Son of Twin Peaks
par Dan Persons
David Lynch directed the theatrical prequel to his TV hit, booed at cannes.
August isn`t too late for a vacation, is it? No reason not to get away to some secluded little town, maybe a place up north where you could stretch out under the shade of a Douglas fir, listen to the pounding of a magnificently sculpted waterfall, stare up in wonderment at the terrifying beauty of an owl in flight. Maybe a place not too far from the Canadian border, where you could book a room in a warmly rustic hotel, then slip over to the local diner to revel in the aroma of fresh-baked cherry pie and kick back with a damn good cuppa Joe.

Maybe a place where all is not as prosaic as it seems. Maybe a place whose very commonness serves as a magnet for the primal forces of good and evil. Maybe a place that operates as a nexus for the war between supernatural entities, a place where a formerly innocent homecoming queen finds her body and soul claimed as battleground by forces she cannot control.

Twin Peaks beckons. At the very least, executive producers Mark Frost and David Lynch are determined that your return not resemble a trip to Disney World.

Twin Peaks on location
Producer, director and co-author David Lynch, flanked on location by Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer (l) and Moira Kelly as Palmer`s friend, Donna Hayward.

Slated for a late August release by New Line Cinema - with Lynch serving triple duty as director, co-writer and executive producer - TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME in not exactly a feature length reprisal of the TV series, as it is a sortof "together again for the first time" exploration of all that preceded it. "People are calling it a prequel, " said Lynch`s co-scripter, Robert Engels, "and it isn`t really that. It kind of covers the last seven days of Laura Palmer, but we also jump around, make some interesting little voyages that I really can`t tell you about."

The TWIN PEAKS movie got booed off the screen when it played at the Cannes film festival last May. Reviewers savaged the film in the press. Wrote Variety, "[The film] feels like David Lynch treading water before moving on to new terrain."The sequel/prequel - whatetever - weaves the bizarre events surrounding the death of tarnished teen angel Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) with an exploration of some strangely connected crimes that range across the Pacific Northwest, investigated by FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLaughlin). "You have - for lack of a better phrase - more about the 'other' life of the community," said Engels. "The fun part there was there were people that were dead that we could resurrect."

Much of the television cast will be returning for the feature, including Ray Wise as Leland Palmer, Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs, Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings, and, oh, yes Catherine Coulson as the Log Lady (notably absent will be Richard Beymer and Sherilyn Fenn as the father-and-daughter Horns). New to the cast will be Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaak and David Bowie, all playing FBI agents (J. Edgar Hoover must be spinning in his casket). While these three will no doubt portray cooler law-enforcement officers than any federal agency has a right to boast, Engels said their casting was in no way unusual. "They don`t have to be actors in David`s book if he thinks they can do what they need. It doesn`t make any difference if they`re with or without resume."

Waiting Room
Kyle MacLachlan returns as FBI agent Dale Cooper, with Sheryl Lee as the legendary Laura Palmer, the murder victim around which the series was built.

According to Engels, who wrote for the original series and is currently collaborating with Lynch on his next project, the sequel sprang from Lynch`s suggestion "to make a movie of the last days of Laura Palmer." The property was picked up by CIBY, the French company that is backing Lynch with production money in a multi-picture deal.

While the film has been designed to foreshadow the events of the series - staffers were even recruited to make sure the script synced with such ancillary material as the published diary of Laura Palmer (actually written by Jennifer Lynch, David Lynch´s daughter) and the audiocassette release of Agent Cooper`s tapes - Engels warns that fans shouldn`t assume they know the whole story. "You haven`t seen anything yet," said Engels. "We tried to use the fact everyone knew how this is going to end. We tried to turn that to our advantage.

Lynch shot the movie over September and October of 1991, with four weeks devoted to locations in Washington, and another four weeks turned over to interiors and additional locations in Los Angeles. According to Engel`s estimate, the crew was composed of about half members of the original series - including director of photography Ron Garcia and production and costume designer Patricia Norris, both of whom worked on the pilot - and half feature technicians. "David`s a genius," said Engels. "When you get a genius on the camera, it looks better than what I thought up. But for the most part, it`s the script. Unlike a lot of screenwriters, I don`t have many complaints about it."

As far as the mood on the set: "It was pretty workaday... It was not rushed by any means. You gotta remember, we knew the characters, we knew the location, so those things help you go faster."

When asked what difference there was to doing a feature as opposed to working on a series, Engels deadpanned, "Frontal nudity. No, not really. We never felt constricted by ABC. So in the sense of 'Oh, we can finally do this,' there wasn`t anything. We`d already done all the stuff that supposedly television wouldn`t allow you to do."

The feature film format still proved liberating. "What was really freeing was the sense that you didn`t have to write in 14-page gulps," said Engels. "You can tell the whole story in one sitting. You can tell one big, great episode in one swoop, and that does change how you think. You don`t have to worry about being constricted to one hour. In television, you use four locations per act, and here you don`t have to worry about that; you can use lots of quick cuts. But that`s technical, and that really was what was different."

While the TV show garnered praise for its offbeat characters and idiosyncratic narrative style, some said these plus points were less the result of careful reflection and more the product of rampant improvisation on the set, both before and behind the camera. Such rumours, said Engels, were, "Not true. Very rare exceptions. Our TV series was exactly what we told them to do, and if actors are saying something different, they`re making that up. We were pretty strict about that - and the same with the movie."

As for the "final" episode, which featured a long sojourn within the Black Lodge (the series` universal center of evil) and a non-committal ending that left a presumably possessed Cooper grinning at his bloodied image in a bathroom mirror (to the sound of a million howling fans), Engels claimed that the finale was the result of both the series`abrupt cancellation and his and Lynch`s penchant for shaking up the sometimes ossified standards of TV programming.

Trailer Park
MacLachlan with Harry Dean Stanton as trailer park manager Carl Rodd, a new character to the series. The prequel opens August 28, from New Line Cinema.

"You`re at the end of 40 weeks of work and you feel like you`ve been in a sleep-deprivation study," said Engels. "You`re doing the last episode and you`re emotional  and you`re pooped. Lots of things come out on screen. It was weird mostly because it was the last one and people thought it was going to be something else. People expected [a wrap-up], and there just wasn`t a way to do that."

Engels noted that once the cancellation axe fell, there was always the feeling that the format would get revived in some way. "With all the attention we got, if there wasn`t going to be a movie, we were going to be on Lifetime or USA [cable], or something," he said. "It just didn`t feel like this would be the last time we`d see these characters."

Will the movie then be the end of TWIN PEAKS? "We talk, sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly, about a third movie. And I think we would do a third movie if this was successful - it´s fun. There are things we did not get to in this movie, things we really would like to do. That would be the core of the next movie."  

Dan Persons
Cinefantastique Octobre 1992