Eccentric filmmaker David Lynch – who mesmerizes and baffles his audience all at once – has succeeded to do so again with Mulholland Drive. Based in L.A., the movie explores the city's schizophrenic nature. It's an uneasy blend of innocence and corruption, love and loneliness, beauty and depravity. Perhaps these contrasts mirror Lynch's own life, as he manages to work within L.A.'s Hollywood industry while keeping it at arm's length.
NYROCK: Your actors often say they have no idea what your movies are about when they're making them. Do you like keeping your cast as disoriented as your characters?
DAVID: Well, not like a game, no. But what's important is that the actors have all they need to go forward with a character. Just like the way we all go through the world. We don't know all there to is know about the world. But we know our role, even though to a certain degree we don't know that. So it's partly to protect the whole thing, and not have anything leak out of it. Sometimes, when you say things out loud, some of the power leaks out of the thing.
NYROCK: Is it important to you that the audience comes away satisfied with understanding what they've just seen?
DAVID: Yes. In that process, the characters walk in. They start talking, you feel a mood, and you see a thing. And it can string itself together into a story that thrills you. Since I'm a human being, and if I stay true to those ideas that were thrilling to me, I hope that others have that same thrill. And the beauty of it is that I enjoy catching the ideas. I enjoy translating them, and I enjoy sharing them.
NYROCK: Are we supposed to not quite know what's going on with some of these characters when the movie is over?
DAVID: I think you do. It's like eventually life seems to make sense, even though a lot of times it doesn't seem to, or little bits of it don't. And I think that with the human mind and intuition going to work, there's some feeling your way to know what every character is. The mind can almost not help itself, but go and find harmonics in the real world.
NYROCK: How do you develop a movie like Mulholland Drive, that is so episodic?
DAVID: When you make a feature film, there are ideas that like come on a Tuesday, and ideas that may come three months later, that go in the story before the ideas you got on Tuesday. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that one day the whole thing is done.
And how it got there is made up of so many strange things, that it isn't funny. It's just a blessing that it's done, and you feel good about it. That's the way anything happens. Like paintings take so many strange courses before the painter says, this is finished.
I like to go into a theater, see those curtains open, and feel the lights going down. And go into a world and have an experience, knowing as little as I possibly can. And I think we owe it to an audience to let them experience a thing for themselves.
NYROCK: Mulholland Drive is quite an enigmatic tale. Are you obsessed with mysteries?
DAVID: Well, I don't like mysteries that involve the government and foreign countries, and things like that. I like closer-to-home mysteries. Like Rear Window, that's my cup of tea.
NYROCK: How important is style when you're telling a story?
DAVID: Style comes out of ideas. Sound, pace and locations come out of ideas. Characters, everything comes out of ideas. Never go against the ideas, stay true to them. And it will always tell you the way you go.
NYROCK: How do you work so eccentrically within Hollywood?
DAVID: I'm not within the Hollywood system. I've never made a studio picture. I live in Hollywood and I love Hollywood. But there is no such thing as the Hollywood system. It's always changing. And I'm surprised that I've been so fortunate, that I keep getting to make films. But I'm not part of the system.
NYROCK: But you're very vocal against the Hollywood establishment in Mulholland Drive. You pretty much equate them with thugs and gangsters.
DAVID: Yeah, but if I said, Okay, I'm going to make a film about the Hollywood industry, that would be absurd. It came out of the ideas. This story is a little bit about the business in what it touches, but it's about other things as well.
NYROCK: What do you admire about Hollywood, and is that an easy question to answer?
DAVID: It doesn't matter if it's an easy question to answer. I love the light. I love the feeling in the air that I sometimes catch of old Hollywood. And I love the feeling in the air of L.A., of we can do anything. It's a creative feeling in L.A. It's not stifling to me, and it's not oppressive. It's a feeling of freedom. And maybe it comes from the light. I don't know; it's something in the air.
NYROCK: Then where does the Justin Theroux character in Mulholland Drive fit in, the director who has his hands tied and life threatened by his studio?
DAVID: You can do anything, but sometimes we get ourselves in situations where we run into some trouble. I'm not saying L.A. is a place where you just skip by. There is a feeling, to me, that sure you can get in trouble. But you can get out of it too. And there is a feeling of wanting to create something in that town. I don't know where it comes from.
NYROCK: Why did you choose a coffee shop for the restaurant setting in the movie rather than one of those swank eateries so identified with LA?
DAVID: That's the beauty of life, that you can sometimes find good food in a good coffee shop.
NYROCK: There are a couple of naked, sex-crazed women in Mulholland Drive. How do you approach nudity in a movie?
DAVID: Behind it all is not violating the character. And keeping it in line with the fact that at least one of the girls was very much in love. So keeping it in the correct feeling is the key. Too little nudity breaks it, and too much breaks it. So I'm always looking for that balance point, and through action and reaction.
NYROCK: What's behind the darkness of mood that you cultivate with such intensity?
DAVID: It's not like you do something just to do something. You are true to the ideas. Each scene has a mood, a pace and a kind of feel that the ideas gave you. And so you try to stay true to that, and all the elements that go together to make it.
NYROCK: How hard is it to mix sinister and comic moments?
DAVID: No, no, that's the beauty of it. When ideas come to you that are not just one genre, there are many things floating together. It's beautiful, and a lot like real life. You know, you're laughing in the morning and crying in the afternoon, and there's a strange event after lunch. It's just the way it is.
NYROCK: What are you thoughts about the influence of the digital revolution on moviemaking?
DAVID: It's just like the pencil and the paper. Everybody's got a pencil and paper, but how many great things are written. These are tools, but you have to focus on the ideas and tell the story. It's all about the story, and how the story is told.
Some of these new tools do open the world for a bunch of new stories. But I don't think we know what those are yet, because right now this is kind of an experimental time. But I think a bunch of stories are going to pop up that marry with those kinds of new qualities.
NYROCK: Tell me about this groundbreaking project you're developing on the Internet.
DAVID: I'm working on a bunch of stuff for my Internet site. I've been working for two years on this site. It's going to be three series exclusively for the Internet. And with many, many experiments. A store, music, places to get lost. A lot of things. So the Internet, it's a world that wasn't there. And suddenly now it's there. And it's huge; it's infinite. And it's for everybody.
NYROCK: Whatever happened to your arty cow intended for the NYC cow parade? Did Giuliani run interference on you?
DAVID: No. I don't know where the cow is now. I was asked to do this cow, and I was told I could do any cow I wanted. I wasn't goofing around, I did a cow that I wanted to do. Apparently, they were offended by my cow. They said no go.
NYROCK: Hmm.... Where is your cow now?
DAVID: My cow went to Connecticut, and it went to New Jersey, I think. It went deeper underground. And I don't know who has it now.