As the 20th anniversary year of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me draws to a close, we catch up with Lorna MacMillan who played Laura Palmer's Angel in the film. Imagine our surprise then when she revealed that she had entered Twin Peaks once before. Our friend
Brad D interviews!
Brad: Did you watch the series before the movie?
Lorna: Yes, in fact I was enough of a fan that, I think at one point it came on Saturday nights, and I think I was 21 years old or so at the time and I would choose to stay home on a Saturday night rather than go out because I was such a huge fan (laughs). And actually when I got the call that I had to audition for the part, I somehow managed to calmly look at my Blue Velvet poster on the wall and say "oh is that at the Balboa Studios?" (laughs) in somebody's else's voice because I couldn't possibly have been so calm as to react that way being such a huge David Lynch fan but somehow another spirit must have taken over or something to be so calm about it.
Brad: I noticed that FWWM is your only acting credit on IMDB. How exactly did Twin Peaks come about for you?
Lorna: OK, so I was a movie extra and television extra I had been working on sets for probably a year and a half and I had done stand-in work and feature extra roles and I had a little speaking role on a skit for a totally hidden video episode. So I had my union cards and such but I hadn't had any solid television or film acting credits, with lines and things like that. Then I took a little break from doing extra work once I got my union cards because I felt like I wanted to focus on saving up some money and thinking about what my next steps were to conquer Hollywood I guess! (laughs) And in that time away of working to save money, I got a call from Tony at Central/Cenex Casting who said that David Lynch had been in his office and had found my picture in their files and wanted me to come in for an audition. He mentioned that there had been a whole bunch of different girls that they had gone through not knowing who they were really looking for at first, so they sent a whole bunch of people and then this time around they were sending in a smaller number of girls in for interviews. I showed up at Balboa studios and I ended up getting it and so that was it. It was pretty remarkable and a total dream come true. When the film was released and I saw it in a theatre with some friends, they made such a ruckus it was obvious I was in it. A fellow Twin Peaks fan came up to me nervously afterward and said some really nice things to me, but honestly it made me really uncomfortable. I had this epiphany after that, that if I managed to make my dreams come true and major success in that field, that could happen a lot. I'm such an extrovert and had wanted to act my whole life, so it was such a huge surprise to find out how uncomfortable I was with the attention at the time. I took some time after that to find out what I wanted to do, went back to school and studied cultural anthropology, did some field research, and ended up on the other side of the camera working in documentary films. So, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is my best and last acting credit...well, unless you count the voice-over work I've done on some of the documentaries I've worked on, then It's still the best, but not the last.
Brad: So what was it like working with David Lynch?
Lorna: Amazing! By that time I had already worked full time as an extra, I had a calling service that used to book me on shows and that was my full time gig for a year and a half, so you can imagine, I saw a lot of famous directors work and I was front and center witnessing a lot of... personalities! (Laughs) You know, there was always fear that you would find out that person you admired and loved and were a huge fan of could be other than the nicest person in the world, but in my case I was lucky enough to find that he was a fantastic person to be around. I was really really great. Our first exchange, he held my hand and he asked me to close my eyes and I did and he just stood quiet for a very long time (laughs) and I started to get really nervous! And I started to giggle, and he said 'what'? And I said 'It's all just a little strange'! And he said 'it is isn't it!' and we both kinda laughed! I just remember feeling how warm his hand was and thinking that even though that was kind of a strange and nervous moment, that he was very comfortable and nice to be around and my couple of days on the set, everybody... I mean he's amazing, his energy is amazing and warm and he attracts like people. It was my... I'm not just saying that because I am a fan, I think that still would have been a standout, even with a director I didn't admire as much, I think it would have been a standout experience, even if it was just another day on a set, I would have remembered it.
Brad: Is there a particular way that Lynch directed you if you remember?
Lorna: He did ask me to close my eyes. He didn't ask me to have any kind of specific expression or anything. He did ask me if I knew how to us my wings! (laughs) I think he said 'I heard you know how to use those' and I said 'What'!? Because at first I thought oh no they didn't tell me! Then I realized he was joking and I laughed! I don't really remember if the way my hands were was his direction although I think it probably was. Then after several people remarked that I had a really beautiful expression, they had wondered what I was thinking about - that expression I guess was left up to me. He did ask me if I was afraid of heights, you know during that initial meeting when he held my hand, after I closed my eyes he did ask me if I was afraid of heights and I said no and he said good! (laughs) So, I kinda knew I was going up in the air!
Brad: What was it like working with Sheryl Lee? Did you have any exchanges with her?
Lorna: Yes, and I had had exchanges with her on a TV movie of the week I think it was. That day I remarked on the most recent episode of Twin Peaks which had just aired and I told her that I thought her work in that episode was phenomenal, she was playing Maddy at that time, and she thanked me a lot. I think she said, If I ever need a stand-in would you be interested and I said yes but that never manifested into anything, but then to meet on the set the first day of my shoot, I actually mentioned that we had meet before. Actually that day she said to me when I introduced myself she said I can't imagine them picking anyone more perfect. That was sort of my introduction, again to Sheryl, well I'm sure you can imagine how that would make someone feel! I was over the moon that comment, I felt wonderful and we talked a lot on the set and during down time. When I did my scene she was there, and she cried and we hugged and we definitely talked at the wrap party. We had a really nice connection and she's another really nice, warm person.
Brad: Did you know anyone else on the set before you landed the role?
Lorna: Well, I had worked briefly on the series. I was actually an extra, oh I didn't mention that! I was an extra on the series. I was actually in the episode with the Miss Twin Peaks Beauty Contest? Do you remember that one?
Lorna: With Annie and the lights went out. Well, I was one of the Miss Twin Peaks Beauty Contestants, twirling the plastic umbrella and wearing the raincoats. Somebody mentioned that David Lynch liked his ladies wrapped in plastic (laughs) when we did that episode! So, I knew some of the crew members, Craig MacLachlan, Kyle MacLachlan's brother was a crew member and I had met him. But the people that were on set for the days that I shot for Fire Walk With Me, I don't think any of... and David Lynch hadn't directed that episode of Twin Peaks that I was in for the series. So, no I don't think any of the cast was on set that had been there for the series. So I don't think I knew anybody except for Craig.
Brad: Did you get to spend time on the set in the series?
Lorna: Yes! I spent some time in the Double RR Diner and in a library/office room that I only remember from photos I have. I'd have to watch the series again to remember what set that was. Bad Twin Peaks fan- tisk tisk (laughs).
Brad: Were you only on set for your scene?
Lorna: I know from my old Cenex paystubs that I was on set for six days of shooting for that episode, so I'm sure I watched many other scenes including Windom storming the Contest, but I don't remember the other ones.
Brad: What was it like working with David Lander?
Lorna: A friend, who also played a Miss Twin Peaks contestant, and I spent a lot of time talking to him between scenes, and he was so nice! He told us stories of his Laverne & Shirley days. I remember him saying when he first got that part, his contract didn't even allow him to park on the studio lot! We talked a lot, and he was kind enough to pose for photos with us. I still have one.
Lorna (far left)
Brad: Did you have any interaction with Kenneth Welsh? At that point he was playing the Log Lady!
Lorna: Yes! He was so funny and hammed it up for some photos with me and other Twin Peaks Contestants, one of which I still have. I just remember him being very entertaining and nice.
Brad: Back to FWWM. What was the mood like on the set? The Red Room scenes are always so interesting to me and I'm always just so curious what it feels like to be in that environment?
Lorna: Oh, to be in that room?
Lorna: Well, when I shot it was very quiet obviously, I mean you have to be quiet, but when that scene was done there were a lot of tears... I think that it was a huge... Sheryl mentioned that it had been a really emotional role for her and I think it had been really emotional to shoot a lot of the scenes for a lot of the people that were on set so it was definitely like, wow, this is sort of like a release in a way? To get to shoot that scene I guess. So everybody was really supportive and kind and warm... you know, I'm hearing myself say this and I'm thinking that it's probably the opposite of the energy you would expect from the Red Room! (laughs) You know? It wasn't creepy or weird or... it was peaceful and calm and beautiful.
Brad: Was there any secrecy involved? Did you know what else was going on with the film?
Lorna: I think I watched part of another scene, but my costume was really complex and my makeup and hair, it took a lot of time to prepare, and so I didn't spare a lot of spare time watching other scenes. What I did hear was that the scenes that I was in hadn't actually been scripted. So, in terms of secrecy, I that maybe there was just a lot of unknown about what was going to happen with that scene. I certainly did not get a script for the scene or my work at all, I get a call sheet and information from people that needed at a certain place at a certain time, but I didn't have a script and I heard that my scene hadn't been scripted and that my scene was a pretty recent add on. I think it might have been Sheryl who suggested that ending. I think she was hoping for a happy one.
Brad: There was actress named Karin Robison who played another angel in the film, did you film any scenes with her? Or did you get to meet her?
Lorna: You mean Ronette Pulaski's angel in the train car? No, I didn't shoot any scenes with her and I don't recall if we got to meet at the wrap party. You know the people that were on set from my scenes were really only the crew or the cast that were shooting other scenes on the same day. I did get to meet other cast and crew and that was at the wrap party and the cast and crew screening that happened where we watched the film finished for the first time. I'm not sure if I remember meeting her (Karin) at the wrap party or not, but it was a long time ago! (laughs) So I hope she will forgive me if she remembers meeting me!
Brad: Could you talk a little more about the set? Were all your scenes filmed at Balboa Blvd?
Lorna: Yes, and my scene was shot in one room, you know with the beautiful red velvet curtains and the zig-zag lines that are so iconic now. Yes, that was it, me up in a harness in the air and nobody else up there with me! (laughs)
Brad: Did you get to explore any of the other sets that were left over from the series?
Lorna: I remember that only from when I was on the series.
Brad: Were you on any other episodes other than the Miss Twin Peaks one?
Lorna: No. That was the only one. I mean, I thought that was great and something special. David Lynch wasn't there, you know he wasn't directing that one, but I got to meet a lot of the cast and to me that was the dream come true! And being a featured extra the way that I was and getting to be among the principled actors and actresses was phenomenal and then, boy it was like really Universe? Thank you! (laughs) I'll take that!
Brad: Do you remember choreographing the Miss Twin Peaks sequence? How did that come together?
Lorna: Well, that was kind of fun. You know, we did practice it quite a bit. There was one point at which, this is embarrassing but I'm going to admit it anyway, and I've admitted it before, so you're not the first person hearing it but, I'll say it again. My umbrella got caught in my hair (laughs) as I was twirling the umbrella, which was part of the choreography. So Sherilyn Fenn was kind enough to come untangle my hair from my umbrella and that was really sweet. I know that we rehearsed that a bunch. Fortunately, I think was during rehearsal and not while we were actually shooting so I don't think I messed up a take! (laughs)
Brad: There are several really fantastic stills that exist of you in full costume against a wooded backdrop. Can you tell us anything more about that photo shoot or what was the inspiration behind that?
Lorna: Oh, against a wooden backdrop?
Lorna: So, Lorey Sabastian was the set photographer and she was great. She had come up and said I wanted to make sure that I get some great shots with you, and she had taken a couple of - there's one really beautiful one in the Red Room with David Lynch and I when I was up in the harness, he was directing me by holding his hands the way he wanted me to hold my hands in the scene. There are also a couple of me alone there. For the other pictures, Lorey had said 'come with me', I went with her of course, then she took a few shoots on that set and I was really honored because that was something that didn't happen on the fly, it was intentional. You know, I definitely felt important and that was really nice for me.
Brad: Was anything shot that didn't make the film that you participated in?
Lorna: Let me think. I need to give some thought to that! I don't think so. No, I don't think so. Other than other takes or variations on what made the cut.
Brad: There's like 45 minutes of deleted scenes that no one has ever seen and hopefully one day the'll come out.
Lorna: Oh really? I was in ALL of them! (laughs) No, I'd really be interested in seeing those. I have no idea what those are about - sorry I can't solve that mystery for you and I don't think any of them included me.
Brad: Did you get to get any props, costumes or mementos from filming?
Lorna: Let me think. I have some things. You know what I really wanted? I really wanted the picture of the angel at the table with the children...
Lorna: ...that's supposed to symbolically be me I guess and then I become that angel you know and I appear, I think that's the idea right? I really thought that would have been a great memento to take away, but I wouldn't have dared asked. So, (laughs) the only copy I have is something I was able to get from the internet like everybody else I'm sure. And then, let's see, I definitely don't have the wings or the dress or gown or whatever you want to call it. Beautiful memories? A dream come true? Oh wait! I have one thing. It wasn't actually from the time I was filming, but when we had the cast and crew special screening, we were all given Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me crew jackets and I still have one of those. From what I've heard it's extremely rare. As are the Lorey Sabastain photos because the negatives were destroyed.. I also have Polaroids from uh, so yes, I guess these are all things... I was thinking about, you know, props or something at first. I don't think I have any props. I have the Polaroids that Corey who was the script supervisor, she took a bunch of great Polaroids of Sheryl and I and David Lynch and I. She also did this great thing where she did a double image with a Polaroid where you take a shot and pose the camera really quickly and your able to open it back up and take another shot on top of that previous Polaroid picture and do like several double exposures. So there's one of me twice on the same Polaroid print and then there was one that I actually didn't get that and I heard a rumor that they used it as a Christmas card that year where there was a tree like a Christmas tree and I guess she like did a double exposure of my above the Christmas tree! (laughs) And I was the Angel topper on the tree! (laughs) I have a bunch of Polaroids from the set, from my time on the set. About 11 of those. And then I have the three Lorey Sabastian photos, two of me, one of a profile of me in costume and one of me looking at the camera smiling. Then one of me in the harness on set being directed by David. I guess that a lot! (laughs) I do have other things like the Twin Peaks Gazette from 1992 I think. I think I got those because people gave them to me knowing I had worked on the film or on the series - I didn't get those on the set. Oh, I also have the original FWWM longboard CD package with me on the back of the box. Also a booklet from Japan called "Answers to the mystery of the world's most beautiful corpse, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, Teresa Banks and the last seven days of Laura Palmer", The first Twin Peaks Gazette, a Video Watchdog featuring FWWM and some magazine and newspaper clippings.
Brad: Where was the wrap party for FWWM?
Lorna: Ah, this one I remember. It was a place on Sunset Blvd called Bar One that was popular at the time. I got to watch Harry Dean Stanton play pool, and I danced and talked to so many cast members. It was so much fun.
Brad: When the film was released, how did you first see it and what did you think?
Lorna: The first time I ever saw it was at the cast and crew screening and I loved it. At first I was completely emotionally overwhelmed that I was that...big! (laughs) Just seeing myself was really, it was really emotional for me. I was just so grateful to have played even the tiniest little part in that. In terms of the film itself, I loved it and I mentally applauded David Lynch for taking the creative liberties that he does and not making...you know I just think he takes a lot of risks and I appreciate that and I can see where people might not get it, and I can't really say that I get it 100 percent, but I kind of find something really beautiful about it at the same time. I like that he doesn't make predictable films and that he takes a lot of liberties with things that end up in big movie houses. I loved it and I thought Sheryl Lee, the words that she had said to me on the set, stayed with me for the first few times I watched the film. Actually I haven't watched the film much since then, but I can see how that was a tough but fantastic role for her to have and I appreciate how that must of felt for her.
Brad: Do you ever go back and revisit the film or the series?
Lorna: You know, I don't own the series and I don't own the film. It's funny, I've moved around quite a bit since that time and it's funny how that film follows me! (laughs) I can't seem to stay away from people who are fellow Twin Peaks fans. And so I end up making new friends or have ended up making new friends in new places that I have moved over the years and undoubtably they have been huge Twin Peaks fans. They would have Twin Peaks parties and... I did go to a Twin Peaks party in Portland, Oregon. I was living in Portland until last month, I was there for a year and a half and I heard about the Twin Peaks party and my housemate convinced me to go and I said OK I'll go, and I saw on the facebook event that somebody had said "Oh I have an excuse to wear my FWWM crew jacket" and I went what?! What a minute, is someone that I worked with up here in Portland too? So I went to the party and interestingly it was John Neff who had made ton's of music with David Lynch and did the sound mixes for many of his films and it was just amazing to meet him and I thought, you know I wonder how many more crazy fun Twin Peaks stories I would have if I did participate more in stuff like that that goes on. (laughs) I haven't gone to any of the Twin Peaks Festivals, I wanted to go this year and then I just completely missed it, I've never been but I'd love to go...
Lorna: ...I think I'm at the point where I wouldn't feel strange doing it, I don't know...
Brad: I have been four of the last five years and it is such a good time. You should totally try it out.
Lorna: I will. You know I was really bummed, I think I was away when it was happening, and then I was getting like Facebook updates about it from other people that I had connected with from that Twin Peaks party in Portland and all of the sudden it was like "Oh no! Fuck! I need to go to that!" (laughs) I know it would have been especially beautiful to have gone this year because it was the twentieth anniversary and I know that they screened the version of FWWM that John Neff remixed the sound for. I feel like I wish I could have been there to support my new friend who has this amazing history and also just that experience that. I think for the longest time I felt like if I participated in stuff like that it would be somehow like me making a bigger deal of my part than... I almost feel like for awhile I let myself not be as much as a fan As I actually was for fear that I would look like I was making too big of a deal about my part in it. You know? I'm kinda over that now! (laughs) I'm a fan! I have a right to be a fan! I didn't form my fan membership because I had a really tiny part that I loved in that movie or a little tiny part in that series that I loved too. I don't when I convinced myself that I had to forfeit that fan status (laughs) and go back to it! (laughs) I'm reclaiming it!
Brad: The festival is really laid back and I don't think you would have to worry about anything like that.
Lorna: Thank you! I don't think I ever would either, that was just some weird insecurity thing of my own that I needed to have time to get over apparently (laughs).
Brad: Your image is really important in closing out the film and really the Twin Peaks Universe as it stands, how does that feel all these years later?
Lorna: Wow. Well... Thank you for saying that. It's hard to separate my own feelings from it as somebody who loves his work so much and loves that series so much. To me, I kind of wonder, how big it really is? I mean, to me it's big, of course it's big because that was a dream come true for me. If somebody would have posed the question to me or given me an opportunity and said, 'You can be in any film or anything you would want to be in - what would it be?' - that's what I would have said. I would have picked that - out of everything. So, I don't think that can be understated here. That was a huge dream come true for me, so when I look at it, I can't tease out that element of dream come true from the actual size of the part or the significance of the part, because it was hugely significant on a personal level to me. Then, to sort of have it be...to get the soundtrack and to see that I'm on the inside sleeve and I'm etched on to the CD and to be in the end of the film in that way...It was such an honor like I can't even tell you, and that anybody would care to interview me after twenty years for a part that I didn't even speak in? I'm speaking about a film that I didn't speak in! The humor in that is not lost on me! (laughs) You know? I've spoken about this film that I didn't speak in, you know, more than once now and I'm definitely honored and humbled. I'm just grateful to this day. All this time later I'm grateful. I'm grateful for every little bit of...It was magical at the time. Everything about that experience, being on the set, well you know from the first call. From the first call that I was looking up at my Blue Velvet poster on the wall to going into the studio and sitting among the four or five girls that were already there and locking eyes with David Lynch and thinking 'you're going to pick me, I just know it!' (laughs) Having them ask me to stay and then going back into the soundstage with him and then closing my eyes and holding his hands and showing up on set and having Sheryl say they couldn't have picked anyone more perfect. Having people say 'Oh you're the one!' and be excited to meet me and seeing my name on the Honeywagon and going inside that little room and having them close the door and say we'll come get you soon and me doing a huge silent scream and jump up and down as soon as the door shut! (laughs) You know? Spending two days with amazing people and my favorite director and getting to be an Angel and getting to be symbolically a sign of hope for this character whose gone through all this torment and then have it mean something to the actress who played her and have it be sort of a dream ending for her. Then to have all of the ways of that magic, you know, going to the wrap party and going to the premiere and then even little things like having a dear dear friend of mine organize an event and line two rows of a theatre with twenty friends and have them cheer and then in many ways it's like reverberated through these twenty years and the magic has popped up here and there! I mean I got to meet John Neff in Portland Oregon of all places and we had moved up there within months of each other to reset both of our lives on separate adventures and I felt like our paths were meant to cross and now I'm back in Los Angeles. Who knows what will happen but I know that the magic is not over! I kind of feel like that little tiny thing that happened to me has not proven to be little or tiny in my life and I'm really incredibly grateful for it.
Special thanks to Lorna MacMillan, Brad D and Dugpa.com!!