The last time viewers of Twin Peaks saw FBI man Dale Cooper, he had just opened the door of his hotel room to a hail of bullets. But since Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Cooper, has signed a five-year contract to the series, can assume Cooper was wearing a bulletproof vest? "You didnīt see any blood," says MacLachlan, who claims the cliffhanger ending was a surprise to him. "That was a body double getting shot." In other words, MacLachlan is the last person to ask, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" Heīs never even wondered if Cooper was the killer. "I pursued the whole thing as it was written," he says. "But itīs possible. You never see Cooperīs badge."
Itīs a hot summer day in New York City, and part of Broadway has been turned back to 1967 for the filming of Oliver Stoneīs forthcoming movie The Doors, in which Kyle MacLachlan plays keyboardist Ray Manzarek. As he stands in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater wearing an Edwardian suit and a shoulder-length strawberry blond wig with matching glued-on sideburns, a fortyish woman recognizes him amid the crowds of bell-bottomed extras.
"You must be Ray Manzarek!" she says, going on to tell how she once got the real Rayīs autograph. Despite this encounter, MacLachlan says that one advantage to his role is Manzarekīs relative anonymity, which makes the role easier than, say, Jim Morrison (whoīs played by Val Kilmer). "Yeah, how many people will go, 'Thatīs not anything like Ray!'" he says. Nonetheless, heīs gone to the trouble of mastering the Manzarek head bob.
But a few months earlier, MacLachlan is deep into Twin Peaks, which is still in its first few episodes. As he sits in a conference room in his publicistīs L.A. offices, a secretary pops in with coffee. "Black, right?" she says slyly, referring to Coooperīs often-stated preference. "Uh, cream and sugar," says MacLachlan. Her face falls. "I do love coffee, though," he says with a manic grin. Suddenly, all thatīs missing is a deer head on the desk.
MacLachlan, 31, may not be as offbeat as Cooper, yet no matter what the actor is talking about, his earnest face and measured delivery conspire with his gleeful laugh to make nearly everything sound slightly wacky or sinister. For example, he mentions his cat, Maude. "Actually, itīs Mr. Maude," he says. "I named it Maude and realized shortly thereafter that I made a mistake. Doesnīt this sound like a Far Side cartoon? Where the caption reads 'When Cat Sexing Goes Wrong,' and thereīs a guy saying, 'This is my cat, Mr. Maude.'"
Also sharing his house, which is in Venice, California, is fellow Twin Peaks cast member Lara Flynn Boyle, 20. Although MacLachlan realizes the folly of talking about a relationship to the press (he says he regrets answering questions about his breakup with his Blue Velvet costar Laura Dern), he canīt suppress a manic outburst of "God, Iīm in love!" when he hangs up the phone after speaking with Boyle.
Twin Peaks has given MacLachlan his first widespread acclaim, including an Emmy nomination. Heīs come a long way from 1984, when, after being spotted by a talent scout in a regional theatre in Seattle, he was cast by director David Lynch in the sci-fi flop Dune, only to find that his five-picture deal with producer Dino De Laurentiis was, he says, "basically tossed in the wastebasket." When Lynch approached him to play the young hero in his 1986 film Blue Velvet, MacLachlan initially said no ("To read the script - it was frightening!"), but he finally caved in. "Bless David," says MacLachlan.
Both MacLachlan and Lynch were raised in the Pacific Northwest. MacLachlan grew up "very sheltered," he says, in Yakima, Washington, as the eldest of three brothers who are close in age. Not the most social guy, he says he went to his first dance in the ninth grade. His first pot-smoking experience barely predated the first time he heard the Doorsī music, which was in 1979, when he saw Apocalypse Now. "Hearing 'The End,' with the image of the trees, my God! And I didnīt even know who it was by! Thatīs how clueless I was!"
This is not to say MacLachlan was without his little obsessions. One of the many unexplained details in Blue Velvet is that his character wears an earring. That MacLachlan had his own ear pierced hints at his fascination with swashbucklers. "Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite ride at Disneyland," he says. "I have to sit in the front and ride it at least twice." He found an excuse to get a pierced ear when cast in a high-school production of Billy Budd. "I said, I have to do it for the role."
Now back on the set of Twin Peaks, MacLachlan is sharing a trailer with Boyle. Heīs looking forward to working with the impressive group of directors clamoring to shoot episodes. "Itīs the whoīs who of directors of the past ten years," he says, adding that many from the last season, including Caleb Deschanel, will be back.
So will we finally learn who killed Laura Palmer? MacLachlan sighs heavily and says, "Not in the first two episodes." (Both are directed by Lynch.) So when, already? "Certainly within five years," he says, laughing, then hazards a guess: "Probably halfway into the season. People will be rioting in the streets. Itīll either be over rising gas prices or Twin Peaks. One or the other."