10 things you never knew about this unforgettable series
It was in spring 1990 that the TV channel ABC first aired the brainchild of David Lynch which would capture the imagination of viewers worldwide. And did you know…?
The title was changed for copyright reasons
The real name of Twin Peaks (the American series which which ran for two seasons in 1990 and was the subject of a convoluted revival in 2017) should have been Northwest Passage – Twin Peaks. With the name of the imaginary small town in the state of Washington just a subtitle. Director David Lynch was forced to change plan when he discovered that the famous sea route (between the North Sea and the Pacific Ocean) called Northwest Passage was actually protected by copyright. But maybe it was all for the best…
The colossal demographic error
Twin Peaks, in the original screenplay drawn up by David Lynch and Mark Frost (the other main writer), should have had a population of just 5,120 inhabitants. A reasonable number for a small town in the Pacific Northwest. But ABC (the channel which produced the series) was totally against it because they believed that such a tiny population would have had little appeal to the great American public. And so they multiplied it by ten to get the 51,120 inhabitants made iconic by the sign on the tv credits. A sign which was also featured on the cover of the soundtrack issued and distributed to great success by Warner Music.
What is the first episode really about?
The first episode of the first season of Twin Peaks, the pilot that was aired for the first time in the US on 8th April 1990, is actually far longer. What we’re talking about here is an additional twenty minutes planned for the European debut which would be months later. Twenty minutes which would luckily never be aired (but used as dream sequences in subsequent episodes) because they contained – spoiler alert! – they revealed who killed Laura Palmer…The original intention of ABC was to sell the Europeans a sort of film made for TV, a self-contained product in case the broadcaster decided not to air the entire series.
Laura Palmer and her alter ego
The iconic character of Laura Palmer (played by the blonde actress Sheryl Lee) “returns” in the course of the series in the form of her cousin Madeleine Feguson: in fact, Lynch wanted Lee as part of the cast at all costs. A cousin whose only difference from the hapless protagonist is her glasses and the colour of her hair (another topos of Lynch’s work, see Lost Highway (1997)). For her name, he drew ironic inspiration from Kim Novak in Vertigo. In the famous film drected by Alfred Hitchcock, Novak is called Madeleine Elster while the leading actor, James Stewart, is called “Scottie” Ferguson…
From Russia with love
Rumour has it that Mikhail Gorbachev, at the time head of the Kremlin, was a big fan of Twin Peaks. The President of the USSR expressly asked the personal secretary of George Bush Sr. (the President of the United States) to reveal to him who had killed Laura Palmer! It wasn’t until years later that this story was told by Jules Haimovitz, head of the press office of the White House. When Lynch was informed of the request, he refused to budge an inch. His intention was never to reveal that name, not even at the end of the entire cycle of Twin Peaks. As we all know, he was foiled by ABC who obliged him to name the killer in the seventh episode of the second season, Lonely Souls.
Black Lodge: weird acting and sets
David Lynch had clear instructions for his actors for the various sequences in the terrifying Black Lodge: they had to say their lines backwards in order to make them sound even more disturbing. Then the lines were reversed again during post-production to create that weird effect in the dialogue. Many had trouble during multiple takes and needed the help of a speech coach. The only one who managed without any trouble at all was Michael J. Anderson who played the “Dwarf” and who had learned to talk backwards as a child. Which is why he got all the more complex lines. The geometric pattern on the floor of the Black Lodge, recalled that of the carpet in the Palmer’s home (where Leland Palmer, Laura’s father, is seen pacing up and down) as well as that of Henry, the main character in Eraserhead (1977), Lynch’s first film.
A nightmare called Bob
David Lynch created the character of Bob (played by set designer Frank Silva, who died of AIDS in 1995) when he saw Silva on set as he happened to be kneeling at the foot of the bed of Laura Palmer. Struck by the image, he decided to film it on the spot. But the fact was that the director still had no idea what he was going to do with it. It was while watching the dailies that Lynch had the brilliant idea of turning Bob into the frightening “demon” we know today. Silva, in fact, had ended up in a scene where Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie, Laura’s mother) screams in fear. You can see him reflected in the mirror above the head of the actress. Which just goes to show that sometimes the greatest horror ideas are the result of pure chance…
The quotations of Sheriff Truman
The name of sheriff Harry Truman (played by Canadian actor Michael Ontkean) is a clear tribute to the once President of the United States, Harry R. Truman, but also to an unknown 83 year-old man who was killed in Washington State during the awful eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, ten years before the arrival of Twin Peaks on TV. Another quote worth mentioning is the phrase “The bucks stops here” which appears in the sheriff’s office on a sign (under the head of a stuffed elk) which was a maxim of the real Harry R. Truman. By which the President meant that all final political decisions were up to him. Harry R. Truman was so fond of the expression that he had it carved into the wood of his desk in the Oval Office in the White House. From Washington D.C. to Washington State.
Steven Spielberg and the wish that was denied
The famous director Steven Spielberg, a close friend of Mark Frost, expressly asked producers at ABC if he might direct the first episode of the second season of Twin Peaks planned for autumn 1990. “It would be a real honour!”, added Spielberg in the hope of being chosen. But David Lynch was having none of it. So, just as he had directed the inaugural episode on 8th April 1990, he directed the episode May The Giant Be With You, aired on 30th September of the same year.
Twenty minutes to eternity
Believe it or not, the haunting main theme of Twin Peaks, with the sweet synthesisers and twang guitar, was written in just twenty minutes by the duo David Lynch-Angelo Badalamenti. Speakng of which, if you are feeling nostalgic, you can listen to it in the video below…