Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery was recently released on Blu ray, and the set features a collection of previously unreleased scenes titled ‘The Missing Pieces,’ 90 minutes of deleted and extended scenes from the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. These previously unseen scenes have added even more mystery to the Twin Peaks saga, and on Monday I had the chance to speak with Twin Peaks writer Bob Engels. In Part 1 of this exclusive interview, Engels discusses the strange backstory behind the Black Lodge that he and David Lynch at one point had planned for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which would have been set in the 1950’s at President Eisenhower’s inauguration and explained BOB and the Black Lodge inhabitants reasons for ‘wanting to go home’ on the series.
He also discusses how a planned Sheriff Truman Black Lodge rescue sequence, following up on the events of the series finale, would have tied into this. Click here to read Part 2 of the interview, which focuses on the David Bowie sequence from Fire Walk With Me, along with the Epilogue from The Missing Pieces, and if there is a future for Twin Peaks. We will also have up an interview with Dana Ashbrook, who played Bobby Briggs, on Friday.
First off, how was it seeing everybody at The Missing Pieces premiere, did you reconnect with anybody you hadn’t seen in a long time?
I haven’t seen most of them, but I’ve seen Ray Wise often. There was a retrospective of the whole Twin Peaks series at USC, and I think I saw 4 or 5 of them there, just briefly. Of course the actors always get swamped, so I really didn’t have much time to chat. Someone else asked me about [The Missing Pieces], a lot of it seems a long time ago. The missing scenes, I said to David [Lynch], some of them I can remember real clearly, other ones I was like, what’s that? Where was that supposed to go? (Laughs) So it’s always a mixed feeling for me. It’s fun to see those folks, and the material, and at the same time a lot of it seems very distant to me, but very fun. It’s nothing negative, it’s very special, all of us would say that, I think.
After seeing the original film obviously over 20 years ago, and now The Missing Pieces, are you satisfied with the original cut and the scenes that didn’t make the film? Are there any that you think should have made it after seeing it? Because it obviously would have made for a different tone, if you had put in some of those scenes.
I don’t think I’ve seen the full movies since I saw it at Cannes (laughs). So that would be a hard one for me to answer. But I can remember that the fist fight with the Sheriff and [Chet Desmond], I think that was one of the last things cut, and it’s because while it was such a wonderful scene, it really didn’t fit the movie. Of course [Chris Isaak] had boxed, so that’s kind of what it grew out of. I think that was the last thing [cut]. What David thought, if I can remember this right, is that it just really didn’t fit. He probably knew that it had to go, but it’s one of these things that happens all of the time in movies and television, you have something you just love, it works great, you see it in the dailies, and first cuts. You think, ‘Oh god, that was so fun when I thought that up.’ Then you get to [thinking], and it doesn’t really fit. As fun as it is, the other scenes in that Sheriff’s station kind of did the same thing. They had the same weight to them, without the action. Thinking about it, that’s probably what it was, it just wasn’t of a piece, but like I said it lasted for a long time.
Chris Isaak as Special Agent Chet Desmond in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Other ones, like I said to David on the [premiere] night, I don’t remember, I have no memory of what that was. He said, ‘Yeah, same thing when I looked at them. Some of them I didn’t remember.’ I think if I looked at the movie, I would remember where they were supposed to go, because some of them were extended, and then got trimmed. Just seeing the actors [in The Missing Pieces], it’s like seeing old friends, the sets are fun to see. Knowing they don’t exist any more is kind of fun, the buildings are all there obviously, but the sets were always internal I think.
Seeing people like Jack Nance who are no longer with us, was pretty cool too.
Jack was such a good guy. [Don S. Davis, who played Major Briggs] I used in 3 or 4 series that I did afterwards, he projected a great thing, that guy did. So I saw him, and Jack obviously [after the show].
A lot of [the Twin Peaks actors] are real active in the festival, and there’s all sorts of Twin Peaks dealies that go on. For a lot of them, they’re like on a circuit or something: ‘I’ll see you in Tacoma on Tuesday!’
It’s kind of becoming like Star Trek, a little bit.
(Laughs) Yes. I think with a little work it would be like Star Trek. I always thought the difference with Twin Peaks fans and Star Trek fans, [the big difference] is, the one time I went to [the Twin Peaks festival] I was really impressed that they had full complete lives (laughs), I don’t mean to [offend] the Star Trek fans though. (Brief pause) I’d get in trouble if I said any more, but they’re real nice, I like them. But for me, I like to keep [Twin Peaks] what I remember of it, which thinking about it now apparently isn’t very much (laughs).
Don’t worry, I’ll refresh your memory today! Now what was the process like working with David on a script, especially with Fire Walk With Me? Was it a process of both of you creating the story together, or David coming in with the big ideas and you framing them?
Well we wrote at David’s house. As far as the series went, David and Mark [Frost] had that figured out. You had leeway on how you executed things, but it was already plotted out. Writing the film with David was a blast, it’s always fun. I’ve written stuff with lots of different directors, that’s kind of one of my little niches. That’s the most fun in the world, because you realize you’re talking with the person who is going to shoot it, you’re talking to the boss. Once it’s into the script, you know this is going to happen, as opposed to when you’re the write for hire, you’re thinking: ‘Yeah, they’ll fire me after this draft, this is about it for me.’ Which is fun, that’s fine, but with David you realize once we hit on things, that was probably going to be in the movie, which was a thrill, you just can’t beat that. It could change on the day, which happened, but for the most part David always knew where we wanted to go.
We were close enough personally, that we were kind of on the same page. It was pretty much Ike and Mike, once David said, ‘Let’s have this or do that,’ I knew what we were doing. So it was a real pleasant experience, and fast, I think we wrote it in 3 weeks or something like that. But like I said, working with the director, it’s going to be what it’s going to be. That really gives you a lot of freedom to suggest things, but obviously David’s the boss, so you can insist on something, that’s not going to happen (laughs). It was framed pretty much, it was always supposed to be a prequel and a sequel at the same time. At first Kyle [MacLachlan] wasn’t interested in doing it, and Lara [Flynn Boyle] eventually didn’t do it at all, that changed a bit, obviously. I can remember thinking the whole Chet Desmond thing really was a cool idea, because then when he disappeared that was really neat, I love that stuff.
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
That leads me to ask, at first there was supposedly a draft where it was just going to be Cooper in the first part of the movie. What differences do you think there would have been if it was just Cooper? I don’t think you would have seen Cooper in a fistfight with the local sheriff, did you ever get as far as planning stuff for Kyle in the first part of the movie, if it was just him?
You adjust to what the actor can do. If I remember this correctly, Kiefer [Sutherland’s] role was probably invented with Chet in mind. Because Kyle was so established, I’m just guessing that he wouldn’t have needed an associate to be with him. I’m not sure how much acting [Chris Isaak] had done before then, and I can remember watching when they were shooting saying: ‘It’s really great to put a really good experienced actor like Kiefer with someone who is a good actor, but just starting, because they pick it up so fast, how the veteran actor works.’ That was really a beautiful thing to see. My guess is that would have gone differently [though], obviously Kyle wouldn’t have disappeared, none of that stuff would have happened. I don’t think there was a draft with Agent Cooper in the first act [exclusively], so it would be hard to say what would have been different, but obviously Agent Cooper would have had more history with what was going on, but it’s hard to say.
What’s the story behind the creamed corn planet where BOB and Mike want to return? Who came up with that, and why the creamed corn, why Garmonbozia? The Gamonbozia kind of seemed like coffee to those creatures.
(Laughs) Yes, I bet it is. That’s David’s idea, it might be David and Mark, I shouldn’t say just David, but I found out that the planet covered with creamed corn was David. I think in the original, original draft, there was this whole thing from 1954. I’d have to go look it up to be sure, but there was this whole thing that took place, the inauguration night of [President] Eisenhower. There were insects on this kitchen table, and somehow the Garmonbozia was there (chuckles), or the corn was there. If my memory serves me correctly, we got that idea because I think it’s Eisenhower’s inauguration, they actually stop the inauguration ball for a half hour, because it was the same night that on I Love Lucy where she had her baby. That was the episode, so everything stopped, so the world stopped. So maybe that’s what we were thinking (laughs), there’s a journey. But the Gamonbozia, David explained that to me. It did have something to do with, the only way you could get there was going backwards. Because that’s why Mike talks backwards, I thought that, I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I can’t remember if this was for an episode or maybe the movie, but we planned this long tracking shot of Sheriff Truman driving backwards, because that’s how you could get to the planet, or the area, which we never did.
The Black Lodge inhabitants in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Were you going to do that in Season 3, or another movie? Because I’ve read about that before, about Truman driving Mike backwards into the Black Lodge.
I think that was going to be in the movie.
You mean another movie, or Fire Walk With Me?
In Fire Walk With Me. I think the first draft of Fire Walk With Me was pretty hefty (laughs), I think it might have been up around 190 [pages].
So there was more sequel stuff in the original draft, is what you’re saying?
Yeah, there was more. For one thing, everybody got a scene. I remember being conscience of that, like in The Missing Pieces that Jack Nance scene was so Jack Nance would be in the movie. I think there was a little bit more of that now that I think about it, I think David shot a full day of that. But the weird thing is when I was watching those pieces, it felt like it all fit. Even that thing about how to cut the wood, it was so much a part of Twin Peaks, that even though it didn’t have much to do with Laura, it had a lot to do with the series, and that this young woman’s death affected everything. It was a funny feeling, because I can remember thinking we’re trying to figure out ways to get everyone in here, and keep it attached. I guess I thought when I first saw the movie, no wonder those scenes had to go, but then when I was look at it last month, I was thinking oh no those all fit, with the exception of the fistfight I guess.
Twin Peaks writer Bob Engels at a USC retrospective in 2012