As Seen on Twin Peaks: Kyle MacLachlan in The Doors

“Hey, Morrison. F**k ’em, man. It’s great. It’s nonlinear. It’s poetry. It’s everything good art stands for” are the first words spoken by Kyle MacLachlan as Ray Manzarek in The Doors. It’s funny that one of the most Lynchian lines ever spoken on-screen by MacLachlan is not from Dune or Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, but from Oliver Stone’s 1991 biographical film about Jim Morrison and the band that he most famously fronted, The Doors.

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural edition of “As Seen on Twin Peaks.”

This new series will focus on the acting careers of the cast of Twin Peaks – one performer at a time. But, instead of looking A-Z through their entire filmography, I’ll be picking out one film to represent each actor, which will be followed by a 10 Questions-style discussion between myself and one of my fellow 25YL staffers about the film and various other credits. Now, the films I’ve picked to be discussed are not necessarily each actor’s most famous role, or most critically acclaimed performance, or biggest box office success. Instead, I’ll be focussing on those hidden gems, overlooked treasures and underrated masterpieces. And, to make things more interesting, each article will feature a range of different perspectives between myself and my guest. Some films will be familiar to the two of us, others might be first-time watches, and some movies will be a completely new experience for us both.

With that out of the way, my first guest is none other than the First Lady of 25YL, our Executive Editor, Lindsay Stamhuis! So, join Lindsay and I as we discuss Kyle MacLachlan, his career, Twin Peaks, The Doors and more!

Gordon Cole and Dale Cooper give each other a thumbs up at the sheriffs station

1) Jon Sheasby: I’m reliably informed (by yourself) that this was your first rewatch of The Doors since your initial viewing of the film many years ago. So, what are your thoughts on the film today, and did you have any expectations before you hit play?

Lindsay Stamhuis: This was my first rewatch in about eight years and only the second time I’ve watched the whole thing. I liked it a lot the first time I watched it. I thought it captured the time period so well and I love the Sixties aesthetic, so I think my memories were clouded by those associations. Watching it now, I found it kind of… obnoxious? I don’t know if that’s the best way to describe it. I was let down. I still felt that it captured the era well, but it felt very piece-meal, almost as if Oliver Stone got the rights to use the music and lyrics of The Doors and decided to loosely build a movie around it (which is, if I’m not mistaken, exactly what he did). It felt hagiographic in a way I didn’t remember, as well. Like they were trying so hard to canonise Jim Morrison (and Pamela Courson, to a lesser extent) and the rest of the characters became caricatures of themselves. Nobody can know the “true” story of The Doors, but I can understand why Manzarek and Densmore and Krieger were all disappointed with the film in varying degrees. It feels less like a “based on a true story” and more like an “inspired by true events” kind of film. But I could be wrong. Anyway. Short answer: I didn’t like it as much, but I still enjoyed the experience of watching it.

2) JS: I really like the film, but I agree with a number of your thoughts. It’s a very surface level depiction of Morrison and the band. An almost “greatest hits” package, if you will. In my opinion, despite its narrative shortcomings, it features some truly brilliant performances, led by the magnetic Val Kilmer. What did you think of the performances, specifically Kyle MacLachlan as Ray Manzarek?

LS: I’m glad you asked because I think he does a really good job. I sometimes see photos of Ray Manzarek and I’m blown away by how alike they look. He also captured Manzarek’s mannerisms when he’s playing, which helps. Watching Kyle and Val Kilmer on stage at times, I think you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a film and not actual concert footage from the Whiskey a Go Go! It also helped that Kyle (as far as I know, anyway) played the keyboard on film. I could be wrong about that, too, but it sure looks like he is. With Manzarek’s age relative to the rest of the band, he did have this almost fatherly role I think – he was the longtime keeper of The Doors mythology, as it were – and Kyle plays that very well. Very protective. It’s a good role for him.

Kyle MacLachlan as Ray Manzarek in The Doors

3) JS: For me, Kyle is one of the most underrated performers in the business. He’s incredibly versatile and is just as comfortable leading a movie, as he is playing a supporting character on a TV show. What do you think has led to Kyle’s success, on both the big and small screen, over the past three decades?

LS: That’s a good question. He does have that range that I think the vast majority of people forget about sometimes, because they’ve only seen him as the Mayor in Portlandia or Trey in Sex and the City. But if you watch his whole career (or, I mean, let’s be real – you just need to watch The Return!), he does comedy and he does drama and he does horror and he’s a leading man and he can do supportive roles, and he’s wonderful in each. Kind of reminds me a lot of Cary Grant, which is great when you consider he played Cary Grant in Touch of Pink!

4) JS: I grew up in the ’90s, so I think the first time I saw Kyle must have been in The Flintstones, a film that I sadly haven’t revisited as an adult. Do you remember the first time you saw Kyle on-screen?

LS: Oh yes! It was in Twin Peaks! My parents were watching the first season during the 1990 summer hiatus (when the first season was replayed on – I believe – CTV here in Canada). I was all of 5-years-old, sneaking around behind them in the living room when I ought to have been sleeping. I saw the Red Room/Dream Sequence scene from Episode 2, and I remember being scared witless… to the point that I had trouble later on watching The Flintstones because I remembered that Clifford Vandercave guy from that scary scene with the black and white floor. It was like this visceral gut reaction, and it coloured my interpretation of Kyle throughout the ’90s and 2000s, even when he was on Desperate Housewives and such. I was grown up then and I still couldn’t watch him on-screen. It wasn’t until 2010 when I first saw Twin Peaks that I got over it and finally delved into his film and TV career.

Kyle MacLachlan as Fred Flinstone

5) JS: As you mentioned earlier, one of the more controversial aspects of The Doors is its historical accuracy, which was criticised by those who knew Morrison. Personally, I can look past this, as I believe a film – first and foremost – should be seen as entertainment, unlike documentaries which should be informative and educational. Does the fictionalisation of events hinder your views on biographical films, or can you separate fact from fiction for the sake of enjoyment?

LS: Oh, I totally believe that films should be entertaining and that with biopics or historical films, capturing the spirit of the events in question is more than enough. Because it really comes down to almost an epistemological question: what is “true” in these cases? All we can ever know is what we experience, which is subjective, and clouded by our interpretation of things, so nothing we see on film (if based on a true story) can ever be “the whole truth.” So, in that case, Oliver Stone made a film with the best guess interpretation of the events of The Doors’ career. I mean, you’re not watching a Ken Burns documentary about The Doors or something. That’s important to remember, and it’s something that maybe the surviving players in this particular drama forgot about.

6) JS: Let’s talk about the relationship between Kyle and David Lynch for a minute. Kyle got his start in both film and TV (Dune and Twin Peaks, respectively) thanks to Lynch, and their partnership continues to this day. Why do you think they work so well together?

LS: That’s another really great question. People have said that Kyle and David are very similar in many ways, so that could be part of it. I think David is on record talking about Kyle’s ability to gain your trust and take you to dark places, which is something that I think David possesses himself. They both seem very wholesome and yet they can both lead you into psychological spaces that are frightening and back out again. Watching the behind-the-scenes discs on The Return was very illuminating because of what it shows of Lynch’s process, especially, and how he relates to his core group of actors. They “get” each other. I really do wonder how long it took for that relationship to develop, or if with some people (MacLachlan, Dern, etc.) it just blossomed from the start. That’s something I’d love to find out more about – if I ever meet David Lynch or Kyle MacLachlan that’s what I’m asking them!

Kyle MacLachlan  as Jeffrey in Blue Velvet sitting in a diner opposite Sandy played by Laura Dern

7) JS: I think Kyle’s performance(s) in The Return took us all by surprise, but if Twin Peaks returns once again, what would you like to see from him? More Cooper? More new characters for him to showcase his talent? A catch-up with Dougie?

LS: I think it has to be about this new Cooper we met in the finale – the darker, tightly controlled Cooper who deep-fries guns and doesn’t know what year it is. Dougie and Mr. C got endings that are fitting and about as closed as it can be in Twin Peaks; Agent Cooper/Richard-Cooper/whatever you want to call him is, in a way, a new character and how he came to exist is a question I’d love to see explored in some way.

8) JS: Do you have a favourite Kyle/Lynch collaboration from their 30+ year partnership?

LS: Well that has to be Twin Peaks, I think… without a doubt. The entirety of that collaboration is just so vast and unique.

9) JS: Favourite Kyle performance, outside of his work with Lynch?

LS: I really like his more “minor” roles of late, in shows like How I Met Your Mother and Portlandia, because he’s so comfortable and hilarious playing these absurdly farcical characters and I love how gleefully he plays them. But I think I honestly have to say that his voice role as Riley’s dad in Inside Out was so moving, and that film as a whole was so game-changing in so many ways, that I can’t not mention it here as a favourite.

Kyle MacLachlan in How I Met Your Mother

10) JS: And finally, Lindsay, if you could recast any role from the history of film and TV with Kyle in their place, which character would you choose and why?

LS: Oh wow! Cool question! Hmm… I think Kyle has the effortless grace and style and film presence of the great film stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, so if this were possible, I’d want to see Kyle play a role like Cary Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story, with Laura Dern as Tracy Lord or something fantastic like that.

I want to thank Lindsay for joining me in this discussion about Kyle MacLachlan, and for also sending me this photo she and her husband took of Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. Thanks for the music and poetry, Jim.

Jim Morrison's grave in Paris

What are your thoughts on Kyle MacLachlan? Favourite roles, performances, works? Please leave a comment and let us know by following the information about our social media accounts, which can be found below. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@JonSheasby), and we’ll continue the conversation over there.

Written by Jon Sheasby

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