Twenty-five years ago today, the groundbreaking series “Twin Peaks” premiered. As we count down to next year’s much anticipated Showtime reboot, we look back at some behind-the-scenes facts about the extraordinary original.
“That gum you like is going to come back in style.“ – The Man from Another Place
It is! And so is Twin Peaks. The groundbreaking series premiered 25 years ago today, and ran for only two seasons, somehow managing in that short time to become a pop culture phenomenon and have a lasting impact on what would be creatively possible on television.
In 2017, those of us who were riveted to our TV sets every week watching the story unfold are going to be rewarded with 18 brand new episodes on Showtime, all written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, all directed by David Lynch, and all scored by Angelo Badalamenti. We’ll even see the Double R Diner again! Many of the original stars will also return to the show’s new incarnation, which is sure to captivate and confuse the hell out of us all over again.
Twin Peaks was centered around the murder of Laura Palmer, a teenager in a small town full of double identities, secret lives, strong black coffee, and cherry pie. The arrival of FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachan) brought with it Tibetan deductive techniques, creepy dreams, a dancing dwarf, and a giant. With haunting music by Angelo Badalamenti, a cast of old school movie veterans and young newcomers, and innovative storylines peppered with details from Hollywood classics, Twin Peaks gave TV viewers an experience unlike anything that had come before.
To celebrate both its anniversary and its renewal, here are seven fun facts about this extraordinary show with some bonus trivia for die-hard fans.
1. THE LOG LADY STILL HAS HER LOG
Catherine E. Coulson, aka The Log Lady, has been offered a lot of money for that log, but she’s still holding on to it. She used to take it with her to Twin Peaks conventions and appearances, but that ended when she stopped being allowed to store it in the overhead compartment on airplanes. According to the TSA, it could be used as a bludgeon, which is hard to argue with after seeing Windom Earle knock Bobby Briggs unconscious with it in the second-to-last episode. The log stays home.
2. THE SHOW HAD SOME PRETTY FAMOUS FANS
It’s not hugely surprising that filmmaker-auteur Quentin Tarantino is a fan. But there are a few others who might not seem as obvious:
Steven Spielberg. Some of the writers were friends with Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, and when they found out he was a fan, they talked to him about directing an episode. He was all set to do the first show of the second season, but when they reported this to David Lynch, he casually said no, he was thinking he’d like to do that one himself. Spielberg was welcome to pick any other episode that season. That was the only free time in his schedule, so that was the end of that.
Mikhail Gorbachev was such a fan of the show that he asked George H.W. Bush to use his Presidential power to find out who killed Laura Palmer. The President failed, not because his request didn’t make it through to David Lynch, but because Lynch hadn’t decided who the killer was yet.
An impressed Paul McCartney invited show composer Angelo Badalamenti to come work with him at Abbey Road Studios in London. While Badalamenti was there, Paul told him about the time he’d been asked to do a 40-minute set at Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday. When he was about to go on, the Queen greeted him kindly and then apologized, because she was about to leave. When he expressed his dismay that she was leaving her own party, she explained that it was “five of eight” and she had to go turn on the TV because Twin Peaks was about to start.
Other heavily influenced fans include David Chase (creator of The Sopranos) and J.J. Abrams (co-creator of Lost).
3. AUDITIONS WERE MORE LIKE MEETINGS THAN TRYOUTS
Some of the actors read for parts, but most of the time, casting director Johanna Ray brought them in just to sit down and talk with show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost. Ray Wise came in hoping to play Dr. Jacoby, they had a long conversation about the first cars they owned, and a few days later he was cast as Leland Palmer. He had to read the script all over again to see what Leland was all about.
Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman) – who remembered being “knocked out” by Lynch’s movie Blue Velvet when he went to see it with Paul Newman – was sure he was hired because of Lynch’s admiration for his worn-out biker jacket.
In many cases, once the show’s creatives met with actors, they decided then and there to expand the roles of those characters, even going so far as to create completely new ones. When Madchen Amick read for Donna Hayward’s part, they created Shelly Johnson just for her.
And Harry Goaz (Deputy Andy) was actually David Lynch’s driver! When the show got greenlit, ABC exec Gary Levine flew back to L.A. and was picked up by Goaz. Levine told him the show was a go, so he was going to be an actor now, and offered to drive the car himself.
4. THERE WERE A LOT OF FAMILIES ON SET
Notice anything about Windom Earle’s first murder victim? If his resemblance to Agent Cooper struck you, there’s a reason: he was played by Kyle MacLachlan’s brother Craig, who was also a production assistant on a few episodes.
David Lynch’s family got in on the act, too. His daughter Jennifer wrote the bestseller “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” which came out after the first season aired. And remember the grandson of one of Laura’s Meals on Wheels clients, with his hands full of creamed corn? That was Lynch’s son, Austin Jack.
Mark Frost’s father, Warren, played town doctor Will Hayward, and his brother Scott wrote a few scripts for the series as well as the novel “The Autobiography of FBI Agent Dale Cooper,” which covered Cooper’s early years and his history with Windom Earle.
The producers had a hard time finding their Leo until they realized that casting director Johanna Ray’s son, who was helping her out by reading with auditioning actors, was perfect for it. (He comes from good stock: his dad was Hollywood actor Aldo Ray, best known for The Green Berets with John Wayne.)
Jack Nance (Pete Martell) and Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady) were exes, having been married from 1968-1976.
Producer Robert Engels’ wife played Trudy the waitress at the Double R diner.
Caleb Deschanel directed three episodes, while his wife Mary Jo played Donna’s wheelchair-bound mother. (They have a couple of famous daughters, Zooey and Emily.)
Dan O’Herlihy, who played back-from-the-dead Andrew Packard, is the father of Gavan O’Herlihy, the double-crossing RCMP officer. Gavan’s other claim to fame is playing Chuck Cunningham, the brother of Richie and Joannie on Happy Days who disappeared from everyone’s lives and memories midway through season two.
5. TWIN PEAKS GAVE DAVID DUCHOVNY HIS FIRST TV JOB
He’d done a few movies, but David Duchovny’s first TV role was as transvestite FBI agent Dennis “Denise” Bryson, who comes to Agent Cooper’s aid when he’s temporarily kicked out of the FBI.
Duchovny was dating Kimmy Robertson (Lucy), who took his photo to Johanna Ray, and set up a meeting. Twenty-three years later, Robertson reflected that she thinks that was the only reason he was dating her! She also realized that he never reciprocated by inviting her to be on his show, The X-Files, which premiered two years after Twin Peaks. Michael Horse (Hawk) did guest star on The X-Files, and brought a picture to the set of himself with “Denise,” telling the crew that he had dated Duchovny’s sister. Duchovny walked in shortly afterwards, and ended all speculation with, “That’s me, you idiots.”
Duchovny, who will star in The X-Files revival next year, also hinted that Denise might be making a comeback to next incarnation of Twin Peaks.
6. THE SECOND SEASON WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THE ROMANCE BETWEEN AGENT COOPER AND AUDREY HORNE
It’s true. All that tension that was building up in Season 1 was actually going to lead where we were all hoping it would. But off screen, Kyle MacLachlan was living with Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna), and rumor has it that she wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey), who was already starting to get more press and award nominations than she was, having an onscreen romance with her boyfriend. So MacLachlan told the producers that he felt it was just wrong for Agent Cooper to date an 18-year-old. They argued, but he held the trump card, which was his continuing participation in the show.
New love interests were created for both characters. Audrey lost her virginity to the dashing John Justice Wheeler, played by Billy Zane, and Cooper was paired up with Norma’s sister Annie. Annie was played by Heather Graham, who was the daughter of a real life FBI agent and was in fact five years younger than Sherilyn Fenn. Oops.
7. DAVID LYNCH CAN FORETELL THE FUTURE
In the very last episode of Twin Peaks, which aired in 1991, Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper are together in the Black Lodge. Laura tells him, in her creepy backwards-speak, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”
Both Sheryl Lee (Laura) and Kyle MacLachlan (Cooper) have been signed to appear in the new Twin Peaks series, debuting on Showtime in 2017.
Now here are some fast facts that we just had to include:
• Frank Silva, who played the terrifying Bob, was actually the set decorator.
• Richard Beymer (Ben Horne) and Russ Tamblyn (Dr. Jacoby) co-starred in the 1961 classic West Side Story as Tony and Riff.
• The pattern on the floor of the Black Lodge is an enlarged version of the lobby of Henry (Jack Nance)’s house in Eraserhead. You can see the same pattern on Leland’s coat when he dances with Laura’s picture.
• The much-used homecoming queen photo of Laura Palmer is Sheryl Lee’s real prom photo.
• David Lynch didn’t allow the color blue in the series, as director James Foley, now on House of Cards, found out when he wanted a character to carry a blue suitcase.
• Diane Keaton directed an episode during the second season.
• Three actors from 1987’s Robocop are in Twin Peaks: Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, and Dan O’Herlihy. Ferrer is George Clooney’s cousin.
• Hank’s prison number is 24601, the same as Jean Valjean’s in Les Miserables.
• The FBI agent investigating Agent Cooper was played by Clarence Williams III, who co-starred with Peggy Lipton (Norma) in The Mod Squad back in the late 1960s. The producers gave them one quick scene together in the diner as a nod to their shared past. Peggy Lipton, by the way, is the mother of Rashida Jones. Quincy Jones is Rashida’s father.
• Maddy Ferguson’s murder – which revealed Laura Palmer’s killer – was filmed three different times, once with Leland doing the killing, once with Bob , and once with Ben Horne, to keep everyone on set guessing until the final reveal. (Poor Sheryl Lee; it turns out the scene was so violent she actually left scratch marks on the set floor.)
There are dozens more, especially if you’re into old movie references, but we’ll leave it at that. In the meantime, we’re counting the days until the show’s return. When we last left Twin Peaks, Dale Cooper was trapped in the Black Lodge, his evil doppelganger was possessed by Bob, and multiple characters were left to an uncertain fate, including Audrey Horne, Andrew Packard, Leo Johnson, James Hurley, Ben Horne, and Pete Martell. Will Julee Cruise be back to sing? Can we please make sure Sherilyn Fenn returns? If only my dreams would shed some light. . .