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“Twin Peaks is a mystery that holds other mysteries,” says David Lynch when asked to sum up his legendary TV creation in a sentence. So it’s fitting that he wants to keep Showtime’s forthcoming revival of the cult classic as Laura Palmer as possible: wrapped in plastic and full of secrets. He’s doing it for your own good, you know! “People want to know right up until they know, and then they don’t care,” the director tells EW. “It’s really beautiful and you go into another world not knowing what you’re going to find.”
Still, we can tell you some stuff. The 18-hour limited event series is “a feature film in 18 parts,” says Lynch, who wrote the script with Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost over a period of three years and shot for 142 days over seven months, but not on Saturdays and Sundays. (Lynch doesn’t do weekends.) The script started in the area of 400-500 pages, but it grew during pre-production, and more so during production, as the cast kept expanding. Lynch used digital cameras for the shoot. “Film is organic, it’s beautiful, no two ways about it, it has a quality that I don’t think has been surpassed, but there’s so many drawbacks to it,” says Lynch, whose movies include lovingly crafted celluloid masterpieces like Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Blue Velvet. “Digital has gotten to a good point where you can get a pretty beautiful thing, and there’s a million things you can do with it. And even if you shoot on film, you’re going to end up transferring it onto a digital format eventually. So digital is pretty beautiful, and it assures you you’re going to have a chance of everybody seeing the same thing.”
Watch the cast discuss the show’s odd universe and the upcoming revival in the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) special EW Reunites: Twin Peaks here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.
Angelo Badalamenti, a frequent Lynch collaborator who did the music for the original Twin Peaks, is doing the music for the revival. Lynch is a musician himself, and he plays a mean, home-made guitar. When I asked him if he’ll be playing on the soundtrack, he said no, but then his producing partner, Sabrina S. Sutherland, corrected him. “There are a couple things.”
“There are?” he asked.
“Yes, there are,” she said.
He shrugged. “Okay, then maybe I did.”
Here are some other things that might be true about Twin Peaks:
1. Everyone in Hollywood is in it.
Okay, that’s not true at all, but it sure feels like it. There are 217 people in the cast, including most of the original cast. Notable omissions include Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna), Moira Kelly (who played Donna in the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me movie), Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman), Joan Chen (Josie Packard), and Piper Laurie (Catherine Martell ). Jack Nance, a longtime Lynch player (Eraserhead) who played Pete Martell, and Frank Silva, the set dresser whom Lynch famously cast on the fly to play BOB, passed away before the project was conceived. Notable newcomers including Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Monica Bellucci, Michael Cera, James Belushi, Tim Roth, Robert Forster, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, and more. Lynch won’t say who the newbies will be playing, and it’s quite possible many will have blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos. The way some actors tell it, it sounds like some people called up, asked if they could be in the show, and Lynch said, “You bet!” Says Kyle MacLachlan: “I would hear stories from them about how they were heavily influenced by Twin Peaks, and so they wanted to be part of the new series, even if it was just one day of shooting. For others, it was about working with David because he is so phenomenal. It just kept growing.” Asked who Vedder plays, MacLachlan says: “You know, I didn’t know Eddie was there. But I think he sings.”
2. That fan theory you like might be true. Or not.
In the season 2 finale of Twin Peaks, which ended up being the series finale of the show, Agent Cooper enters The Black Lodge and encounters the specter of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). “I’ll see you again 25 years,” she says. Then, after adding, “Meanwhile…,” she strikes a vogue pose and freezes. The popular theory among fans is that the revival — which arrives nearly 26 years after the last episode aired — will retroactively turn the line into a prophecy. Put another way: The new Twin Peaks will be set in the present. Frost said as much in the early press about the project, and if you look at EW’s first look photos from the production, you’ll see there’s no attempt to make the actors look anything any younger than they are. (Although we think it’s odd that many of them still dress as they did back in the day.) But the official word from Lynch — clearly the lead creative pilot on the revival — is that you shouldn’t assume anything about what you’ll see on screen. He won’t even confirm that the original cast will actually be playing their original characters in any real way, except for one: Kyle MacLachlan will reprise his role as FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Lynch himself will be in it, playing Cooper’s boss Gordon Cole, or some version of him. “Gordon is a fantastic person,” is all Lynch will say about the character. What’s it like directing himself? Lynch laughs. “Gordon doesn’t need much direction,” he says.
3. It doesn’t all take place in Twin Peaks.
“It takes place all over the country,” says David Nevins, Showtime’s president and CEO. “Twin Peaks is an important locus, but it’s not the only locus.”
4. Expect a lot of Agent Cooper, and a lot of mythology.
Nevins says that he was prepared to say yes to the new Twin Peaks even before Lynch and Frost pitched the project to him in 2014. But he did need to hear two things; we’ll tackle them separately. First, he wanted to hear that the story would have a lot of Agent Cooper. Check! “I’m really interested in the journey of Agent Cooper — where he’s coming from, where he’s going to, and what the obstacles in his way are,” says Nevins. “That, to me, just as a viewer, was my core interest in what happened to Agent Cooper.”
The original Twin Peaks ended with a number of cliffhangers, none more shocking or disturbing than the fate of Agent Cooper. While trying to rescue his girlfriend Annie from the clutches of former partner Windom Earle in The Black Lodge, Cooper was assaulted by his own dark-side doppelgänger. In the episode’s final shot, we saw that it was Cooper’s dark half — or, to put the same idea a different way, Cooper possessed by demon BOB — that made it out of that red-curtained underworld. “As we left, evil has established a beachhead in Twin Peaks through Agent Cooper,” says MacLachlan, who declined to elaborate further, other than to say that he found it very rewarding to play Cooper’s dark side, and that we might be surprised how Cooper reconciles and resolves this crisis of duality. “Twin Peaks is a cosmology,” says Nevins. “What I think is satisfying about the new version is that it’s a deeper exploration of that stuff. What is the red room? How does the red room work? Where is Agent Cooper? Can he make it back?”
5. Expect pure grade Lynchiness.
The second thing Nevins needed to hear was that Lynch would direct the whole thing. Check! Nevins was quoted earlier this year as saying that new Twin Peaks is “the pure heroin of David Lynch.” Asked to elaborate, Nevins recently told EW: “What I really meant was like uncut and that it’s just a very pure form. We are getting to observe a master artist, master filmmaker getting to use all of the tools that he’s developed over the course of his career. It just feels like that sort of uncut, unadulterated version of it.” That’s important, he says, because “my only anxiety was that the show not feel like the ersatz version of Twin Peaks. We weren’t going to do ‘Twin Peaks: The Remake,’ and David would lend his name and someone else would write and direct it.”
6. Okay, but what kind of pure grade Lynchiness?
Lynch’s films often feel dreamy or nightmarish or both, but some are as linear as The Straight Story and some are as looping as Mulholland Drive. Which one will the new Twin Peaks be? “The honest answer is both,” says Nevins. Adds Gary Levine, Showtime’s president of programming: “There’s a very compelling spine through this story, and yet there are diversions, tangents, fantasy.”
7. It might not be as TV-MA as you think.
Some fans are assuming that Lynch will take full advantage of pay cable’s creative freedoms and deliver an R-rated version of Twin Peaks, à la Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. “He is taking advantage of cable freedoms and there are moments of very strong material, but David’s pretty clean,” says Nevins. “There’s darkness and there’s scariness, but a lot less cursing and probably somewhat less nudity than most of our other programming. Definitely a lot less cursing…. Part what defines David as such an entertaining filmmaker is he’s got such a range of tones. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s emotional, it’s shocking, and occasionally it’s violent, but a lot of times the violence is more implied than shown. That’s one of the things I really like about the show, there’s just such a satisfying range of tones. I don’t like things that are one thing. I like things that are lots of things.”
8. Lynch wants you to watch the show on a TV with a great sound system.
Lynch doesn’t just take great care making images — he’s also known for his dense, intricate soundscapes. Hence, he really hopes you have a home entertainment system that’ll flatter it, and if not, you’ll invest in one. Because art, people! Art! “It’s not just for me, it’s important for everyone! Sound and picture flowing together in time is the thing, that is cinema, and it’s just so beautiful, it’s got to be protected. So on little speakers on a computer or laptop or something, it’s like you have a B-52 bomber flying close in the sky, just barreling along, and it becomes like a mosquito on the little machine. It’s pathetic.” Besides, we hear there’s someone plays some mean guitar on the soundtrack, and you surely don’t want to miss that.
The Twin Peaks revival debuts May 21 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.