Lost in the Movies: A Story Both Wonderful and Strange: my conversation with Brad Dukes, author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks

A Story Both Wonderful and Strange: my conversation with Brad Dukes, author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks

The following interview was conducted in mid-July, between the release of Brad Dukes' book Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks and the release of the blu-ray Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, featuring The Missing Pieces (deleted scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which I reviewed last week). The discussion includes spoilers for the TV show Twin Peaks. As an introduction to the conversation, I've included an overview of the book's accomplishment, modified and shortened from my original Amazon review.

As interest in Twin Peaks hits arguably its highest point since 1990 (when the show first aired), the well-timed release of Brad Dukes' oral history provides fans, new and old, with a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the magic was created 25 years ago...and perhaps even more fascinatingly, how it dissipated.  Interviewing almost everyone involved with the show, from co-creator Mark Frost on down, Brad weaves a spellbinding tapestry embracing everything from the nitty-gritty of recording technique in composer Angelo Badalamenti's New York studio to the fast-paced Hollywood packaging of the show for nervous executives to the ineffable magic David Lynch evoked with his hardy band of fellow travelers/co-conspirators on location in Seattle. The book's greatest strength is its ability to structure all of this material as something not only coherent, but narrative. Brad casts a sensitive and sympathetic eye on the many elements of this wildly diverse show - exploring each character and storyline in turn. While I (like many) am not a big fan of the second half of season two (after the killer is revealed), I was nonetheless absorbed and even touched reading about the actors' excited explorations of their characters. At the same time, the actors and creators themselves don't hide their disappointment with the turn of events, even as they're not quite able to explain them. Turns out that in the eye of the storm, participants had even less of an idea what was going wrong than those on the outside. Reflections does not offer a grand reveal of what precisely killed Twin Peaks, only more clues.

Among the areas Brad is able to explore more in-depth than I (at least) have seen before: the involvement of various writers and directors, most fascinatingly the contentious and autocratic presence of German director Uli Edel (whom Russ Tamblyn hated working for), the eccentric touch of Diane Keaton, and the disastrous blood-covered script submitted by heroin-addicted Jerry Stahl; the discussions between Mark Frost and Steven Spielberg, who expressed interest in directing the infamous season two premiere (until Lynch decided he wanted to do it himself); the loving detail lavished on Badalamenti's scoring, with due attention paid to his numerous and usually-overlooked collaborators in the studio; Kyle MacLachlan's always-controversial decision to nix Cooper's romance with Audrey (supposedly because his girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle was jealous of her attention), which is fleshed-out but not solidified - although Sherilyn Fenn entertainingly harbors no doubts about what went down; Harley Peyton's increased involvement with the series to the point where he was basically running it while Mark Frost and David Lynch were off working on other projects, leading to some pointed confrontations with Lynch in particular; the personalities of various actors shining through in new and unforeseen ways - veteran actor Michael Parks gets some hilarious anecdotes about his confrontation with "gal director" Lesli Linka Glatter (who seems to take his condescension in stride), and Michael Ontkean surprises us as a more offbeat, soulful fellow (with a penchant to refer to himself in the third person) than we might suspect from his performance as the stable, easygoing Sheriff Truman.

The most prominent figure Brad was unable to interview is David Lynch, co-creator of the series and the most famous name attached to it. This is unsurprising - as Lynch is often loath to discuss his work - and also less unfortunate than it might seem, for that very reason: it's impossible to imagine the director letting down his guard enough to offer Brad new information, or expose his reasons for apparently abandoning the series when it was at its most troubled (he would later return, but it was too late). That said, the absence of Lynch does create a bit of a void when it comes to his side of the story, particularly what the director sees as the centrality of Laura Palmer; for Brad, like Frost and Harley Peyton, Laura is more important as the gateway into the world of Twin Peaks than as a character in her own right (this also leads him to de-emphasize Fire Walk With Me). While this isn't a viewpoint I share, it's actually beneficial to the book because Brad's wideranging love of the show allows him to explore every facet with equal respect and curiosity, picking up on tidbits others might neglect. Twin Peaks was, after all, an entire world, populated with more characters than several other shows combined, a potpourri of different tones and themes and stories.

In our conversation, Brad and I discussed his discovery of the show as a precocious 9-year-old (with parents far more permissive than my own, it seems!), the development of Reflections, and the personalities involved - from the musicians to the writers and directors to the network execs. Surprisingly - in retrospect - I didn't ask him many questions about the cast, but he's already shared great anecdotes about Peaks actors in other interviews with The Red Room Podcast, Obnoxious and Anonymous, and Welcome to Twin Peaks. Check them all out, as I sought to avoid redundant questions. In the second part of the interview, we discuss the tumultuous second season of Twin Peaks. Questions include: Whose idea was it to go supernatural? Did Lynch and Frost really know who killed Laura Palmer? Was it a bad idea to reveal the killer? Should the reveal have come even sooner? What happened to the show, behind-the-scenes, when Laura's mystery ended? Brad's answers, often expanding on information from the book, may surprise you. Reflections, like Twin Peaks, is filled with secrets and while not all these secrets can be discovered, the investigation is half the fun.

That investigation begins on a summer night nearly a quarter-century ago. A nine-year-old Brad Dukes discovers his mother glued to the television, absorbed by the evocative images onscreen. Two teenagers are whispering in the spooky, mysterious forest. The Douglas Firs stir in the breeze...

I want to go back to 1990 when you first watched the show. You’re only two years older than me, but I didn’t see Twin Peaks until eighteen years later – so there’s a generation gap there! With that in mind, what was it like seeing the show as a kid?

I just stumbled across the show - my mom was watching it. At that time what jumped out at me was Agent Cooper and the Log Lady. They’re not simple characters, but they’re very accessible. They’re like somebody you would see on Sesame Street. That was the gateway for me. And then you have this great mystery of "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" And all these loud characters. A lot of stuff, of course, went over my head at that age. I remember watching the Red Room scene with my mom and we just looked at each other and were like, what is this? I mean, nobody had ever seen anything like that on television… At the time it was just like an electric shock to watch that.

A lot of people who watched it on TV watched it in groups, at college or getting friends over the house. It became this community event. When I hear about people watching it on streaming or DVD, it’s usually on their own. That’s an interesting thing.

One thing that’s dawned on me, finishing the book: it’s one thing for somebody to go watch the series on Netflix within three or four days. It is another thing entirely to watch it on a week-to-week basis with a long summer break and all this really interesting promotion, with The Secret Diary [of Laura Palmer, by Jennifer Lynch] and stuff. Hopefully, what my book does for people who have just watched it on Netflix is let them know how much more there was to the story off the screen.

At the time, the popularity dipped pretty fast, it was cancelled, and there was a long period where it wasn't talked about much in the mainstream. It was hard to watch, especially the pilot on video and later on DVD. Did you ever think it would come back? I know it still seems like a cult phenomenon but right now, perhaps because the blu-ray or just something in the air, there’s more of a buzz about it then there’s been probably since it was on TV. Does that surprise you?

You know, I hadn’t really thought about that but it does surprise me. I remember when the first season DVD came out, I was in college. You didn’t have social media back then, thirteen years ago, no Twitter or Facebook. I remember the only real forum to discuss the show was the old newsgroup, alt.tv.twinpeaks. I couldn’t tell you another group that were celebrating the show years after the fact. I never knew about Wrapped in Plastic [the Twin Peaks fanzine]. I never would have imagined Netflix airing the show and people being able to discover it so easily. If you like a show like Dexter or True Detective, you’re on Netflix looking for stuff, it’s going to show you Twin Peaks. And I think at this point Twin Peaks has wormed itself into the subconscious of TV watchers and creators. So if you’re a big fan of a lot of these wonderful TV shows now you’re eventually going to discover that they learned a lot from Twin Peaks.

The book started as interviews for your personal website. At what point did you realize it was going to become a book and how did that process take place?

When I first started doing interviews for my website, it was just for pure fun. I remember my first real big interview was with Charlotte Stewart and that was such a thrill. To document a lot of her stories from Eraserhead and what it was like to live as an actor working on Twin Peaks…it was so fascinating! It just built from there and I did that for close to a year and thought I was really done. I think I was consciously looking for the next big creative outlet in my life, and my wife said something about doing a book. And someone else on Twitter said I should do an e-book. And I just thought, you know, I want to do something new and fresh, and the book just sprang up from there. I thought I was just done with all the interviews, but I’d really just touched the tip of the iceberg. I remember Tony Krantz, who was Mark Frost and David Lynch’s main television agent – he was one of the first guys I talked to once I decided to do the book. And once he started talking, I just knew I had something: a lot of interesting avenues to pursue!

It’s one of those things where each person you talk to opens up five more people.

Exactly. I self-published the book myself so [looking for a publisher] didn’t really hinder me. Surprisingly, I was able to get everybody in the book to talk to me without a publisher. And really, that was only a big deal for one big name. Whom I don’t think was going to talk to me anyway. It was nice to have that creative independence and have that final say, not be at the mercy of someone else who may or may not understand Twin Peaks and its phenomenon.

I notice you have a lot of stuff about Blue Velvet on the site. Would you say you’re a big David Lynch fan outside of Twin Peaks or are you more interested in his work collaborating with Frost? And I guess the same could go with Frost. Are there other Frost works, either Storyville or his work on Hill Street Blues, that you are into? Or are you more interested in where they coincide?

I would just say I’m a very selective fan of both of them. I like a lot of David’s films, like I love Blue Velvet, and Eraserhead, and The Elephant Man. Dune is not something I sit around and watch very often. Since I was doing this book I thought I had to do my due diligence to really understand both of those guys and their body of work. So I really enjoyed The List of Seven, Mark’s novel, and the Six Messiahs. Just aside from film and TV, those guys have been into so much more. Mark was a playwright up in Minnesota and I heard some pretty wild ideas that he pursued, it’s kind of like, man I would have loved to check that out.

The Idi Amin musical!

Yes, he did that. I forgot that was in the book! And David, on the other hand, he’s done art exhibits and all kinds of stuff. It’s tough to track it all down and consume it. If you look at the greatest moments of Twin Peaks, they’re usually directed by Lynch but Frost was behind the story and he got the story to where Lynch could knock it out of the park. I just felt like they needed each other to make Twin Peaks work. And when they were together it was dynamite.

I saw that you were a musician from your website. After reading the book that doesn’t surprise me because you pay a lot of intricate attention to the music and to [composer] Angelo Badalamenti. I don’t understand musical composition or arrangement at all, yet it was totally absorbing – the way you described it, the detail you went into. Did you know that was going to be a big part of it going in?

If you read the book, a lot of people call the music another character unto itself. That character is there from the beginning to the end and it’s like this looming presence. I was afraid I didn’t pay enough attention to the music in the book! There were a lot of people involved in that music, I mean aside from Angelo there was a lot of material I couldn’t even fit into the book. From guys like Kenny Landram, who played the synth on everything and the guy named Art Polhemus who was the engineer for [Julee Cruise's album] Floating Into the Night and the whole Twin Peaks soundtrack and Wild at Heart. He was twisting the knobs and making everything sound like it did through that whole time period.

I really didn’t know the extent to which so many hands were involved, not just performing but actually contributing to the music creatively. They’re across the country in New York doing all this recording, all this creation, and somehow it’s making itself felt on this TV show across the country that is going out to all these homes. It’s a perfect little microcosm of what the show did in all of its aspects.

Yeah. Angelo was one of the very last people I talked to over the span of 2 1/2 years and I was kind of sweating it. I was like, I have to have Angelo, I can’t do this book without him. So that was a huge sigh of relief.

To get specific with other people involved with the show, we’ll start with the writers Robert Engels and Harley Peyton. Do you see particular differences in their approaches to the material?

If you see episodes that say “written by Bob Engels and Harley Peyton,” I believe they basically were writing sections separately. I don’t think there was a lot of collaboration.

How did that break down usually, do you think?

I’m not positive about that. To compliment them both, they were just so versatile with what they did. I mean, you would think Harley Peyton wrote that big huge monologue where [Miguel] Ferrar talks about Gandhi and MLK but that was Bob Engels. I think if you look back at the first episodes they wrote, episodes 3 and 4, they knocked those scripts out of the park. There are incredible passages, lines, one-liners until it’s really tough to distinguish those guys on the page. I think Harley wrote some great Cooper monologues and some great Rosenfield cut-downs but so did Bob, so that’s just a tribute to their talent and what they were able to do on that show.

That is interesting because I did notice that versatility. And I noticed, even on those first two episodes they wrote, some distinctions. It seemed like Peyton did a lot of the arch comedy of it and Engels’ episodes, maybe just the ones he was assigned, had a little more to do with the teen romance and the Laura mystery. Which makes a lot of sense since he ended up doing [Twin Peaks prequel film] Fire Walk With Me with Lynch. I heard this too from [Wrapped in Plastic publisher] John Thorne, whom I spoke with, that by the end of the series while everybody got along (other than maybe Lynch and Peyton) there was a little bit of different camps of sensibility – one was Lynch and Engels, while Frost and Peyton saw more eye to eye on some of the other stuff. That was interesting, but it seemed sort of vague how people talked about it.

Yeah, I mean…yes. [laughs] I’ll agree with you there.

With the directors, what in your mind did different directors bring to the material? Did you see certain strengths with, say, Tim Hunter or Lesli Linka Glatter, certain aspects that they really brought to the forefront?

I thought Lesli Glatter…her episodes are just fantastic! And the actors talked about working with her. When I said what directors did you enjoy working with, that was really the first name. I hate to play favorites, but that’s the name that usually came to the top. And she just had such a distinct style. One of my favorite shots of hers, I think it’s episode 10, Dick Tremayne’s first episode. The camera angles in the diner were just interesting and so atypical of a television show. And I believe she directed Gordon Cole’s debut, and episode 5 which has Jacques Renault’s cabin. That’s one of my favorite scenes.

And that awesome shot, where it’s on the crow’s eye and it just pulls out.

She’s great at capturing menacing things like the cabin and she was great at, gosh, I mean, it had so many different moods.

I will say my favorite moment on the show that WASN’T directed by David Lynch is the one-armed man's monologue at the end of the episode she directed. It seems like David Lynch almost. When Al Strobel leans out of his seizure, and his shoulders puff up, and he starts talking in that voice…it just gives me goosebumps! I love that scene, and that was her. So good.

That was awesome! And I remember, I watched that episode when I was little and just the end of that was, oh my God. Another couple names I’ve got to throw out are Tim Hunter and Caleb Deschanel. Everybody loved working with them. I think everyone was so relaxed with them that they were able to just get out whatever they wanted in the performance. I know Tim did the death of Leland and everybody was real pleased with how that came out. But also Duwayne Dunham – that was his first foray into directing. He was an editor before that, but I think he had such a good feel for the pacing of Twin Peaks that he knew from the get-go how to approach the beats.

I love Todd Holland’s openings, especially the one with Leland, the ceiling hole. I used to play the guessing game, the first time I watched Twin Peaks, trying to guess which ones were directed by Lynch before his directing credit came on. That was the one that fooled me! Because it looked so much like Eraserhead and then it was like wait, who’s Todd Holland? But it was such a great opening, you know? Even the second one, it’s cheesy in a way, but I kind of like that opening intro with Maj. Briggs sitting on the throne in the weird CGI background. Are we in a video game now, what’s going on? But it’s kind of cool.

Well, I loved talking to Todd. He felt like a huge fan of the show compared to a lot of the other directors. Maybe because he was watching the show for a while before he came on. I remember him saying he went in to meet with Mark and the writers and he just had all these ideas and was so excited to be on the show.

You had only one “anonymous” comment in there, the one about Sherilyn Fenn and Billy Zane [refusing to cross a soundstage to interact with each other, so that the whole set had to be shut down temporarily]. [Brad laughs] What was your decision behind including that and not having any other anonymous comments? Because I assume there was some other stuff where people said that if you don’t quote my name, you can put this in.

No one’s asked me that before!

Ok. It stuck right out!

The anonymous comment…that interview was so fun and so surprising to me because I was literally laughing my head off while I was transcribing it in the book. And I just had to put it in. I was talking to the interview participant and they’re like fine, but you can’t put my name on it. But in most other instances when people told me a story that I couldn’t include, they said that beforehand. They were like, turn your recorder off or this can’t go past us and that’s definitely not a trust you want to violate. I think that was the lone exception just because I found it so funny.

I wonder, if you do a second edition and do any follow-up interviews, if they’ll have any rebuttals. If Billy Zane and Sherilyn Fenn will say, well, that’s not exactly how it happened! Be interesting to see.

We’ll see.

Did you find out anything new about the TV business while researching the book?

Especially talking to the ABC guys. I wasn’t able to talk to Bob Iger, but I was able to talk to the guys who initially brought Twin Peaks to the network. They – to their defense – from the beginning said, “This is a great entry to the show, who killed Laura Palmer, but we need more. We have to introduce more stories while this Laura Palmer thing is cooking to sort of hook people in. Because when it goes away we’re not going to have anything.”

And they knew it would go away.

The primary programming director that brought Twin Peaks on left before it was greenlit. Brandon Stoddard who was the president of ABC at the time left, and then Bob Iger took over. So I don’t know how much of an effect that had on things but…ABC had just never had a show like this before. No network television had before. And they just didn’t know what to do with it. I think from the business standpoint, once these shows came around – this new wave – they realized they have to have a destination. And Twin Peaks had that in the first season but in the second season they lost it midway and it just spun out of control. So I think a lot of these networks are willing to give creative independence to these creators as long as they know where they’re headed. If you watch a season of television now it has a destination. It gets you to a point and then it asks you more questions. And I think all those shows learned that from Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks fell on that sword and that was the end of it.

Was this all a revelation for you, the behind-the-scenes machinations and all of that?

You mean from a network standpoint? That was one of the most surprising aspects for me. Because if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, and we’re really intense fans, you automatically look at the ABC guys as the villains! It’s like, those guys forced the revelation of the killer, they put it on Saturday night, they just wanted to sabotage the show…and I don’t think that’s really true. I mean, all these guys that I talked to, they’re businessmen, but they’re also people with a job just like anyone else. They had families to feed and I think they were just trying to do what they could to make the show work. I think they wanted it to work! You mentioned earlier that people watched this show together. So by that rationale if you put the show on Saturday nights, people can get together and not have to go to work in the morning and have a grand old time together and watch the show. I think that was the most revealing to me: that the executives weren’t all bad guys.

It didn’t seem like there was that much animosity as you would think from Mark Frost towards them.

I think even Mark says in the book that Bob Iger was always really straight-up with him.

With the book, you go through people’s impressions of when the ratings and reviews and the word-of-mouth turned for the worst. Maybe because of the lag in shooting, their impression seems to be that the tide turned when the killer was revealed and there were these lackluster following episodes. But if you actually look at the press reaction, the clear, clear turning point is earlier: the season 2 premiere. That’s when the critics start writing that the hype’s over, the fad’s done. That’s when the ratings sink (it didn’t help that it was on Saturdays after that). Why do you think personally that was such a turning point for people?

Going back in time, Twin Peaks was heading into that second season and it was hot. It won a couple Emmys out of fourteen nominations, you had Lara Flynn Boyle, and Madchen [Amick], and Sherilyn [Fenn] on the cover of Rolling Stone, Kyle was hosting SNL, and it was all within two weeks of that premiere. This is the first time I’ve thought of this aspect, but what if they had just resolved the murder and had another destination from the get-go?

Like planned it all way ahead of time?

Yeah, what if they were like we’re going to reveal Laura’s killer in this premiere when we have 20 million tuning in. And then hook them with another mystery. This is twenty-five years after the fact, but I think that may have been a good idea. Because from there it was all downhill. The only spike in ratings I believe came when they revealed the murderer. But other than that, it was just a downhill trend and it never recovered.

It’s interesting because it contradicts the conventional wisdom that people tuned out when David Lynch became less involved. In fact, it’s the opposite. As soon as he became more heavily involved with the show, it got darker, it became more supernatural, the pace got a lot slower, it became much more troubling, and I think those are a lot of the big reasons people tuned out. Because he had a direction he wanted to go in – I mean, within the parameters of being forced to reveal the killer – and a lot of people didn’t want to go there.

From talking to Mark Frost, I felt like the supernatural element was from him. And he really felt like that was the approach he wanted to take. And I think it’s just another reminder of the importance of Lynch and Frost together.

I’ve read a lot of interviews with Frost and Lynch where they say they knew early on who the killer was. But most of the people you interview seem pretty certain or at least suspicious that they didn’t know, at least until after the show was picked up for a second season. Do you, personally, have an opinion based on what you heard from people? DID Frost give you a specific time when he and Lynch decided it was Leland? Did you ask him that question?

Yes. In my very first interview with Mark, for my website, I’m pretty sure I asked him that question. He said to me, Leland was the guy from the beginning. I think they found out the whole Bob component a little bit after the fact, with Frank Silva caught in that shot. [Silva, the set dresser, was accidentally caught on-camera while Lynch was shooting the pilot and subsequently cast as evil spirit Bob.] So I do take Mark at his word, and there’s that story that Ray Wise says, where Lynch says, “Ray it was you, it was always you.” I think that’s true but I think they did a damn good job of confusing the hell out of everybody to have no clue that first season! I know that they told Jen Lynch who it was when she began writing that diary. And when Scott Frost wrote his episode, he told me that they called him up to the office and they were like, you are the fifth person to know this. So I think they just kept it a great secret and had fun with that. And I think it was probably pretty disappointing for them to have to let the cat out of the bag.

It seems like, even though he’s changed his opinion now, at the time Frost was saying, well, I think we could have other mysteries, we could resolve the Laura thing. Whereas Lynch thought no, no, Laura – that’s the linchpin to the whole universe. Is that a correct reading of it? I mean, I know neither of them really wanted to reveal it but it seems like he was a little more on the fence about it.

To me it feels like Mark’s opinions have changed a little over time. If you read an interview with him now it might be a little bit of a different feel than some of the Wrapped in Plastic talks he did in ’93 and ’94. But I’ve always gotten the feel that he understood they needed to reveal the killer whereas David really didn’t want to. And that may just be Mark’s experience in the television business. And even Harley Peyton says this in the book – it’s absurd to think you can never answer that question.

I loved the section where you talked about Maddy’s murder. And what went into that, Sheryl Lee’s investment in that, the whole process of trying to keep it from people and then when it was revealed one sound engineer says “I hate you!” [to Lynch] because he loved Leland. You did a really great job getting at the power of that sequence. Afterwards I looked up some interviews with you, and you talk about seeing the show when you were nine and literally burying your head in the couch and not watching that scene because it was just so frightening to see him looking in the mirror, knowing that something was coming up. So I don’t know if you had anything to add to that, but I thought that section was handled really well and very insightful into that chapter of Twin Peaks.

Thank you. That’s probably my favorite chapter in the book just because I was able to capture so many great voices. And bounce them off each other. And even with regards to Richard Beymer who filmed the dummy scenes [in which his character was the killer, to confuse crew members and prevent a press leak]. You know everybody on the set was really affected by it. The crew members, the makeup people, the assistant director, I mean they were all just moved: "We walked out of there just feeling like we’d just been beat up." And yet that’s my favorite scene in all of Twin Peaks! I mean, I think it’s the most powerful…

And not just that but what comes before and after at the Road House, the reaction and just everybody decimated, and they don’t know why.

Yeah, it’s so palpable. And I mean, I will never – as long as I live I will never be able to get that image of the Palmer living room out of my head. And few television shows managed to do that. Even if I’d never watched Twin Peaks again [after] I saw that when I was little, it would still be with me, just as vivid.

If I have one big wish for a second edition, it’s an actual timeline of events. You clarify a lot of it in the text but some of the details are still sort of vague. The biggest question for me is about the lag-time between shooting and airdates for the show because I’ve heard that there was usually a two-month interim. Was that still the case when they shot the killer’s reveal? In other words, was that shot in August or September, before the premiere had actually aired on television?

Yes. Let’s see here. I had the wonderful opportunity to look at a lot of the filming documents. I believe that I’ve seen the call sheets for I would say close to 60 or 70% of the episodes. And at least in that second season the two-month lag-time is pretty spot-on. I believe the killer was filmed in early September and then I believe it was aired in early November. They began filming that second season in the middle of July. They hammered those episodes out pretty quickly, I think they were on a pretty strict schedule, seven or eight days for each episode.

There’s all this fuss about concealing the identity of the killer. They shoot two murder scenes, Lynch even wanted to have a screen blocking the mixing of it – and yet if they’re shooting two months ahead of time by the time November 10 rolls around they’re ten episodes ahead of that point! So I assume Ray Wise is no longer coming to set. Obviously they’ve shot his death scene with a bunch of technicians standing around. They’ve shot the wake scene at his house. How does that work? Did you ever ask anyone about that, or find out exactly why they were so secretive and then by the time the show would air, dozens of people would know anyway?

I did ask that question, and I can tell you that Miguel Ferrar – and I think he says this in the book – he didn’t know who the killer was until they filmed Leland’s death scene. But on the other hand, everyone, as far as I understand, only saw their pages of the script. People saw each other on the set, but I think they enjoyed the secrets just as much as the viewers. I think it was something that they wanted to find out naturally. They weren’t really trying to know. Notice that Scott Frost wrote episode 15 and I believe Tricia Brock wrote episode 17. So even with the writers they were trying to spread that mystery out a little bit just so it wouldn’t be in such a concentrated creative area if that makes sense.

I guess the wake scene would be the example - were people shooting stuff that revolved pretty closely around the mystery but still being kept in the dark? The timeline is so fascinating in that sense.

It fascinates me too. But I think after a certain point, asking people this question, I never got a clear-cut answer especially when you get deeper into the second season. A lot of these actors, and even the writers…things get hazy. And that was a frustrating thing. I had to find my own way to capture memories from people during this time. Tina Rathborne, who directed episode 17 with the wake - I remember she said she never met with Mark or David to discuss the episode. And she was very confused, I mean she really didn’t understand what the episode was trying to do. And she says in hindsight she wishes had been able to go back and talk to David and Mark and be like, what’s going on here? I don’t really get this.

You’ve hinted at this already, but how do you personally feel about season two? Do you think it’s underrated? You actually suggested before – and this is interesting to me because I kind of disagree – that you think if they had solved the mystery earlier, if they’d done it the right way, it could have continued. So do you feel there’s more gold there that people haven’t quite mined in looking at it? The post-Laura stuff?

My biggest complaint about the second season is the fact that a lot of characters were ignored after they revealed who was the killer. The characters like Evelyn and Little Nicky, they don’t really bother me, I accept them for what they are – maybe Evelyn more so than Little Nicky [laughs] but the problem is, Dana Ashbrook and Madchen Amick and Sherilyn, I mean those were really great characters. And they really got put on the backburner. So even though I’m not sure if it would’ve made a difference in the ratings it really bums me out that we didn’t get more great moments with those actors. Even Dr. Jacoby, he’s barely in the second season aside from some of the Nadine stuff. I mean that’s really my only gripe on the second season. On the other hand, I enjoy it for what it is. It’s Twin Peaks and obviously, I wrote a book about the series! I’m pretty crazy about it. So I take that stuff at face value. People are really hard on that stretch of episodes after the killer was revealed. But I think if you look at them objectively, there are great things in every single one of those episodes.

I think that what hurts it for me is that it comes after such a strong stretch. After taking you to those heights with the mystery and Leland and all of that, and also the mystery of the woods – it seemed like that would become the storyline. Like the first time I saw it, I thought ok, Leland’s dead, but the owls…Bob is still out there, that’s going to be where we go and eventually we did. But it took way longer than I would’ve expected.

Yeah, I really would’ve enjoyed that direction and we got there at the end of the second season but it just took way too long. But that’s one of my favorite aspects of the show.

One of the things I value most about the book is [producer/writer] Harley Peyton shedding light on the behind-the-scenes tensions between him and Lynch, as well as Frost and Lynch disappearing from the show for a little bit as Peyton ran the ship. It seems to me Harley Peyton is featured a lot more than [writer] Bob Engels – is it because of the producer capacity or was it just because he had so much more to say? I know you had a great time talking to him – not that you didn’t with Engels – but it seemed like Harley Peyton was probably one of your favorite interviews. Did you feel like he had more to offer on that, or was it more just that as a producer he had the most to say besides Lynch and Frost? Or a combination, I guess.

Well, first off, Harley was very accessible to me. He let me ask him anything I wanted. And, on the other hand, Harley also had very vivid memories and he was able to describe things in a lot of detail whereas when I talked with Bob, he was a little more general in things. So Bob was just as accessible, but Harley was a lot more particular. To me that felt more important to place emphasis on. Just because, like I said, when you get into the latter part of the second season, everything gets so hazy with everybody.

That’s what I loved about Harley Peyton’s anecdotes, they seemed to cut through the haze better than anybody else’s. Reading his stuff I almost could kind of visualize: that’s how this happened. Did Engels comment at all on rivalries and alliances and things like that, or was he mum on the subject?

No, he didn’t really comment and he wasn’t really mum. We talked a little bit about the Audrey and Cooper [abandoned romance storyline] but you know, Bob sort of brushed that off and was like, these things happen in TV where you have to go another route. I don’t think he was as upset about it as maybe some other people on the show, but that may just be how he looks at things. But, you know, I must say I don’t think, aside from that little dust-up with Harley and David Lynch, I think everyone else – those main core creative guys – got along well. I asked Ken Scheer, who was the head of Lynch-Frost Productions, was there ever a falling-out between David and Mark? And he was like no, they’re not those types of guys, it was more of a geographical separation.

People talk a lot about Lynch’s absence but Frost was gone for quite a while as well. Maybe not gone gone to the extent Lynch was but still not like he was earlier.

That is a very tricky timeline. I did try to pin Mark down about that and to me it just feels like once the killer was revealed he was just in and out whereas David seems to be a little more out. At least until he came back as Gordon Cole. So I got the sense that Harley was running the day-to-day of the show once episode 18 came around. And Tricia Brock, who wrote episode 17 [Leland’s wake], did tell me that Frost walked her through that entire episode.

Ok, so Frost was there but Lynch was not really.

Tricia said she’d never met with David on the show but that Mark walked her through everything. I don’t know if that includes episode 23 she also wrote, where Josie is in the drawer-pull but yeah, it seemed to me that Mark was in and out. I think he said by the second-to-last episode, the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, he did take off to do Storyville and was out-out and then gave that last finale script to David to do whatever he was going to do. I have to just say a disclaimer, this is all just what I perceive. I could be completely wrong but this is the best recollection of things I have.

Very educated guess, yeah. You’ve mentioned with Fire Walk With Me, you’re not as big a fan and you wanted to focus on Twin Peaks. Could you see yourself including a little more in a future book or maybe even a little dash of a different perspective on the legacy and stuff like that? Or do you feel like that part’s probably set in stone as what it is, and you’d focus more on other things?

Well, the thing about that is, my personal opinions of the film aside, I just view the series and the film as two completely different entities. If you look at the names that put the series together, especially towards the end and then juxtapose that with the series, it’s a totally different crew and totally different cast almost. A lot of people that even came into Fire Walk With Me were people that had not been on the show for a long time.

Since the pilot, sometimes.

Yeah, I mean Ray and Sheryl Lee had been out of the Twin Peaks world aside from the finale. Kyle MacLachlan wasn’t even going to do that film until the very last minute. So yeah, I don’t hate Fire Walk With Me by any means. I think aesthetically there’s just a few things that bother me… It’s just such a tough thing to tackle and not make it feel like a footnote. But when you tell the story of Twin Peaks the TV show, you can’t just ignore that completely.

It’s sort of a tightrope walk.

I think what I wanted to do mainly there was just explain how divisive it was amongst the cast and crew. And I didn’t want to look back at rose-colored glasses with the film or even cover how it was booed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Just more how it affected the fallout from Twin Peaks as a show?

It was kind of like, hey, there was a film and it was divisive. It wasn’t like everybody left the show hand-in-hand and merrily made Fire Walk With Me.

Yeah, that’s for sure.

Yeah, maybe – I just feel like to properly do that film justice it would need it’s own thing, I guess.

That is true. I would say if I had two requests – the first is the timeline and the second is one quote from Ray Wise or Sheryl Lee saying…it’s not that bad! But that’s just me.

I do think, actually, in the last chapter…

You do, actually – Sheryl Lee says something about that.

Fire Walk With Me didn’t really come up with me and Ray. So I do kind of wish I had asked him about that just so I could have included that.

Now that the book's out, have you heard back anything from people you interviewed, where they said, oh this brings something back? Do you feel like you already have material for a second edition, were one to come out?

That’s a two-part question. I began sending out copies to everybody in the book three or four weeks ago and it was great. I was at The Missing Pieces premiere last week and I went up and introduced myself to Angelo Badalamenti and his eyes lit up. He was like, “Brad! I loved your book. I read it on the plane ride out here. I was moved by it.” And you know I was like, “Angelo Badalamenti is telling me that he was moved by something I made!” They made the entire journey already worth it and it was great. Russ Tamblyn, when I introduced myself, he flipped out over the book - that was really cool. And he was like yeah, I’m going on vacation with my family next week and I’m gonna make them read it! So that was really flattering and rewarding to know that it had some kind of an impact.

It really is a surprisingly unique book. I remember when I first got into the series six years ago looking in bookstores and you could find stuff like David Lynch talking about it in Lynch on Lynch, but as far as an actual book just dedicated to Twin Peaks…there didn’t seem to be much out there. So really, hats off to you, this is the book that Twin Peaks needed. And I look forward to the future editions which I guess is Part 2 of the question so…address that if you will!

I think there will be another book. I literally had so much material left over from the directors and the crew members that I think there’s enough material there to do maybe a more technical-based book. And have that timeline that you spoke of. There are so many things that I wanted to do before I really knew what I was going to do with this book, and that was one of them. Really lay out a timeline. The way that Reflections is built you kind of make your own timeline. I didn’t want to hit the reader over the head with what’s happening. I really kind of wanted them to be able to make their own assumptions and conclusions.

Were there any specific interviews or anecdotes that you thought would find their way in and they just didn’t fit? Your own "Missing Pieces," so to speak?

What I wish I could put in were conversations with people I didn’t talk to. [laughs] Like Bob Iger - it would be so cool to ask him a few pointed questions. It would be great to ask David Lynch a few questions, especially as he’s obviously spent a little more time with Twin Peaks, putting this blu-ray set together. Maybe a few memories were unlocked from that. I’ve said this in other interviews, but I would love to talk to Eric Da Re and Everett McGill. Hopefully one day I will be able to track some of those folks down and do a second edition.

My last question – I listened to the "Red Room Podcast" and you’re talking about how you’ve been so devoted to this project for three years and now you’re ready to move on. And one of the guys said, "Obsessions are best when they end!" So my question is, the obsession’s come to an end, what’s next for you? Either totally unrelated to Twin Peaks or semi-related, what are you working on? Or looking forward to working on? Besides a vacation!

Self-publishing this book doesn’t end with publishing it. It’s been a grassroots approach to promoting it, and Twin Peaks is a cult thing. It’s got a very small but dedicated and fierce fanbase. So I think once the promotional phase winds down I’ve got a couple of nonfiction ideas I want to pursue and a fictional idea that I’m still kind of working out. And you know, even some of these nonfiction ideas I have, I can at least say hey, I’m the guy that wrote this book, I’m not just some guy wandering out of the woods.

The dark woods! Well, I had a great time talking to you. You had a lot of interesting stuff to say. Thank you.

Thanks, Joel. Always fun chatting about Twin Peaks.

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Henry's Hair said...

Fantastic interview! I had an email from Amazon this morning to say the copy I ordered has been dispatched - very much looking forward to reading it

Dan Heaton said...

I'm amazed that there hasn't been a Twin Peaks book like this written in the past, so I'm thrilled to read Brad's book. I loved the interview and can't wait to dig into the stories behind the show.

Joel Bocko said...

I think you'll both enjoy it immensely. I too can't believe it took this long to get a book on Twin Peaks' behind-the-scenes story! Looks like there's another one coming in February (Wrapped in Plastic, but Andy Burns) though I think this will focus more on its pop culture legacy. The more the merrier, I say.

I'm also planning to start work on my own rather massive post addressing my personal reading of Twin Peaks in light of what I've learned about the media response (from my own research), the behind-the-scenes stories (from Dukes and a few other sources), and several re-viewings of the series. It would be a close reading of the series looking at the details in light of a larger big-picture view of how they came about, where they contradct, and yet how they fit into a bigger picture.

I'm thinking it'll probably be the equivalent of 30+ pages (though I won't be surprised if it ends up a hell of a lot longer) and go up next spring on the 25th anniversary of the show. Hopefully it can help end my own Twin Peaks obsession which has been a thrill but also quite distracting! But then once Twin Peaks sucks you into its vortex, it's very hard to find your way out...or want to find your way out...

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