David Lynch talks retiring, fishing and anything but Twin Peaks as hotly anticipated sequel to hit 1990s show prepares to air
Forty years on from Eraserhead, American director agrees he may not make another feature film, saying cable TV is ‘a beautiful place to be’
David Lynch is reclining in his seat, a puckish grin playing occasionally on an otherwise inscrutable face as he offers parables about fishing and geese, like Jesus with a quiff.
The 71-year-old directing legend appears to have just announced his retirement from making movies, although it’s hard to tell, as his intended meaning is often misplaced in the lumpy word salad of his discourse.
Lynch, regarded as one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation, is on the promotion circuit for his latest project, Showtime’s hotly anticipated sequel to the iconic early 1990s ABC show Twin Peaks, due to air from May 21.
He has spent recent years directing music videos and shorts and dabbling in comedy acting, but hasn’t made a motion picture since surreal thriller Inland Empire, which made an underwhelming US$4 million worldwide 11 years ago.
“Things changed a lot in those 11 years. One of the things that changed is the way people started thinking about feature films, the fact that so many films were not doing well at the box office, even though they might have been great films,” Lynch said.
“And the things that were doing well at the box office weren’t the things that I wanted to do.”
Asked if this means he has made his last feature film, he obfuscated, explaining that cable TV right now is “a beautiful place to be”.
So is that a yes? “I guess it is,” he replied, but it is a scoop that you wouldn’t bet your house on.
The compelling mystery of the original eight-episode Twin Peaks – who killed high school student Laura Palmer – captured the imagination of a generation in 1990 and it was held up as front-runner for a new kind of cinema-quality TV.
Audiences and critical appreciation waned when the 22-episode second series revealed the culprit, but the show is still popular enough that its return is considered one of the TV events of the year.
Journalists gathered at a hotel on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to meet Lynch have been told to stay clear of “plots, storylines, characters and locations”, so even broad questions about the new series get laconic responses, as the conversation steers in more generic directions.
In the oeuvre of Lynch – from Eraserhead to Blue Velvet and beyond – you are never completely sure what is reality and what might be some weird, lucid fever dream.
The experience of interviewing him is similar.
“I say ideas are like fish. So you’re desiring a fish, you’ve got the bait on the hook, it’s down in the water and, lo and behold, an idea – uh, a fish – will swim in and you’ll get it,” he said of his filmmaking philosophy.
Lynch doesn’t specify what type of fish his ideas are but they sound suspiciously like red herrings.
“Then the next thing is, do you love that fish? Do you love that idea? And if you love it, this is like a little fish that is so important,” he enthused.
Earlier, asked if he thought revealing Laura Palmer’s killer had ultimately killed off the original show, he launched into a story about a goose laying golden eggs, and how it would be “not a good thing” were someone to kill the goose.
Lynch, who has meditated twice a day for more than 40 years, says he hasn’t thought much about whether the show might be aimed at original Twin Peaks fans or a new audience, nor does he worry about ratings or reviews.
“There is, I always say, a Vedic expression: ‘Man has control of action alone, never the fruits of that action,’” he said. “So when you finish something, you just release control and it’s up to fate.”
He talks more about his ideas, the difference between TV and cinema – there’s a metaphor about mosquitoes – and, in the blink of an eye, 20 minutes is up and we may well know less about Twin Peaks than we did before the interview started.
As a parting shot, Lynch offered his insight that sometimes, when a production takes a long time to make, it ends up being released in a different world than the one in which it was written.
“And that is sometimes, you know, strange,” he concluded, enigmatically.
“Strange is the best word to end that,” whispered one journalist as David Lynch – fisher of ideas, golden goose owner-operator and teddy boy Jesus – left the room.