Q: So did you have trouble getting out of Toronto as well [after September 11]?
Q: How did you get out?
DL: Got a plane--an early flight to Las Vegas, and then drove over [to Los Angeles]. It's a 16-and-a-half-hour trip. A lot of delays, long lines, but you know--we got there.
Q: When you were making Eraserhead, you got to made it over--for a lot of different reasons--a long period of time, and you got immerse yourself in the world you were creating with that film. Is that one of the reasons why you've wanted to do another [television] series, so that you can allow yourself to be immersed in that reality, rather than in a film?
DL: Yeah. Well, you can immerse yourself into something in less time than six years [as on Eraserhead]. [Laughs] A lot of that time was down time because we didn't have any money. But still, you can look back and see certain ideas were caught because you had a lot of time, and you're in the world the whole time. And that's a beautiful thing. But it's important to learn how to focus and get down in there and stay in there, staying true to the ideas, no matter how fast things are going--and it's possible to do that. Sometimes you feel something so beautiful, you want to stay there longer, and then people are grabbing you, and you're going to the next location. That's kind of painful. I like the idea of a continuing story, and that's why [Mulholland Dr.] started out to go that way.
Q: When you're thinking of these things that have this "lifespan" like Twin Peaks and the potential for Mulholland Dr., do you see the whole story?
DL: No, no, no.
Q: Or is that the thrill of it for you?
DL: The thrill--you got it.
Q: Every week you can do whatever.
DL: No, no, no--not "whatever." Be led by the ideas, and act and react and feel. The thing starts evolving, but it doesn't evolve all at once. You're just in it, and you're just as in the dark as anybody else, and then suddenly the ideas start coming, and you know what the next step is.
Q: So you don't know, for example, who killed Laura Palmer.
DL: No. We honestly didn't have a clue.
Q: Does Mulholland Dr. represent your attitude toward the Hollywood studio system?
DL: It takes place in Hollywood and Los Angeles, but it's not about Hollywood or Los Angeles. It touches on parts of the business and parts of the city. Just like any story, you go, and there's a lot of locations and a lot of buildings and houses that you don't go into in the story; you pass by them. So the ideas tell you where to go and what to do when you get there. So you just stay true to the ideas.
Q: Does [the character] Diane come from someplace real? Have you known Diane; have you seen Diane?
DL: No. Someplace real? Maybe; I don't know. Ideas are kind of reality waiting to happen. I love thinking about ideas because everything in this room came from an idea. They're little sparks that show the way, and off you go. You're either building a house or a chair or making a film with those ideas, or making music or whatever.
Q: The casting of the female leads, I thought, was great. Can you talk about how that came about?
DL: Always try to get the right person for the role. In this case, since it was going to go to television, we had to get people that could sign on for a long ride. So like I say, that excluded Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.
DL: As you all know and everybody knows, there's a wealth of talent waiting. So you see pictures first and then narrow it down. Eventually you're meeting selects, one-on-one, and talking. And from talking to somebody and looking in their eyes, you just get a feeling. You're running the scenes, and you pass through those, and you're the one. It's real simple, but you're just going on a feel.
DL: Because they married to the role; they just married themselves to the role.
Q: It seems like in the past few years that doing test screenings on your movies would probably be a nightmare for a studio. You don't have to go through that process anymore, do you? I can imagine just what the cards would look like for this film.
DL: Well, actually, [Universal] tested this film, and it tested really good. You could ask them; they were pretty surprised. The focus group afterward wouldn't go away; they kept talking and talking and talking. There's a fun element to Mulholland Dr. that [the studio] knew for themselves, and they discovered other people felt it. Basically, it was a very positive experience. Blue Velvet tested the worst of almost any film in history except maybe--well, I don't know what.
DL: It tested bad. So you never know. At a certain point in the end of the process, I always sit with an audience--it doesn't need to be more than ten people or fifteen people--and you can feel when it's not working and when it's working. So you owe it to the film to do that maybe a couple of times to gain a little objectivity, slap yourself around a little bit, and get it fixed. The whole thing has got to work, and you sometimes are overcome with wishful thinking.
Q: It sounds like Hollywood is going to be changing the way they make films in the future. Will you be making slight changes in the way you make films?
DL: What do you mean?
Q: Maybe a little bit less violence...
DL: In the future of what, the world?
Q: In light of what's happened the last week.
DL: Well, here's the thing. There's no rules in, say, painting or filmmaking, really. Your own internal rules, maybe, but it's got to be in freedom to create something. At the same time, ideas that you fall in love with--you might fall in love with different ideas depending on what's happening in the world. I think that the collective consciousness or unconsciousness is always changing because everybody's feeding into it, and it colors what happens in all walks of life a little bit. When world events change so drastically, it'll take a while to find out what will change in ideas that you fall in love with.
Q: It sounds like the test process works well for you. But with big films, the studio always wants to pull things out. It doesn't seem like this would be a movie where they can tell you to pull something out because of the structure.
DL: You want final cut. You don't ever want to take a bad idea. And you don't ever want to throw out a good idea. If you don't have final cut, and the studio is telling you to this and this or change this and change that, naturally you have a tendency to fight them because they're dicking around with your film. So you might fight them even if they could be right. But the rightness you should be allowed to discover on your own. And it is the director's film, and for something to hold together, it has to be that way all the way through the process. It's kind of critical. They can give people suggestions. One guy at a studio told me, "We always give our directors final cut." This was a while back, and I don't know if it was United Artists or someplace. "We always give our directors final cut, then they'll listen to us because they have the right to say no." If you don't have it, a lot of people just turn off, and it's a mess. I think for me, I can learn something from sitting with people, and that's all it takes.
Q: You were talking about ideas being so important. When you finished the pilot, and you think it's going to be on ABC and it's not, then you get the opportunity to flesh it out into a movie--are there new ideas that come to it? Obviously there are scenes that weren't in the pilot that are in the final version--you couldn't do a full-blown lesbian love scene on TV, necessarily. Are there new ideas that generate that weren't there when you initially did the pilot?
DL: It's critical that you get some new ideas. You got a whole thing going open-ended, and now you're going to have to make a feature with a closed end. It's a nightmare if you didn't luck out and get those ideas to make it happen. And those ideas were not there when Canal+ spent millions of dollars getting [the rights] so it could be made into a feature. I wasn't really so panicked, but I didn't know when or if those ideas were going to come. It's kind of frightening to see somebody over there putting their money on the line, and you ain't got the ideas. But one night they came in. From 6:30 to 7.
Q: I don't know if you want to share this or not; people have been very secretive. But were you considering a lesbian relationship?
DL: Was I considering a lesbian relationship?
DL: Very much so. [laughs]
Q: I mean on TV.
DL: It doesn't make any good sense for me to talk about what could have been or would have been. I always say now, looking back, that it was a blessing that it started out as an open-ended TV show. And then the big blessing came with the ideas and the desire on Canal+'s part to allow me to make it into a feature. Because it went this way, the ideas--I wouldn't have ever gotten those ideas if it hadn't gone that way first. So it's really interesting to me how it happened.
Q:Laura said that you let them go during the sex scenes. That sounds a little bit like a porno movie and how a porn director would do it.
DL: But she's not remembering things quite correctly.
Q: Was it orchestrated, then?
DL: I'll tell you what it's like. In a way, you can never orchestrate a lovemaking scene. Well, you can orchestrate it up a point, say. It's like you give a couple of jazz musicians the beat and the starting melody, and then they take off. The situation's got to be created where it's safe for this to happen. It's a tricky business. It's got to be done in safety, dignity, and no funny business; and you set it up, and you go. Then it's up to them, their characters, to catch this and make it real. So in a way, once everything is set up, and the initial melody is given--yes, they take off, and it's variations on a theme.
Q: In the end, you're essentially working in two very different mediums. When you're filming for television, there's a different way you tell a story, different pacing--
DL: Not really. That's not true. I always see television like movies except they're shown on TV, and most movies are shown on TV anyway. Eventually everything ends up now on the little screen. With bad sound.
DL: So nothing else is different except there is a knowledge that it's going to be broken up. And you kind of owe it to yourself to think in terms of that a little bit. But that doesn't mean you can take the commercial [out] and sew these two together, and they won't work. They can work beautifully.
Q: But you have so much more time to be able to develop a character within a series because you have that much more time, literally. So it wasn't difficult for you to merge those two.
DL: No. It could have been; I was lucky.
Q: What appeals to you throughout your work about the road as a symbol for film narrative?
DL: I like roads, but I don't think, "How am I going to use a road in this next picture?" you know what I mean? It's weird how they appear. There are a lot of roads, and you can't go too many places without seeing some, and then if you go down them, you want to shoot them in a way that goes with the ideas. So I don't know how it happens. One of my favorite films is La Strada, and there's something about a road and moving down a road that's really compelling to people.
Q: What about the title, about getting the name Mulholland?
DL: That was the first thing. It's the title, the two words, and what it conjures up in my mind knowing the road and knowing that road at night. You marry that with the words, and you start getting a mystery. And when you start getting a mystery, you're starting to get pulled in. And you like being pulled in, so you're starting to kind of fall in love, and the journey to find those pieces starts.
Q:Twin Peaks is coming out on DVD. Are you involved in that process or are other people handling that?
DL: I have been to a couple of telecine sessions, but that's about it. It's a hair of a heartache--I think they're going to do a real good job, but my heartache comes they don't have the pilot at the front of it. There's a lot of absurdity in the world, and some of it is touched at Twin Peaks.
DL: It's in the works. It's been held up because of a desire to get the 17 small scenes in at the end of it. That's just going to be a whole lot of work doing those things, and it's going to cost some money.
Q: You're going to be redoing those scenes?
DL: No, they were scenes that were shot and partially edited, some more than others, that didn't make it into the final film. They're not going to go back into the film, but they would theoretically be at the end. Some of those scenes are now kind of important to me. My friend Jack Nance, who's dead, has a great scene with Mr. Mibbler in the lumber yard that I'd like people to see.
Q: Did you say 17 scenes?
DL: About 15 to 17.
Q: Would you ever revisit Twin Peaks?
DL: Well, I don't think so.
Q: I've talked to [series producer] Robert Engels a couple of times, and he always says it's a possibility. But is it something you would want to resurrect if you could?
DL: I love the world of Twin Peaks. [long pause] I don't know; I think it's gone now. But it's living the way it is, you know.
Q: Do you have any ill will at all toward ABC?
DL: Not one little tiny bit.
DL: Not one bit of ill will. Like I said, they did their part. They got it started, and part of their role was to say, "We hate this."
Q: Would you still want to explore doing another series?
DL: On the Internet. The Internet is a great home for experiments, series--all kinds of things, and it's done in freedom; it's done at your own pace. It might be funky quality right now, but there's, as we all know, so many people are focusing there. And every week there are huge advancements.
Q: With the technology today, the fans are actually taking movies and reediting them the way they would like it. What would you think if fans started doing that with your work?
DL: They better not meet me on the sidewalk.
Q: So you would be upset with that.
DL: No. It's just fun to fiddle around. But there are some things that you would like to think are kind of sacred. I wouldn't take one of Stanley Kubrick's films or Billy Wilder's films or anybody's film and start fiddling around with it. It's like taking a Picasso or a Van Gogh or an Edward Hopper and start painting in a bunch of other stuff. It's for at home with your Photoshop; you might fiddle around. It's tricky business.
Q: What about when filmmakers do that? It seems that movies are so malleable now that the movie will be out in theatres, and six months later, "Now we've added three new scenes!" And other directors are going back and revisiting older material.
DL: I think it's always hard to say when to stop. Like in a painting--you step back at one point and say, "It's finished." And in a film, the same way. Years could go by, you see it, and maybe you would like to make a couple little changes, or maybe it just runs perfect, and you can't believe how good it's running. But it's over. It's stopped; it's the final thing. And when it's the final thing, you should walk away from it--unless you didn't have final cut, and you were yearning to make it certain way, then it's a gift to be able to fix it one day. On only Dune would I go back in for that reason; I didn't have final cut. And I couldn't even fix it, then.
Q: Would you say with something like Star Wars, with things getting changed all the time--do you think that's wrong to do, or do you think that's OK?
DL: It depends on for what reason it's done. If it's to make more money, that's a little strange. I'm not saying that's the case, but why didn't you do it right the first time, I say.
Q: So you don't think there's anything you could do to help Dune even if you wanted to right now.
DL: Not really because I say I started selling out earlier--when we started shooting.
Q: If people were going to go back and do a case study on your films, what would you suggest they start at?
DL: The short films, and then work through in chronology. You never know how things will unfold, but they unfold a certain way. There wouldn't be another reason to go another way.
Q: Do you have a specific idea for what you would like to do on the Internet?
DL: I've been working on two years for a site, and hopefully it'll be launched October 12.
MD: I've been waiting on that since that page has been up, over a year.
Q: It seems like you have very extensive opinions on this. Is there any way you can summarize your view on the connection between film and the filmmaker's subconscious?
DL: Film can tell and can show abstractions. It is a beautiful language, and it's a language that doesn't rely on words. So with sound and picture and timing, you can make some beautiful abstractions that other human beings can feel and intuit just like they would feel their subconscious in a dream or some abstraction coming up or going into a room and getting a feeling--the machine kicks in and makes sense of it. Film is so powerful in that way.
Q: I thought it was interesting that in the first synopsis we got it said, "a love story set in Los Angeles"--
DL: No, "a love story in the city of dreams."
Q: And now it's--
DL: Bigger? Oh, I don't know. The thing is everyone wants to get the potential audience out there to have some understanding of what they're going to see. That's good. Too much knowledge before you go in is bad. So it's a fine line. When you release a film, it's already done, and I don't know all the different audiences. There are experts who say, "David, you know, if you want to reach those people, we got to do this, and we got to do that," and I got to trust that. I want lots of people to see the film, and I don't want them to get afraid. I don't want them to think it's strange and not understandable because it isn't. It's got abstractions in it, but it's a human story. It's got a mood and a feel, and it's a great world to go into. So whatever it takes for you all to get your audiences--if you would help me--to see Mulholland Dr. and have the experience.