Fangoria # 117, October 1992, p. 55-57, 68
|The Fire Walkers of Twin
When David Lynch´s bizarre TV show leaped to the big screen, these actors survived the transition.
By Anthony C. Ferrante
Through the darkness of futures
Those word echoed from television screens in 1990 and directly preceded the introduction of BOB (Frank Silva), Twin Peaks´ mysterious woodland entity, who was one of the many metaphysical links to the death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). And, like any upstanding incarnation of evil, BOB has become ingrained in America´s consciousness. With long, stringy hair and stubbly beard, BOB freaked out audiences with his maniacal grin and subtle way of working his seeds of depravity into the kindest of hearts.
If every demon has his day, then BOB`s has arrived this year. No longer is his presence confined to the small screen: he´s competing in the big leagues now that David Lynch´s TV sensation has become Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a theatrical prequel to the beloved cult series currently in release from New Line Cinema.
"The thing I love about playing BOB is that it´s primal therapy," says Frank Silva, the man behind the maniac. "You would think that after doing all those horrible things, you´d be shaking and all wrapped up in it, but it was the total opposite for me. It was like going into the playpen. And I would feel so relaxed and so calm after getting all that crap out and having an excuse - that´s the best way of doing something.
"One of the ideas for this movie´s trailer was to have the camera crawling around the ground in the forest," Silva continues. "Finally, it comes upon something you can´t quite figure out. You kind of see a jean jacket and then a back and this hair. Then the camera quickly moves over the shoulder, looking down at this hand scraping out Laura in the ground. Finally, the camera tracks off into the trees with the wind."
Fire Walk With Me begins a year and a week before Laura Palmer´s vicious murder, when the body of Theresa Banks is found floating in Washington´s Wind River. Enter straight-laced agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak), who´s assigned to the case and discovers that enigmas are only in the eye of the beholder. "I consider myself the lead character, but no one else did," says rocker and part-time actor Isaak, whose other credits include a cameo appearance in Silence of the Lambs and a big part in the 1978 Japanese sci-fi epic Message from Space.
But fans don´t have to worry that agent Cooper has been replaced. Agent Desmond is just one of many FBI operatives making the Peaks rounds this time out. There are the traditional mainstays of Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), agent Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer) and bureau chief Gordon Cole (Lynch himself), with backup from such new faces as Kiefer Sutherland´s agent Sam Stanley and David Bowie´s apparent time-traveling agent Phillip Jeffries.
"Everybody else has the quirks," admits Isaak, who tends to be a little hard on his own acting abilities. "There´s a scene Kiefer and I did with Harry Dean Stanton playing a trailer park owner. Harry had worked himself up and was crying. Real tears were running down his face, and that really brings you to attention when you´re doing a scene. For me the uninitiated, it was like, 'Wow, what´s he doing? He´s acting, Chris, as opposed to you, who´s reading his lines like a cardboard cut-out.'"
With all this FBI action floating around, only the bare essentials are left for the rest of the Peaks regulars. Jumping forward a year later, the film uncovers all of the juicy sexual deploits and entanglements with the dark side that eventually led to Laura Palmer´s untimely demise. And as this is a motion picture and not TV, the new Peaks pushes much further than the series ever dared.
"It would be fair to say that this is a no-holds-barred version of the mess of a young girl can get into in high school, which seems like a safe and secure position in life," says Grace (Servants of Twilight) Zabriskie, who portrays Laura´s psychic mom, Sarah. Returning to play the character was particularly intriguing for Zabriskie, since she got a chance to explore a different side of Sarah - a part which existed in the time-frame before the TV show began.
"Basically, I had to show what a normal life was before tragedy struck," explains Zabriskie. "On the show, my character became sort of a study in denial and repression. It´s about the fact that when things are really going wrong in a family no one wants to admit it, which causes a lot of strange behaviour."
In addition to Lee as Laura, other returning actors include James Marshall as her rebel girlfriend James Hurley and Ray Wise as her father, Leland. Moira Kelly replaces Lara Flynn Boyle (who had prior acting commitments) as Donna Hayward, Laura´s best friend.
"When you´ve already had a good actress in a role and nobody really complains about the replacement - that´s amazing," notes Zabriskie of Kelly´s work. "It´s a different Donna," adds Silva. "The only way for another actor to step into an established role is probably what Moira did: to go in and tackle it in a whole different style and give a totally different interpretation."
As for the rest of the Peaks regulars, suspiciously absent are Sherilyn (Meridian) Fenn as Audrey Horne and Richard Beymer as her father, Benjamin - though rumour has it they shot a brief scene together which apparently did not make the final cut. "Many of the cast were disappointed that they had little or, in many cases, nothing to do," Zabriskie says. "There were just so many cast members that obviously not all of them could be in the movie."
One of the reasons behind a few of these glaring omissions could be standard theatrical restrictions. As with all of his projects, Lynch shot so much footage on Fire Walk With Me that the first edit was nearly five hours long. When the film was released, it had been trimmed considerably, a process which has left out such key regulars as Harry Goaz, who played the slightly slow-witted Deputy Andy. It´s been hinted, though, that some of the excised footage may find its way into a special expanded video edition next year.
"I really can´t comment very much about the movie, only because I don´t know too much about it," says Goaz. "I did not come on until very late in filming, and I only had a couple of scenes, so I wasn´t too privy to what was going on at the set." Still, he feels that this new Peaks has the potential to be "as outrageous as Wild at Heart, because as a feature film it can show as much sex, violence and nudity as the MPAA will allow.
"There was a joke going around the set calling the movie Caligula 2, and I begged David to let me do something in the nude," says Goaz. "Andy would´ve been great naked."
Since Twin Peaks has always been a place of secrets and mystery, the same rules apply, to some extent, to how much the principals want to reveal about the film itself. "I like not talking about it," says Zabriskie. "It´s easy to keep it secret when you feel you have really great stuff. I guess it would be a terrible thing if you felt nothing happened, and you still couldn´t talk about it. It´s sort of fun, because you know people would be able to discover it."
Even if the short-lived series scared viewers off because they couldn´t get into its strange characters or alternate planes of existence. Silva feels that Fire Walk With Me will be used as an enlightening tool for both fans and the uninitiated. "The movie stands on its own, and you don´t have to have followed the television series to understand the film," he notes. "There are definitely more supernatural elements."
Working on the feature became an enlightening experience for Silva as well, since he discovered that his birthday and that of Michael Anderson, who plays the little person from another place in Cooper´s dream sequences, are on the same day: Halloween. "David had no idea, and when he found out he called CNN, and we did a press conference," laughs Silva.
But last Halloween was charged with more than birthday coincidences. Since shooting went over schedule in Seattle, Laura´s death sequence in the train car off of Avenue 37 couldn´t be shot. So once they were back in Los Angeles, the crew had to film it on a soundstage during the last day of shooting: October 31.
"Five days after Halloween, in Seattle, they found the body of a girl off of Avenue 37 up towards the river, and the weird thing about it was that her name was Theresa Briggs," Silva reveals. "Theresa Banks is the first girl who gets killed, and Bobby Briggs was one of the characters in the show. And when they did an autopsy, they discovered the murder had taken place five days earlier on Halloween night, the same night we were shooting the killing of Laura Palmer on the set in LA. It was really weird stuff. Art imitates life. Life imitates art."
Oddly enough, Silva had never intended for BOB to become the icon of terror that he is today - it was a classic Lynchian accident. During shooting of Peaks´ pilot episode, Silva was working behind the scenes as propmaster. One day, while he was crouched behind Laura Palmer´s bed, Lynch caught the image and decided to make it work to his advantage.
"He said, 'You better get out of there or you´re going to be on camera,' and I think all of a sudden a blood vessel burst in his head," recalls Silva. "So there´s that shot of me at the foot of her bed, and that´s how it all started."
As for the future of Twin Peaks, Silva notes that there is a rumor that Fire Walk With Me is the first in a package of three Peaks theatrical features.
"These prequels will help people understand the supernatural thing," says Silva, adding that he´s sworn to secrecy about any directions that potential sequels might take. But despite the show´s failure in prime time, its video shelf life may be stronger than anticipated. It´s had an immensely popular afterlife on cassette, where the first seven episodes and the season premiere have sold extremely well. On top of that, Twin Peaks is a cultural phenomenon in Europe and Japan: Fire Walk With Me debuted in the latter country with the second largest opening weekend, right behind Terminator 2.
"People are fascinated by this particular slice of American pie," says Catherine Coulson, a veteran of Lynch´s Eraserhead who plays Margaret the Log Lady in both the TV and film versions. "It´s pretty fascinating, because it´s a world they know exists, but we´ve never seen it before on television or in movie theaters. It´s done well in the foreign countries because it´s captured the imaginations of people who must think they´re finding out about life in a small town in the United States.
"I know that David really loves the world of Twin Peaks and would probably keep returning if there´s a continued demand," Coulson continues. "It had its life on television, and that was a very vital one. And now David has this chance to do more, so we´ll see what happens and hope it leads to more films."