I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad Dukes, author of “Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” which came out on July 14th, 2014. Brad interviewed nearly 100 cast and crew members, network executives and anyone that worked on the series he could get a hold of during the creation of this book, which is a must-have for any fan of Twin Peaks. Our interview took place the day after the third anniversary of his book being published and was a conversation I really enjoyed. Hope you do as well.
How the idea for the book came about: “I was working on a blog and putting a ton of work into it. I was fascinated by some of the stuff other blogs were doing like In Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks Archive. It was right after the Gold Box came out and I allowed myself to go really crazy with my fandom and to see other people go for it really inspired me to do something on my own. I remember on the blog I used to find the most obscure filming locations from Twin Peaks possible—the more obscure the better. I remember I used to go find it and then take pictures of it and then write blogs about it until I ran out of places to find. That’s when I started interviewing cast members. I interviewed people for almost a year on my blog and after a year of doing that I kind of got the itch to do the book. From there, it was about another two years. The book is really made up of about three years of interviews altogether.”
Interviewing the cast and crew: “All I can say is that I was crazy and I was on a mission. I didn’t put any limits on it. You know it would be funny. Some people aren’t on Facebook, or they’re way out of show business like Richard Beymer for instance. It was kind of like swinging on vines. You would talk to somebody and they would mention they were friends with somebody and I would say “Can you put me in touch with them?” I went to a lot of crazy lengths to find people.”
“My favorite story has to be Richard Beymer. He doesn’t have a website, an agent or manager; he just lives in Iowa and does his thing, which is awesome. It was really tough to get a hold of him. I actually drove to Iowa to see a screening of his documentary in 2011 and talk to him. We had a mutual connection that put us in touch. He just didn’t want to do it. He was like “I’m sorry I have nothing to offer you”. Rejection stings. I wrote him this email back, and a week later I’m at work, and my cell phone rings and its number in Iowa and I was like “Oh shit, this might be Richard”. So I picked up the phone and he says “Brad, its Richard Beymer”. We ended up talking that day for probably two hours. The coolest thing is that for all the times we’ve talked on the phone, we’ve hardly talked about Twin Peaks because he just has so much cool stuff that he’s interested in, or that is going on. I love Richard to death, and it’s really cool to see him back in The Return because I’m not even sure when the last time he did anything onscreen before Season 3. It was fun breaking Richard down and turning a no into a yes. That happened a couple of more times and then sometimes a yes gets turned into a no which really sucked. It was a journey and there were a lot of ups and downs with it. The highs are just as intense as the lows.”
Interviews that didn’t happen but were supposed to: “There were only 2 and they are particularly crushing. David Lynch and Peggy Lipton were both going to do it and then changed their minds. It is what it is. Peggy has her autobiography and she goes into Twin Peaks some. I think Lynch told all the stories he’s going to tell in Lynch on Lynch. If you’re a Lynch completest, hopefully the book offers you more in the long run from other people in addition to what you might have read from Lynch beforehand. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that’s going to sit on the phone for an hour and go down memory lane. You read a lot of his interviews and its short, it’s brief. Someone will ask him a really great question and he’ll come back with one sentence and totally shut it down. As an interviewer, I would be tearing my hair out trying to get out of him what I wanted from him.”
On the process of putting the book together: “I didn’t even know I was making an oral history at first. I wasn’t sure what I was doing; I just knew that I was writing a book. So it sort of evolved into the oral history format. Editing it was really tough. It’s just a big long continuous process. I remember just trying to figure out how to start it off probably took me a year and a half just to work it all out and figure out how it would flow. It was fun. It was kind of like a snowball effect. Kyle (McLachlan) and Sherilynn (Fenn) were two of my final interviews, and by that time, I knew exactly what to ask them. I knew where it would all fit, which was nice.”
“It’s not like I read a book on how to make an oral history. I didn’t talk to anybody that had made an oral history before. It was tough. I would probably average about 2 or 3 interviews a week for about a year. It was just constant transcribing and then plugging it into whatever chapter it would go into. It was hard because I didn’t have too many Twin Peaks friends and I was kind of territorial over it; I didn’t want to share any of it yet. A lot of times, I would have to run it by my wife and see what she thinks or else have to step away from it for a week and then come back to it. It was tough. It was a lonely process at times. My friend Eben was the other person really helped me out. He would read drafts, tell me what wasn’t working and without him I don’t know what I would have done.”
“Transcribing is important. I don’t know if people have apps that do it for them but I feel like as a journalist, you need to go back through it and it needs to come through you. You do the interview and live it once but then you have to live it again and see what’s there. With some people, I was more excited about I would be bummed if the conversation was winding down at thirty minutes. Then there were people like Dwayne Dunham that I spoke with 2 or 3 times and he would brush up on a late second season episode to give me a fresh perspective. It was like getting a director’s commentary that never happened. I look back on it and the whole experience of putting it together means more to me than the final product in a way.”
Experiences after his book was published: “It was pretty cool to get it published in Brazil and France. People in those countries will message me on Instagram and send me pictures of them with the book and that’s just crazy. I would never have even imagined that when I was writing the book. It’s completely flattering. Also, I’ve just made so many friends in the last three years. People like John Thorne. We talked a little bit during the time when I was making my book but he was kind of over Twin Peaks. We swapped a couple of emails and he told me I could use whatever I wanted from the magazine. Then three months after I put the book out, it was announced that the show was coming back. I would never have dreamed that. I remember people would bring up the possibility of it coming back and I would just shake my head and say it’s not happening. It’s been a weird three years. I could never have dreamed that Twin Peaks would come back after all that time.”
The Twin Peaks Festival: I lived in Washington State for a brief time, and in 2008, I went to the Twin Peaks Festival for the first time. That was another thing that lit me up inside somehow. When I think back to 2008, it was so different. I think there were maybe 80 people at the festival. It felt like that was the last bit of Twin Peaks hanging on. There wasn’t Twitter, Netflix or anything. Twin Peaks was this totally cult thing. I think the 20th anniversary was when I really saw interest start to generate. Then in 2011, it came to Netflix. From then it’s been this steadily growing thing. Now this year will be my 9th festival and I’m very excited to see everybody. It’s just a weird thing. It’s like a dysfunctional family reunion in some ways. These are people I talk to all year round. Wendy Robie [Nadine in the series] will be there and we are close friends. It’s a really crazy and intense 4 or 5 days in Twin Peaks. There’s not much sleep and it’s my favorite time of the year.”
Thoughts on The Return: “Man, I love it. It’s not anything that I expected but the hours go by so unfairly fast. I’m enjoying this while it lasts having Twin Peaks on every week, tearing it apart for the next six days and talking to all my friends. It’s the best present ever. I hope Dale can wake up and we get to hang out with the real Dale Cooper for a little bit. At this point, I’ve got to throw out all expectations. I want to see what Dale Cooper would think of 2017 or whatever year Twin Peaks place in”
Current projects and beyond: “I am working on a book about a show called China Beach. It actually aired on Saturdays as the lead into Twin Peaks. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of 2017 for an April 2018 release. It’s not an oral history. The interview aspect is definitely key to it but this time it’s more me driving the narrative, so it’s a much different challenge. I had violent flashbacks of trying to figure out the flow of my Twin Peaks book. So I can at least look back on that and say trust your instincts, keep going and it will be fine. I really enjoy doing my podcast. I don’t really want to do another TV book after this. Fiction would be cool. I really enjoy interviewing people but I hate transcribing, so that’s why I kicked off my podcast a few years ago. It will be hard to know what the next big project is until after I finish this one. I have very much a one track mind”.
Thanks so much to Brad Dukes for taking the time to talk with me. If you haven’t read his book, “Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” it is absolutely worth the cost of the book and is a treasured part of my personal collection. Thanks for reading!