'Twin Peaks' Producer Weighs in on David Bowie's Role and the End of 'The Return'

"Bowie did give us permission," Sabrina Sutherland says about the late musician's appearance via archival footage.
Courtesy of Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Over the course of Twin Peaks: The Return, there was a bubbling suspicion that a big David Bowie surprise was in the offing — and indeed, it was, if not quite in the form some fans were desperately hoping for.

The iconic musician, who passed away in 2016, first appeared in David Lynch and Mark Frost's surreal universe as disappearing federal agent Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the prequel film released in 1992. Jeffries was clearly connected to the Black Lodge mythology at the heart of Twin Peaks, though the exact extent and nature of his role wasn't quite as clear. But as early as the opening hours of The Return, the evil Dale Cooper doppelganger (also played by Kyle MacLachlan) was openly worrying about Agent Jeffries and his hidden agenda, leaving viewers to wonder if Bowie had managed to film some scenes for the series prior to his death.

Eventually, it became clear that there wasn't an 11th-hour Bowie cameo waiting in the wings, even though Jeffries played a major role. As with several of the other actors who have passed away since the original Twin Peaks, the new series utilized archival footage of Bowie from Fire Walk With Me during a key vision sequence. It also reintroduced the character in a bizarre new form: as a steampunk tea kettle, smoking and snarking somewhere in the Black Lodge, equipped with a Southern drawl that sounded exactly like Bowie's voice from Fire Walk With Me. 

During a Reddit AMA, Twin Peaks producer Sabrina Sutherland answered some fan questions about The Return, and even though her responses were limited due to the Lynchian levels of secrecy, she did reveal that Bowie gave his approval for the way his character would be utilized in the new Twin Peaks: "Bowie did give us permission to use his clips in this season," she wrote. 

Some other key moments from the AMA, the closest thing we currently have to Lynch himself weighing in on the ending:

• To begin with, for those wondering about the nature of Sutherland's role in Twin Peaks, here's her helpful answer: "I worked every day with David Lynch to make sure everything he envisioned made it onto the screen. I started back when he was still working with Mark. I made the budget and schedule for Showtime to see what we would need to shoot and finalize that deal. I hired people and made sure we had the people David wanted and made sure his vision was executed for the screen. Since David was the lone approver of everything (and I mean everything, from every stitch of wardrobe to all cast members to all locations, etc. — he had total creative control), all things pretty much funneled through me so we could get the job done David wanted. I worked through all of pre-production, production, post production and delivery to make sure everything Showtime needed was provided and everything David wanted happened."

• Sutherland on Lynch's visualization process: "David does not do standard storyboards. He has everything in his head — how he wants to shoot, where he wants the camera. Basically he has what the scene will look like totally in his head. He will either explain verbally what he wants or, more often than not, he will draw the scene on anything handy as he's explaining it to whomever he needs to make understand his vision. I have notebooks full of these drawings. Now looking at them, I know what they mean, but someone else looking at them would have no idea what they mean. You have to have him in front of you drawing it and explains it at the same time. Make sense?"

• Don't expect to see too many deleted scenes on the inevitable home video release of Twin Peaks: The Return, according to Sutherland. "Most of the footage we shot is used in the film," she wrote. "David always likes to experiment, and we always were ready for him writing new scenes and adding new visuals to shoot."

• According to Sutherland, David Lynch has not read The Secret History of Twin Peaks, the novel written by co-creator Mark Frost that explores many of the hidden corners of this strange universe. Likewise, the filmmaker has not read Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, the upcoming book from Frost that very well could explain some of the series' lingering mysteries. "The Final Dossier is completely Mark's book. David and I do not know what it will contain at this time," she explained.

• In the wake of the finale, a popular online theory has suggested watching the final two hours of The Return simultaneously, a la watching The Wizard of Oz alongside Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Consider this theory officially shot down, as Sutherland said, "This is definitely not the way to watch these parts."

• Among the best questions of the AMA: "What year was it?" Sutherland's coy answer: "Hmm ... too loaded a question." Consider this mystery in the vault, alongside all the other theories both Sutherland and even more importantly Lynch refuse to address. "My philosophy on theories is that they are all great and worthwhile," she wrote. "I look at this as a film, and I look at film as art. I believe art should be something the viewer interprets and discusses without the artist giving answers. It's something to be felt and enjoyed — and it should retain a mystery."

• Is this the end of the road for Twin Peaks, or can we keep hope alive for a fourth season? In that regard, Sutherland, who is still working on the third season (she stopped short of elaborating any further than needing to deliver some "final elements"), offered a ray of possibility: "I'm still [too] caught up in season three to even think about season four or a movie. I suppose you could show your interest to Showtime, but I'm not thinking of this yet. I want to finish this season first."

Do you want to see more Twin Peaks, or are you happy to let the mystery be? Sound off in the comments.

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