LH: I think it was the most surreal thing I've ever done simply because just working with him is like being in another era. Have you interviewed him; have you seen how he speaks?
Q: Not yet.
LH: Oh, he's amazing. He'll go, "I'll be ding-danged."
LH: "Holy jumping George!" [laughs] "Golly gee!" And it's just the funniest to hear him talk. But apart from that, he directed me in metaphors and similes. He's a true poet, a true artist; he's constantly creating, whether he's painting or composing music or whatever. He's one of the few auteurs left. So for me, it was like a dream come true.
Q: This was originally designed as a TV show. Was pretty much the whole TV show part of the movie that we saw, or did they cut some of the stuff out?
LH: There was a thing that I can remember that was cut out. It's hard because it was so long ago--two and a half years. But I do definitely remember that I shot a scene that was cut out. He just recut it, like something that was going to be in a different place, he placed here--like that.
Q: When you signed up, did you have an idea of where it was going to be going for the TV show or was it just a singular pilot? Did you have an idea of where you would be leading up if it got picked up as a series?
LH: We didn't know exactly, but I heard a rumor, like the phenomenon of Twin Peaks was "Who killed Laura Palmer?"--the development was "Who was Rita?" They set up all the people that were following my character or whatever. I think it was also going to touch a lot about Hollywood and how corrupt the system is sometimes. I don't mean "corrupt," but I mean how much of a business it is, do you know what I mean? And how the studios have a lot to say in who gets cast. It's not a good thing or a bad thing; it's just the way it is; I'm not judging it either way. It touches a lot on how artists sometimes have to succumb to the wishes of whomever is paying the money.
Q: When you signed on for this, you signed on for a pilot that would lead into a TV series, or you were signed to a series?
LH: I was signed to a pilot, but we thought for sure because of the phenomenon of Twin Peaks, it was going to be a series.
Q: And with David Lynch--you assumed they would buy it for sure.
LH: Yeah. I spent all my money!
Q: There's a lot of nudity and some pretty racy subject matter. That was all part of the pilot?
LH: Ohhh, you're trying to trick me, aren't you?
Q: No, no, no!
Q: But the two characters [Betty and Rita] were going to have a relationship on the show?
LH: Oh, that, we don't know. I don't know, but my interpretation: I think that it was set up for Betty to have a relationship with Adam Kesher because of the looks and whatever. Who knows, but I don't think that if it were a TV pilot, we were going to have an affair. Who knows? But it definitely wouldn't have been a nude scene.
LH: It would have been like tight closeups.
Q: Obviously that's an added scene, so that was definitely not a part of what you were reading when you signed on.
LH: You know how that came about? It was funny because David sat us down in his office--this is after a call we get that "Mulholland Dr. is dead in the water, girls; it's dead, gone." He calls us up; we're in his office; and he goes, "Girls, Mulholland Dr. is going to be an international feature film!" We're like, "Whoo!" He goes, "There's going to be nudity."
LH: So I'm shaking [my head], "Yeah; yeah." I'm leaving his house, and I'm going, "Oh my God. Oh. My. God. What did I just do?" It tormented me for a weeks. And then, of course, I trusted David. He does everything with a lot of style, very artistically done, with a lot of class. I wasn't worried about that, but it's still very vulnerable. Right before I went in to do the love scene, I had to take my towel off, and it was very bright, and there was all these people walking around. I was like, "I don't know if I can do this"; I got all teary-eyed. And I said, "Only for you, David!" He showed me a loop, and I looked through it, and it was really dark. He goes, "That's what people are going to see." And that just calmed me. But of course he didn't tell me that when it goes to video, they can tweak it!
Q: How do you prepare for a scene like that? Is it nervous?
LH: It is very nerve-wracking, and all you can do is be in the moment and not be outside yourself. When you're outside yourself, you're judging. "Oh, you look too fat." You're not in the present. You have to be so present because otherwise you can't connect with the other person anyway, and it's not going to be believable. So for that it's just a matter of really opening up your heart, really feeling the love, and being affected by any little touch. You have to be open.
Q: Is it easier to do it with a girl than with a guy?
LH: Well, but that's kissing in the sheets. You're fully clothed underneath, and you're just kissing. I'm talking about skin to skin, and it's funny because I've done a lot of movies, and I hadn't done that.
LH: Yeah. Well, no--you do love scenes in soaps and stuff; that's true. I didn't think about that way. But I guess what I meant was baring it all, like skin to skin. A lot of people say that it's very technical, that love scenes are very technical, like "now you kiss the ear, and now you go down the cheek because the camera's going to pan down." But it wasn't like that with David. A little bit, but it was more like the camera rolled, and we just went with whatever we were feeling. It makes it much nicer that way, I think.
Q: How would you describe your character?
LH: Which one?
Q: Both of them.
LH: I think in the first scene, when I'm riding in the limo: something very dark. There's mystery there, but something more of the underworld. David doesn't give you anything, so that's what I used. As Rita: tormented, lost, like a black cloud hovering over, so I'm caught between worlds, and just terrified by this key--just confused, tormented. I really used air as my element to help me be because he really wanted me to visualize this cloud and be in between. And then as Camilla, I was grounded, earthy, with some fire. He told me to walk like a kitty-cat, so it was very clear to me the kind of sensuality he wanted for Camilla. In the opening scene with the accident, he wanted me to walk like a broken doll. So it was very clear what he wanted from me; I worked with the elements.
Q: As an actress, when you're doing reshoots, after understanding what your character was about, it's a big puzzle. Does he say, "OK, this is what really the reality is," or do you have to figure it out?
LH: It's very much in the moment. You can ask something, and he'll give you something sometimes, but he won't give you the interpretation of what something means. The box, the lady with the blue hair who says "Silencio," or what's all that about--he doesn't give it to you, which is great because it makes you have your own reality. Like when you read a good book, everybody pictures their own reality in their head.
Q: When you were reading through the pilot, I assume the pilot made sense to you, or you wouldn't have signed on.
LH: I would have because it was David Lynch because you know he's going to do something great.
Q: Did you feel in your own reality, like when you had to explain it to your mom or to your best friend?
LH: Yeah, I did. And every time that I see the movie, I see it like it's a different reality. It's the weirdest thing; I get a different interpretation. We had all these screenings, and every time I see it, I'm like, "This is a movie about Hollywood dreams and obsession." And next time I see it, I'm like, "No, no, no--this is a movie about identity, how we really don't know who we are."
[Someone's cell phone starts ringing]
LH: [laughs] That was surreal, right there! So the first time I saw the movie, I was convinced that it was a movie about Hollywood dreams and obsession. And then the second time I saw it, I thought, "No, this is a movie about identity, and how we really don't know who we are"--which I think is really true in life. I'm not saying that's what he meant. It's just that my personal interpretation changes every time I see it, and that's unreal to me. That, to me, is the making of a classic--so many dimensions, such rich material, that every time you see it, it's like unlayering an onion; you get a whole different feeling.
Q: Do you think that beneath her amnesia that Rita was truly wanting to become another person, to redefine herself?
LH: I don't think that she was trying to redefine herself simply because she didn't know who she was. I think she was trying to find herself. I think that the first part of the movie is Diane's unconscious. Her reality is that [my character has] helped her out all her life, given her roles, and she's been on my wing and in my shadow. I'm like, "Yeah, I had an affair with her, and I cared for her, and it was nice and fun for me. I have my relationship with my fiancÚ." And so she became obsessed because her mind was weak. So the reality--when she wakes up, in my opinion--is that she really needs me, but her unconscious, her wish, was that I need her, and that's the reason that she created this whole torment of me needing her, and she's helping me out step by step.
Q: You also have another film coming up with Denzel [Washington]. What's your role in [John Q]?
LH: Yeah! Actually, that's such a different role for me because I play a Midwestern hick. [laughs] I play a very obnoxious, loud, butchy kind. I'm married, but my husband hates me. Just a whole different [character]--I had acid washed jeans to here, the boots over the pants, and nothing matched. [Co-star] Ray Liotta did not recognize me when he saw me on the way back home, and I was in my normal outfit. He could not believe that I was the same actor because it was so different from me. And it was amazing working with Denzel because he is just one of the most consistently good actors. There was that vibe on set with him as there was with Raul Julia; the first movie I ever did was with Raul Julia. Just a magic in the air, a feeling--something extra, like a thickness, because he was focusing so much and concentrating, and the respect. So I learned a lot from him; the first time I've ever been starstruck was with Denzel.
Q: What's a lasting memory you have of Raul?
LH: I remember it was a very intense scene, and I walked in the set--it was very small; it was in Texas. They wanted to touch him up, and they touched him up, but he was just breathing. He was really breathing, and when that camera came on, your hair would stand up. It was so powerful, his voice; he just created an ambience around that I have never been able to forget. Never.
Q: When you say that Lynch gave you room to interpret wherever you wanted to go, did he tell you when you weren't doing something quite right? Did he ever say, "No, that's totally wrong"?
LH: No. He's so gentle. He's such a compassionate being that he understands actors. I don't think that he would ever do that. I don't know; I can't say, but he surely did not with me. He was very gentle, and he would come really close and he'd talk [really soft], and he'd put his hands out. Have you seen pictures? He just really works with his hands. He was very specific; he wanted my hands like this. [covers her mouth] That's how he wanted it. But when he used those similes and metaphors, it was so clear to me. I think it's less clear when somebody tells you, "Give me more." It was funny because he was depicting that in the movie, the bad director. It was so funny.
LH: But did I tell you that on the way to see David, I got so excited I had a car accident? I swear.
Q: You were just practicing for the movie, right?
LH: [laughs] No, I swear I didn't know the script. I had no idea because I wasn't given the script. I arrived, and the assistant told me that the first opening scene in the movie, my character has a car accident. And I knew at that minute, at that second--I know it sounds really strange, but I felt that was an omen. Whatever happened, I felt that this role was mine.
Q: What kind of accident? Yours wasn't as bad, I hope.
LH: My car got dented, but the other car--I crashed into this big truck.
Q: She walked in with blood streaming down her face.
LH: [laughs] The left side of my car was dented, but the other car was a truck, so they had the big bumper, and they didn't get a scratch. I wasn't hurt or anything, but it was a couple thousand on my car.
Q: I spoke with you before, and you said that you also sort of had an instinctive feeling that the film would come out eventually, and that at one point you were the only person who believed that was going to happen.
LH: I remember when David called and said that Mulholland Dr. was "dead in the water." There was so many times it was going to be something it wasn't, and then when he was convinced it was nothing, that it was going to be on a shelf--I'd go the spa, and I'd be sitting next to [Twin Peaks star] Sheryl Lee! Then I'd be driving somewhere really remote, and then I'd see, "Rita." It was just weird; posters of Rita Hayworth, or Mulholland Drive, or Mulholland, or Lynch--even if there were other names in front of it. Just all these things, and so to me those were all omens. I was in India and was a social worker there; they taught me to read omens and that the world really communicates with us when things are going to be OK, or even bad omens. So I've learned to read those. I kept calling David when he would say, "No, it's dead." I said, "No, it's not." I said, "I get omens; don't worry about a thing; it's going to be OK." The same thing with just getting into the Cannes Film Festival--I just felt it and also felt that was going to win best director. But I'm not always in tune.
Q: India--how did that happen?
LH: I was in boarding school in Switzerland, and they have an organization called the Round Square Conference. They trained one or two students from all these schools, and so I ended up a manual labor worker in India digging ditches, building vegetable gardens, carrying rocks against the soil erosion, and that kind of stuff. You know when you have a turning point in your life where you realize there's greater things, more important things--where you come back to yourself spiritually? India did that for me. That's why I've been able to survive Hollywood all these years. [laughs]
Q: You mentioned the theme of identity. But do you think on another level the film's about being an actor and how issues of identity become blurred?
LH: Yeah, the film does talk a lot about that. I just think as a human being, we really don't know who we are, and we're far more complex than we think we are. We think we're one thing, but we're the other. We're good and bad. We can be smart and stupid; sometimes we all say dumb things. We're so complex, and there's a duality in everything. But I do think that the film definitely is a depiction of Hollywood and how sometimes as actors we are lost. All of us.
Q: It seems to me now that TV has changed a bit: Six Feet Under, The Sopranos. The movie doesn't have anything worse than what's in Oz or something like that on a weekly basis. Do you watch TV, and do think that if this movie was pitched as a TV show now, it would've gotten on?
LH: I just think that we always referred to it as a film; we always treated it as a film. I think that in the end it turned out to be what it was gonna be, what it was meant to me, what it was destined to be. I would have loved to have had a steady job for seven years because I spend a lot of money, so it's all good.
LH: But I love movies. I love the whole ritual of buying the popcorn; I get excited. Like my mother says--my mother's so cute--she said, "I'd rather go to a bad movie than no movie at all." [laughs] That's how much she loves movies. She'd rather sit through two hours of a bad movie than no movie at all.
Q: What about TV? Do you watch TV?
LH: I do. I watch TV, and think there's a lot of great shows out there. I love the shows that make me laugh. I think that Mulholland Dr. could have been a great TV show, but I'm glad that it's a film; I'm just really happy with how it turned out. Yeah, I love The Sopranos; I just started watching it. But I don't have much time to watch.
LH: No. Sex and the City makes me laugh. Frasier makes me laugh. There's a lot of shows--Friends, all the normal ones.
Q: Do you still get recognized for the lambada?
LH: Yeah. [laughs] Can you believe it?
Q: Do you have any weird story about that at all?
LH: Weird? Well, you know what, when we were doing that scene where that guy kidnaps me, and he forces me to dance the lambada. I'm on stage, and he's sitting there, and I put my hair up, and I go, "You want to see the lambada? I'll show you the lambada!" [Starts singing melody to Kaoma's "Lambada"] And I start dancing, right? So then, the funniest thing was that, that guy--is it Richard Beymer? I forgot his name.
LH: Lynch; Richard Lynch. We're doing the scene, and he got so into the whole passion of the fight--he actually yanked my hair! And he yanked my hair so that I started crying. He felt so bad. It happens all the time when you're doing movies, and you're doing fight scenes or whatever. But I was so young at that time, I was like, "He did it on purpose!" [laughs] I thought he got so into his character that he got angry at me and did it on purpose. I've learned better now.