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Collider Interviews David Lynch and Laura Dern – ‘INLAND EMPIRE’
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By Richard Toledo

I cannot begin to describe the honor and joy and nausea I felt at being able to be in the presence of a genius--and my personal idol-- Mr. David Lynch. This being my first opportunity to attend a roundtable interview, I was already nervous to begin with. But to have my proverbial cherry popped by Lynch and Laura Dern? Now there’s a threesome made in Heaven. And this was highly unusual for Lynch as he never really makes himself accessible to the media. Just a few weeks ago the man was hanging out on LA street corners with a cow and “For Your Consideration” banners. I seriously did not make that up. Many commuters were a bit unhappy with Mr. Lynch and his cow friend when they caused a traffic jam on the corner of Sunset and La Brea. Hey, at least he knows how to get people’s attention.

The interview itself was more than I had hoped for. Lynch is known to be vague, if not downright evasive, when it comes to answering questions regarding his work. At the AFI Fest last month, someone asked him how he feels about the South, and he gave a long, rambling answer that included what his favorite tree is (the Ponderosa Pine in case you ever wanted to know, with the Douglas Fir coming in a close second). So this is what I expected. What I actually got were answers that actually resembled answers! And they were sort of coherent answers, too! Lynch will always be Lynch, but this time he seemed more willing to share his thoughts and what his filmmaking process is like.

All this was of course publicity for his new film INLAND EMPIRE (he insists it be spelled in all capital letters). So far as I know, Rolling Stone is the only publication to give it a good review. (3 ½ stars? Seriously?) As much as it pained me, I had to give it a good thrashing. But only a truly gifted filmmaker can make a mess like INLAND EMPIRE. You can read my review here.


I have to thank Frosty once again for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No words can describe my gratitude and I am forever in his debt. And remember INLAND EMPIR opens this Friday in L.A. and NY.

Frosty here. Don’t worry… Some day---and that day may never come---I may call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day--accept this gift…

To listen to the interview click here




So how long were you guys in production on this film?


David Lynch: Well, production is a weird thing.  How long over from the beginning to the end was about three years but we weren’t always, you know, shooting every day, you know what I mean?  A lot of days we weren’t shooting.


[To Laura Dern] Did he just call you up like every once in a while and say like, “I got a camera, I got an idea”?


Laura Dern [to David]: Pretty much, right?


David: Yeah.


It seemed like there was a lot of different styles in this picture compared to some of your other work.  There was a lot of handheld type of stuff. Did you take any different type of approach to this project than you did others?


David: Yes, because I was shooting DV with a small, lightweight camera.  It was so beautiful to me to be able to hold the camera and float around and let it move according to what I was feeling or seeing, where as before you’re behind a massive camera.  In front of you is an operator and a focus-puller and you got a kind of barrier.  Even if you wanted to move, if you felt a thing it was impossible.  And like say in the next take you might say, “Can you drift in on this line a little bit, like this,” but it may not happen the same way the next take.  So it gives you this, you know, ability to really kind of be in there and stay in there because it’s forty minute takes.  It’s very beautiful.


How different was it for you, having worked with David on previous projects?


Laura: You know, again I’ll almost repeat the same idea of liberty that comes with working with that.  You’re liberated as an actor in the same way David describes.  You never miss anything because you’re right there.  You never miss an opportunity of being in the moment because suddenly now, not just the performance but the camera is offering that in-the-moment opportunity.  You can catch anything and he can hear what the actor seemingly off camera is doing and wanna capture that and just flip around.  And because of the luxury of a forty minute take, if you need it, I mean, forty minutes in the camera, that you just shoot an entire scene without ever stopping and he can get all the coverage he wants and we are staying within the moment of acting out the scene and you know, not cutting and resetting but in fact even while filming talking to me because the luxury of the lack of expense as well to say, “Let’s do it again.  OK, go back to this line, let’s keep going.”  And you’re just, as an actor it’s just an incredible feeling to stay true to the mood, the feeling that’s going at that given time. 


David, could you talk about how this film relates to some of your other work, because there seem to be like similarities with Mulholland Drive and we actually saw some clips of Rabbits [the surreal rabbit-people sitcom Lynch filmed at his house] in this film.  So is this film an extension, or how would you view it?


David: It’s different, but similarities because it deals as Mulholland Drive did with the movie, you know, industry, and it has the, you know, female lead so-


Laura [to David]: Thank you!


David: -then, you know, it takes off and becomes different.


It felt almost a little bit like a collage of some of your previous work.  It’s like you were taking just little snippets and things.  Is that intentional?


David: No.  Ideas come along and you, you know, catch an idea and sometimes you catch an idea that you fall in love with and you see the way that cinema could do that.  It’s a beautiful day when that happens.  And the idea tells you everything.  Because we got our own kind of mechanism, we kind of fall in love with certain kinds of things, but every film is different and it’s based on the ideas that come.  And these are the things that you try to stay completely true to and all the elements you try to get to be feeling correct before you walk away, and you just go. 


So Laura, with this particular role you got so many different levels, so many different performances, various versions of the same person layered upon each other.  How was that working for you with the script and what you do as an actress and your focus?  How did that change for you as opposed to other films you’ve done?


Laura: You know, now more than ever the day’s work was at hand and what I had, given that we shot in such a way that we would, David would write a scene and we would film that and then he would write another scene and we would film that and so on, it forced me very luxuriously into the moment.  I didn’t necessarily know what had come before or what was coming after.  And whether one perceives that I am different people, or that I am aspects of one person, either way you can really only act that one way which is being the person you are in that one moment.  So in a way, not knowing everything and trying to, somehow, get to logically-minded as an actor and try to help the audience understand how this relates to that etcetera, I was freed from any of that by David keeping me in the moment with whatever character I was playing, you know, whichever aspect of the story I was involved in.  And that was extremely freeing and in a way, I think, allows for more imagination as an actor because you know, as much as an actor wants to believe (I think, this is just from my own experience) that they are not informing the audience.  There can be a pitfall of feeling, “Because my character is going to do this five scenes from now, maybe I should give them a little bit of a taste of that so they know what’s coming.”  But as we see human nature doesn’t work that way, and we’re deeply surprised in the news when we hear, “So-and-so who seemed like such a nice guy did this atrocious thing.”  And so being forced by the director, if you will, to just be this aspect of what I’m supposed to explore, I think made me get to be braver by default. [Laughs] That isn’t true! 


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