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Q&A: Ray Wise Talks “TWIN PEAKS” and Revealing “THE ENTIRE MYSTERY”

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Last week, actor Ray Wise visited Montreal’s Fantasia film festival as part of the team behind the off-its-rocker horror/comedy SUBURBAN GOTHIC (more on that one soon). While he was there, FANGORIA took the opportunity to speak with Wise about TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, the new Blu-ray boxed set of the landmark TV series in which Wise starred for creator/producer David Lynch.

TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, out today from CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment, doesn’t just give the hi-def treatment to Lynch’s mystery/horror/drama, but supplements it with copious special features, including newly shot material featuring Wise. A familiar face to genre fans from SWAMP THING, ROBOCOP and many others, the actor had one of his best roles ever as Leland Palmer, whose daughter Laura’s murder provided the crux of the show and became one of television’s most famous whodunits. Fans know, of course (and those who don’t may consider this a SPOILER ALERT), that it was Leland himself who killed Laura Palmer, under the sway of the malevolent figure known as BOB. The revelation of his culpability, and the scene of redemption that follows, are among the most powerful moments in TWIN PEAKS—and in all of TV history.

FANGORIA: It must be exciting to see TWIN PEAKS finally hit Blu-ray, with all the additional material.

RAY WISE: Absolutely. I was just at a screening last week at the Vista Theater in Hollywood, for the premiere of “The Missing Pieces.” Those are about 90 minutes of film that were cut out of the TWIN PEAKS movie FIRE WALK WITH ME—great scenes that I feel should have been in the movie, but I guess the distributors had time constraints. And then there was specific material written for the disc by David Lynch that Grace Zabriskie, Sheryl Lee and myself performed—it’s the Palmer family 25 years later.

FANG: How was it reuniting with those actresses?

WISE: Wonderful! We hadn’t skipped a beat; it was just like we had last worked together yesterday. That’s about 20 or 25 minutes’ worth of material called “Between Two Worlds,” and then there are more interviews, FIRE WALK WITH ME, two pilots—the American version and the European version… It’s everything you ever wanted to know about TWIN PEAKS.

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FANG: Getting back together with Lynch, did he seem to have changed at all since you originally collaborated on the series?

WISE: Nope, he’s the same guy. He’s a little grayer, just like I am, but he’s the same guy—just as much fun in his own far-out way.

FANG: What are your thoughts about FIRE WALK WITH ME today? It was not well-received at the time…

WISE: No; in fact, it was booed at the Cannes Film Festival.

FANG: So seeing it reissued with the deleted footage now, is there a sense of vindication?

WISE: Absolutely. We had a retrospective recently at USC, where they actually teach classes about TWIN PEAKS, and they screened FIRE WALK WITH ME, and to my mind it’s David’s masterpiece.

FANG: Do you know if there’s any discussion about incorporating all that footage back into the film and releasing a complete, expanded version?

WISE: That could happen, and I think that would be a nice thing to do. I’m sure there will be a next edition of some sort!

FANG: Any discussions about reteaming with Lynch on another project?

WISE: No. I wish we could do a third season, and bring Leland back from the dead.

FANG: The series really seemed to come to a definitive conclusion once Leland is revealed as the killer, and he has his death scene with Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). Then, Cooper is literally on his way out the door when he’s stopped and asked about another case, and the series continues. Was there ever a point when TWIN PEAKS was going to end with the resolution of the Laura Palmer mystery, and then Lynch later either decided or was asked to continue?

WISE: Well, I haven’t heard it out of his mouth, but I have a feeling that for him it was all about Laura Palmer’s murder and who did it, and I believe it was the network that wanted to go beyond that. I don’t think that was David’s preference. I think he would have been satisfied for it to burn gloriously hot and then end, and that would be it, but it was the network that decided they wanted more, and you saw 14 or 15 more episodes where they went off in different directions, and it never had quite the impact the previous episodes had.

FANG: Nowadays, television is a lot friendlier to closed story arcs, like on AMERICAN HORROR STORY. It’s much more accepting of short-form storytelling than back when TWIN PEAKS was made.

WISE: Exactly, and TWIN PEAKS was groundbreaking in so many ways. It was something that had never, ever been seen before and it hasn’t really been seen since, certainly in the impact it had. It opened the way for a lot of shows in the last 25 years that have tried to copy it. I don’t think we’ll ever see its like again—and if we do, it’ll be somewhere like HBO or Showtime. If TWIN PEAKS had started today, that’s where we would be.

FANG: Clearly it was an influence on shows like THE KILLING, which revolved around the murder of a young girl and its impact on her hometown.

WISE: Totally, and over the last 25 years, you can go back and pick out the failed series that have tried to use different concepts from TWIN PEAKS.

FANG: At what point in filming the series did you know that Leland was the killer? Were you aware from the beginning, or was it all sprung on you?

WISE: No, not until I filmed the reveal scene. I never knew it, and they didn’t want anybody to know it. When Maddy was murdered, that scene was filmed three different ways: Van Horn killed her, I killed her and BOB himself killed her. Not even the crew knew the answer; that’s how secret they wanted it to be.

FANG: Were you thrown by that, since you obviously hadn’t been playing Leland with his culpability in mind?

TWINPEAKSENTIREWISE2WISE: I was. I did not want it to be me. I wasn’t playing Leland like he was the killer, no; I played him as this wonderful person who’s a good lawyer, a good husband, a good father, who misses the hell out of his daughter and is grieving for her, and doesn’t quite know how to handle that grief. I tried to play him 100 percent straight-arrow, you know?

And then to find out he did all those things was a big, big surprise. The whole idea of killing my own daughter was very distasteful to me. I had just had a little daughter of my own—she was only a couple of years old when I started doing TWIN PEAKS—and then Sheryl Lee, who played Laura, gave me a little picture of herself in the fourth grade that I kept in my wallet all the time I played Leland. So I found it all very disturbing when I learned it was me, but then David explained to me that my last show would have a wonderful scene of redemption, and that Laura would forgive me and I could go into the next world in Cooper’s arms, and he would read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I would see my daughter at the end of a long tunnel of light, and she would have her arms out, forgiving me. He made it sound very appealing, and that’s the way I went out.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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