I recently had the chance to speak with filmmaker Josh Eisenstadt. In the Twin Peaks community, Josh is known as one of the first super fans and can even be found in the documentary Reflections on the Phenomenon of Twin Peaks which appeared on the original DVD release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. In Part 1 of this interview, we discuss many Twin Peaks related topics including the yearly Twin Peaks Festival, Season 3, theories, The Final Dossier (spoilers if you haven’t read it) and more! In Part 2, we will be diving into Josh’s career. Hope you enjoy what was a fun conversation for us!
25YL: You are known for being one of the original Twin Peaks super fans. I wanted to talk a little bit about your history with the show. Now we kind of take for granted how big this fandom is but you pre-date that.
JE: Yes [laughs]. I’ve seen a lot of different eras, from the beginning, when I was a very little kid. I’ve definitely been with it the whole time. I was way smaller than I should have been to be watching a show with this kind of content. It was episode 2, the dream sequence episode. My parents were watching the original airing of it and I happened to walk in the room. I don’t know what it was, but something caught me and pulled me in. I was drawn into it. By the time the dream sequence happened, I was hooked. I remember saying something to my parents to the effect of “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I want to know everything about this”. I guess that’s what they call famous last words. Here I am 27 years later. I was the only kid in my elementary school watching it obviously.
25YL: We have a pretty similar backstory. I remember seeing the previews before the pilot aired and I was petrified. I did sneak in to watch part of the pilot with my Mom and after initially not wanting me to watch with her, she eventually gave in.
JE: I was allowed to watch. I found someone with the Pilot and episode 1 on tape, so I got caught up and never missed from there.
25YL: My story is a little different from yours in the fact that the season 2 finale scared me so bad that I didn’t watch Fire Walk With Me until I was 18. I had nightmares for years before I finally faced my fears and watched the film.
JE: I had a local theatre that you could get into to see R rated films even if you were underage. I’m glad I did because I don’t think I could’ve waited.
25YL: Let’s talk a little bit about the Twin Peaks Festival. How would you describe it to someone who has never attended one before?
JE: I would say first of all to ignore all concept of what you think of when you think of a regular festival. The way I always think of it is that the show is unique and so is the festival in a similar way. It’s not a Star Trek convention—it’s not even a convention. It becomes more of a family atmosphere. We have cast members there, and they’re intermingling with everyone there. We have a banquet dinner and a costume contest. I’ve been running the trivia contest there for more years than I can count. I think it has a reputation for being the hardest trivia contest out there, or so I hear. It’s very much a long party. We have a karaoke night. This last festival, John Pirruccello got up and did karaoke with everybody, which was great. It’s a really fun, party experience that is definitely not a convention. It’s not that kind of thing and is its own unique experience.
25YL: What’s the hardest trivia question you’ve ever asked at the festival?
JE: There’s a category in the final round called “Super Difficult”. When it gets to there just about anything is fair game. It’s a category you would pick and there have been people that have got those right, such as Spencer who is 17 and won 3 years in a row recently. An example of a question in this category would be “What is Hank Jennings’ prison number”. You see it on the sheet— it is 8464257, but it’s not easy to get. You don’t have to know the “Super Difficult” to win though. You can pick that as a category in the final round and get extra points to get ahead of your opponents by picking it. You could still win a million times over without getting those right though. When we get to what are known as the Level 3 questions, there are ones that are difficult but are not anywhere near that level. An example of a Level 3 question would be “What does Truman order from the Double R when he’s suffering from a hangover in episode 25?’ It’s a chicken pot pie and a large glass of milk. So that’s a Level 3 after we’ve been through much easier rounds.
25YL: Let’s shift gears to Season 3. Did you ever have any expectations that the show would return in any way, shape or form?
JE: No. I was always the one who told people it’s never going to happen. Stop it, stop getting your hopes up, there’s not going to be a Season 3. I remember thinking when Frank Silva died that it was over at that point. That was before I ever imagined Bob in a black orb (laughs). That was 1995 when that happened before the era of modern CGI. What I thought was the best use of modern CGI in the new season was the slow transformation of Cooper’s face in the jail. “You’re still with me. That’s good”. That slow, subtle morph. It was so good.
25YL: Let’s talk about the announcement and the dual Tweets. You didn’t think it was ever going to happen; you didn’t see this coming. What was that moment like for you?
JE: Before I saw the dual tweets, I saw the announcement. I woke up to my phone blowing up. I must have had 30 text messages. I didn’t believe it because I’ve heard those rumors before. When I saw it, I remember thinking that this was a good dream, but it was time to wake up now. It seemed too good to be true.
25YL: What was your experience like over the course of Season 3 airing? In many of the interviews I’ve conducted this year with the cast, your name has come up. Whether it be going out to dinner or how welcoming you were, your name was always included in the list of people in the community that welcomed and embraced the new cast members with open arms and said, “You’re a part of the family.”
JE: That’s really nice for people to say that I do appreciate it. I’ve been honored to have been welcomed into that, let’s put it that way. I’m fortunate enough to call a lot of them friends. People that had I met them for reasons besides Twin Peaks we’d still be friends because they’re just genuinely great people. This just happens to be the way we met. I have to thank David Lynch, Mark Frost and Sabrina Sutherland and everyone else responsible for getting these people together.
JE: I’m assuming you loved the new season as well, right? I know there were some dissenters out there although I don’t know many personally.
25YL: Absolutely. The night of the finale, I really wanted to be alone, on my couch in the dark to watch those final two hours. In those final moments after Cooper said “What year is this?” followed by Laura screaming and then the shot of her whispering to him in the Red Room, I knew that even though I didn’t understand it, that there was an ending there and it was my job to figure it out. I enjoyed that and really embraced that.
JE: I remember there being stunned silence in the room. That happened quite a bit at the ending of the last few episodes. Part 16 with Audrey, she’s dancing, and then it cuts to her in the white room and then the cut to the band playing “Audrey’s Dance” backwards. Even that was like a whoa moment. I felt so exhilarated at the end of every week. I watch other things, but nothing else does this to me. There’s something about that world of Twin Peaks and the way that David Lynch does it that gets you on a subconscious level that most things don’t.
25YL: I think you’re right; I don’t think it can be described. I don’t think we can ever explain to someone why we’re this passionate about it. It just has to be experienced and felt.
JE: I think it either gets you or it doesn’t. I’ve personally introduced a lot of friends of mine to it, and there are some that like it but don’t want to tell me exactly how they feel because they know my feelings about it [laughs]. But then there are others that start talking about wanting to watch it again, buy the sets, go to the festival and all of this other stuff. You can tell when it really gets someone.
25YL: From Season 3, what are some moments or arcs that really stuck with you?
JE: Part 8, obviously. It was maybe the most amazing hour of television I’ve ever seen in my life. It was so beautiful from beginning to end. Perfection and I know I’m not in the minority thinking that. Robert Broski deserves a shout out who plays the “Got a light?” Woodsmen. He’s such a great guy, the total opposite of that character in real life. There is no need to be afraid of him. He does not crush people’s skulls [laughs].
25YL: I would love to talk theories with you. Something that I’ve really latched onto is that Ray Wise only spoke two words in the entire season “Find Laura”. To me, you don’t have Ray Wise only speak two words unless they’re arguably the two most important words in the season.
JE: I believe they are two of the most important words in the entire season and I believe that they are absolutely Dale Cooper’s goal from the moment he leaves the Black Lodge and is aware of who he is. I believe there’s a very specific reason for that. Laura Palmer, as we saw, was created in that golden orb and set into the world. The implication seems to be that she’s created as a force to neutralize Bob. We see The Fireman look up at the screen and he sees Bob coming down in the black orb and then we see Laura in the golden orb, which seems to be a response to Bob. However, I’m not necessarily sure that’s the case though. I think that Laura is actually a force to neutralize Jow-Day, Judy.
I believe that “Find Laura” is Cooper needing to bring Laura to the Palmer house as we know he tries to do that. He needs to do this because Judy is in Sarah Palmer and that the force of Laura Palmer will neutralize the force of Judy. As you’ll recall, Gordon Cole said they had a plan to lead them to Judy, which involved Cooper and Major Briggs. I think when Cooper goes back in time and finds Laura Palmer, that’s what he’s trying to do. Saving Laura Palmer is not necessarily his primary goal. Remember what he tells her when she asks where they’re going. He says home. Well if he’s trying to save Laura Palmer’s life the last place you take her is home. That’s where Leland is. You take her out of the state or out of the country. He wants to take her home because he wants to take her in front of her Judy possessed mother. That’s the theory that I’ve come to. When she’s yanked out of that timeline and yanked into the alternate timeline which I believe is a dream—possibly a dream of Judy herself—that’s when she lost her identity and becomes Carrie Page. So it’s now very important that he finds Laura, as Leland says. The same way that Laura lost her identity, now Cooper and Diane are in danger of losing their identity and becoming Richard and Linda. So The Fireman warns Cooper “Remember 430, Richard and Linda”. He’s warning him right there that this can happen. That, in a nutshell, is what it all means to me.
25YL: How do you feel about Sarah Palmer being the “frogmoth girl” from Part 8 and how that might potentially change her story and character arc?
JE: From the start, I never thought it was Sarah. There was no evidence of Sarah growing up in New Mexico. Also, I didn’t think the girl looked like Grace Zabriskie. I always thought that the “frogmoth girl” was more symbolic and I still think it is, even if it was Sarah Palmer. To me, it was this young girl and boy who were discovering the idea of young love for the first time and this beautiful, innocent moment that was corrupted. The story of the little girl who lived down the lane; the underlying theme of Twin Peaks of corrupted innocence exemplified by this. I think it still is. I don’t think the frog moth is Judy. My thought would be that the frog moth entering Sarah Palmer probably has more to do with her ability to see things. I know some people think that she was possessed the whole time and that she was the true evil behind the scenes at the Palmer house. I’m not sure that I see that. I don’t see evidence of that. If that was the case, why would Leland have to drug her? I think the frog moth might have made her more open to being possessed by something later, but also if that was Judy, it goes against what was established earlier about someone having to let these spirits in. Bob couldn’t just possess Laura. She had to let him in and she refused. It wasn’t as easy as a frog moth crawling in her mouth. I would think that it wore down Sarah Palmer and eventually she allowed this Judy entity in during the 25 years in between.
25YL: I’ve been doing a slow study of Season 3 in my weekly column and a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Palmer family. I’m in absolute agreement with you on Sarah. I wrote that her pain and suffering over the years made her susceptible and that the Black Lodge entities and Judy wanted the Palmer house too because of all of the pain and suffering that had happened there.
JE: They were attracted to it. The other theory I would tell you that goes along with it and I’ve had this theory for a long time. The Final Dossier seems to confirm this for me. We have the symbol on the card that Evil Cooper shows Darya. The same symbol shows up on Hawk’s map. The symbol on Hawk’s map shows up above Blue Pine Mountain under a moon symbol and Hawk tells Sherriff Frank that you don’t want to know about that. The Log Lady in her last call says to Hawk “Beware of the one under the moon above Blue Pine Mountain”, which is a reference to the symbol that I think clearly represents Judy. Which means Evil Cooper wants Judy. He’s yelling “Who is Judy?” to Phillip Jefferies. So I think why he wants the coordinates and I think Mark Frost’s book backs this up is that the coordinates take him to The Fireman’s place and when he gets there what he sees on the screen is the Palmer house. I believe basically that he can travel to places from The Fireman’s place and he knows that what he’s going to see on that screen is the location of Judy. So his plan was to use the coordinates to find out where Judy was and go right there. I believe that if he partnered up with Judy what would happen would be catastrophic and Mark Frost’s book confirmed that theory. But The Fireman waves his hand and the image onscreen changes and instead he winds up at the Sherriff’s station where he had engineered his destruction. Putting Freddie there to destroy Bob and giving Andy the visions to lead to the destruction of Evil Cooper at the same time.
25YL: What did you think of the Freddie/Bob scene?
JE: Well, I don’t think Bob is necessarily destroyed the way some people think. I don’t think you can kill Bob that easily. I would say if anything the orb is destroyed and the spirit of Bob has gone back to the Lodge where he’s contained but not destroyed.
25YL: Throughout the season, we saw Mike helping Dougie. Do you think this was so Bob could be returned to the Lodge where he could resume his role of bringing garmonbozia?
JE: I think that Mike, as we know from episode 13 back in Season 2 hates Bob. He wants to stop Bob; therefore, he’s opposed to Evil Cooper because he has Bob in him. I don’t think there are any Lodge entities that we’ve seen that are all good. I think that they are partners of convenience, so to speak. The one that might be good is Señorita Dido, maybe. You remember the whole thing in The Secret History of Twin Peaks where it says that there may be both a good and evil factor at play and our own feeble terms of good and evil have no meaning? I think that might be along the lines of what we’re talking about here. The Fireman seems to want to both neutralize and stop Bob, Evil Cooper and Judy.
25YL: Do you look at The Fireman as more of a balancing act, so to speak?
JE: Yes, I think he is. Even the name suggests putting out fires. Maybe there are certain fires you have to put out?
25YL: Just to wrap up here, anything, in conclusion, you would like to say about the third season of Twin Peaks?
JE: My opinion on it is that it’s an absolute masterpiece. I’m happy to be accepted as such so quickly. I felt that Fire Walk With Me was a masterpiece my first time seeing it and it unfairly got a bad rap. I’m on record saying that on the DVD release of the film in the US where I’m saying that back in 2002 or whatever and I stick to that. Obviously, I want a Season 4 really bad, but I feel that I’m being greedy when I say that. If we don’t get a Season 4, I’m very thankful for what we did it because it was amazing and it’s enough to have us talking and wondering for a very long time. We have those new 18 hours to delve into. It does feel like you’re going back into that world and it’s something very nice to revisit. I know some people say how do you watch a show or a film more than once. My answer to that is that it’s the same as listening to a song more than once. If there’s a song that you love, you might hear it 70 times, but depending on the mood that you’re in, it could have a different relationship to you. You could hear it slightly differently, or it could mean something different to you at a different time. I think that any art that is successful works that way.
I have got to tell you though, watching hours one and two on the big screen at the premiere was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Obviously, David Lynch had it calibrated the way he wants it; it is on the big screen, it’s surrounding you…I could probably do a whole interview on just that experience. I’m sure John Thorne has told you some stories about it. When the lights went down and they started it, I remember thinking “What are the credits going to be? Will the theme be the same?” We knew nothing going in. The lights go down, the Showtime logo goes up, the Rancho Rosa logo goes up and then the 2 hours just flew by. I didn’t say a word to anybody after (that wasn’t at the premiere). They did something the next day at City Walk at a doughnut place, having a Twin Peaks Day. I remember I went there and the people I know from the festival were there. I saw John Thorne, and I said, “Outside—we gotta talk.” So we went outside and had this long private conversation because we didn’t want to say anything in front of anyone else and ruin anything. Obviously, we had so much to talk about.
25YL: That’s such a huge secret to hold onto with so few people you can talk to for 48 hours.
JE: It was easy for me to do it for 48 hours, but I can’t imagine how some of the cast members did it. The ones with bigger roles knew so much more. They only knew what they did, but a Michael Horse or a Kimmy Robertson would’ve known a lot since they were in a lot of significant scenes. Anyone that was in the Sheriff’s Station scene in Part 17 knew a lot. I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with the actors since then about that sequence and how they held that in. [Laughs]
Definitely had some interesting talks on that one. They knew certain things like Bob in the black orb and Lucy shooting Evil Cooper and nobody would’ve guessed that. I was at the cast and crew finale party and I remember when that happened [Lucy shooting Evil Cooper] there was probably a good 20 second applause after. Most of the people there didn’t know that was coming. I remember for a split second thinking that Frank got shot. When Evil Cooper sees Andy outside before he reaches into his jacket and I thought he was going to shoot Andy then and I thought “No, you can’t shoot Andy!”
25YL: To me, that was such a cool commentary on society’s obsession with the anti-hero. Evil Cooper was a lot like a Walter White or a Tony Soprano only here Lucy, who is arguably the purest character on the show is the hero in the final confrontation.
JE: That’s an interesting point, the connection to him and a Walter White or Tony Soprano. I mean, who was not rooting for him in the arm wrestling scene at the farm? Didn’t everyone find themselves rooting for him then? A lot of that was Kyle’s acting. He better win an Emmy for this, that’s all I have got to say. The multiple roles and how good he was at each one of them.
25YL: We could spend an hour just talking about him in the diner in the final hour alone. Whether you want to call him a unified Cooper, a different character or however you choose to describe it, he was so different. He was cold and had this rattlesnake element to him.
JE: Even that bit where the waitress says “Coffee” and he just nods his head. When he does that you know its not the regular Dale Cooper. That goes back to me saying when he’s in that alternate place when he crosses over and you know from Mark Frost’s book that basically Cooper has gone missing again once he went into the boiler room. I do think in a way its a mix of good Coop and bad Coop. The doppelgänger always represented that shadow self, that every human being, no matter how good they are has a darker element to them. Maybe they repress it, maybe they keep it down but its there. When Cooper entered the Black Lodge, he meets his own shadow self, the dweller on the threshold, the dark part that does exist. When he loses his identity because I do think people when they’re in that alternate whatever he crosses into—we can call it the dream or Judy’s dream or whatever we want to call it, which he knows is not of Earth because Mark Frost’s book says Cooper and Diane disappeared from the world again. Clearly, people lose their identity there. Laura is Carrie Page, Diane is Linda, Cooper is Richard. He still calls himself Dale Cooper but nonetheless he is becoming Richard. The fact that it’s the same name as the offspring of Evil Cooper can’t be a coincidence. In the meantime, he seems to be the good Coop but with an equal measure of the bad Coop there too. He will try to protect the waitress when she’s being harassed, but at the same time, he’s shooting the gun and pointing it haphazardly around, including at her and then putting it in a fryer. I just went to the restaurant where they filmed recently with some friends and I was tempted to ask them if they served deep fried guns, but I didn’t think they would get it [laughs].
25YL: Ultimately, Laura is the character I’m most emotionally connected to. We’re both Fire Walk With Me guys. There’s a pull to her and to the emotional weight of her story which is probably why we both didn’t want Sarah to be the frog moth girl. The pain that those women went through and then when you think of how that could be changed by Sarah being perhaps a greater villain than even Leland was.
JE: I don’t think Sarah was a greater villain at that point though. I think the frog moth could simply be the reason why she had her visions. Now how that got passed onto Maddy is another question entirely. Initially, I thought it was something genetic in Sarah’s bloodline, which was why Maddy also had those visions.
25YL: I agree with you. I do not think Sarah was more villainous. I think her possession came much later in those twenty five passing years as a result of her pain and suffering.
JE: I think so too. I think when she’s in the grocery store, she’s trying to warn the people there about it, which interestingly enough is called Keri’s, with a K. Spelled differently but still interesting. I think she’s trying to warn them. Then she says “Sarah stop doing this.” That could be the voice of Judy telling her to stop.
25YL: What’s your interpretation of the scene where Sarah smashes Laura’s picture at the end of Part 17?
JE: I think that’s in direct relation to what Cooper’s doing in the past. I think it’s Judy being angry and after that that Judy is the one that someone yanks Laura out of that timeline. I don’t know if it’s a timeline or a dream, but wherever she yanks her from, she goes to Odessa to be Carrie Page. She’s hiding her from Cooper. She knows that Laura Palmer is the means of her destruction.
25YL: I like that because it keeps the Cooper and Laura relationship as needing one another, the same way they did before.
JE: They are completely connected and the two of them, despite all of the bad that’s happened to them in their lives have goodness at their base that when together can stop these forces of evil. To me, I do think in the end they’re in some kind of dream. It felt so dreamlike the whole thing. Take the headlights in the driving scene. Maybe someone was following them, or maybe they weren’t, but it has this dream feeling to it.
In Part 2 of my interview with Josh, we will be focusing on his own film career and his most recent film, Spreading Darkness. Here is a teaser of what’s to come:
JE: The film comes out January 2nd and then hits video on demand services on March 6th. The film is shot on 35 MM film, which I ‘m one of the people that still likes to shoot in. The film stars Eric Roberts, John Savage, Dominique Swain, James Duval, Robert Davi and Louis Mandylor.
Interestingly enough the editor on it is Dwayne Dunham (editor/director from Twin Peaks) which is a story itself. I emailed Dwayne and asked for a recommendation for an editor, and he said, “How about me?” I’m thinking “You’ve gotta be kidding me”. This was before Season 3 was announced, so he had no idea he was going to be doing that as well. I would wait until we were at lunch and then let loose on the Lynch questions [laughs].
The film is a psychological thriller and Eric Robert’s character, who is pressured into becoming a slightly corrupt businessman. He does some things involving this mysterious new invention that leads to a full cycle of very bad events. That, in turn, leads to him possibly being stalked and being very alone in this house. The chain of this dark event that he started comes back around and is basically unstoppable — definitely a psychological thriller with a mysterious element to it.
If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to be on the lookout for Part 2 with Josh coming soon! In the meantime, please check out some of our previous interviews!
Sabrina Sutherland talks Twin Peaks: The Return with Andreas Halskov
My Interview With John Pirruccello