The Late Late Show, Feb. 26, 1997
David Lynch Interview

Synder: With such acclaimed films as "Eraserhead", "Blue Velvet" and the "Elephant Man" to his credit, as well as the groundbreaking television series "Twin Peaks", David Lynch is one of the most colorful and best known directors of our time. He is here tonight with his newest movie called "Lost Highway." It's a pleasure to welcome you here and thanks for joining us at CBS.

Lynch: Thank you Tom.

Synder: In reading about you this afternoon, at about 20 years of age you were in Philadelphia.

Lynch: I sure was.

Synder: And there, you loved painting but you also became intrigued, as I read, with the idea of animation, of making the pictures move.

Lynch: Well, I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Broad and Cherry streets, and...

Synder: I know it well. I worked there.

Lynch: Yeah. If we could just stop for a second because I watched you in Philadelphia and I think you came to L.A. in 1970.

Synder: The same year.

Lynch: Yeah. And so I come out here and I see you on TV here. I couldn't get away from you.

Synder: Did you say, "What, is this guy following me."

Lynch: It was really, really...

Synder: Weird?

Lynch: Perplexing.

Synder: And weird.

Lynch: Yeah

Synder: Which would appeal to you.

Lynch: It appealed to me. And I was painting, and the painting, as I said before, I was painting very dark paintings. And I saw some little part of this figure moving, and I hear a wind. And I really wanted these things to move and have a sound with them. And so I started making an animated film as a moving painting. And that was it. I wasn't in the film business, I was just...

Synder: You were doing it informally. It wasn't for commercial release. You were just tinkering around.

Lynch: It was extremely informal. I built this one minute film on a sculptured screen with the sound of a siren going for an experimental painting and sculpture contest at the end of the year, that they had every year.

Synder: And then you made a short film while in Philadelphia did you not?

Lynch: Well, I made that short film, and I made two other short films through...well the first one wasn't through the American Film Institute, but I got a grant from the Independent Filmmakers program from the American Film Institute, and that was pretty much one of the happiest days of my life.

Synder: And what was that short film.

Lynch: That was called "The Grandmother."

Synder: Right. And what was the one with all the faces?

Lynch: That was the very first one, "Six Men Getting Sick." It was actually untitled and I've since then titled it.

Synder: And so what's it titled now?

Lynch: "Six Men Getting Sick."

Synder: They throw up and then their heads blow up.

Lynch: Well, no they don't blow up. There's some fire involved and then they become sick.

Synder: Now, where did your early ideas for films come from? When Eraserhead was being formed in you imagination, where were these ideas coming from, and did you have filmmakers in mind who you wished to emulate or take from...movies you'd seen as a kid?

Lynch: No sir. Ideas are, I think we'd all agree, the greatest things going.

Synder: Nothing happens unless someone has an idea.

Lynch: Exactly right. And ideas are sort of closely connected to thoughts. And the ideas and thoughts are out there, and how do they come to us. It's a mystery. One minute they're not there and the next minute they're there. But certain things trigger these things...they must. My greatest influence was the city of Philadelphia.

Synder: No kidding?

Lynch: No kidding. Eraserhead was born in Philadelphia.

Synder: And where would the ideas come from? I know that you look at little beneath the surface that the rest of us see.

Lynch: Well, everybody does. Everybody senses things, You go into a room and someone's sitting there and you immediately know that this person is sad. And you can sense it in the air. They don't really have to say anything. Words communicate many things but there's something else that comes through the air that communicates actually much more. So as you go around in Philadelphia you see things and thoughts begin to form.

Synder: Things like?

Lynch: Well, I saw many things. I didn't probably live in an area like you lived in. I lived in a quite bad areas of town.

Synder: Okay

Lynch: So I would see things.

Synder: Like one thing you saw?

Lynch: Well, I saw a woman in a backyard squawking like a chicken, crawling on her hands and knees in tall, dry grass. I saw many strange things.

Synder: That'd catch my eye too.

Lynch: Yeah. That scene was not in Eraserhead.

Synder: Anyway, Eraserhead was an enormous success, though it took you five years to get it together, to get the money to have it made. Mel Brooks saw it...

Lynch: Eraserhead wasn't a great success. It was on the marquees on art houses for many years but in terms of great successes it was...

Snyder: I'm not measuring success in dollars.

Lynch: Then it was a tremendous success.

Snyder: Anyway, Mel Brooks sees this picture and he said "you direct The Elephant Man."

Lynch: Yeah, it was, I said before maybe even 999 out of 1000 people would not have said that after having seen Eraserhead. But it was my good fortune to meet up with Mel Brooks.

Snyder: Yeah, but he saw Eraserhead.

Lynch: Right, he did.

Snyder: And something in that picture, I don't know what it was because I haven't talked to him about it something touched him.

Lynch: Yes.

Snyder: Something said this is the man who can bring this project to fruition.

Lynch: Yes.

Snyder: As a matter of fact, the project, you not only brought it to fruition, but it earned you an Academy Award nomination.

Lynch: It did.

Snyder: And placed you in the fore front of young Hollywood motion picture directors.

Lynch: Yes, it was a beautiful thing.

Snyder: And a gift from God.

Lynch: It was. It was.

Snyder: OK, there you go. Now, we will continue in just a second here because I want to go to the next part of the story; where you are offered the directorship of "The Return of the Jedi" and you reject that and say no I'm going to go on and make a picture called Dune.

Lynch: It wasn't quite that way, but . . .

Snyder: Yeah, but for my little purpose here.

Lynch: Sure. Fantastic.

Snyder: We will continue with David Lynch. The newest picture is called Lost Highway. And we have a little clip from that as well.

Lynch: Fantastic.

Snyder: So we'll have all that and more on the plate right after this short break.

Snyder: Let me try this. Had you done Return of the Jedi instead of Dune, what difference do you think it would have made in your life?

Lynch: You can never tell about those things.

Snyder: To Susan on the toll free in Raleigh , North Carolina. Hello and welcome to CBS.

Susan: Good morning.

Snyder: Good morning.

Susan: My question tonight is: David are you ever bothered by what the critics say about your films and when are you coming back to Wilmington(?).

Lynch: Oh, you're calling from Wilmington?

Susan: Yeah, well I live in Wilmington sometimes and work on films, but we need you here.

Lynch: Well, bless your heart. Yeah some things critics say bother me. I really believe in constructive criticism instead of destructive criticism.

Susan: Uh-huh

Lynch: And so lately I'm not reading, ah, those things.

Susan: OK

Snyder: You don't mind if somebody, for example, were to review your film and point out what, in their view, they felt were deficiencies. But if they simply come out and say David Lynch made a stinky movie, that's not fair. But if someone came out and made a legitimate critique of your work. That's OK by you?

Lynch: Right. I had a great teacher named Frank Danielle at the American Film Institute. And he taught with constructive criticism.

Snyder: OK.

Lynch: So you could be criticized, but it was money in the bank for you, for your next project, and even inspire you as he was being somewhat critical.

Snyder: Got you. Susan, glad you called. Thanks for watching.

Susan: Oh yeah, see you in Wilmington.

Lynch: See you Susan.

Snyder: Alright, bye bye.

Susan: Bye.

Snyder: Robert Blake was here about two weeks ago and he talked about making this film, Lost Highway, with you. And he said, and I can say this to you because you probably heard this, that he saw the picture and he didn't really understand the picture. Is it OK with you if people go to this movie and just don't understand it.

Lynch: Well, Robert's a little slow. But . . .

They laugh

Lynch: No, Robert's a great guy. And he was great on your show.

Snyder: He always is.

Lynch: He's just got a way. And it was really because a talk show, I saw him on Carson a long time ago and I was so impressed with him for being a guy who speaks his mind.

Snyder: Yes.

Lynch: And he told me right at the first meeting, "I don't understand the script, but I want to do it." An actor has to understand his or her character. As far as the whole thing, it may not be 100% important. And Robert is incredible. He had an inner thing going in his performance that was really something.

Snyder: I've got a little clip of him. What is his character?

Lynch: He plays a guy called The Mystery Man.

Snyder: The Mystery Man. Alright, let me just show this to you. This is a little snippet here from Lost Highway featuring the work of our friend Robert Blake as directed by David Lynch.

(They view the Fred and Mystery Man calling scene)

Snyder: Robert Blake with Bill Pullman from a scene from Lost Highway. It's in release now in theatres everywhere?

Lynch: No it's going to 175 theaters this Friday, this weekend. And it will go up as it goes through the weeks.

Snyder: I hope it's a huge success for you. I'm an enormous fan of your work. I must tell you that and I treasure meeting you and I hope you'll come back.

Lynch: Tom, it was a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Snyder: Thanks, my pleasure. David Lynch, my friends. The picture is called Lost Highway. Look for it in theaters in your town.

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