David Lynch Dark Meditations

David Lynch Dark Meditations
How exactly does a filmmaker like David Lynch become a household name? He’s made few blockbusters over his 30-year career, and critics have often scorned his work; still, it’s hard to call the mild-mannered director anything but happy-go-lucky. After paying his dues in one long instalment — the six-year period during which he camped out in the basement of the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, working a paper route and filming Eraserhead — Lynch’s career emerged with an astonishing equilibrium. For every cold rejection, it seems there’s a producer willing to take the risk; for every terrifying, abstruse film he writes, there are scores of big-name Hollywood actors willing to bring it to life. Lynch’s work has been accused of everything: misogyny, sensationalism, incomprehensibility and pure silliness; these claims, though largely overblown, are sometimes true. But Lynch is an impossibly hard worker, who has passed up lucrative jobs and given years of his life in order to see his ideas represented accurately. And — aside from his habit of collecting and reassembling dead animal parts — he seems like a really nice guy, to boot.

1946 to 1962
David Lynch is born on January 20, 1946, in Missoula, Montana. His father works as a scientist for the Department of Agriculture, and his mother, Sunny, is a homemaker who teaches ESL on the side (Susan Spillman, USA Today, Aug 1990; Jim Jerome, People, Sept 1990). Lynch describes his parents as "Just regular people. My dad was raised on a wheat ranch in Montana and my mother is from Brooklyn, New York, so they’re fairly different. They met on a nature hike in Duke University…” (Rolling Stone, Chris Hodenfield, 1984). Accordingly, Lynch, with his father’s encouragement, spends much of his early life outdoors, playing in the woods. His parents are itinerant, and Lynch spends his childhood in Spokane, Washington, his pre-teen years in Boise, Idaho, and most of his teens in Alexandria, Virginia.

His early years are idyllic and untroubled, marked by the kind of ‘50s-specific ease that his work will later parody. "It was so stable that it almost bothered David,” his brother John tells the Guardian (January 2002). "I think he felt it would be more interesting if there was turmoil… it was so normal that he became intrigued by the opposite.” Lynch’s formative experiences, therefore, are only relatively traumatic: he first experiences dread during early family trips to New York City (Rolling Stone 1984), and feels "a real sense of horror” watching Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines Nellie at a drive-in with his parents (New Musical Express, Kristine McKenna, 1982). His mother refuses to give him colouring books because she doesn’t want to limit his imagination (Steve Pond, Playboy, Feb 1991). In Boise, Lynch attends South Lake Junior High School, where he develops an interest in explosives. "We were all, um, heavily into making bombs at that particular time,” Lynch tells Bart Bull of Vogue in February 1990. One of his friends loses a foot to a homemade combustible, though doctors are able to sew it back on (Bart Bull, Vogue, Feb 1990). Lynch and his friends are arrested after setting off a bomb in the school swimming pool: "We made the Salt Lake City papers and the Boise papers, four of us,” he says in the same interview, "…we threw it in the pool so that the shrapnel would hit the side of the pool… it shook windows supposedly for five blocks.” Despite his criminal past, he becomes an Eagle Scout, helping out during John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade in 1961 (Steve Pond, Playboy 1991; Jim Jerome, People, Sept 1990). He attends high school in Alexandria, where he is "really trying to have fun 24 hours a day… I didn’t start thinking until I was 20 or 21. I was doing regular goofball stuff.” (New York Times Magazine, 1990, Richard B. Woodward). He and his girlfriend are voted "cutest couple” in the yearbook (New York Times Magazine 1990), and he runs for class treasurer under the campaign slogan "Save with Dave” (Pond, Playboy Feb 1991).

1963 to 1970
Lynch is determined to be a painter, and after high school he attends three different art colleges: the Corcoran School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., the Boston Museum School, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. "You can learn a lot in art school, but if you don’t have something inside you to begin with you’ll still wind up with a nifty bunch of nothing,” he later tells New Musical Express (McKenna, 1982). After graduating from the Boston Museum School in 1965, Lynch and his best friend Jack Fisk go to Europe to study with expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka. They plan to stay for four years, but leave after ten days (Woodward, New York Times Magazine 1990). Lynch moves to Philadelphia, and his experience in this city will, by his own admission, become the strongest influence on his career. He meets and marries Peggy, a fellow student at the Pennsylvania Academy, and fathers a daughter, Jennifer, in 1968. Fatherhood, combined with a dire lack of finances, makes for a heap of inspiration: "We bought a house for $3,500; it had 12 rooms. I tell people that all that protected us from the outside were the bricks. But the bricks might as well have been paper,” He tells Henry Bromell of Rolling Stone in November 1980. "The feeling was so close to extreme danger, and the fear was so intense. A kid was shot and killed a block away. Our house was broken into three times. There was violence and hate and filth…”

At the end of the 1967 school year, Lynch is making "a black painting with some green garden… and I heard a wind and I saw the painting move a little bit.” (Short Films of David Lynch DVD Special Features) It inspires him to try his hand at animation, and he makes his first film for an experimental painting and sculpture contest. The film, Six Men Getting Sick, is an animated short projected onto a 6 x 8-foot sculptured screen, accompanied by a siren loop. It wins him first prize, but the film’s expense — $200 — makes him reluctant to pursue the medium ("David’s so goddamned cheap,” Jack Nance later remarks; John Powers, LA Weekly, Oct 2001, Short Films… DVD S.F.). At the time, Lynch knows "zilch about film. All I knew was what I had been taught by the people at the Fotorama film lab, which was a sleaze place down in Philadelphia.” (Vanity Fair, Stephen Schiff, 1987). A fellow student, Burton Wasserman, sees the film and commissions Lynch to make a similar piece for his living room. He offers him $1000, and Lynch uses the money to buy what he calls "the Bolex of my dreams.” (Short Films… DVD S.F.). He spends two months filming a piece for Wasserman, but it doesn’t turn out; Wasserman tells him to do whatever he likes instead, and in 1968, Lynch makes his second short. The Alphabet is based on an anecdote that Peggy had told him: her niece had had a nightmare, and recited the alphabet in her sleep. Peggy stars in the four-minute piece, and by the time it’s finished, Lynch has made up his mind to become a filmmaker. (Short Films… DVD S.F.). He writes a short script for a project called The Grandmother. At the same time, two friends tip him off about the American Film Institute’s newly established independent grant program, and he applies; though he doubts himself, he eventually receives a $5,000 grant from the AFI’s George Stevens Jr. and Tony Vellani (Hodenfield, Rolling Stone; Short Films… DVD S.F). While the grant is all he needs to start work on The Grandmother, he runs out of money mid-way, and calls Vellani to ask for further funding. Vellani travels to Philadelphia from D.C., gives him an extra $2,200 and, unexpectedly, invites him to apply for the AFI’s Center for Advanced Film studies. The Center, founded the year before, is located in Beverly Hills, at the 55-room Greystone Mansion; Lynch is accepted, and in 1970 he drives down to Los Angeles with Jack Fisk and his brother (Eraserhead DVD Special Features). He delights in his new surroundings. Once settled at the Centre, Lynch starts working on a script called Gardenback, under the auspices of Frank Daniel and Gil Dennis (Eraserhead DVD S.F). By the beginning of second year, however, he’s lost interest in the script and started to question his place at the Center, having been placed in first-year classes by accident. (Eraserhead DVD SF). He tells Frank Daniel, who has become a mentor of sorts, that he’s quitting school; he then tells his friend Alan Splet, head of the sound department, who quits in solidarity with him. Daniel persuades Lynch to talk it over, and Lynch tells Daniel that he wants to make Eraserhead. (Eraserhead DVD SF)

1971 to 1977
By 1971, Lynch has a script, or at least a "22-page thing.” (Eraserhead DVD S.F.) He decides that the "Stables” – a nearly abandoned quarter of the sprawling Greystone Mansion – is the perfect place to build a set. He meets his cast, including Jack Nance, a college dropout and starving actor, through mutual friends and acquaintances; Lynch will continue to use Nance (along with many of the film’s crew members) for much of his career. Eraserhead is very much an exercise in ingenuity; props are mostly found objects, or refuse from film studios. Lynch later claims that instead of using a smoke machine, the crew use a "50-gallon drum with burning newspaper and a fan and a piece of cardboard.” (Search and Destroy, Kent Beyda, 1978). Lynch, who is now in his mid-20s, supports himself and his family with the $48 a week he makes delivering The Wall Street Journal; he uses his paper route as an opportunity to pick up junk for the film. The sets are built by hand, and Jack Nance wears the skin off of his hands trowelling plaster without gloves. (Eraserhead DVD S.F.) Eventually a deal is struck with Warner Bros. through the AFI, and Lynch is able to borrow props from the Studio’s Props Department (Eraserhead DVD S.F). A stint at the Center is supposed to last for two years; by the end of his second year, however, Lynch has yet to begin shooting. He finally starts in June of 1972 (Eraserhead DVD SF), and he will spend the next five years of his life completing the film, occupying the Stables all the while. "They just sort of forgot about us,” Lynch says. (Eraserhead DVD SF). The preternaturally devoted cast members work erratic hours for uncertain pay; their weekly salary of $25 is eventually slashed in half, and then eliminated altogether (Pond, Playboy, Feb 1991). Catherine Coulson, assistant director (and keeper of then-husband Jack Nance’s extravagant hairdo), waitresses at Barbecue Heaven during the day, then stays up all night feeding cast and crew. Lynch runs out of money, and the production is stalled; with help from his parents, Jack Fisk and Fisk’s wife, Sissy Spacek, he’s able to restart the project. He turns to Transcendental Meditation to centre himself, and builds sheds for stress relief. His marriage being on the rocks (he and Peggy eventually split in 1974), he moves into the Stables, where he will sleep, daily, on and off for two to three years (Eraserhead DVD SF; The Guardian, 2002). He bolts plywood over the door while he sleeps, and has cinematographer Frederick Elmes padlock him in for security purposes (Pond, Playboy 1991). Center officials are aware of his activities, but mostly turn a blind eye. According to Lynch, he and his company make use of the Stables until 1975 or 1976, when George Stevens Jr. decides to use it as an editing room (Eraserhead DVD SF). Mixing Eraserhead coincides with the arrival of Cannes representatives at the AFI; Alan Spelt (the film’s sound designer) agrees to work 24-hour days to meet the deadline for festival submissions, if David will agree to gives up his daily excursion to Bob’s Big Boy, his favourite restaurant. According to Lynch, it "almost killed him,” but the two compromise on a nearby Hamburger Hamlet. (Eraserhead DVD SF). The film is completed in 1977, and distributed by Ben Barenholtz’s Libra Films; Barenholtz owned the Elgin Theatre in New York City, where he had "really started midnight films,” in Lynch’s words (Search and Destroy, 1978, Beyda). At the time, the midnight movie market is dominated by The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Eraserhead is not quite so jovial (Search and Destroy 1978). The film premieres, at midnight, at New York’s Cinema Village in March of 1977 (Maximilian Potter, Premiere, Aug 1997). It picks up momentum via word of mouth, and becomes a hit among horror fans. (New York Times Magazine, 1990). The same year, Lynch marries Jack Fisk’s sister, Mary, who will give birth to a son, Austin, five years later.

1978 to 1980
Lynch writes a doomed script called Ronnie Rocket as a follow-up to Eraserhead; a series of mishaps will ensure that it never gets made. According to Lynch, the film is a comedy about "a three-foot tall guy with red hair and a sixty-cycle alternating current.” (Hal Hinson, American Film, 1984). Francis Ford Coppola eventually expresses an interest in the script — during a meeting, he closes his eyes and tells Lynch to read it to him "like a bedtime story” — but nothing comes of this. (Herman Weigel, tip Filmjahrbuch, 1985; transl. by www.davidlynch.de). Eraserhead, by conventional standards, is far from successful, but it earns Lynch a reputation. It catches the attention of Stuart Cornfield, an employee of Mel Brooks; After Lynch asks him to recommend a project, Cornfield turns Lynch on to The Elephant Man, the story of Victorian sentimentalist object John Merrick. (Henry Bromell, Rolling Stone, 1980). Mel Brooks reads the script and is impressed by Lynch, who he had expected to be "a grotesque – a fat little German with fat stains running down his chin… instead, there’s this clean American WASP kid, like Jimmy Stewart 35 years ago.” (American Film, Hal Hinson, 1984). Lynch knows very little about the Victorian era, but the project seems to be "the perfect thing… to follow Eraserhead and get me into the mainstream, and at the same time not compromise” (Rolling Stone 1980, Henry Bromell). The Elephant Man is only Lynch’s second feature, and his first had been a ramshackle art project; working with established actors is "baptism by fire,” in Lynch’s words. "It was hell, and I felt an unbelievable pressure knowing that peoples’ careers were in my hands.” (New Musical Express 1982, Kristine McKenna). The film’s star, Anthony Hopkins, reportedly takes advantage of Lynch’s greenness and treats him poorly (David Hughes, Empire, Nov 2001). Nonetheless, The Elephant Man is a success, receiving eight Academy Award nominations upon completion. Having well established himself as a Hollywood directorial presence, Lynch begins writing a script for "a suburban sex comedy… but different” (American Film, 1984). It will later become Blue Velvet.

1981 to 1984
Following The Elephant Man’s success, Lynch is approached by George Lucas, who asks him to direct Return of the Jedi. Lynch refuses, knowing that the picture is Lucas’s exclusive domain (Time Out, Richard Rayner, 1984). Instead, he takes on Dune, another sci-fi epic based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. The project belongs to legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis, who had originally hired Ridley Scott to direct it. Scott had requested a $50 million dollar budget and added an incest subplot, irking both De Laurentiis and Herbert (Chris Hodenfield, Rolling Stone 1984). Alejandro Jodorowsky had been the very first director to try his hand at the novel, but his financing had been halted due to an exceptionally long screenplay and creative ambitions which bordered on absurd (Hodenfield, 1984). Lynch was chosen after De Laurentiis’s daughter, Raffaella, who was set to oversee the production, cried during The Elephant Man. Dune is set to star Kyle MacLachlan, an unknown stage actor from Yakima, Washington (Hodenfield,Rolling Stone); it is the first screenplay he has ever read (Blue Velvet will be the second; Blue Velvet DVD SF). Production begins in January of 1983, at the Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City, where all eight sound stages are put to use. According to Patricia Riddle of Prevue Magazine, the studio is chosen for financial reasons, and for its proximity to the Salamayuca desert; to prepare the desert for filming, however, it must be cleared of all life, a process that takes two months and requires the work of 200 crew members (Dune’s Arrakeen desert is inhabited only by giant sandworms; Patricia Riddle, Prevue Magazine #56). Mexico turns out to be a poor choice, as corruption proves a considerable drain on the film’s resources. Imports are held up at customs, and Mexican officials milk the filmmakers for money at every opportunity; crew members eventually resort to smuggling goods to avoid bureaucratic hassling (Riddle, Prevue #56). Crew members, miserable and homesick, leave the production early (Riddle, Prevue #56) and food poisoning becomes such a hazard that Raffaella De Laurentis starts her own restaurant to feed cast and crew (Hodenfield, Rolling Stone 1984). By the time Dune is completed — after three-and-a-half years — it has cost about $45 million, $7 million over its intended budget. Expectations are high: Dino De Laurentiis, presumably before having seen it, says that the film is "not only the greatest motion picture of my career, it’s one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.” (Richard Rayner, Time Out, 1984). The film is heavily merchandised (vitamins and sleeping bags are just some of the items bearing its name; Vogue 1990) and at least two sequels are planned. Time Out writer Richard Rayner’s take on a screening, however, provides an apt representation of the film’s general reception: "On occasion there is laughter where laughter is not supposed to be. At the back, the studio executives squirm in their suits a little. Lynch can hardly bear to look.” (Rayner, Time Out). The film is a huge flop, and Lynch’s least favourite to date. "There’s something wrong with that movie,” he’ll tell Tim Hewitt of Cinefantastique, "I don’t really know what it is, and I’m not certain you could ‘fix it.’” Despite their mutual failing, Raffaella and Lynch maintain a friendly relationship, and after her hysterectomy, Raffaella presents Lynch with her uterus in a jar. (Playboy 1991, The Guardian, Jan 2002). In 1983 Lynch starts writing The Angriest Dog in the World, a weekly comic strip for The L.A. Reader. The panels remain the same each week, with Lynch changing the captions.

1985 to 1986
After Dune, Lynch resolves not to make any more films on someone else’s terms. He considers "going back underground and making films the Eraserhead way,” (Vanity Fair, 1987) but Dino De Laurentiis agrees to give Lynch the final cut of his next film, Blue Velvet, if Lynch will take a significant budget and salary cut (from $10 million to $5 or $6 million; Blue Velvet DVD SF). Lynch had conceived of Blue Velvet years before, and the film had developed from series of ideas (an ear in a field, Bobby Vinton’s song of the same name) and script drafts (four in total) (Blue Velvet DVD Special Features).

Laura Dern is cast after an hour-long conversation with Lynch, during which they discuss meditation, astrology, and "grafting peach trees with pear trees,” (Dern; Blue Velvet DVD SF). Lynch meets Isabella Rossellini through a mutual friend at a New York restaurant. They hit it off, and he tells her that she could be Ingrid Bergman’s daughter; "you idiot,” a friend says, "she IS Ingrid Bergman’s daughter.” (Jeffrey Ferry, The Face, 1987). Rossellini is a highly successful model at the time, with a $2 million contract for Lancôme cosmetics (Ferry, The Face, 1987). They start dating in 1986 and their relationship lasts for four years, even though they live at opposite ends of the country (Lynch in L.A., Rossellini in New York). Dennis Hopper calls Lynch directly after reading Blue Velvet’s script, telling him that he is Frank. "It scared the hell out of me,” Lynch says (The Face, 1987). Hopper has just emerged from rehab, and Blue Velvet is to be his first sober job after years of drug and alcohol abuse. It is through Hopper that Jack Nance is able to get help for his own addictions; he remains clean and sober for two years afterwards (Blue Velvet DVD SF; Premiere, Aug 1997, Maximilian Potter). The film is shot in Wilmington, NC, where De Laurentiis’ studio, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) is based. Cast members work for up to 19 hours a day at times, and struggle with the uncomfortable nature of the script; Hopper and Rossellini’s first scene together involves a rape. Despite his film’s questionable content, Lynch strikes his cast as a wide-eyed innocent, although he makes an unsettling habit of bringing in Polaroids of his "kits” (disassembled animal carcasses), some of which he’s made with his son. (Blue Velvet DVD SF). According to Hopper, "[He was a] Boy Scout leader. He would say ‘peachy keen! Solid gold! Let’s do one more!” Hopper’s character, Frank Booth, constantly huffs a substance from an air mask. Lynch, who has helium on set, is puzzled when Hopper suggests making it amyl nitrate; he has never heard of the drug before (Blue Velvet DVD SF). Lynch meets composer Angelo Badalamenti through producer Fred Caruso; he is brought in to act as a vocal coach for Rossellini. "I get a call… suggesting I help coach her,” he later tells Total Film’s Dan Jolin (February 2002), "I said, ‘All right, Isabella’s half-Italian and everybody knows if you’re even half Italian you can learn to sing.” Badalamenti and Lynch collaborate on the song "The Mysteries of Love,” (sung by Julee Cruise), intended as a substitute for This Mortal Coil’s "Song of the Siren,” which is too expensive to option. The two will collaborate on almost every Lynch feature thereafter. "We intend to become the Bernard Hermann and Alfred Hitchcock of the ‘90s,” Badalementi tells Steve Grant of Time Out in 1990. Blue Velvet needs to be edited considerably before it receives an "R” rating (Cinefantastique, Tim Hewitt, Oct 1986); this process will be a constant throughout Lynch’s career. Once released, the film’s reception is mixed; it doesn’t do well at all until The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael deems it worthy of a second look (Kyle MacLachlan, Blue Velvet DVD SF). Many audience members walk out of preliminary screenings (Jeffrey Ferry, The Face, 1987), and the film’s London premiere is picketed by protestors who believe it to be misogynistic (The Guardian, 2002). Siskel and Ebert get into a famous argument about the picture: Ebert despises it, while Siskel sings its praises. Despite the controversy, Lynch is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, and loses to Oliver Stone. He will later tell Liz Smith of The New York Post that the worst thing about losing was not being kissed by Elizabeth Taylor, who presented the award (though he met up with Taylor later in the evening, and she let him kiss her then).

1987 to 1989
In 1987, Isabella Rossellini shows Lynch’s paintings to Beatrice Monti della Corte, a one-time Milan gallery owner (Vanity Fair, Stephen Schiff, 1987). She shows them to Leo Castelli, an art world heavy-hitter, who loves Lynch’s paintings and takes him on as a client. He has a show at the James Corcoran Gallery, which sells well and receives decent reviews; a 1988 show at the Leo Castelli Gallery, however, receives a horrible review from The New York Times (Kristine McKenna, L.A. Times, 1989). After Blue Velvet, Lynch’s relationship with De Laurentiis and DEG begins to decline. In 1988, while Lynch is six weeks into filming One Saliva Bubble with Martin Short and Steve Martin, DEG goes bankrupt (Steve Pond, Playboy 1991). Lynch had had a multi-picture deal with the company, and One Saliva Bubble is scrapped, along with Ronnie Rocket and Up at the Lake. According to Lynch, this will have "a lot to do with my not making a movie for three years.” (McKenna, LA Times 1989). Instead, Lynch devotes his time to smaller projects, directing a segment for a French TV miniseries, acting in Tina Rathborne’s Zelly and Me, and presenting a multimedia performance called "Industrial Symphony #1” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989. The performance stars Julee Cruise, whose debut album, Floating Into Night, is produced by Lynch, composed by Badalementi and released the same year. Writer John Powers spends a week with Lynch and notes his strange obsessions: Lynch won’t allow food in his house because he "hates the smell,” and he eats the same meals every day. Lynch and Mark Frost begin writing Twin Peaks. The two had met through an agent, Tony Krantz, (Details, Stephen Saban, 1990), and collaborated on both One Saliva Bubble and Goddess, based on Anthony Summers’ biography of Marilyn Monroe (according to Lynch, "When we said to the people in the studio who we thought killed her, they didn’t want any part of it.” (Empire Magazine, David Hughes, 2001). Twin Peaks’ pilot costs $3.8 million, and the two begin Lynch/Frost productions in order to ensure their creative freedom. (LA Times, 1989). They plan out the fictional Twin Peaks community meticulously, maps and all. The series will be based on the unsolved murder of the town’s homecoming queen, Laura Palmer; its plot takes a supernatural turn when Lynch catches a glimpse of propmaster Frank Silva next to Laura’s bed on set (Fangoria, Oct 1992, Anthony C. Ferrante). He is quickly cast as BOB, the murderer from another world. Around the same time, Lynch is approached by his friend Monty Montgomery. Montgomery wants to direct a film based on Barry Gifford’s novel, Wild at Heart, and would like Lynch to produce it. Lynch worries that if he reads the book, he might want the project for himself; Montgomery assures him that if this is the case, he can have it. The two switch jobs, and Montgomery becomes a producer (Premiere, Sept 1990, Ralph Rugoff). Lynch starts filming Wild at Heart in 1989, with $9-10 million at his disposal.

By the time Twin Peaks premieres, on April 8, 1990, it is one of the most anticipated shows of the season. The show debuts to good reviews and much fanfare, but by its second episode — ending with a dream sequence featuring a backwards-talking Michael J. Anderson — ABC Entertainment is having second thoughts. (US Magazine, Mark Schwed, Oct 1990). Though it’s never quite a commercial success, the show amasses a considerable cult following and receives 14 Emmy nominations, setting a record (Time Out, Steve Grant, 1990). After ABC threatens to cancel the show, the network is flooded with 10,000 letters, threats, and one 11-page note with the words "bring back Twin Peaks” written over and over (Mike Boone, Montreal Gazette). Several petitions are circulated, groups dedicated to the show’s preservation are formed, and, according to Boone, a resolution is passed in the Michigan State Senate on the show’s behalf. The show’s second season tanks. Lynch provides little supervision during this time; according to Kyle MacLachlan (with whom he has fallen out), his involvement is "completely a marketing ploy… David really doesn’t have much to do with the show now. He directed the pilot and a couple of other episodes, and he has a look at the scripts every now and again.” He admits that Lynch’s ideas — "the really eccentric bits” — have profoundly shaped the show, but laments how goofy these ideas come across when the other directors use them. (Philip Thomas, Empire Magazine, 1991). The show’s last episode airs on June 10, 1991. Lynch has been devoting his time to Wild at Heart, his next feature film. An over-the-top road movie inspired by American iconography and The Wizard of Oz, it stars Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, and Diane Ladd, Dern’s real-life mother. "Literally, I was doing a scene where my mother was riding on a broom next to me, and she was the Wicked Witch… [we joked] ‘I’ll never need therapy again, we just played out all our demons!’” Dern has said (Wild at Heart DVD SF). Wild at Heart premieres at Cannes in 1990; it was finished a day beforehand, and carted to the festival by Lynch, in-hand. (Henri Behar, Empire, 1990). The film wins the Palme d’Or, and the announcement is met with heckles, lead by Roger Ebert (Steve Pond, Playboy 1991). Like Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart barely scrapes by with an "R” rating; during one particularly violent scene, 275 out of 400 audience members leave a theatre screening (Wild at Heart DVD SF). "They were offended more by the violence than by the sex scenes. Usually, it’s the other way around,” Lynch tells Karl-Heinz Schafer of Cinema 9 in 1990 (Davidlynch.de translated this interview) "They didn’t like a particular sex scene with Lula and Sailor neither, which they called ‘penetration from behind.’” One scene — in which a character shoots his head off with a shotgun — is obscured by visual effects, and the film narrowly sidesteps an ‘X’ rating. (Susan Spillman, USA Today, Aug 1990). Though the film is not a box office success, Diane Ladd is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 1990, Lynch and Rossellini break up, possibly due to Lynch’s habit of keeping dead mice in their refrigerator. The next year, he begins dating Mary Sweeney, a producer/editor who he met on the set of Blue Velvet. Lynch visits Ronald Reagan (Spillman, USA Today), who he admires for his "cowboy image.” (Powers, LA Weekly). According to Powers, "[Lynch’s] political attitudes are profoundly conservative.”

Following Twin Peaks’ demise, Lynch helps to write, produce and direct the sitcom On the Air, with Mark Frost and Jack Fisk. The show is about a comedy series called The Lester Guy Show, set in the late ’50s; seven episodes are shot, but only three are aired. He reunites the cast of Twin Peaks for his next film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a prequel chronicling Laura Palmer’s last days. MacLachlan refuses to participate, so Lynch uses singer Chris Isaak to fill a role similar to that of MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper. Lynch shoots almost five hours of footage (Fangoria, Oct 1992, Anthony C. Ferrante), but only two hours are released, and many cast members are missing from the final cut. There are rumours that the extra footage will be made available via special edition video (Fangoria, Ferrante), but 15 years later the scenes have yet to surface. Shooting concludes on Halloween, and the final sequence — Laura’s death — is shot on an L.A. soundstage (the rest of the film is shot in Seattle). According to Silva: "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… 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 L.A.” (Fangoria, Oct 1992). Incidentally, both Silva and Michael J. Anderson were born on Halloween. Fire Walk With Me, though not much weirder than much of Lynch’s filmic output, is too weird for many fans of the television show (and a few of its cast members): it is a major flop. Making matters worse, The Angriest Dog in the Worl” is cut from the L.A. Reader.

After Fire Walk With Me tanks, Lynch falls into a slump. "I think you could say the backlash played a part. But there was also something in the air around the time that Fire Walk With Me came out that was not good for me… it took about two years for this cloud to lift. And I could feel it lifting, for sure,” he tells Jan Stuart of Newsday in September of 1997. Lynch attributes his bad luck to having been on the cover of Time Magazine in 1992: "That’s the kiss of death. Someone told me around that time that you have two years of bad luck,” he tells Damon Wise of Total Film in December, 1999. Lynch starts smoking again (he had quit in 1970), and rarely appears in taped interviews without tobacco smoke hovering about him. He takes on minor projects, producing/directing two episodes of the HBO miniseries, Hotel Room, and writing a "really dumb” show for Comedy Central with Robert Engels called Dream of the Bovine, about "three guys, who used to be cows, living in Van Nuys and trying to assimilate their lives” (Engels; Mike Hartmann, the City of Absurdity). His daughter, Jennifer, makes her directorial debut with Boxing Helena; the film is almost universally reviled. Lynch devotes his time to designing furniture. "If you put this word caring at the maximum-level intensity, it wouldn’t begin to be enough to say how much I love furniture,” Lynch will later tell John Powers. He finds a distributor in the Swiss company Casanostra Ag, and his pieces include a "steel block table — you shouldn’t put a heavy cup on it, ‘cause it may tip over,” he’ll later explain to Jonathan Romney of the Guardian (November, 1999). "It’s about a 60 lb block of steel with an arm and a wooden top… it’s a beautiful table. It’s very pure, but it’s not a successful table because… it tips over.” This non-functional table retails for $1197 US, and Casanostra goes out of business in the years that follow. In 1995, Lynch makes a tentative return to filmmaking, creating a 55-second short for a project celebrating cinema’s 100-year anniversary. In 1996, Jack Nance passes away, at the age of 53. He had mouthed off to some strangers in the parking lot of a donut shop and received a punch in the face in response; the next morning he is found dead of "subdural hematoma caused by bluntforce trauma,” according to Maximilian Potter of Premiere (Aug 1997). His death is ruled a homicide, but friends who he had met with after the altercation hadn’t believed his story, and an investigator says it was more likely that he had gotten drunk and hit himself in the head: his blood alcohol level had been .24 (Potter, Premiere Aug 1997). Nance’s wife had committed suicide five years earlier; they had been arguing on the telephone, and she had threatened to kill herself if he hung up on her. A storm blew out the line on Nance’s end, and by the time he reached the police she had hung herself.

Lynch makes a comeback with Lost Highway, a film he co-wrote with Barry Gifford, starring Patricia Arquette and Bill Pullman. Pullman is "afraid” to work with Lynch at first, but, like most, is surprised by how normal the director seems: "We have done a lot of things… we live close… he’s got a little boy about the same age as our little boy. His wife and my wife get along. So we’ve been doing stuff. He is fantastic company. He’s not weird at all, and he’s very courteous… well, you know, he has these eruptions… Like he says, ‘Do you want to see my rotting bird on canvas? I’ve just sprayed insecticide on it, so the maggots will die and stay in place.” (Bob Thompson, Toronto Sun, Feb 23 1997). Former child star Robert Blake is approached to play "Mystery Man,” the film’s most memorable role. "I read the script like nine fuckin’ times, and I didn’t understand one fuckin’ word of it!’ He tells Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique in April, 1997. Blake is responsible for the character’s Joel-Grey-in-Hell look: "… I sort of knew what the Devil looked like; I knew what Fate looked like. I used to have this image of myself that would come to me sometimes. I’d go out to the desert and get involved in some strange, isolated kind of thing, and all of a sudden I would come to myself as this white, ghostly creature. I said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my conscience talking to me.’ So I started going with that. I cut my fuckin’ hair off, and I put a crack in the middle of it and all this shit. And the makeup people said, ‘You’re going crazy, man! Nobody in this movie looks like that; everybody looks regular! I said, ‘Leave me alone; just give me some shit.’ I put this black outfit on. I walked up to David, and he said, ‘Wonderful!’ and turned around and walked away.” (Biodrowski, Cinefantastique, April 1997). Lynch refuses to discuss the meaning of the film, which is elusive to say the least. Barry Gifford, however, gives a fairly straight answer when asked: "…Fred Madison creates this counter world and goes into it, because the crime he has committed is so terrible that he can’t face it.” (Cinefantastique, April 1997). During filming, Lynch and Gifford are alerted to a psychological condition called "psychogenic fugue,” which describes their protagonist perfectly. The film is not well received. Siskel and Ebert give it "two thumbs down,” which is turned into the ad slogan: "two good reasons to go and see Lost Highway.” Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth later writes an opera inspired by the film, which premieres in Europe in 2003. In April of 1997, Lynch has a show at the Salone del Mobile in Milan (Design Journal, Feb 1997)

In 1998, Jocelyn Montgomery, model and wife of Monty Montgomery, releases her debut album, Lux Vixens. Lynch produces the album, which is a collection of songs written by the 12th century abbess Hildegard von Bingen (Jamie Allen, CNN, Sept 1998). The same year, Lynch is commissioned to design a CD-ROM game for a Japanese company, Synergy Inc. The game is called Woodcutters from Fiery Ships: "Certain events have happened in a bungalow which is behind another in Los Angeles. And then suddenly the woodcutters arrive and they take the man who we think has witnessed these events, and their ship is… uh, silver, like a ‘30s kind of ship, and the fuel is logs… and they smoke pipes,” Lynch tells Jonathan Romney of the Guardian. The game is never made, for obvious reasons. Lynch begins filming The Straight Story in September of 1998, a script written by his partner, Mary Sweeney. Sweeney had read about Alvin Straight — who rode across the Midwest to his estranged, ailing brother on a John Deere lawnmower — in 1994, and wanted to make the film ever since. She had wanted Lynch to direct it for some time, but in her words, "He didn’t do anything to encourage me in that direction” (Cleveland Scene Online, Oct 28 1999). Lynch got involved after his long time friend John Roach came on board. Lynch comes to love the film: "In the editing room I cried like mad,” he tells Margret Kohler of Cinemaxx Filmtips in Dec, 1999 (translation by www.davidlynch.de ). The movie is distributed by Disney and given a G rating, which seems laughable to many. Richard Farnsworth’s performance is highly regarded, and he becomes the oldest actor to be nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. Tragically, he commits suicide on Oct 6, 2000, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. (Variety, Oct 2000, Doug Galloway and Bill Higgins). www.davidlynch.de Around this time, Lynch films an $8 million pilot for ABC called Mulholland Drive, an idea he has been nurturing since Fire Walk With Me. It stars then-unknown Naomi Watts and cornball beauty Laura Elena Harring. The executives hate it, and offer a flat-out rejection. (Premiere, Nov 2001, Anna David). Lynch swears off television and turns to the internet as an alternative, working on a website through which to showcase new series. (Business Week, Oct 16, 2001, Thane Peterson). Lynch becomes an active supporter of the Natural Law Party during the 2000 presidential election; party leader John Hagelin, a quantum physicist, practises Transcendental Meditation (TM), of which Lynch is a proponent. The party believes that human government should reflect a divine natural order, and promotes TM as an antidote to war and human suffering (John Powers, L.A. Weekly, Oct 2001). Lynch produces Hagelin’s campaign video, which doesn’t lend the party much political credence. Also in 2000, Lynch submits a sculpture to the New York Cowparade, a citywide installation of fibreglass cows (www.davidlynch.de). His cow is headless, with exposed internal organs and forks and knives jutting from its back; the words "eat my fear” are scrawled across its belly. Lynch is disappointed when the city rejects it. "I thought it was Charles Manson,” Henry J. Stern, NYC Parks Commissioner, tells the Times.

Two years after ABC’s rejection, Pierre Edelman, a producer and friend of Lynch’s, watches the Mulholland Drive pilot, and offers to turn it into a movie. StudioCanal buys the rights off ABC for $7 million (Premiere, November 2001, Anna David), and Lynch is given two weeks to turn his pilot into a feature. "It was a beautiful moment, but very frightening because I didn’t have the ideas to finish. I was lost, until at night a series of ideas entered me and I was so thankful – they just came in.” (International Herald Tribune, May 19-20, 2001, Joan Dupont). These new ideas include a lesbian love scene. "It was kind of cute,” Harring tells Lawrence Ferber of Watermark in November, 2001, "One time he went, ‘don’t be afraid to touch each other’s breasts now.’” Even though Mulholland Drive is all about Hollywood’s sinister underbelly, Lynch displays a refreshing ignorance where Hollywood proper is concerned: when Ben Stiller shows up onset to visit Justin Theroux, Lynch offers him a job as an extra. (Theroux; Gary Arnold, Washington Times, Oct 2001). The film premieres at Cannes in May, 2001. Lynch is nominated for a Palm d’Or and ties for Best Director with Joel Coen (for The Man Who Wasn’t There). It garners good reviews, particularly from Roger Ebert, a frequent adversary of Lynch’s: "David Lynch has been working toward Mulholland Drive all of his career, and now that he’s arrived there I forgive him Wild at Heart and even Lost Highway,” he writes. Naomi Watts, whose role as Betty, a struggling actress, reflected her real-life misfortunes, emerges from the project a star. While promoting the film at the Cameraimage festival in Lodz, Poland, Lynch pals it up with locals, taking photographs of nudes and decaying buildings (John Powers, L.A. Weekly, Oct 19 2001). The city inspires him, and much of his next feature, INLAND EMPIRE, will be filmed there. Lynch launches his first website, into which he has invested $1 million of his own money. (Business Week, Thane Peterson, 2001). In 2002, he releases the series Dumbland and Rabbits on his website, along with the short film Darkened Room. Rabbits stars Mullholland Drive’s Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts, though their pretty faces are covered by giant rabbit heads. The website also contains an online store, where Lynch peddles his own brand of coffee (he’s an aficionado, having once claimed to drink 20 cups a day; Pond, Playboy 1991). The coffee is organic, and 12 oz go for $16.27.

In April, 2003, Lynch’s heavy metal band, Blue Bob, release their debut album. Lynch plays guitar, and John Neff, who built Lynch’s home recording studio, sings. (Steve Hochman, the Times). Also in 2003, Lynch begins to speak publicly about his 30-year, twice-daily TM routine. According to Dave Metz (Vogue, November 2003), his staff join him in 45-minute daily meditations every afternoon at 5:30. Lynch attributes meditation for many of his creative successes over the years, and has studied under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced it to the Beatles. In 2005, Lynch launches the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, and tours universities throughout the States to discuss TM. "Someday, hopefully very soon, ‘diving within’ as a preparation for learning and as a tool for developing the creative potential of the mind will be a standard part of every school’s curriculum,” he writes on his Foundation’s website, www.davidlynchfoundation.com. "Please remember that Consciousness-Based education is not a luxury. For our children who are growing up in a stressful, often frightening, crisis-ridden world, it is a necessity,” the blurb continues. According to William Booth of the Washington Post, Transcendental Meditation is a rather expensive non-luxury: training costs $2,500. The Foundation "supports the establishment of Universities of World Peace that will train the coming generation in a new profession: that of a professional peacemaker,” the website states. Lynch elaborates on this to Booth: he wants "at least 8,000 beautiful souls working like factory workers doing their program, pumping peace for the world.” Booth explains that 8,000 is "approximately the square root of 1 percent of the world’s population,” and that if this number is reached, it will create the "Global Maharishi Effect,” and "reduce international conflict.” The project, Lynch predicts, will cost $7 billion (one billion per peace factory). At the time of the article, Lynch has invested $400,000 of his own money and raised $1 million from private donors. At Cannes, Lynch announces his next film project, already two years in the works. It’s called INLAND EMPIRE, and nobody, not even Lynch himself, knows what the hell it’s about. "It’s about a woman in trouble, and it’s a mystery, and that’s all I want to say about it,” He tells Adam Dawtrey of Variety in May 2005. He has financed the film himself, with Mary Sweeney taking production duties, and StudioCanal will provide only limited distribution.

Lynch publishes a book about Transcendental Meditation: Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. The title is a reference to an analogy (between "the creative process” and fishing) that Lynch frequently makes in interviews. He marries Mary Sweeney, his girlfriend of 15 years, in May 2006; they divorce a month later. Lynch spearheads a grassroots promotional campaign for INLAND EMPIRE: he sits at Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea with a live cow to – somehow – promote Laura Dern’s performance for Academy Award consideration. After 2 ½ years of production, INLAND EMPIRE is released on October 8, 2006, at the New York Film Festival. The picture is shot entirely on digital video; Lynch, who operated the camera himself, swears never to go back: "film is beautiful, but having had this experience I would die if I had to go that slow ever again. It’s not slow in a good way. It’s death, death, death. I can hardly stand even thinking about it,” he tells Mike Figgis of Sight & Sound in March 2007. Lynch had written the movie as he filmed it; actors were handed pages of dialogue every morning in lieu of scripts (BBC News, Sept 2006). It follows that the film is nearly impossible to summarize, even – especially – for the actors involved: "The truth is I didn’t know who I was playing – and I still don’t,” Dern tells BBC News. "It’s become sort of a pastime – Laura and I sit around on set trying to figure out what’s going on,” Justin Theroux, her co-star, mentions in the same interview. On July 11, 2007, Lynch returns to visual art, collaborating with shoe designer Christian Louboutin on "Fetish” at the Pierre Passebon gallery in Paris. "Fetish” is a series of nudes, starring two dancers, Baby and Nooka, from the Crazy Horse club in Paris. The girls, cast for their "perfect arches” (Alexandra Marshall, Style.com), are featured in special-edition pairs of Louboutins. The photographs, which sold for 12,000 – 30,000 pounds at the time, will be released in a coffee table book due in the fall.