At the moment, everyone has Twin Peaks on the brain, thanks the recent premiere of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s 18-episode revival of the cult classic mystery series on Showtime. Naturally, Twin Peaks fans everywhere have already binge-watched the original series in anticipation, but there’s one other big piece of the Twin Peaks puzzle that shouldn’t be left out: Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 prequel film directed by Lynch.
Lambasted by critics upon its release for its bleak and disorienting plot, Fire Walk With Me was for many years ignored by all but diehard fans. But critical reexaminations, deleted scenes, and a promise from Lynch himself that it’s ”very important” to the future of Twin Peaks have pushed it back into the public imagination. So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, cut a slice of cherry pie, and check out these facts about the film.
1. IT HAPPENED FAST.
By the spring of 1991, Twin Peaks—which had once been a ratings juggernaut for ABC—was flagging. The resolution of the Laura Palmer mystery left the show without its most popular storyline, and various time slot shifts led to further viewership drops. The show was canceled, but co-creator Lynch did not wait long to continue the franchise. Fire Walk With Me was announced only about a month after the show ended in June 1991. Financing from French company Ciby 2000 came quickly, and by May of the following year, the film was celebrating its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
2. ONE TWIN PEAKS STAR WAS REPLACED, WHILE ANOTHER WAS LEFT OUT ENTIRELY.
Though Fire Walk With Me is primarily the story of Laura Palmer’s last week alive, Lynch had big plans for the film, and intended to bring back numerous Twin Peaks actors to reprise their roles from the show. Among the biggest names Lynch asked to return were Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne). Both actresses declined due to scheduling conflicts with other projects. Because Donna was Laura’s best friend, and therefore integral to the story, the role was recast with future The West Wing star Moira Kelly. Audrey Horne was ultimately left out of the film altogether, though Fenn recalled later that something really could have been worked out.
“I was just doing Of Mice And Men. David was mad at me. I was going to do it. I was set to do it! I was like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ And then they were going to have me do it in between that and whatever I was going to do next, but he wanted my hair to be cut, and there was this stupid thing where… [dismissively] Really, if they’d really wanted me, they could’ve figured it out. Not that they didn’t really want me to do it, but productions like to have you and just you, you know what I mean? The dates were completely conflicting, because I was supposed to be in Santa Ynez filming Of Mice And Men for eight weeks, so … that’s what happened."
3. KYLE MACLACHLAN WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A LARGER ROLE.
It wouldn’t feel like Twin Peaks without Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper. Cooper was the heart of the TV series, so it made sense that he would return for the film, but in July of 1991, the film was put on hold when it was announced that MacLachlan, on the hunt for new acting challenges, would not return to the role. By August of that year, MacLachlan was back on board, but Lynch and co-writer Robert Engels had to rewrite the script to reduce his role. In a 2000 Observer interview, MacLachlan explained the changes:
“Without getting too specific about it, David and Mark [Frost] were only around for the first series [of Twin Peaks],” he said. “I fought and fought to try and get them back, but … I think we all felt a little abandoned. So I was fairly resentful when the film, Fire Walk With Me, came round. I wanted to have a meaningful discussion about some of [the early] scenes, and David was unwilling to do that, so I was not in those scenes; Chris Isaak was in them, instead of me.”
Clearly there are no bad feelings, as MacLachlan has returned to the role of Dale Cooper in a big way for the revival.
4. LYNCH HELPED COMPOSE THE MUSIC, AND EVEN PLAYED ON THE SOUNDTRACK.
Lynch reunited with Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti for Fire Walk With Me, and got more involved than usual in the composition. He composed lyrics to several songs for the soundtrack (including “Questions in a World of Blue,” which featured the return of Twin Peaks Roadhouse singer Julee Cruise), and music for others. One track, “A Real Indication,” features Lynch on percussion and Badalamenti himself on vocals.
5. THE FIRST CUT WAS FIVE HOURS LONG.
The journey from announcing to premiering Fire Walk With Me took less than a year, and the production process itself was equally fast. In a little more than three months, Lynch managed to shoot half a million feet of film, an amazing amount for a final picture that runs just over two hours. Why so long? Well that’s in part due to the very large number of characters (including lots of Twin Peaks regulars) in the script. The first cut of the film came in at around five hours, which meant considerable trimming before the premiere.
6. THE RING AT THE CENTER OF THE PLOT HAS A WEIRD HISTORY.
Fire Walk With Me features an intriguing new addition to Twin Peaks lore: a ring that seems to have magical properties, which passes from the murdered Teresa Banks to Laura Palmer through weird Lynchian dream logic. Its exact powers and origins are still unknown, but it’s been around for a very long time. In the 2016 book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, by Peaks co-creator Mark Frost, it’s revealed that the ring has been owned by, among others, Meriwether Lewis and Richard Nixon. In one of the film’s infamous deleted scenes, it’s revealed that Agent Cooper’s girlfriend Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) was wearing the ring after escaping the Black Lodge at the end of season two of Twin Peaks, but it was later stolen from her finger by a hospital nurse.
7. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE HAS A CREEPY COINCIDENTAL CONNECTION TO A REAL MURDER.
Most of Fire Walk With Me was shot on location in Washington State, but because the film went over its allotted location shooting days, filming had to be completed in Los Angeles. The murder of Laura Palmer in a train car, originally set to be filmed in the Seattle area, was filmed on a soundstage on the last day of shooting, which also happened to be Halloween 1991. According to Frank Silva, who played the demonic Killer Bob, a real murder happened that same night near the location where the crew was originally supposed to film the scene.
"Five days after Halloween, in Seattle, they found the body of a girl off of Avenue 37 up toward the river, and the weird thing about it was that her name was Theresa Briggs," Silva told Fangoria. "Theresa Banks is the first girl who gets killed, and Bobby Briggs was one of the characters in the show. And when they did an autopsy, they discovered the murder had taken place five days earlier on Halloween night, the same night we were shooting the killing of Laura Palmer on the set in LA. It was really weird stuff. Art imitates life. Life imitates art."
8. LYNCH ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO MAKE MORE FILMS.
Though it functions largely as a Twin Peaks prequel, Fire Walk With Me also has elements of a sequel to the TV series, most notably when Annie appears in Laura’s dream (from the future, somehow transmitting into the past) to say “The good Dale is in the lodge and can’t leave. Write it in your diary.” If Laura wrote this information down, it means that someone in the future would have come across it in her diary (shredded to pieces but recovered by the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department) and known that the Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks had been replaced by a doppelgänger, as revealed to the audience in the season two finale of the series. Lynch believed that Laura did, in fact, write Annie’s message in her diary.
“I had hopes of something coming out of that,” he said,” and I liked the idea of the story going back and forth in time.”
Lynch apparently planned a trilogy of Twin Peaks films, but the idea was abandoned after the poor reception to Fire Walk With Me.
9. IT WAS LITERALLY BOOED BY CRITICS.
Most filmmakers only read the prior critical reception to their films, but Lynch actually got to hear it directly from critics. After the film premiered at Cannes in May of 1992, Lynch attended a press conference, where he was met with boos and hisses. Fire Walk With Me was critically panned at the time for being bleak, confusing, and deliberately devoid of much of the offbeat humor that made Twin Peaks what it was. Lynch, used to a mixed reception, took it in stride, but the press conference was still brutal.
“It was like I was made of broken glass, you know, when I went in there,” he later said. “And it really was not fun.”
The film has enjoyed a reappraisal in recent years, though, with critics such as Calum Marsh of The Village Voice naming it “Lynch’s masterpiece."
10. IT WAS BIG IN JAPAN.
Despite an icy critical reception and relatively poor box office performance in the United States, Fire Walk With Me was embraced in at least one part of the world: Japan. The Twin Peaks TV series didn’t arrive there until the show had nearly finished its American run, and it caught on like wildfire, with fans even staging mock Laura Palmer funerals in several cities. Fire Walk With Me premiered there in May of 1992, well before it got an American release, and ran in Japanese theaters all through the summer.
11. THE DELETED SCENES WERE KEPT HIDDEN FOR YEARS.
Because Lynch shot enough footage for a five-hour version of Fire Walk With Me, significant cuts were made to get the film down to a releasable length. This left many deleted scenes on the cutting room floor that gained interest from Peaks fans in the years after the film’s release. Even as the film made its way to various DVD releases, the deleted scenes were never made available due to rights issues with the original French investors who financed the film. Demand for these scenes ultimately grew so huge that a Facebook fan petition was started in 2011, and then, in 2014, the rights issues were finally resolved. The Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery box set included the original series, Fire Walk With Me, and more than 90 minutes of deleted scenes featuring extended moments from the film and numerous Twin Peaks favorites who didn’t make the final cut. Among the familiar faces: Big Ed (Everett McGill) and Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie), Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson), Pete Martell (Jack Nance), and Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean).
Lynch on Lynch, by Chris Rodley
The Secret History of Twin Peaks, by Mark Frost
The Complete Lynch, by David Hughes