With Showtime’s announcement this week that David Lynch has wrapped principal photography on the much-anticipated third season of the series Twin Peaks, as well as the release of the gargantuan, star-studded list of actors who’ll appear, the reality of the cult classic’s return is setting in for eager fans like the first sip of a damn fine cup of coffee.
With eyes looking toward both the 2017 season premiere and Lynch’s past works, playwright, writer, and actor Ilana Turner shares what the creator means to her, as well as a chance encounter with the director during a critical point in her career.
Even Cow Shit is Inspirational When David Lynch Directs It
When I met David Lynch, it was as visually stunning, inspiring, surreal, and filled with from-the-gut stuff — in short, as Lynchian — as a chance meeting could possibly be. With 30th Anniversary screenings of BLUE VELVET popping up, and pop culture a-buzz about the new Showtime TWIN PEAKS reboot, I am clearly not alone in obsessing about the worlds David Lynch creates. Well, I got to jump into Lynch’s world, if only for ten minutes, and I have to say that (unlike the owls) it was exactly what it seemed.
In 1988, BLUE VELVET, especially Dennis Hopper, the ear, my sudden-and-intense crush on Kyle MacLachlan, and the aspirational, unabashed womanliness of Isabella Rossellini, blew the lid off of my tiny suburban Maryland world for the better, the weirder, and most certainly forever. My parents were away and my super-fun times, permissive 25-years older half-sister would have let me do pretty much anything. I did not want extra ice cream, to sneak a boy over, or to [insert what cool 11-year olds do when rebelling here]. Instead, I nonchalantly told my sister, Ari, “I just want to hang out and watch this movie, BLUE VELVET that is supposed to be really cool.” “Ok,” she said, with her toothy grin, and then off we went to the video store next to Donut King and the State Liquor Store to rent the VHS. When we watched the film, I kept glancing at her to see if she was angry, or horrified, or if I was going to get in trouble. She wasn’t, I didn’t, and I swore her to secrecy, which she took so seriously that last year she whispered to me, unprompted, that she still hasn’t told my parents we watched BLUE VELVET.
Two years later, with my parents, I hungrily, fervidly watched TWIN PEAKS. So did my whole junior high school: I remember my red-bearded history teacher, Mr. B, suddenly ending an evening school event, with an unabashed look at the clock, so we could all get home in time to find out who killed Laura Palmer. So deeply were Lynch’s visuals seared into my mind that it was only six months ago I finally allowed a ceiling fan to be installed in my Southern California (read: HOT) house, having refused to live with one for my entire adult life because they make me think of Bob.
Fast forward to 2006 in Los Angeles. (It is autumn, not that you’d know by looking because there are no leaves that change and fall here.) I’m a full grown actress and writer living smack in the middle of Hollywood, and I’m having an epic meltdown about my choice of career, the sporadic nature of not-quite-success, and my seemingly murky future. Having enrolled in a class designed to help creatives manifest a surer destiny, I had already written a letter to Lynch requesting ten minutes on the phone to ask his artistic advice, and then sent this letter to his agent. (I also faxed the letter — because ten years ago people faxed — to his Transcendental Meditation Center, which called to tell me, in the nicest, most enlightened way they could, that they do not relay entertainment correspondence of any kind to Lynch, at his request.)
One afternoon, I was driving west on Franklin Avenue neurotically reciting this mantra I’d written for the class, “I will book a recurring role on a network series, I will work for Davids Lynch and Fincher, and I will move through the world with patience and grace.” My knuckles were white from clutching the steering wheel and my jaw hurt from the intensity of my chanting. As I turned left into the right lane heading south on La Brea, I looked at the corner and there, on the grass in front of the (then) brick-and-mortar First Church, stood a reed thin man with shock of vaguely pompadour-ish silver hair. David Lynch himself was at Hollywood Boulevard & La Brea, and he was shoveling cow shit. This is not a metaphor: he was really shoveling real cow shit, standing next to the black-and-white cow that shat it. Near Lynch hung a giant banner that said, “For your Consideration Laura Dern,” and a smaller banner I couldn’t read while swerve-reeling from shock.
I lived a block away so I sped, full-tilt to the driveway, jumped out of the car so fast I conked it out, and then ran back up to the corner, grinning. Though it was broad daylight and there was no soundtrack, the scene was the best kind of surreal. It must have been the tail end of Lynch’s promotional tour de force because there wasn’t anyone else around, and he was already shoveling. I watched, as this man who moved with perfect balance, methodically and somehow elegantly, cleaned up after his bovine companion. It didn’t smell as bad as I was expecting, so I assume the methane from the cows blended effortlessly into the exhaust and smog settled at the base of the Hollywood Hills. It was absolutely as though I’d achieved my wildest dreams and dived head-long into the latest David Lynch film, one in which he was also starring.
Up close, the smaller banner said, “Without cheese there wouldn’t be an INLAND EMPIRE,” which I thought must be a veiled “Hollywood is bullcowshit” commentary on the film industry. I later learned in VARIETY, that Lynch’s reasoning was far more transparent than mine: he ate a lot of cheese while filming the movie. He likely meant that he actually would not have finished INLAND EMPIRE without cheese, and the cows that made the cheese, because he would have keeled over on set from hunger. (Yep: my logic is less linear than David Lynch’s.)
I went to talk to a man I had deduced must be Lynch’s assistant. (This turned out to be solid linear thinking on my part.) I said something like, “Hi, I’m Ilana Turner.” The man, who we’ll call ‘J’, introduced himself, too. I said, “I’m a writer and an actress, and I make stuff, and Mr. Lynch is one of my biggest inspirations. Would he be willing to talk with me for a few moments about how he works?” Rambling, but not wholly embarrassing nor inaccurate, and delivered in a calm tone of voice. J looked me over, decided that at the very least I wasn’t dangerous, and walked over to Lynch.
They conferred, and then Lynch looked over at me and made what I guess was a similarly non-threatening assessment. J came back and said, “Ok.” And at that invitation, I walked over to talk to David F&*ing Lynch. After several pleasantries, I told him how impressed I was that his work is so singularly and unmistakably his own. He said, “Thank you.” I told him I was researching a play I was writing, and that I could really use his advice on how to tell stories from such a unique and personal point of view. Since it seemed like a longer conversation that could be best be had cow-free, I asked if it would be ok to talk more sometime, maybe by phone. In his calm and matter-of-fact way, Lynch said something very much like, “I can do that, but I’m very busy with INLAND EMPIRE for a few months yet. Ask J, my assistant, for his email address, and set something up for March.” How insanely generous, I thought, while I said something ineloquent like, “Really?! Thank you! Uh, that would be amazing!!!!!” I floated home clutching J’s email address.
In retrospect, I should have offered to help shovel. Perhaps if I had, Lynch and I would have had that longer conversation right then and there. I emailed J to schedule the in-depth conversation in March 2007, but never heard back despite following up. I wasn’t surprised not to get a reply because people like David Lynch really are busy with way bigger fish to fry. For my part, I did find way to tell that story I mentioned to Lynch in a unique and personal way, and the resulting award-winning play, O RÉJANE, turned out to be insanely visually striking, too.
Now Lynch must be very busy indeed with the new TWIN PEAKS, and there is a possibility it will be screened in theaters instead of on TV. I can’t help hoping that the new TWIN PEAKS does debut in theaters, and that some amazing programmer screens it as a double feature with the 30th anniversary release of BLUE VELVET. I hope to meet Lynch again on another corner, serving cherry pie and coffee, come Golden Globe nomination season.
Ilana Turner’s first play, the award-winning O Réjane, premiered at LA’s Bootleg Theater in November 2014. O Réjane won the Stage Raw Los Angeles Theater Award for Female Leading Performance, and earned two additional nominations, including one for Ilana as playwright. Turner’s one-act play, In Her Voice, is included in the 365 Women A Year project. Her monologue Sugar Coat It will soon be published in the LGBT Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny, out this year from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. Ilana previously worked as freelance writer for Turner Broadcasting andSkater’s Edge Magazine.
As an actress on screen, Ilana has worked for HBO, Sci Fi Channel, Spike TV, and starred in the BAFTA/LA-nominated film The Red Ace Cola Project. On stage, she starred in a world premiere at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Plays for 365 Days. Ilana holds a BA in theater and dance from Hampshire College. Also an ex-professional figure skater, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.