Recently CBS Home Video released the long awaited Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray box set, which includes not only the series in its entirety, but the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, and over 90 minutes of deleted scenes from the movie, which for a long time, fans thought would never be seen. One of the most integral parts of the Twin Peaks experience is actor Ray Wise, who played Laura Palmer’s grieving father. I recently got a chance to chat with Ray, about the Twin Peaks box set, as well as the legacy of the show after nearly twenty-five years. This interview is filled with massive spoilers for the show, so if for some reason you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, you might want to watch it before you read any further.
NERDIST: The most eagerly anticipated part of the Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray set is what’s being called “The Missing Pieces”, the 90 minutes of deleted footage from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that’s finally being seen. Fans waited over twenty years to see these scenes; did you ever think this footage would ever see the light of day?
RAY WISE: No, I never did…I really thought that would be material that would be lost for the ages. I knew that David Lynch’s original cut of the movie was much longer than the one that was released. But I had no idea of the actual length of the material that was taken out of the film, and when I saw it that night, at “The Missing Pieces” premiere screening, I was totally mesmerized by it. I was so pleasantly surprised. It was really like watching a whole new movie, those 90 minutes, and there were a couple of scenes that I was in that I really wish had been left in the movie, and they would have really added to it.
N: I agree, I really feel all the scenes with the Palmer family should have been left in the movie.
RW: Yeah! Absolutely! Especially that dinner scene, where I teach my wife and daughter Norwegian, because it showed an aspect of the Palmer family that people hadn’t seen before. And you know that one scene, where Leland comes home and is walking up the sidewalk, and he hears something in the bushes and stares, and we’re not sure if he see Laura there or not…
N: That scene is terrifying!
RW: Isn’t that scene amazing? I was getting chills watching that scene..and it’s me! (laughs) And as I watched it I said “Wow! Why was that not left in??”
N: I really feel of all the scenes that were cut, the ones with the Palmer family were the ones I felt should have been left in the most. They’re all so good and add so much to the overall story. So for the Blu-ray set, you did a sit-down interview with David Lynch, along with Sheryl Lee (who played Laura Palmer) and Grace Zabriskie (who played Sarah Palmer) but not just as yourselves, you also got interviewed as the characters you played, some 25 after you last played them. Did you know that was something David Lynch was going to ask you to do, or was it a total surprise?
RW: That was a surprise, yeah. I mean, we knew we were coming there to the Bigfoot Lodge in Los Feliz to do some kind of sit-down together…you know, like an interview or a q&a type of thing maybe. But then when we arrived there that morning, we were all handed sheets of new material. And it was all stuff that David Lynch had written, either the night before or who knows…maybe even that morning. And there was stuff there for Leland, and Sarah and for Laura. And of course, Leland and Laura are living in netherworld, and Grace was the only one still alive as a character. But there we were, sitting with David, and he started asking us these questions about how we all felt, twenty-five years after the fact. And I have to say it was a pretty remarkable experience to come back to that character after twenty five years, and after a few moments feeling as if that twenty-five years never even happened. it was almost like it was yesterday. It was a really strange and wonderful experience. Hearing Leland try to explain himself a little more…he’s obviously had plenty of time to think about it all (laughs.)
Nerdist: For longtime fans like me, it was such an amazing surprise. It was like having a new mini-episode after almost twenty five years. It was so great.
Speaking of it being twenty-five years now, I recently discovered this website that had links to tons of old newspaper and magazine articles from back when the show originally aired, and reading them it’s so amazing to see how the mainstream media reacted to the show. At first it was getting so much adulation for being so different and interesting, but when the show got stranger and darker, and refused to conform to what people were used to, like when the mystery wasn’t solved and kept going, they really turned on it hard. But now, two decades later, the show is praised and seen as groundbreaking. Theres not a lot of shows from that era that people are still talking about today like that. Having been such an integral part of it all, do you feel vindicated in a way now?
RW: Twin Peaks was just a special moment in time. And prior to that time, there just hadn’t been anything like it, certainly not on any of the television networks…and there really hasn’t been anything much like it since I think. It just broke new ground in every way. And I think many shows since Twin Peaks have tried to use aspects of the Twin Peaks formula, whatever that may be, and in reading some of the reviews from television critics for shows in the last four or five years, they always bring up Twin Peaks in the reviews! Like this show or that show is is “Twin Peaks-ish” in tone or quality, and I really think it set some sort of cultural standard. Certainly in television viewing. And certainly Fire Walk With Me, I’ve grown to love it more and more, and I certainly think it’s David’s masterpiece.
N: Reuniting with Lynch again for the “Between Two Worlds” special feature, did you discuss working with him again on any kind of movie? It’s been nearly ten years sine he’s directed a film. Would you be open to being in a film of his again?
RW: I’m not sure that he has a desire to step back into the movie world anytime soon…I think he’s open to doing something in television format. But he’s a man of many interests, and he’s a true artist. He occupies his time completely no matter what. It would certainly be my hope to work with him again in some capacity, either in a television program or a movie. I just love him as a director and as a human being. And our time together has always been a great experience for me.
N: You got to reunite with your television family for “Between Two Worlds” too, Sheryl Lee (who plays Laura Palmer) and Grace Zabriskie (who plays Sarah Palmer). What was it like to get to reunite for this new addition to the show?
RW: Oh, it’s always great. Even if we don’t see each other for eight years, we’re still extemely close. I’m not sure quite how that works, but it does. I will always feel close to those two, and know them maybe better than maybe other people that I see every day. Grace is a wonderful actress and a wonderful person, and Sheryl, she’ll always be my little girl in my eyes. And I remember when we did the show, she gave me a picture of herself from fourth grade that I carried around with me in my wallet, and I gave it back to her at the end of the show. And I was surprised when I learned that David wanted to make the movie Fire Walk With Me. I thought Twin Peaks was gone forever, but then the prequel came along and it really made sense of everything.
N: After your character Leland dies, many people assumed that would be the last we see of you in the show..but you turn up in the series’ final episode, as an entity in the Red Room/Black Lodge, in an episode which David Lynch directed. Were you surprised to get the call to come back?
RW: Yeah, David wanted to do that. It was his idea. I mean, I don’t think really going beyond “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” was really a good idea…if they could have dragged out that mystery longer, it would have been better for the show. But that’s crying over spilled milk now.
Nt: A lot of these old reviews that I’ve been reading, it’s weird seeing how obsessed and angry people were at not getting the answers, and by today’s standards…I mean, what’s 17 episodes? (which is the total length it took to solve the central mystery.) Now shows can stretch out mysteries for years, seasons on end, and no one bats an eye. But back then, it seems if it wasn’t solved in a Columbo, special two part mystery kind of way, they just lost their minds.
RW: Exactly…and that’s pretty much the way that the ABC Network felt about it to. They were so anxious for it to come to a conclusion and then move on from there, and I’m sure the pressure was on for Mark (Frost) and David. I think that Twin Peaks was only meant to burn brightly for a short time, and then disappear.
Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery is available on Blu-ray now.