David Lynch talks Inland Empire, sawing wood, and not bringing a new film to Cannes
Inland Empire's return to theater has already been a triumph. A remastered version of David Lynch's 2006 film posted big numbers at the arthouse box office, and distributor Janus Films will continue rolling it to more theaters over the next few months. (You can find theater information here.) The film remains Lynch's boldest reality-bending mind warp. Laura Dern stars as Nikki Grace, a famous actress getting trapped in the world of the movie she's making. But Inland Empire's multiverse extends much further than that. There are troubled women dancing to "The Loco-Motion," an ethereal murder-magician named the Phantom, several darkened hallways, a very memorable backyard barbecue, and those pesky talking human-sized rabbits who live in the scariest sitcom ever.
The film marked Lynch's departure from, well, film. Inland Empire was made on digital video, a unique-for-the-time choice that made the project look stripped down from the director's usual luscious palette. Lynch spoke to EW about returning to Inland Empire and its enduring mysteries. (He also cleared up some confusion about any alleged project allegedly premiering at any upcoming film festivals.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the process of remastering Inland Empire, were there specific scenes or aspects of the audio that you wanted to bring to life in a new way?
DAVID LYNCH: All the picture had a new life, and it was a great new life. It was a kind of a miracle to go from Sony BD150 quality to where it is now. It means that the future is gonna be fantastic for films, for cinema. It's amazing what is going on. The picture got way better. It got more focus and a deeper look. From what I first had to now: big, big, big beautiful change. And the sound! The sound also jumped, because there's now plug-ins that can clean dialogue. And these things are so beautiful. And also, that means the future is gonna be so great for sound.
The end-credits sequence of the movie carries such a feeling of exuberance, with all the dancers, Laura Dern, Laura Harring, and the monkey. I've always wondered, though, what's that lumberjack doing there?
Cutting wood. He's sawing a log. I grew up in the Northwest. I love wood so much, I can't tell you! You know, when you saw wood, it can be kind of what they might say zen. But then you release this aroma from the wood. You cut a piece of pine, and there's this [exhalation] this smell comes up. Right to heaven you go.
I do think Inland Empire features the most fantastic sequence ever filmed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As a longtime Los Angeles resident, what do you think of the Walk of Fame, and what were you trying to capture by filming there?
It's a street. It happens to be on Hollywood. And it happens to be a street where people have been immortalized, you could say, with these stars, with their name. And they're really pretty beautiful. The symbol for television, the symbol for cinema. It's minimal, but really precise, and instantly you know what it is. It's beautiful. And they're all up and down the street. But this is where this particular person was, at the time. You know, right in the middle of Hollywood, but a different version than what people think.
I have to ask: When Laura Dern vomits up blood in her "death" scene, which star is she vomiting on?
I don't know. And also, it wouldn't be correct to read into anything about which star it was and what happened there.
Did you ever take the bus to Pomona?
I've never taken the bus to Pomona, but I know that that's a real thing, 'cause it was researched. You can get to Pomona from Hollywood Boulevard.
This is the part of the interview when I usually ask people what they're working on next, but I was excited to see news yesterday that you have a new film coming out?
[Laughs] I have no new film coming out. That's a total rumor. So there you are. It is not happening. I don't have a project. I have nothing at Cannes. It's unfortunate. It got built up that people thought, "Oh, that'd be nice." But there is something new, but it's not mine. I don't know whose it is. They say there's something new at Cannes, and they don't say whose it is, and some people thought it was my film, but it's not. So we'll wait and see, and see whose it is.
Is there anything else you're currently working on?
I'm working on painting and sculpture each day. And I've been working on Lost Highway color-correcting and timing.
I was rereading the great book you worked on, Room to Dream. In the chapter on Inland Empire, someone who worked on the film says that there wasn't a full screenplay, but that you drew a map of the story. What did that map look like?
There was a screenplay of Inland Empire. People get it wrong, but anyway, it's okay. It's a long story, but there was a script. I did many drawings. A lot of times, I work things out in little drawings.
Did the drawings have any rabbits?
Sure. Yeah. It would have to!