David Lynch on 'Twin Peaks' Revival: 'The Woods Are Full of Mystery'

More than 25 years after original series ended, the filmmaker explains why revisiting Laura Palmer's mystery was easy as pie

David Lynch discusses the return of 'Twin Peaks,' the art of keeping a mystery sacred and why 'Mulholland Drive" is not a horror movie. Credit: Nathanael Turner/Redux

The season premiere of Twin Peaks is days away, and there is hardly any information about its episodes available. The synopsis for the first two episodes quizzically reads, "The stars turn and a time presents itself." Naturally, this is exactly what filmmaker David Lynch wants.

"These days, movie trailers practically tell the whole story," he says in his nasal, matter-of-fact, plainspoken manner. "I think it's really harmful. For me, personally, I don't want to know anything when I go into a theater. I like to discover it, get into that world, try to get as good of picture and sound as possible, no interruptions – so you can have an experience. And anything that putrefies that is not good."

This outlook also explains Lynch's general attitude toward mystery, the driving force behind Twin Peaks since its pilot. The original series focused on the investigation into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, the secrets that possess the denizens of her Pacific Northwestern hometown and a shadow world where supernatural spirits cross over into reality. Every episode seemed to end with a question mark. And as it went on, the show's storyline became more and more complex ("Life is very, very complicated, and so films should be allowed to be, too," Lynch once said) but the increasingly confusing plot drove away viewers. When the show was canceled after its second season, it ended on a cliffhanger.

One scene in the final episode showed murder victim Palmer in the show's Black Lodge netherworld, snapping her fingers and telling Kyle MacLachlan's FBI agent character, "I'll see you again in 25 years." It was this sentence, and the occasion of the episode's silver anniversary, that prompted Lynch to team again with co-creator Mark Frost to write 18 new episodes of the series that pick up a quarter of a century after the events of the first two seasons.

All that Lynch & Co. have revealed about the Twin Peaks revival, which premieres Sunday on Showtime, are a few details about the cast and the fact that the filmmaker directed every episode. MacLachlan will reprise his role as Agent Dale Cooper; Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee and even Lynch (who played the hearing-impaired FBI agent Gordon Cole) are back as well. Additionally, Laura Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Trent Reznor and Eddie Vedder, among others, are joining the cast. Other than a few purposely mysterious teasers, the full scope of Lynch and Frost's mystery remains intact for now.

In a brief yet wide-ranging chat with Rolling Stone, Lynch recently explained why he brought back the series while simultaneously keeping its secrets.

What should viewers know going into the new season?
Absolutely nothing.

You told Variety that the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was very important to understanding the new run.
I said it's important. But even so, I think that someone who's never seen Twin Peaks would be able to go along.

So it's a whole new thing?
I didn't say that. I said they'd be able to go along.

How did you get back into the Twin Peaks mindset?
[Co-creator Mark Frost and I] both know the world, so it's sort of like going back to a place where you grew up. You know your way around even though things are a little different. Memories come back and ideas come like that.

Did you watch the original seasons again?
No.

Why not?
This is ... You know, I can't answer that. Sorry [laughs].

What did you go off of then if you didn't watch those again?
Well, for me anyways, the pilot was the most Twin Peaks, and then other things came along that became Twin Peaks as well. It's a particular ... We all see it from our own point of view.

How did you know you had an idea strong enough to bring back to TV?
I didn't really know. I just had fragments and we got together and more and more ideas started coming. One day, there it was.

How was it working with everyone again?
So beautiful. It was like a family reunion every day.

Did it click right away with the cast?
It was kind of remarkable. The people that had been in the original knew their characters. They loved the world and got right back on the bike and went. And the new people ... everybody was super. It was a great ride.

Actor Frank Silva, who played the pivotal role of Bob in the original Twin Peaks and was in the final shot of the last episode, died in 1995. Will he have a presence in the new series in some way?
I'm not allowed to say that.


OK, similarly, in that same final episode, the Man From Another Place – actor Michael J. Anderson – says, "When you see me again, it won't be me." What can you say about that?
That it's more true than you think [laughs].

Your new cast members include Trent Reznor and Eddie Vedder. What appealed to you about them to make you want to cast them?
Well, I'm probably not allowed to talk about that either. I'm just fans of both of them. And I'd worked with Trent on Lost Highway.

The Twin Peaks setting itself could be considered a returning character. What do you feel when you go out shooting the show in the woods at night?
Oh, the woods are full of mystery. It's really great. Daytime woods are really beautiful, but at night, the mystery quotient goes way up and it's a real beautiful experience. The woods in the Northwest, they're friendly woods. I guess you could come across a bear, though by and large they're very friendly. But they still hold a mystery. They're kind of overwhelming when you're in them and it's night.

Those shots have always fascinated me because they say so much about nature, the environment and the spirituality of all of that.
Beautiful.

"Feature films are not having a great time right now – at least the kind of feature films that I would want to see or make. The new art house is cable television."

You wrote every episode with Mark Frost. What is it about the two of you that works so well?
I'm not sure. We just have fun writing together.

How do you go about it?
Intuition is the Number One tool.

You directed every episode. How was it directing 18 hours of TV?
I see it as a film – so it's an 18-hour film. It's like directing anything in cinema. It's exactly like working on a film.

But since it's television and released in hour-long increments, don't you have to think about the end of each hour?
No, you don't really. You divide it up.

You recently said you weren't doing movies ever again –
[Interrupts] I didn't say that. That was a misquote. I just said that feature films are not having a great time right now – at least the kind of feature films that I would want to see or make. Theaters want money, so they put in films that are going to generate a big audience. But the art houses are mostly gone. I say the new art house is cable television.

Do you see yourself making features for television now?
No. I don't know what will happen next, but this is an 18-hour film in my mind. And I love the idea of a continuing story. A feature is over in two-and-a-half, three hours. The stories that you tell on cable can go on and on and on. It's really beautiful.

Will there be more Twin Peaks after this?
I have no idea. It depends on how it goes over. You're going to have to wait and see.

Have you thought about what's next for you?
No. I just finished working on this finally, and it's coming out this week.

It sounds like a fly-by-the-sea-of-your-pants experience.
It's just a long haul to get it all done.

So much has changed since Twin Peaks first aired. Do you feel a competition in the TV environment?
No, no, no. This whole thing of competition is a bit ridiculous. You just do your work as good as you can, and try to enjoy the doing. Then when you put it out in the world, it's out of your control. You just hope for the best.

What television do you like then?
I really liked Mad Men, and I liked Breaking Bad. I also like [the TV network] Velocity. It's about customizing and restoring cars, and it's really fascinating to me. There are real artists out there with automobiles doing incredible, incredible work. Sculpture. It's beautiful.

What films have you liked recently?
I haven't seen anything for at least five years.

Is that just because you've been busy?
Yeah.

You have a lot of catching up to do then.
I don't really ... I'm not really a film buff. I like to work on my own things.

Lastly, there's been some debate online in recent years about whether your film, Mulholland Drive, is a horror film or not. What do you make of that?
No, it's not a horror movie. Let's put it this way: I like a film that holds different genres. Just like life. One day you can have a horror film, a comedy, a romantic thing. It's crazy to put a genre on a film, really, unless it just wants to be that. So it's not a horror film, no. I don't know who started that, but it's kind of way off base.

Watch the TV shows most influenced by 'Twin Peaks.'