Family & Companions
Lynch launched a members only web site at www.davidlynch.com in December 2001.
He served as president of the jury at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
Much like his body of work, David Lynch often defied tidy description. As a filmmaker it was possibly more instructive to refer to him as a surrealist artist working in the medium of film, rather than a traditional movie director and writer. From his debut feature "Eraserhead" (1978), it was clear that Lynch held a deep fascination with the utterly grotesque residing just below the surface of the everyday. He would use that fascination to his advantage with his second film, the hugely successful "The Elephant Man" (1980), only to be dealt a bitter blow by the disastrous, costly experience of "Dune" (1984). However, with the quasi-autobiographical thriller "Blue Velvet" (1986), Lynch would establish a thematic aesthetic - dubbed "Lynchian" - that he would continue to evolve throughout his career. He also had tremendous, albeit brief, success in television with the series "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1989-1991), a murder mystery that temporarily tapped into the American zeitgeist. In the wake of the series' end, Lynch instinctive defied expectations, releasing the exceedingly violent "Wild at Heart" (1990) and the almost universally reviled (but later reappraised) "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992). And yet, Lynch's resolve to make his films his way remained resolute. As did his ability to confound and surprise audiences, exemplified by films like the truly mind-bending "Lost Highway" (1997) and the heartfelt "The Straight Story" (1999), his most conventional and heartwarming narrative feature. Moving into the 21st Century, Lynch continued to defy conventions - as well as traditional narrative structure - with films like "Mulholland Dr." (2001), even as he contributed voice work for a cartoon sitcom, delivered the daily Los Angeles weather report on his personal web site, and filmed an info-movie for Christian Dior - very Lynchian, indeed. After the three-hour, almost deliberately confounding "Inland Empire" (2006), Lynch withdrew from feature filmmaking, making a series of short films including an absurdist "sitcom" called "Rabbits" (2002), releasing a pair of music albums and even directing a concert film for Duran Duran. Over 25 years after its debut, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost surprised diehard "Twin Peaks" fans with "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime 2017), an 18-part "third season" of the series that not only brought back beloved original characters but greatly expanded the show's peculiar universe.
Born David Keith Lynch on Jan. 20, 1946 in Missoula, MT, the son of Donald Lynch, a Department of Agriculture research scientist, and Edwina, an English tutor, he spent his youth in Idaho, Washington, and later, Alexandria, VA. Intent on becoming an artist from an early age, Lynch attended classes at Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. while still in high school, followed by an aborted enrollment at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts and an even shorter visit to Europe where he had planned on studying painting. Eventually, Lynch discovered his true calling while experimenting with what he would later describe as "film painting" at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After leaving the Academy, Lynch continued to experiment, and on the basis of "The Alphabet" (1968), a five-minute short combining live action and animation, Lynch received a $5,000 grant from the American Film Institute. With that seed money he made "The Grandmother" (1970), a 34-minute short about a lonely, disturbed little boy who plants and grows a loving grandmother in his basement. Over a five-year period, drawing on personal fears about the confinements of his own youthful marriage and fatherhood, and while working in and around the AFI's Center for Advanced Film Studies in Los Angeles, Lynch created his appalling black-and-white meditation on family life, "Eraserhead" (1978). A nightmarish vision filled with grotesque physical deformities and essaying a tortured quest for spiritual purity, it starred Jack Nance in a truly hair-raising performance, the first of his frequent collaborations with Lynch.
Far from a mainstream film, "Eraserhead" did, however, attract critical attention, propelling Lynch to the forefront of the avant-garde film movement at the time. During the period that followed, the young filmmaker became interested in a project being produced by Mel Brooks - the fact-based story of John Merrick, a man afflicted with a disease that horribly disfigured his body, but could not diminish the inner-beauty of the gentle man's soul. Lynch expressed interest in directing the script, leading to arrangements being made for Brooks to view "Eraserhead" - something that made Lynch very anxious. Much to Lynch's surprise, after the viewing Brooks declared him to be "a madman" - a qualification that apparently made Lynch the perfect choice - and immediately gave him the job. "The Elephant Man" (1980), starring an unrecognizable John Hurt in the title role and Anthony Hopkins as his humanitarian physician, was both a critical and a box office triumph, earning Lynch two Oscar nods; one for Best Director and another for Best Adapted Screenplay. Although hardly a conventional film, it established Lynch as a commercially viable director, and soon offers - one to direct "Return of the Jedi" (1983) for George Lucas, among them - began pouring in. Ultimately, Lynch decided to helm an adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel Dune for producer Dino De Laurentiis, not due to any affinity for the project, but because the Italian movie mogul agreed to produce Lynch's follow up effort with zero studio interference. The experience would be a vastly different one from that of "The Elephant Man," undeniably affecting the future trajectory of Lynch's career.
Adapting Herbert's byzantine 500-page tome of intergalactic politics, religion, and war into a coherent film script was an incredible challenge for Lynch; the filming of "Dune" (1984) on location in the Mexican deserts, and enlisting tens of thousands of extras, even more so. In order to bring the final film in at the two-hour mark, substantial cuts and post-production changes were made to Lynch's preferred vision. The result was a nearly incomprehensible narrative, a dismal performance at the box office, mixed-to-negative notices from critics, and an incredibly painful lesson for the sophomore director. Bruised but determined, and now armed with his deal to make his next picture with complete autonomy, Lynch prepared to make "Blue Velvet" (1986). Ostensibly described as a surrealistic film noir, "Blue Velvet" defied neat categorization. Starring Kyle MacLachlan as a young man embroiled in a mystery surrounding a beautiful, emotionally troubled woman played by Isabella Rossellini, the film was clearly born out of the deepest regions of Lynch's psyche. Themes of violence, voyeurism, corruption and sexual deviance coexisted with a bucolic, small town setting reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, defining what would later become known as the "Lynchian" aesthetic. The film also marked a rebirth, of sorts, for mercurial actor Dennis Hopper, who, as sociopath Frank Booth, gave one of the more memorable, unrestrained, and truly disturbing performances in film history. "Blue Velvet" caused a sensation among critics upon its release and garnered Lynch another Academy Award nomination for Best Director, later achieving cult classic status on video and DVD.
In the late 1980s, Lynch turned his energies to television, collaborating with novelist-screenwriter Mark Frost on the groundbreaking series "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1989-1991). Occupying much of the same territory as "Blue Velvet," the series chronicled the investigation into the brutal murder of Laura Palmer, a high school girl from a rural Washington town. Beginning with the Lynch-directed pilot episode, "Twin Peaks" became an instant sensation, and mid-way through its first season was a certified national phenomenon, prompting media outlets across the country to ask, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" As brightly as the series burned initially, it would sputter out in its second season, due in large part to Lynch's chaffing under network interference and his distancing himself from the show prior to its cancelation. Though Lynch's return to film "Wild at Heart" (1990), adapted from a novel by future collaborator Barry Gifford, won the prestigious Palme d'Or at Cannes, it met with critical disfavor and audience ambivalence at home. Many found the crime spree road movie's unrestrained scenes of brain bashing and decapitation all but unbearable, despite strong performances by Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern on their trek through a nightmarish American landscape. Lynch followed with another critical and commercial failure when he returned to "Twin Peaks" terrain for the feature "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992). Critics savaged it, audiences hissed at Cannes, and U.S. moviegoers stayed away, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the "Twin Peaks" time had come and gone.
After a few short-lived television projects, Lynch contributed to the experimental film project "Lumiere and Company" (1995), with his visually compelling "Premonitions Following an Evil Deed." Reteaming with writer Gifford, and returning once again to a neo-noir motif, Lynch next unleashed the unapologetically enigmatic "Lost Highway" (1997) on an unsuspecting public. Starring Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty and featuring a truly unsettling performance by Robert Blake, "Lost Highway" played out like a fever dream - non-linear, often terrifying, and offering no final answer to whatever questions it may have posed. In the film, Pullman plays a jazz musician who suspects his wife (Arquette) of having an affair. For her part, Arquette plays another woman in a parallel story line, with primary characters suddenly switching places and/or identities by mid-film. Predictably, Lynch's latest offering left audiences and reviewers scratching their collective heads. Never one to play it safe, Lynch confounded expectations when he directed the G-rated "The Straight Story" (1999) for Disney Studios, a fact-based drama about an elderly man - played to perfection with sincerity and quiet nobility by Richard Farnsworth - who rode a tractor several hundred miles in order to reconcile with his ailing, estranged brother. With "The Straight Story" Lynch demonstrated an ability to tell a crowd pleasing, readily accessible story, while still making the film undeniably his own.
That same year, Lynch had another go at developing a television series. With the go-ahead from ABC, he began shooting the pilot episode, but after disagreements as to content and tone, the network put the project on indefinite hiatus. Even maverick cable channels like HBO passed on the show until French producer Alain Sarde was sufficiently impressed to offer to bankroll additional footage, allowing Lynch to turn the pilot into a feature film that premiered at Cannes in 2001. A dystopian look at the pursuit of fame and the dark side of Hollywood, "Mulholland Dr." (2001) was a cinematic echo of Billy Wilder's masterpiece "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Many of the typical Lynchian touches could be found, with creepy villains, oddball secondary characters and a mid-film switch that echoed "Lost Highway," but it all played out more effectively this time. Lynch shared the Cannes Best Director Award with Joel Coen for "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001), and the film opened to universal critical acclaim. Although, to a large extent, audiences found themselves perplexed, if not outright frustrated by Lynch's latest offering, "Mulholland Dr." did relatively well in theaters and was considered a modest success. However, Mulholland" eventually became a cult classic and, along with "Blue Velvet," recognized as one of Lynch's two greatest cinematic achievements. Over the next several years, Lynch turned his attention to the Internet, filming shorts and building his website, davidlynch.com, before releasing the feature film "Inland Empire" (2006). Shot entirely on digital video, "Inland Empire" nonetheless featured many of the same characteristics as Lynch's recent movies, primarily a non-linear story, actors morphing into completely new characters, and a mystery which the auteur director seemed to have little interest in resolving.
Following "Inland Empire," Lynch spent several years exploring various artistic outlets outside of feature films. Along with a plethora of digital shorts and other low-profile filmic experiments, Lynch returned to his interest in music with 2009's Dark Night of the Soul, an audiovisual collaboration with Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous). This was followed by Lynch's first album on which he sang and played instruments as well as writing and producing songs, 2011's Crazy Clown Time. A follow-up album, The Big Dream (2013), featured a collaboration with Swedish pop singer/songwriter Lykke Li. During this period, Lynch also had a recurring role on the animated sitcom "The Cleveland Show" (Fox 2009-2013) as the surreally cantankerous bartender Gus. On October 6, 2014, Lynch and Mark Frost jointly announced a new series of "Twin Peaks," set to air on Showtime. As filming began, the series expanded from the initial nine proposed episodes to a total of 18 hour-long episodes, which Lynch and Frost described as 18 parts of one extended film. Lynch and Frost wrote the entire series and Lynch directed the entirety, which expanded the show's universe from rural Washington to include storylines set in New York, Las Vegas and South Dakota, with a number of new characters in addition to nearly the entire cast from the original show. "Twin Peaks: The Return" began airing on Showtime in May 2017.
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Film Production - Construction/Set (Feature Film)
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Film Production - Main (Short)
Misc. Crew (Short)
Made short film combining animation and live action, "The Alphabet" as entry in Pennsylvania Academy contest
Created and illustrated syndicated comic strip "The Angriest Dog in the World"
Released first project with actor Kyle MacLachlan, "Dune"
Wrote and presented documentary on Dadaist cinema "Ruth roses and revolver" for British TV series "Arena"
Produced and wrote for singers Julee Cruise and Koko Taylor (songs used in his films "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart")
Composed musical work "Industrial Symphony No. 1" with Angelo Badalamenti; performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November; made video in 1990
Directed TV commercials for the perfumes Opium and Obsession
Directed the music video for Chris Isaak's song "Wicked Game"; song featured in the soundtrack to "Wild at Heart"
Executive produced "The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez"
Served as creator, executive producer, and director of the premiere of ABC's short-lived (six episodes) "On the Air"
Made television commercials for Gio, the perfume by Armani(1992), for a coffee drink Coca-Cola markets in Japan (1993), and for Alka-Seltzer Plus (1993), also directed a teaser-trailer used to market Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" album
Created, executive produced, and directed "Blackout" and Tricks" episodes of HBO's "Hotel Room"
Executive produced "Nadja" (and played a small part as Morgue Attendant)
Presented the documentary "Crumb," an extraordinarily intimate portrait of underground comic artist Robert Crumb directed by Terry Zwigoff
Helmed TV commercial for the home pregnancy test Clear Blue Easy
Directed the atypically based-on-fact "The Straight Story," about a man who drove a tractor from Iowa to Wisconsin to reunite with his estranged brother
Created a series of online shorts "Dumb Land," which were intentionally crude both in content and execution; the eight-episode series was later released on DVD
Helmed "Rabbits," an 8-episode series of short videos shown exclusively on DavidLynch.com for paying members
Directed "Inland Empire," starring regulars such as Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, and Justin Theroux; film shot entirely in digital format
Lent his voice to the character Gus on the Fox animated series "Family Guy" and spin-off "The Cleveland Show"
Lynch launched a members only web site at www.davidlynch.com in December 2001.
He served as president of the jury at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
When Lynch was a child, his father used to drive him into the deep woods, drop him off, then go to his job as a scientist for the Forest Service. He would leave young David completely alone, surrounded, as the filmmaker once told Time magazine, by "the most beautiful forests, where the trees are very tall and shafts of sunlight come down in the mountain stream and the rainbow trout leap out."
Lynch's interest in furniture making started at an early age, when he hung around his father's wood shop, learning how to use tools and mastering the fundamentals of building. Though he often built furniture for his movies, his first professional efforts at marketing his furniture came in the early 1990s when he sold a tiny expresso table (priced at $600) through Skankworld, a vintage furniture store in Los Angeles. He showed his attractive Club Table, an effective marraige of wood and steel which comes with special recessed areas to hold drinks, at the prestigious Salone Del Mobile in Milan and has an agreement with a Swiss Company to produce his pieces on a limited basis.
About the failure of "Wild at Heart" and "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me": "When you love something and feel you've done it correctly, then negative criticism doesn't hurt so bad. I love those movies. But in order to say you're successful, a film has to make quite a lot of money, and I haven't really done that. If I was successful in that way, I'd be ... I don't know, making pictures maybe more within the system." --David Lynch to Rolling Stone, March 6, 1997.