David Lynch on Saturday arrived in Italy with his family to receive the 12th Rome Film Festival’s lifetime achievement award. Fans lined up early in the morning for a chance to see the director speak at the fest’s last “Close Encounter” event.
During the encounter, Lynch covered a wide range of topics, from his early films to his favorite artists (Francis Bacon and Edward Kienholz) to his favorite films (8½, Lolita and, of course, Sunset Boulevard). After the discussion, the audience gave Lynch a standing ovation as fellow helmer Paolo Sorrentino presented him with the honor.
Earlier in the day, Lynch met with Italian press, where he was drilled once again on whether or not he’ll be returning to the world of Twin Peaks. “Too early to say,” he replied.
But one thing is certain, the filmmaker has no plans on retiring from creating. When asked if he’d like to work into his nineties like his friend, actor Harry Dean Stanton, he replied, “I’d like to work into the hundreds as well.”
Lynch reflected on Stanton, who passed away in September at age 91. Stanton was a regular collaborator of Lynch’s, appearing in Wild at Heart, Fire Walk with Me, The Straight Story, Inland Empire and, more recently, Twin Peaks: The Return.
The director spoke of his favorite story of the late actor, which took place after the premiere of The Straight Story in Cannes in 1999 when he ended up at a bar at the Carlton with Stanton, producer Pierre Edelman and composer Angelo Badalamenti.
“We were sitting and drinking and talking. And Harry said something about a dream he had about chocolate bunnies. And we laughed a little bit. Then Harry said something else and we laughed a little bit harder,” remembered Lynch.
“Then Harry said a third thing and we laughed even harder. And then he said a fourth thing and we were laughing, pretty much until we were crying,” he continued. “And this went on for about 18 times, him topping himself. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere, any standup comic anybody who did something like this. I don’t know how he did it. I wish it was on film.”
Lynch remembered Stanton’s talent, saying, “It was the most magical thing. And it had to do with the honesty and the innocence of how he said each line. It was so pure, it was just incredible. That’s Harry Dean. He’s just himself: a tender, innocent, fantastic, natural human being.”
Lynch also explained why, although he once tried to adapt Kafka’s Metamorphosis into a film, he has long since abandoned the project. “I wrote a screenplay many years ago, but the beauty about Kafka is it’s better to stay in words,” he explained. “It’s such a word-filled story that when I finished the script, I felt that it was better to remain a book than a film.”
Reflecting back on his career, Lynch admitted, “I’ve enjoyed working on every film, except maybe Dune. I signed the contract for Dune knowing that I didn’t have final cut. And I knew it was not the right thing to do to sign the contract, but I signed it anyway.”
While speaking about Sunset Boulevard, Lynch praised director Billy Wilder for having a masterful sense of place. “This mansion that they’re in is so beautiful. It has such a mood, such a feeling of the Golden Age of cinema,” said Lynch. “Everything has such a great feeling to me that captures the 1950s in Hollywood. And everybody in that film, I think, is longing for something that they just can’t get.”