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LYNCH, DAVID: MULHOLLAND DRIVE

A DRIVE ON THE BLIND SIDE
He loves not to know the magic tricks behind the screen, to explore the unknown in the movies, to cast actors by the way he feels about them - and he thinks we can all think for ourselves. David Lynch tells lots to Jenny Cooney Carrillo Ė except what Mulholland Drive is all about.

The name David Lynch conjures up many images, but probably none of them boring. The dynamic 55-year-old director/writer/producer has one of the most unique voices in Hollywood and does not disappoint with his latest offering, Mulholland Drive. In the drama, Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring play two actresses who have a relationship that inspires great passion and jealousy. But in the end, nobody can tell whatís real, unreal or surreal.

Earning his first Oscar nomination in 1980 for Best Director of The Elephant Man, Lynch won acclaim for the controversial Blue Velvet before creating the cult TV series Twin Peaks in 1990, which lead to the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me two years later. He also directed Wild at Heart and The Straight Story, which won an Oscar nomination for its male lead, the late Richard Farnsworth before shooting a pilot in 1999 for Mulholland Drive. The series was not picked up by the network and two years later, his film version of the same subject premiered at Cannes and shared the Best Director trophy (with Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasnít There).

I saw Mulholland Drive but I am really not sure what I saw. Can you explain what you wanted to achieve?
There are all different kinds of films and with some films you donít have to think too much. One thing that really bugs me these days is people say no one wants to think, and audiences donít want to think, they just want something spoon-fed to them. That is so much baloney. People love to think. Weíre all detectives and we can think and itís really good to think and itís really good to pay attention. Donít be afraid to use your intuition and feel and think your way through something like Mulholland Drive. You have an inner knowing after an experience like that and you can know something for yourself. It may be difficult to explain it to your friends and you may find that you have disagreements, but for yourself you know a lot of things that you maybe canít trust, but you know them. So itís a beautiful thing, this thing of cinema, through abstractions and by telling a story you can have all the people saying the same thing afterwards, but thereís room in the world for great things that are abstract where people talk about it and have different opinions. Itís a great big beautiful world.

So is part of the film a dream sequence?
I am not going to verify anything (laughs), and thatís the fun for all of us. When I go to see a film, or read a book, I donít want to go and find the author and have him tell me about what I just saw. The thing was worked on for a long time to be a certain way. Also a lot of authors and filmmakers are dead and you canít dig them up and find out about it. Itís up to you to make what you can out of things. Maybe you can think back on things or maybe see it again and things will fall into place. It starts from the beginning. There are things youíve got to pay attention to. To me, thatís what I want to see when I go into the cinema.

The film was originally going to be a series for television. Could you describe what happened?
This was set out to be a series for ABC television and it was built in the beginning to be a pilot which is open-ended. You start many, many threads and the pilot was being worked on right when we were working on The Straight Story. There was a bunch of strange things that happened around the time the pilot got finished to the point where we could show ABC. It was not a successful final form, but they saw this thing and truly hated it (laughs) so it looked like it was really dead. But what was happening was a blessing in disguise and you would never trick yourself this way, in any other situation, to start something this way and have it go this way, but the opportunity arose to make it a feature film. It required some ideas to make it into a feature film, ideas I didnít have, until one night I sat down in the chair and these ideas came into me and it was a whole new restructuring. We did a whole bunch more shooting and now it is what you see today. I see it as a thing that always wanted to be as it is, it just took a strange route to get there. As for what it was as a television show, that is such past history that itís not even worth mentioning. The matter of import is that it had to start there in order to be what it is now.

How did you cast the women in Mulholland Drive?
It is the same for me with every film. The right person for the role and how that happens is a process. I start from still pictures and keep weeding down until I am sitting with the persons that have been narrowed down, one on one, talking to them. They never read any cold readings of anything from the script; itís just talking and as youíre talking youíre running them through the scenes of the film, but youíre getting more than that. Youíre getting lots and lots of feelings from this person and one person rises up and is the right person for the role. That is how I found Naomi and Laura.

Can you tell me about the street Mulholland Drive and what it means to you?
When a place has a sense of mystery that ties in with a feeling of the unknown then that brings in maybe some fear but also has a pull. It could be a beautiful unknown. A lot of things start happening when you start feeling a mystery. Mulholland Drive is sometimes the most beautiful, pleasant, safe place where you can see off into Hollywood and into the valley. Other times it seems very mysterious and thereís a little bit of fear involved with it. So as I said before, it was the mystery of it, a night-time feel that started this thing.

You use Roy Orbisonís music in both Blue Velvet and in this film. Is there a reason?
Iíll tell you the story of the woman who sings Crying in this film. Just before we started shooting on Blue Velvet I met up with Kyle McLachlan in New York and we were going through Central Park and on the cab radio came Roy Orbisonís Crying. Something struck me and I said, ĎIíve got to get Royís Greatest Hits and I might even try to get Crying for Blue Velvetí. I got down to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we were going to shoot, and I got the Greatest Hits album and listened to it and heard In Dreams. I forgot about Crying. So years go by and my ex-music agent calls me up as he does every so often to introduce me to some new person and he wants to bring this girl by to just stand there and sing for me and maybe have a cup of coffee. I said great so she came by the next morning at 10 oíclock. She was four minutes in the room, didnít even get her coffee yet and John, the engineer, had lit a mike in the booth. She goes in, four minutes off the street and sang whatís in the film right now - Crying. I never knew her before. I didnít know what she was going to sing. Thatís in the film. Thatís her singing a cappella four minutes off the street. Sheís got a voice like an angel.

What about the house you chose?
Ok, let me tell you a story. One time I got to meet Billy Wilder and I asked him, because weíre all sort of curious, about the mansion in Sunset Boulevard and he told me something, and as soon as he told me I wished I didnít know. So, itís a magical thing going into a new world. For myself, I like to go into a theater. I love it when the curtains open and the lights go down. To have the experience in the unknown and see whatís going to happen. The more I know going in, the less enjoyable that experience is. Where things are or how things came into being, some magic trick that someone ruins by telling you how itís done, kills things. Itís your job to find out about stuff like this, but donít kill the film. Itís unbelievable whatís going on these days to kill films.

There are some directors who people feel make movies only for themselves and their friends and if you are not in that group you can never truly appreciate the films. Do you see yourself as part of that group?
That is an interesting thing but really a load of baloney (laughs). I get ideas sometimes that I fall in love with, just like a painter gets some idea he wants to translate into a painting. The joy is falling in love with an idea and translating it to some medium and as youíre doing that, in the back of your mind, is the idea that other human beings will have the same thrill that we had when we got these ideas. If youíre true to the ideas. Itís not a selfish thing really, itís a beautiful personal experience to translate ideas into film but you always hope that others will have the same feeling.

When people say a film is by David Lynch there are all sorts of expectations that it will be surprising and offbeat, so when they meet you do people have expectations? Are they scared of you? What is the general reaction that people get when they actually meet you, knowing your body of work and what it reflects?
Mostly girls start falling in love with me (laughs)! Always when we know people at first itís just the surface, we get an initial impression or weíve heard things about people, and when we finally meet them itís an ongoing process to get to know them better and better and better. Maybe you realise that your first impression was wrong. Sometimes they wind up not being your friends but itís kind of ridiculous to go by labels and surface things when youíre talking about knowing somebody.

What about yourself? How well do you know yourself and the ideas that you come up with? Have you ever spoken to anyone to figure yourself out?
Well, I did go to a psychiatrist and I asked him about some problems I had and I asked him if going into this could affect creativity. He said, "Iím afraid, David, it could." I shook his hand, thanked him, and left (laughs). I know they help a lot of people and itís a tricky business. Knowing yourself is probably what weíre all about, but itís an individual trip.

Would you consider using the Internet for showing an ongoing story line?
I am exploring it. I have been working for two years to build the site davidlynch.com. Itís a pay-per-view site and a membership site. In the Internet everyone expects things for free and there wonít be anything to expect. It costs so much money. Itís not millions but itís a lot of money and it takes a lot of people and a lot of time to make it work. Itís in its infancy right now so the quality is kind of bad, but itís a beautiful thing. There are ideas that can be expressed there that wouldnít be expressed otherwise.

Published January 31, 2002



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