guys collaborating together. And for all Lynch's visual sensibility, I think you have the storytelling that Mark Frost brings and they complemented each other really well. And hopefully for 2016 that's what you're going to see, this great combination of the two without any outside factors. And that's gonna be amazing. Imagine seeing what these guys do without any interference. There are no boundaries now. I think I came to appreciate more that it was a collaborative process. Certainly in the pop culture vernacular he needs a little more credit than he receives.

A lot of stuff people praise about the first season was actually him, more than Lynch.

Absolutely. It's so easy for us to get caught up in the Hurricane Lynch in a way but this was, at least those first seven episodes, a dual effort. I think that they were partners that really respected each other back then. Mark Frost brought in the way to stylize the series and to connect things. That's my big feeling on it. Because he wrote good television. He was the structure guy for sure whereas I think we'd all say Lynch is never really about structure. He has his own avant-garde way of structuring things.

Lynch is good at post-structure - getting a bunch of random material, he always shapes it into something. Mulholland Drive, maybe Fire Walk With Me. He's good at taking things that weren't meant to fit together and then fitting them together in this interesting way.

It's interesting because the technique that you describe for Lynch is very much how Brian Wilson operated when he was doing the Pet Sounds album. And the Smile album, especially with Smile. Where do all these pieces go? Doesn't matter right now, we'll figure it out later. To me it's interesting because [Lynch] pulls away from what is arguably his biggest mainstream success. I'm a big Neil Young fan and there's a really interesting quote that Neil Young said about the album Harvest and "Heart of Gold" which was a #1 single. I'm paraphrasing but he said, Harvest put me right in the middle of the road but I thought it would be more interesting driving along the ditch. And I wonder if Lynch has a bit of that. Kimmy Robertson [and I] talked about the whole idea of David Lynch doing a Marvel superhero movie. And a gloriously fucked-up film it would be, but I don't think David would ever want to go that route. Based on his career trajectory, I think that's pretty clear.

He followed his own path, and yet he did flirt with the mainstream. Rather than go out and make another Eraserhead, he would take movie stars and put them in this genre-type movie and then twist it in this weird way. So he would play with it, find this halfway thing. I feel like actually that played a little bit of a role in Fire Walk With Me. It is interesting to look at the marketing of it. He was still almost under the self-delusion that he was, in the media's perception, the David Lynch of 1990. At Cannes he threw the big party with Julee Cruise singing, and fireworks, and hey the Twin Peaks movie is here. Meanwhile, he'd just made one of the most raw, unsettling avant-garde horror films of all time. Fire Walk With Me was the last movie of his that came out within a semi-mainstream context: here's this new Hollywood movie coming out this week, hey it's a spin-off of that hit ABC show, remember Twin Peaks? That wasn't the type of film he actually made, but it was the last one he could market in that fashion. Then after that he went back to, I'm the arthouse director.

I could be mistaken but I think it debuted at #9 that weekend. It maybe made $2 million that weekend. I remember the commercials for that as well. They were bad commercials.


How did you first see Fire Walk With Me? What was your initial reaction?

It was a Friday in August 1992, I went to Toronto's Eaton Center. The Eaton Center is this giant mall in Toronto, located in downtown Toronto. They had the smallest movie theaters, some of the crappiest theaters you could find out there. They had about eighteen or twenty of them. I was fifteen years old, it was the first movie I'd ever gone to by myself. R-rated film, I think I might have been wearing cowboy boots to try and look older. I was about five minutes late into the film so I missed the opening credits where the TV is smashed. Which is not particularly subtle. So I watched this movie. Honestly, I freaking loved it. I thought the performances were incredible. Sheryl Lee was amazing. And I like linear storytelling. There's linear storytelling...yes, we have prior to Laura's death and everything but for the most part it's linear storytelling. Fire Walk With Me is my favorite Lynch film. Is it flawed? Yeah, but I don't see it as fatally flawed. I think it's really fucking brilliant, to be honest with you. I think visually it's stunning. I'll tell you this: the scene in the Bang Bang Bar. They haven't done a great job ever transferring that scene because when you see it in theaters the first time out, you need those subtitles because you don't know what they're saying. That scene though, the first time you see it, it's an incredible scene, it's so creative. It's so weird. And it's sexy too, right? That is a very sexy scene.

I'd seen a few Lynch films at that point. Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive. I thought I'd seen Lynch go all the way, but this was further. It was like you're on a road and you see a signpost that says Blue Velvet, you keep going. You see a signpost that says Mulholland Drive, you keep going. And you're like, where are we going?! How did you perceive the reception to that at the time?

I was super, super disappointed with the reaction to Fire Walk With Me. Even back then I was always checking out box office scores and tuning in to Entertainment Tonight to see how films did over their opening weekend. At the time the reaction was just a horrible reaction. Audiences had no interest in it, and critics had no interest in it, and it was reviled. I don't know how much of that was directed at the film itself or that whole notion about David Lynch being taken down a few pegs, after being built up so much. But you watch Fire Walk With Me and Ray Wise's performance is incredible, Sheryl Lee is incredible, so even if you don't like the movie that surrounds them, the film is still worthwhile just based on those performances. They both go for broke. Sheryl Lee, I mean she's just so incredible in that film. She's heartbreaking one moment, and down and dirty the next. It's not a simple character.

In another film it would have gotten an Oscar nomination.

Absolutely, absolutely. The film has certainly grown in stature over time. It's far more well-regarded than at the time. It was up against a lot of biases as well. People wanted a return to the quirky town of Twin Peaks. And they didn't get that, that is not what that film is about. That film is about incest. And it's about a family falling apart and a teenage girl falling apart. It's not about coffee and donuts. Obviously, Twin Peaks is not only that stuff. No one's going to the movies for a not-feel-good-film about incest, right?

Lynch says in the Between Two Worlds interview that incest and murder are tough sells. Murder isn't that tough of a sell, because people go to murder films all the time! But the abuse angle certainly was not something that people were rushing off to see. Twin Peaks was maybe the most unconventional TV show of all time but it was still a TV show. I don't like to delineate too much between the two, because I think any good work of art is entertaining and I think any good entertainment has artistic aspects to it. But if you're going to make that divide, I think Twin Peaks, except for a few sequences, generally falls more on the entertainment side of the divide and Fire Walk With Me definitely falls on the art side. You go into it and you're coming out moved, but you're moved like you would be by a Francis Bacon painting or a Velvet Underground album vs. something that's more palatable.

I remember at the time wanting answers. I think it's absolutely fair back twenty-five years ago, to end Twin Peaks and go to the film and hope you're gonna get some resolution to things. And be pissed off that you didn't. I think that's a fair reaction. If the scenes that were in the Missing Pieces [deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me] would have been incorporated in the film, you could have traced that lineage a little bit more clearly. But Lynch took those scenes out. I'm sure it was for timing purposes, but it's also, it's a very specific sort of film. I love those scenes but apart from the scene with Doc Hayward and Laura and the scene at the dinnertable where they're practicing talking to the Norwegians, I don't think that the rest of them were necessarily. I think he edited them with good reason. It's really funny in those outtakes when Phillip Jeffries arrives back in his hotel and the guy says, I just shit my pants.


Can you imagine that in that movie?

It does not belong in that movie.

I love it for that line, because that's a hilarious...that's quintessential Lynch-Engels absurdist humor. But the whole thing of him zapping into the hotel... I love that he materializes out of an elevator, that's such a cool way to show somebody coming from nowhere. And then he disappears when you're not looking at him. You know something supernatural happened but you can't quite put your finger on it. When he zaps out of the ether, it's a little like, oh, I don't know.

It's a little too X-Files or a little too supernatural.

And too on-the-nose. I want to go to back to what you wrote in the book about Jennifer Lynch. She is quoted as saying about Bob, "That was both the brilliance and my personal heartache about the series, that reaction, the excuse that he had to be possessed. For me, it stopped being about a father having sex with a child. And I'm not saying that there's not a level of hideous, dark possession and pain and evil in someone that does that. All I kept hearing is that BOB got into Leland, and it took the responsibility completely away from Leland. Nobody wants to talk about it, which is why that interaction was so potent [when Cooper says to Harry, "Is it any easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?"]. It clearly meant that mission on Twin Peaks' part was to say we clearly know it's easier for you to hear this. And it was certainly easier for ABC to screen it that way." [She also adds that in her opinion Bob is a psychological construct between Leland and Laura.] I don't recall ever hearing her say that before. So that to me is interesting because it's an implicit criticism.

I was thirteen when I watched [the show] the first time. I did not dwell on the fact that it was incest. I took it as, this guy was possessed by this evil demon spirit. Because that was a lot of what appealed to me about the show, the supernatural aspect of it. And then I saw the film and the film does not really mince images or words. That's when I sort of got it. And I think it was after the film that I probably looked at things in a very different way, looked at the series in a very different way. With regard to Jennifer's comment, I wish that I could see it solely how she sees it because I think that in a lot of ways she's right. Let me backtrack on that. She could be right but the thing is, and I say it in the book, Bob shows up elsewhere. If you're going look at it as a whole it can't be interpreted, their relationship can't be solely interpreted as a construct between the two of them. I don't think it's possible because you have this demon-y character that shows up through the course of the series that is seen by other people. Do I think it's unfortunate? Yeah, I think it's unfortunate. Jennifer is incredibly intuitive and is an artist herself and like I said she helped formulate that character. She makes a very valid observation that I don't 100% agree with just based on the logistics of it.

I hear what you're saying but the first part of the quote seems to be her saying the same thing you're saying, that she wishes it was that. Martha Nochimson, the author of The Passion of David Lynch, says she never asked David if episode 16's treatment of Leland/Bob made him uncomfortable too but she wishes she had. I don't know what his answer would be. Sometimes he's more frank about these things than you'd think he would be, like in Lynch on Lynch [a book of interviews with Chris Rodley]. He definitely is way more upfront about the incest aspect and there's something else in there too, Bob as an abstraction given human form. So that's interesting to hear Jennifer articulate that. And like I said, criticize the show somewhat for going in the other direction.

I think it's a fair criticism. When I talked to Bob Engels, Bob Engels always looked at it as Leland was possessed by a demon.


He said he was interested by the possession angle. How Bob and Leland, almost the physical question of it. You could call it the sci-fi version, the mechanics of it.

That's how Bob was writing it when they were doing the series. His view was that this was for lack of a better term, demonic possession.

As puppetry. Exorcist-style. Nobody blames Linda Blair for the possession in that movie, they're not like she was a bad little girl. You know what I mean? It's a totally different phenomenon. But even though they push the demon angle really hard, and I think Bob is a demon, it's the question, I guess, what type of demon is he? Is he the swooping-down Exorcist demon who takes you over and you're helpless? Or is he a force that looks for weakness and feeds it and perpetuates it but needs your cooperation and your partnership?

I think Fire Walk With Me is the redemption. Because Fire Walk With Me is Laura's story and it's such a harrowing film to watch. It's my favorite Lynch film for many different reasons.

I really loved the attention that you gave Jennifer Lynch's contribution because I feel like that's really underrated. Really she was the first one to make Laura Palmer something other than just sort of the dead girl MacGuffin and that's such a huge part of what makes Twin Peaks special. You watch most other whodunits and murder mysteries and the victim's an afterthought. In Twin Peaks she becomes the story and it's kind of amazing.

I appreciate you saying that too because I come back to her a lot. And part of it is personal. She was the first person to give me the time of day. I told her that not long ago and she was really nice, she said, well you deserve getting the time of day. I just imagine, and I could be mistaken, but she's a director with a famous father who's a director and that's always gonna be in people's minds to a certain extent. Have you watched Chained?

The only [Jennifer Lynch-directed film] I could get my hands on was Boxing Helena.

It's with Vincent D'Onofrio and he's frickin' fantastic. It's a great movie and any time that I can tell people how great she is I want to. When I spoke to her I said, I'm so excited to talk to you and it's not just because because we're talking about Twin Peaks, it's because I like your work, I think you do wonderful work. Jen really helped create an icon. And you can't overstate that. Sheryl says it in the book. She helped create Laura Palmer.


If I'm boiling it down to Laura Palmer as a character, not just a plot device...obviously Frost had a hand in the Laura backstory and all of that. And he may have been the one who actually came up with the idea of somebody washing up on shore. But the three creators of her as a human character, I would say, are David Lynch, Jennifer Lynch, and Sheryl Lee.

And Sheryl Lee, you're right, 100%.

Kudos for addressing that in the book. Because it's missing sometimes from really great coverage of Twin Peaks. And it's still great, but to me there's always something a little bit missing if they don't get that core of where the journey went, and how it ended up, and how that came to be. So thank you for that.

You can purchase Wrapped in Plastic (Twin Peaks) on Amazon.

For more of my own Twin Peaks interviews, check out conversations with Brad Dukes (author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks), John Thorne (publisher of Wrapped in Plastic magazine), and Martha Nochimson (author of The Passion of David Lynch and David Lynch Swerves).

And check out Journey Through Twin Peaks, the acclaimed video series that expresses my comprehensive take on the series and film.

8 comments:

noirencyclopedia said...

Extremely interesting -- a marvelous interview. Many, many thanks to both.

Joel Bocko said...

Glad you enjoyed reading it!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, Joel. Once again, thank you for your wonderful contributions to the *Twin Peaks* canon.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks for the kind words. I hope it encourages those who haven't yet to check out Andy's book.

Mary Ellen said...

Really good points from Andy Burns about the reception of Fire Walk with Me. Also appreciated the insight into US tv and how the second season played there. It was messed about with in the schedules and ABC hampered its chances hugely.

Joel - minor quibble but its damned important to capitalize 'BOB' - to write Bob makes the character sound like some guy down the street.

Joel Bocko said...

Good point - since it is apparently a Jennifer Lynch conceit (in fact, if I recall correctly she has a fascinating quote about the "BOB" capitalization in the diary) I try - and sometimes fail to remember - to use it when she's talking about it. Since they don't capitalize it in the episode or film credits I usually leave it as is otherwise but yeah, it is much more menacing in all caps!

Sheryl Lee & Jennifer Lynch once talked about doing an audiobook in which Sheryl read Laura's parts...and Jennifer read BOB's! That would be awesome.

Glad you enjoyed the interview & thanks for the feedback.

Dan said...

Incredible conversation, Joel. It hit on so many key issues from the series and the movie, and not just the obvious ones. I really need to pick up this book.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Dan. I highly recommend it.