SDCC ’17: Twin Peaks Stars Praise David Lynch

by Erik Amaya

Twin Peaks finally came to Comic-Con International: San Diego on Friday with a special panel moderate by Lost creator Damon Lindelof. He opened the hour with an emotional statement.

“In 1990, I was sixteen years old. A sophomore in high school, the kids had colorful ways to describe me. I was a weird. I was lonely. The world was scary and confusing,” he said. “Then my life changed forever on April 8th of that year. An old man said, ‘She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic.’ I was not longer alone. I was in Twin Peaks.”

“I never wanted to leave it. My father and I recorded every episode on something called a VCR,” he continued. While the kids at school called him a weirdo. He finally learned he wasn’t the only one.

“There would be no Sopranos without Twin Peaks,” he added. “No Stranger Things. And certainly no Lost.”

The admiration for Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch continued when Lindelof was joined by star Kyle MacLachlan and other members of the cast. “There was such an atmosphere on the set. There was no tension and a togetherness with the crew,” said Don Murray, who joined the cast in the current season and plays Dougie Jones’ boss. “We were all moved by the man who directed this. It just became one of the great experiences of my life.”

“He has this incredible sense of joy about him,” added Matthew Lillard, who appears in the new season as Hastings. “He’s full of joy and life and he has this peace about that is unlike anyone I’ve ever experienced. He is a fantastic human being.”

MacLachlan, who has worked with Lynch on and off since 1984’s Dune said, “His belief in his process and point of view is so profound and focused. He inspires me that way. He follows this dream in his mind.”

Of course, there is a “prickly side” to the director. Everett McGill, who also appeared in Dune and plays Ed Hurley in Twin Peaks recalled a time during the original run when he pondered whether the audience would watch him recite a three-page speech about how he got together with his wife Nadine. Lynch’s response: “I can go down the hall, find someone to read it you, and you can nod the whole time.”

MacLachlan recalled a similar incident during the filming of the new season. “In this big scene, Jim [Belushi] decided he was going to ad-lib a line in this moment of euphoria and we heard ‘cut,’” McLachlan said. “And David has one of those megaphones and he said ‘Mr. Belushi? Do I have to report you to the principal’s office?”’And Jim went ‘no sir!’”

“I still get a little star struck around David,” added Naomi Watts, who joined the Twin Peaks fold as Janey-E Jones, the hard-nosed wife of a Cooper doppelgänger Dougie.

“When David calls, we answer the call. Whatever he wants us to do,” said MacLachlan.

“Even get into a bunny suit,” Watts interjected, recalling her scenes in Lynch’s film Inland Empire. In fact, she and that film’s star, Laura Dern, were trying to coax Lynch into a new project when the new season of Twin Peaks was percolating. “It’s just good to be on a set with him,” she said. Once she heard the new Twin Peaks was going to happen, she tried her best not to cajole him into giving her a part. She was thrilled when a call came for it anyway.

“He invited me up the house to read something,” she recalled. “He gave me an envelope and a cup of coffee. Sat me in a chair he built and I sat there for a good hour or so and read these pages.” At the time, the pages referred to Cooper as Dougie, but it gave Watts a clear idea of who Janey-E was. She was ready to work.

In fact, all the actors — new and returning — received similar calls from Lynch or a member of his team. Kimmy Robertson, who plays receptionist Lucy Moran in both versions of the series, recalled taking the phone call from Lynch in bed. “He told me and as he was talking, I slid off the bed and somehow crawled under the bed. It was so unexpected,” she said.

McGill, who pretty much walked away from acting following Twin Peaks’ original demise, happened to be at a property he only visits every two weeks when the call came in. “I’ve got the rotary phone on the wall and it rings. I haven’t heard it ring in ten years. I pick it up and it’s David and it felt so comfortable,” he said. “I haven’t spoke to him in twenty years, but it felt like we’d just talked the day before. We talked about Dune and Twin Peaks.” After securing a more reliable phone number for McGill, Lynch told him about the plan to return to Twin Peaks. “I said just call me when it’s time to suit up.”

James Marshall, who played McGill’s nephew in the original and returns in the new season, remembered being so shocked by Lynch’s call that he drove 100 miles from a friend’s house back to his own home just to process it. “It’s so different,” he said of coming back to James Hurley. “The same, yet different. It’s like growing up. But it was effortless. It was like family.”

“My biggest fear is that I was going to do something naked and horrible,” said Lillard, who admitted he’s never seen the original series. Recently, Lillard’s character was part of a key scene, requiring him to collapse emotionally and turn into a sobbing mess. “It was intimidating. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever read as an actor,” he said. “[With David,] you get two takes, so you want to be really good really fast.” The scene turned out to be a remarkable performance with Murray offering the actor praise right there on the stage.

Another element of Lynch’s process: the actors only get the pages they appear in. For actors like MacLachlan and Dana Ashbrook — another veteran of the original — it means they get to be fans as the episodes appear on Showtime. “Nobody has scene episodes beyond what’s aired. I like to watch it alone with a glass of wine,” said MacLachlan.

“It’s been so thrilling and exciting to see Kyle do these things I didn’t know he could do,” said Ashbrook. He may have also suggested that his character, Bobby Briggs, will meet Tim Roth’s character, saying it was “exciting” to watch Roth work.

Roth, for his part, is another newbie to the phenomenon. “I was dealing with the whole Quentin [Tarantino] thing at the time,” he said. But unlike MacLachlan and Ashbrook, he plans to binge Twin Peaks in its entirety with his sons later this year. “I don’t know what it’s gonna do to us,” he joked.

Like Roth, a handful of attendees admitted to being series virgins. When one asked for the nutshell description, MacLachlan responded, “Just … throw the nut away.”

Roth offered a more Lynchian answer: “Crispy and slightly beige.”

Twin Peaks airs Sundays on Showtime and moves to 8PM starting in August.

Erik Amaya

Host of Tread Perilously and a Film/TV Writer at Comicon.com. A contributing writer at CBR, Fanbase Press, Monkeys Fighting Robots and Rotten Tomatoes. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.