Lost in the Movies: Johnny Horne (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #68)

Johnny Horne (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #68)

*A revised entry will be published separately in 2023 for an updated character series (which will be collected here). This is the original entry written before The Return.

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys eighty-two characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) as well as The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every weekday morning until the premiere of Showtime's new season of Twin Peaks on May 21, 2017. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

Johnny is immersed in his own inner world, further isolated when he loses his one significant human connection.

Friday, February 24, 1989
Johnny, a young man wearing a large Native American headdress, kneels on the floor of his room, though it appears to belong to a much younger child. Toys decorate the walls and floor, with a large dollhouse at the center. Johnny, however, isn’t playing. He’s banging his head into that dollhouse, thudding against the little window loudly and repeatedly, a gesture of desire and futility.

Saturday, February 25, 1989
Johnny is seated at the dinnertable with his mother Sylvia, sister Audrey, and father Ben. Grunts, moans, and spasms occasionally interrupt his off-key humming but the other family members ignore him. They’ve heard it all before. These noises are the only communication at this awkward gathering…until Uncle Jerry bursts in with his manic energy and brie/butter-filled baguettes. As he and Ben chow down, Johnny continues to keep his own tempo, rocking his chair back and forth and staring down at the table; he ignores them and they ignore him.

Monday, February 27, 1989
Finally someone is paying attention to Johnny. As Ben and Sylvia argue about their son's frustrating behavior, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, a sensitive if offbeat psychiatrist, coaxes Johnny to remove his headdress. They’re off to a funeral where, following the preacher’s graveside prayer (“I loved her and I will miss her the rest of my days”), Johnny shouts out “Amen!” It’s a moment of consolation amidst the grief until another boy angrily begins shouting and a fight breaks out. Before long, Johnny is standing near the open grave, as the dead girl’s father lies on top of her coffin, awkwardly jerking up and down while the mechanics go haywire. Amidst all the panic, Johnny (beloved copy of Peter Pan clutched close to his chest) seems unusually calm, more curious than upset by his surroundings.

Monday, March 20, 1989
A month after his sober father bemoaned Johnny’s mental state, the elder Horne has entered a similarly unmoored emotional space – albeit one far more loquacious than his mostly mute son’s. Sitting atop a stuffed donkey and dressed in a Confederate uniform, Ben rambles on about Stonewall Jackson, seemingly under the impression that he is close friends with this historical figure. Everyone in the lobby of the Great Northern – Audrey, the exasperated staff, even the usually patient Dr. Jacoby – roll their eyes as Ben carries on, but Johnny at least seems fully invested in the fantasy. Then again, still dressed in moccasins and headgear, laughing randomly and staring off into space, Johnny may simply be on a parallel fantasy track. Perhaps it doesn’t intersect with his father’s mytho-American fugue state but simply floats alongside.

Thursday, March 23, 1989
Outside of the Great Northern, Johnny fires rubber arrows at colorful cutouts of buffaloes, punctuating each shot with a loud wail – an attempt at a war cry, I suppose. An arrow hits its target and the wail erupts again, on and on and on…

Characters Johnny interacts with onscreen…

Dr. Lawrence Jacoby

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Johnny
Johnny isn’t in Twin Peaks, not really. And yet he's very much of Twin Peaks – whatever fantasy life he’s living is indicative of the larger population’s quirks, desires, and distractions: a more extreme incarnation of their collective eccentricity…and despair. Johnny’s behavior is often defined by his grief for Laura Palmer, a teenage girl whose death sends him further into his own shell. Far more than anyone we’ve met so far in these character studies, Johnny is deeply affected by her loss. Johnny is the first character in the series to attend Laura’s funeral, again allowing us a raw glimpse into what defines the whole community. However, Johnny is also often played for laughs, indicating how closely humor and pain are intertwined in Twin Peaks, in a way that sometimes pushes the boundaries of good taste. In a Rolling Stone interview in 1990, Lynch was pressed on whether Johnny and other characters mocked those with disabilities and/or psychological vulnerabilities. “There's a thin line between laughing at a character and making fun of them…” the interviewer says. “Johnny in the headdress, banging his head up against the doll house. These are things I found spectacularly funny, but there's some part of me that isn't comfortable with my own laughter in some cases.” To this Lynch responds, “At the same time there can be a lot of compassion underneath that laugh. And yet it's the way the world is. It's so screwy - we're all kind of in this together, and there's got to be some room for a realistic attitude toward things.”

Johnny’s journey
Johnny is a character with an intriguing backstory and persona. However, they never really come to much; his screentime is surprisingly fleeting and at times he plays more like an ornament than a person. In fact, one could argue that most of his development is reserved for the spin-off novel The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch in which the narrator – Laura herself, before her death – offers a much more human insight into his travails. (In the series we learn from Audrey, when Johnny is not present, that Laura would visit and play with her brother him on a regular basis – and this is why Johnny is so upset in the first scene: Laura has died that morning). “In his eyes,” she writes, “the world is a strange mix of happiness and pain, and I think I understand Johnny more than I do a lot of other people. He wanted to feel included in a face-to-face discussion, some interaction. Spoken to rather than spoken about.” On the show itself, we can only recognize this desire in the funeral episode, which does virtually all the heavy lifting for any sort of “Johnny arc.” Jacoby enables the young man to peek from behind of his protective cover, however briefly, not through some hyperrational psychoanalysis but simply by offering compassion, understanding, and human touch. As the series ends, Johnny hasn't changed much since we met him. But he does have that moment.

Actors: Robert Davenport, Robert Bauer 
Though many don’t even notice, Johnny is played by a different actor in the pilot. Davenport depicts Johnny with a glassy stare while Bauer, who appears as Johnny every other time, is encouraged to take a slightly more sensitive/expressive approach. Davenport has a few credits outside of Peaks, including The Chocolate War (1988); most are from the same era (his last is from 1999). Bauer, who has spoken about his role at the USC retrospective Q&A and in Brad Dukes’ Reflections oral history, hasn't appeared in a film or TV series since the early 2000s. Incidentally, it was Bauer’s idea to bring an antique copy of Peter Pan to the funeral.

The Pilot

Episode 2 (German title: “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”)

*Episode 3 (German title: “Rest in Pain” - best episode)

Episode 22 (German title: “Masters and Slaves”)

Episode 25 (German title: “On the Wings of Love”)

Written by David Lynch/Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch in his first few outings, the character’s most substantial material was written by Harley Peyton (who wrote the funeral episode and the deleted scene) and directed by Tina Rathborne. Peyton also co-wrote, with Robert Engels, Johnny’s return after a sixteen-episode absence (in an episode directed by Diane Keaton). Johnny’s final appearance was shot by Duwayne Dunham for episode 1, cut, and then shoehorned into episode 25, also directed by Dunham. It wasn’t in the script so apparently it was the director’s idea to incorporate the footage, and most humorously Johnny’s repeated yell, into a Ben-Audrey scene as punctuation.

Johnny is onscreen for roughly five minutes. He is in six scenes and five episodes, taking place on five different days spread out over a month. He’s featured the most in episode 2, the Horne family dinner. His primary location is the Great Northern and he shares the most screentime (if no real interaction) with Ben.

Best Scene
Episode 3: Jacoby breaks through Johnny’s reluctance to engage, removing his costume to reveal a hornet’s nest of hair.

Best Line
“Aaaa-men! Amen!”

Additional Observations

• Johnny left quite an impression on viewers with his first few appearances. He’s one of the most oft-mentioned minor characters and was frequently cited as a possible suspect in Laura’s murder. When Peyton, Engels, and Keaton bring him back in episode 22 there is a sense of trying to reach out to Twin Peaks’ past glory by resurrecting this forgotten character who once seemed so key.

• As mentioned in the Sylvia entry, Johnny was featured in a very significant deleted scene from episode 6. In it, his mother explains that Audrey caused his current state by shoving him down the stairs when they were both children. Jacoby corrects her – it’s not possible for Johnny’s condition to begin that way – but this certainly offers some insight into the frosty family dynamic.

• Johnny shares the screen with the rest of his family (including his uncle Jerry), and indeed much of the town in the funeral scene. Yet he can only truly be said to "interact" with Jacoby (aside from Bobby shoving him and Ben placing his hand on him after he shouts "Amen!"). This is a testament to Johnny's isolation.

• A poignant moment from The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer: “Before I could get up, Johnny took hold of my hands and smiled one of his biggest smiles ever. He closed his eyes, reopened them and said his very first sentence! He said, ‘I love you, Laura.’ I could go on and on about how wonderful that was, both as an incredible leap for him, as well as for me. It was the highest compliment I have ever been given.”

SHOWTIME: No, Bauer is not on the cast list for 2017. Honestly, this is a disappointment – I could’ve sworn I’d seen his name on there alongside the other Hornes. Unless they have cast a third actor cast in the part, Johnny may no longer be with us (I find it hard to believe they would simply not include him in any Horne scenes). This is too bad, as the character never really got to live up to his potential. We’re left with a only few fleeting moments in the show, and the more substantive depiction of The Secret Diary, to suggest what Johnny could have been. Update 2019: Or are we? Check out Johnny's revised and re-published entry, reflecting his appearance in the third season - for which he was recast after all.

Tomorrow: Jones
Yesterday: Einar Thorson

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