Dern on Lynch

On the meaning of Inland Empire:

We know [Lynch] is a non-conformist and we know he
lives in the world of the abstract and we know he loves to
experiment. But David is not an elitist. He doesn’t know
the answers and sits back to see if we can figure it out.
He believes in art as experience and art as an intuitive
journey. I never felt like I had to figure it out and see if
it’s what David meant for it to be. So many people have
their own experience of Inland Empire. Somebody else
believes it’s about a movie within a movie and it’s about
an actress who gets locked inside her movie. They’re not
wrong. But it’s not my experience of it.

My experience of it is the character that we started
with, which is the character in the monologue. To me,
it was about this woman in trouble, a woman who is
dismantling, and her emotional and abstract journey

of trying to define a character for an audience,
emotionally. The girls, I don’t know what other people
think of them, but to me they’re these abstractions
in her mind, what she’s feeling. For me, [I’m playing]
one person. I don’t know if David intended that, but
that’s how I acted it.

Laura Dern

On working on Inland Empire:

David is very specific. Everything is scripted. It’s
just, you get it on the day’s work or you figure it
out as we’re working or he throws me a line as
we’re doing something. But the largest chunk of the
movie, on the day’s work, he knew exactly what he
needed and he would give me that. Whether it made
sense or not in the world of the surreal depended on
the scene and what it meant, but he was certainly
very specific about what I was supposed to do, be,
feel—all those things.

On working without a defined character:

There were times that it was extremely intimidating,
because as an actor you are looking at that [shaping
the performance] most of the time in a film. But, at the
same time, there can be a great gift in that because I
was forced to be in the moment. I had to trust that David
was giving me the information I needed so that once it
was cut together a character would evolve. I had to throw
caution to the wind. People say, “It was a labor of love.
We did it for no money because we loved it.” This was way
beyond that. We entered the experiment.

On Lynch’s directing style:
David works in code and I think he thinks in code. So
you take the puzzle pieces and try to put them together.
I think he leaves that job to me and the other actors.
He doesn’t want to find it for you. He gives the actor a
lot of credit. On Wild at Heart he’d say, “I need more
Marilyn [Monroe].” But when he says, “I need more
Marilyn,” that’s all I need to know for Lula.

On playing Lula in Wild at Heart:

I could have never done it if David wasn’t a friend.
He was very protective of me, like a big brother—he
always has been. When it comes to Wild at Heart, if
we had a love scene, everyone was very respectful…
There’s no getting it wrong. Daring to go too extreme
or too subtle or too anything—he requires it all of you
and it’s all such fun and there’s no judgment on a set
with David—ever. Except when I bring bottles of water
on a set; he hates that. He’s like, “She’s flushing all her
nutrients out. Goddammit, she drinks so much bottled
water! One of these days, that bottle’s gonna be in the
damn movie!” I leave them, just to torture him.

On auditioning for Blue Velvet:

I was in a hallway with a group of actors waiting to
audition. David came out of the room and said, “I gotta
take a leak.” It was the first thing he ever said to me. He
went to the bathroom and then they called me in the
room. We talked for half an hour about life, growing up,
trees, meditation, but not acting. Then I got a call that
he and Kyle MacLachlan wanted to meet me at Bob’s
Big Boy. I went to Bob’s and we shared french fries. He
was doing art with ketchup and the fries on a plate. He
was drawing little drawings or maybe he was doing the
Angriest Dog or something on a napkin. We said bye and
then he asked me to do the movie.

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