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.
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. MM