16 Damn Fine Facts About Twin Peaks

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YouTube

More than a quarter-century ago, ABC introduced us to Twin Peaks. The rainy Washington town was home to log ladies, red rooms, and at least one murderer—but if you were only watching to find out “who killed Laura Palmer,” you were missing out. As Showtime prepares to bring us back to Twin Peaks tonight, read on to find out how Mikhail Gorbachev’s favorite show got made in the first place.

1. CREATORS DAVID LYNCH AND MARK FROST WROTE A MARILYN MONROE SCRIPT FIRST.

David Lynch and Mark Frost met while working on an adaptation of Anthony Summers’s Marilyn Monroe biography Goddess. Their script was titled Venus Descending and ultimately suggested that the Kennedys were the true cause of Monroe’s death. Although Lynch and Frost changed the protagonist’s name to Rosilyn Ramsey, studios were wary of bankrolling a movie with that conclusion. The movie never got made, but Lynch and Frost managed to work elements of Goddess and Monroe’s life into Twin Peaks. There’s an implicit connection in the story of Laura Palmer, a blonde homecoming queen who has an affair with a high-powered man and winds up dead. And there’s a much more explicit reference in Dale Cooper’s JFK musings to Diane.

2. THE SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY SET IN (AND CALLED) NORTH DAKOTA.

Twin Peaks takes place in Washington State, but before Lynch and Frost settled on the Pacific Northwest, they considered the Heartland. “The original title for the show was North Dakota,” Frost said in an interview with Inside Twin Peaks. “We were playing with this idea of the plains, a place far away from the world. But what we really lacked was that sense of mystery in the forest, and the darkness that moving it a little further west had.”

3. SHERYL LEE WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE A BODY.

Sheryl Lee, who played both Laura Palmer and her look-alike cousin Maddy Ferguson, was initially hired for a wordless cameo. As Lynch explained in Lynch on Lynch, the plan was to cast a local girl in Seattle, dye her skin gray, and simply use her for the scene where Laura’s body washes up on shore. But once they gave Lee another small scene—a picnic with Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle)—Lynch was impressed with her acting ability, and gave her regular series work as Maddy.

4. THE ONE-ARMED MAN IS A FUGITIVE HOMAGE.

Another actor who was only meant to appear in the pilot? The one-armed man. “Mike” was only required to walk out of an elevator in the original script. All Lynch and Frost wanted was a quick, intriguing “Fugitive homage.” But Lynch was also a fan of actor Al Strobel, so he wrote him into the series's larger mythology.

5. ISABELLA ROSSELLINI ALMOST PLAYED JOSIE PACKER.

Lynch’s Blue Velvet leading lady and then-girlfriend Isabella Rossellini was the first choice for wealthy widow Josie Packard. But according to Rossellini, there was “a little bit of concern about the time [commitment].” (She and Lynch broke up in 1991.) Instead, the part went to Joan Chen, and Josie was rewritten to fit Chen’s Chinese background.

6. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE NAMED FOR FILM NOIR FIGURES.

Critics were quick to point out that Maddy (or Madeleine) Ferguson shared a first name with one of Kim Novak’s dual characters in Vertigo, another tale of a dead blonde and her brunette doppelgänger, and a last name with Jimmy Stewart’s Vertigo character, Scottie Ferguson. There’s also an insurance agent on Twin Peaks named Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray’s character in Double Indemnity), a vet named Dr. Lydecker (Clifton Webb’s character in Laura), a myna bird named Waldo (also Clifton Webb’s character in Laura), and an FBI regional bureau chief named Gordon Cole (Bert Moorhouse’s character in Sunset Boulevard). The last one is especially amusing since Twin Peaks’ Gordon Cole was played by Lynch, who has repeatedly cited Sunset Boulevard as one of his favorite movies.

7. “BOB” WAS SPONTANEOUSLY CAST FROM THE CREW.

Frank Silva portrayed the terrifying specter Bob, but he didn’t get the role through traditional means. Silva was already serving as the show’s set decorator when Lynch got an idea. He had noticed Silva moving furniture around Laura Palmer’s bedroom and asked if he would crouch down by her bed. They shot Silva down there, staring directly at the camera. Lynch wasn’t sure how he was going to use that footage, until he discovered that Silva had also accidentally shown up in a mirror during Sarah Palmer’s tormented visions. With that, Bob was officially born.

8. DALE COOPER AND HARRY TRUMAN SHARE NAMES WITH WASHINGTON LEGENDS.

One of the most enduring figures in Washington state lore is D.B. Cooper, the hijacker who parachuted out of a Seattle-bound plane with stolen cash and vanished into thin air. You could also refer to Twin Peaks’ perky investigator Dale Cooper as D.B. Cooper, considering his middle name is Bartholomew. Then there’s Sheriff Harry Truman. No, he’s not a reference to the Harry Truman who became president; he’s a nod to the Harry Truman who refused to leave his lodge during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

9. ACTORS HAD TO SAY THEIR LINES BACKWARDS IN THE RED ROOM.

The “Red Room” sequences were notable for several reasons—the dancing Man from Another Place, alive Laura Palmer, old Dale Cooper—but the bizarre way everyone spoke made the biggest impression. This wasn’t achieved through a simple distortion trick. The actors had to learn and recite all their lines backwards. Then, those lines were played backwards, making them “correct” again. Michael J. Anderson, who played The Man from Another Place, gave a quick demo on the DVDs.

10. THE RED ROOM FLOOR MATCHES THE ONE IN ERASERHEAD.

Lynch referenced his own work through a sly interior decorating decision in the Red Room. The zigzag floor pattern mirrors the one seen in Henry’s apartment lobby in Eraserhead, Lynch’s 1977 horror film. Check out the comparison shots here.

11. PIPER LAURIE MASQUERADED AS A JAPANESE ACTOR ON SET.

In terms of Twin Peaks plotlines, Catherine Martell impersonating a Japanese businessman is actually on the saner end of the spectrum. But Catherine wasn’t the only person pretending. To keep the character’s fate under wraps, Lynch asked actress Piper Laurie if she would herself pose as a Japanese actor on set to keep the rest of the cast in the dark. She posed as “Fumio Yamaguchi,” a well-regarded actor who had worked with Akira Kurosawa and did not speak much English. The cast seemed to buy it at first, though they grew suspicious as they shared more scenes with Mr. Yamaguchi. Peggy Lipton was convinced it was Rossellini in heavy make-up.

12. LARA FLYNN BOYLE PUT AND END TO DALE AND AUDREY'S ROMANCE.

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For many viewers, the biggest question was surprisingly straightforward: what happened with Dale and Audrey? The show seemed to be teasing a romance, only to abruptly introduce new love interests for both characters. Frost delicately suggested that a certain cast member wasn’t happy with the coupling in an interview with WFDU’s That Modern Rock Show. Sherilyn Fenn, who played Audrey, was more blunt about it.

“What happened was that Lara [Flynn Boyle] was dating Kyle [MacLachlan], and she was mad that my character was getting more attention, so then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn’t be with my character because it doesn’t look good, ’cause I’m too young,” Fenn told The A.V. Club. “Literally, because of that, they brought in Heather Graham—who’s younger than I am—for him and Billy Zane for me. I was not happy about it. It was stupid.”

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG NEARLY DIRECTED THE SEASON TWO PREMIERE.

In an interview with Brad D Studios, Twin Peaks writer-producer Harley Peyton said that Steven Spielberg was on board to helm the show’s season two opener. Spielberg was apparently an avid viewer of the first season and mentioned to Peyton that he’d be interested in directing an episode. Peyton and Frost then held a lengthy meeting with Spielberg to discuss the possibility of him tackling the season two premiere. Spielberg wanted to make it “as weird as possible,” but that wasn’t good enough for Lynch, who insisted on handling the episode himself. He suggested Spielberg take a later episode, but it didn’t pan out.

14. LYNCH AND FROST WERE FORCED TO REVEAL LAURA PALMER’S KILLER.

The show’s central murder wasn’t solved until halfway through season two, but if the creators had their way, it would’ve taken even longer. ABC started pressing Lynch and Frost for an answer in season one, and by the time the second season began, they’d stopped asking nicely. They demanded a killer and pegged the episode with the reveal to sweeps week. Lynch in particular was outraged at the decision, declaring the show effectively dead—and he wasn’t too off-base. ABC got the exact opposite of the ratings bonanza they expected. Viewers rapidly dropped off following the episode and the series was canceled soon after.

15. AUDREY HORNE INFORMED MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

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There was once talk of spinning Audrey Horne off into her own movie or series—and the premise should sound familiar to any Lynch fanatic. According to Fenn, the new project was supposed to follow an older Audrey in California and involved an opening scene of her “driving along Mulholland Drive.”

16. MIKHAIL GORBACHEV WAS ALLEGEDLY A SUPERFAN.

When Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks was published in 2014, Twitter latched especially hard onto an anecdote from TV exec Jules Haimovitz. Haimovitz worked for Aaron Spelling Productions, which produced Twin Peaks. One day he got a call from Spelling, demanding to know who killed Laura Palmer. But it wasn’t really Spelling who was asking. He’d gotten a call from financier Carl Lindner, who claimed to be calling on behalf of then-president George H.W. Bush, who was actually asking for Mikhail Gorbachev. The former leader of the USSR was apparently a huge fan of the show, but when he was pressed later, Gorbachev claimed he had no idea what Twin Peaks was. Which all sounds appropriately Lynchian.

12 Festive Facts About A Christmas Story

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Which Oscar-winning star wanted to play Ralphie Parker's dad? Which actor went on to have a seedy career in the adult film industry? Can you really get your tongue stuck to a metal pole? On the 35th anniversary of A Christmas Story's debut, here are a few tidbits about the holiday classic to tide you over until TNT's 24-hour Christmas marathon.

1. JACK NICHOLSON WAS INTERESTED IN PLAYING RALPHIE'S DAD.

Though Jack Nicholson was reportedly offered the role of The Old Man Parker, and interested, casting—and paying—him would have meant doubling the budget. But director Bob Clark, who didn't know Nicholson was interested, said Darren McGavin was the perfect choice for the role.

2. IT OWES A DEBT TO PORKY'S.

What does Porky's—a raunchy 1980s teen sex comedy—have to do with a wholesome film like A Christmas Story? Bob Clark directed both: Porky's in 1982 and A Christmas Story in 1983. If Porky's hadn't given him the professional and financial success he needed, he wouldn't have been able to bring A Christmas Story to the big screen.

3. RALPHIE SAYS HE WANTS A RED RYDER BB GUN A LOT.

For anyone keeping count, Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie. That's approximately once every three minutes and 20 seconds.

4. THESE DAYS, PETER BILLINGSLEY SPENDS HIS TIME BEHIND THE CAMERA.

Peter Billingsley, a.k.a. Ralphie, has been good friends with Vince Vaughn since they both appeared in a CBS Schoolbreak Special together in the early 1990s. He doesn't do much acting these days, though he has popped up in cameos (including one in Elf, another holiday classic). Instead, Billingsley prefers to spend his time behind the camera as a director and producer. He has done a lot of work with Vaughn and Jon Favreau, including serving as an executive producer on Iron Man (in which he also made a cameo).

5. YES, YOU CAN GET YOUR TONGUE STUCK ON A PIECE OF COLD METAL.

Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. Guess what? It is. So don't triple dog dare your best friend to try it.

6. ONE OF THE YOUNG ACTORS MOVED ON TO A CAREER IN ADULT FILMS.

Scott Schwartz, who played Flick (the kid who stuck his tongue to the frozen flagpole), spent several years working in the adult film industry. In 2000, he turned his attention back to mainstream films. His most recent role was as "Disco City Hot Dog Vendor" in the 2017 TV movie Vape Warz.

7. RALPHIE'S HOUSE IS NOW A MUSEUM.

Next time you're in Cleveland, you can visit the original house from the movie. It was sold on eBay in 2004 for $150,000. Collector Brian Jones bought the house and restored it to its movie glory and stocked it up with some of the original props from the film, including Randy's snowsuit.

8. THE IDEA FOR THE FILM CAME TO BOB CLARK WHILE HE WAS DRIVING TO PICK UP A DATE.

Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Ian Petrella in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

Director Bob Clark got the idea for the movie when he was driving to pick up a date. He heard Jean Shepherd on the radio doing a reading of his short story collection, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which included some bits that eventually ended up in A Christmas Story. Clark said he drove around the block for an hour until the program ended (which his date was not too happy about).

9. IT PARTLY INSPIRED THE WONDER YEARS.

The Wonder Years was inspired in part by A Christmas Story. In fact, toward the very end of the series, Peter Billingsley even played one of Kevin Arnold's roommates.

10. YOU CAN STILL BUY A RED RYDER BB GUN.

The real Red Ryder BB Gun was first made in 1938 and was named after a comic strip cowboy. You can still buy it today for the low, low price of $39.99. But the original wasn't quite the same as the one in the movie; it lacked the compass and sundial that both the Jean Shepherd story and the movie call for. Special versions had to be made just for A Christmas Story.

11. THE LEG LAMP CAN ALSO BE YOURS.

Peter Billingsley and Melinda Dillon in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

While we're talking shopping: you know you want the leg lamp. Put it in your window! Be the envy of your neighbors! It's a Major Award! You can buy it on Amazon (there's a 40-inch version, as well as a 20-inch replica). If you're not feeling quite so flamboyant, they also make a nightlight version.

12. IT SPAWNED A TRIO OF SEQUELS.

A Christmas Story led to two little-talked-about sequels. The first one was a 1988 made-for-TV movie, Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss. Jerry O'Connell played 14-year-old Ralphie, who is excited about his first job—as a furniture mover. Of course, it ends up being awful, and it might make him miss the annual family vacation at Mr. Hopnoodle's lakeside cabins.

My Summer Story, a.k.a. It Runs in the Family, debuted on the big screen in 1994. Kieran Culkin plays Ralphie, Mary Steenburgen is his mom, and Charles Grodin is his dad.

And in 2012, the direct-to-video sequel A Christmas Story 2 picked up five years after the original movie left off, with Ralphie attempting to get his parents to buy him a car.

An earlier version of this story appeared in 2008.

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

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