It’s been 33 years since David Lynch released his film Blue Velvet, an exercise in what came to be known as “Lynchian” surrealism that begins with the college student Jeffrey Beaumont’s discovery of a severed ear. Since then, the director has effectively created his own universe with Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, and Mulholland Drive, but Lynch had never officially been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which made up for its decades-long oversight by awarding him with an honorary Oscar at the Governor Awards on Sunday night.
Blue Velvet wasn’t just one of Lynch’s early masterpieces. It was also the film that solidified the status of Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, and Laura Dern as his muses, making it no surprise that they were the ones to present him with the Oscar. In their introduction, Dern described Lynch’s process to the audience: “He says ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve gotta go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure, they’re huge and abstract, and very beautiful.”
Evidently, Lynch wasn’t in the mood to go deep on Sunday night. “Congratulations to the other honorees tonight,” the director began his speech, which clocked in at less than a minute. “Everyone have a great night. You have a very interesting face. Good night.” (Still, it proved meaty enough to prompt a debate; apparently, there was some confusion over whether Lynch had said “face” or “fate.”) Fortunately, the trio got to spend a bit more time chatting with Lynch backstage: “Back with my family,” Dern wrote on Instagram, with a photo of what she described as “the best reunion ever.”
Dern, now 52, has known Lynch since she was 16, when he cast her in the film and gave her the nickname Tidbit. As Dern recently recalled to W, their first encounter was as off as you might expect: “He looked at me and I was waiting for his magical words. And it was a magical moment but he went, ‘I have to pee.’ And so he disappeared. And then he came back and we talked about life and high school and meditation and I was getting ready to audition and that never happened. He was like, ‘Thank you very much.’ And then I left,” she said.
Thanks to the second and final step in the audition process, Dern got to know MacLachlan—with whom she held hands while walking across the stage on Sunday—early on, too. “I got a call that he wanted to meet me at Bob’s Big Boy to see if Kyle MacLachlan and I could get along or something. It was like a chemistry lunch. And so the three of us had lunch at Bob’s Big Boy, and the rest is history,” Dern continued. “We ordered malts and French fries and David was doodling on napkins while Kyle was doodling with a knife into his ketchup. And I mean, a girl either goes, these are really bizarre men and they are twin souls, or I am in love with both of these people and want to spend the rest of my life with them, which is how I responded.”
It seemed like Rossellini was also feeling sentimental on Sunday, when she Instagrammed two photos of herself with the director—one from the Governor Awards, and one from 1990, when he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
David Lynch’s Heroines Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before
From left: Chrysta Bell wears Tiffany & Co. necklace. Hailey Gates wears Bulgari necklace. Laura Dern. Naomi Watts wears Robert Lee Morris SoHo earrings; Lagos necklace. Patricia Arquette wears Tiffany & Co. necklace.
Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Inland Empire, and Twin Peaks (2017) “I hadn’t read the script, but I knew the film was Blue Velvet. I was sitting on the floor, waiting to audition, and David walked out. I was startled by every aspect of him. He looked at me, and I was waiting for some magical words. He said, ‘I have to pee,’ and disappeared. When he came back, we talked about life and high school and meditation, and I was ready to audition—but that never happened. He said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and I left. Soon after, I got a call saying he wanted to meet me at Bob’s Big Boy to see if Kyle MacLachlan and I could get along. We ordered malts and french fries, and David was doodling on napkins while Kyle was doodling with a knife in his ketchup. A girl either thinks, These are bizarre men, or, I am in love with both these people and want to spend the rest of my life with them. Needless to say, I fell in love.”
Dern wears a Cartier necklace.
Naomi Watts wears Bottega Veneta dress; Robert Lee Morris SoHo earrings; Lagos necklace.
Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks (2017) “I was in New York and my agent called and said, ‘You have a meeting with David Lynch.’ I didn’t believe in traveling or breaking plans for auditions, but this was David Lynch, and it’s not every day that you get that call. So I flew to Los Angeles and went straight from the plane to meet him. David had that intense ear-to-ear grin, and he was smoking up a storm. He said, ‘How’s your day? Tell me everything!’ I was at a point where I’d been auditioning for 10 years and people would barely make eye contact, but David was genuinely interested in me. I was there for 40 minutes. When I left that room, I thought, No matter what happens, I had a great meeting with a legend.”
Watts wears a Bottega Veneta dress; Robert Lee Morris SoHo earrings; Lagos necklace.
Lost Highway “During Lost Highway, I would ask David, ‘Am I playing two different people? Is one of them a ghost? A hallucination? Are they both real? What am I playing here?’ And he’d reply, ‘I don’t know, Patricia. What do you think?’ So I had to come up with a whole concept of what I thought Lost Highway was about. I decided to model these two characters after Salome and Jezebel, in the Bible. At some point, I told David that one should have dark hair and blunt-cut bangs like Bettie Page. David said, ‘Who is that?’ I turned him on to the famous nude pinup. David was like, ‘Wow. Bettie Page. She’s the bee’s knees.’ ”
Arquette wears a Tiffany & Co. necklace.
Twin Peaks (2017) “When he works, David Lynch uses a megaphone. Even if there are only three people in the room. I really like that kind of commitment. He’ll have a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and he’ll say, through the megaphone, something like, ‘I need a little more danger in her face.’ At one point, he felt the table in front of me wasn’t quite dirty enough. He was on the megaphone: ‘Can I get some Bisquick?’ Someone came right over with the Bisquick, and David started rubbing a paste of gunk over the table. The cig was still hanging out of his mouth. That was one of my favorite moments.”
Gates wears Theodora Warre earrings; Bulgari necklace.
Twin Peaks (2017) “For a long time, I felt like I was swimming in a different lake than everybody else. I would look around me and think, Hmm, maybe I’m not from this land; maybe I should try and venture into some other dimension. I think that is one of the reasons that David and I get along. He functions in all these juicy, mystical, esoteric dimensions. When David asks me to be a part of things, it’s always a bit mysterious. Twin Peaks was no exception: He approached it with a little twinkle in his eye. I couldn’t do anything but say yes excitedly.”
Bell wears a Balmain dress.
From left: Patricia Arquette wears an Akris jacket and skirt; Tiffany & Co. necklace. Hailey Gates wears a Norma Kamali swim dress and skirt; Theodora Warre earrings; Bulgari necklace; Michael Kors Collection belt; Manolo Blahnik shoes. Chrysta Bell wears a Balmain dress; Tiffany & Co. necklace; Rochas shoes. Laura Dern wears a Monse dress; Cartier necklace; Manolo Blahnik shoes; her own ring. Naomi Watts wears a Bottega Veneta dress; Lagos necklace; Paul Andrew shoes.