Twin Peaks: The Return ended its eighteen episode run last night in typical head-spinning fashion. Despite being a small screen saga, the show has an impeccable cinematic pedigree, from co-creator David Lynch to co-stars Naomi Watts, Monica Bellucci and Tim Roth, amongst others.
The most important acting element in the mix however was Kyle MacLachlan. The Return marked a long-overdue reunion between the actor and Lynch, who gave him his break over thirty years ago. MacLachlan got more than he bargained for – not only did he reprise his role as Special Agent Dale Cooper, he also portrayed Cooper’s evil doppelgänger, as well as Dougie Jones, whose identity Cooper accidentally took after exiting another dimension with a frazzled brain.
MacLachlan handled these characters with great skill and reminded everyone of his distinctive qualities as a performer. David Lynch seemed to recognize that – like Alfred Hitchcock with James Stewart – his leading man had a wholesome quality that could be easily subverted. This is arguably the star’s crowning achievement, one which will hopefully get the offers flooding in.
Some of these will surely be from movie producers. Though he’s best known for Twin Peaks, MacLachlan has been present for some singular moments in big screen history. So I thought this would be the perfect time to celebrate the actor’s filmic career to date, using some notable (and notorious!) examples…
BLUE VELVET (1986)
MacLachlan and Lynch first worked together on lavish sci-fi adaptation Dune. That movie flopped but two years later the pair got back on the horse and rode it into Weirdsville for Blue Velvet. The star played snooping teen Jeffrey Beaumont, whose discovery of a severed ear led him on a collision course with a dark underworld.
Beaumont was bewitched by damaged nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini, above), much to the frustration of Laura Dern‘s Sandy. Featuring a brilliantly unhinged performance by Dennis Hopper as gangster Frank Booth, the film is a true cult classic. Dern and MacLachlan’s onscreen paths crossed again in Twin Peaks: The Return.
THE DOORS (1991)
As Twin Peaks mania was dying down, MacLachlan went for rock star glory as Ray Manzarek, innovative co-founder of The Doors. Oliver Stone‘s chronicle of how the legendary group got together showcased an eye-catching lead performance from Val Kilmer as frontman Jim Morrison. Meg Ryan was just one of the stars jostling for attention in the psychedelic scrum.
It’s fair to say accuracy wasn’t the strict order of the day for this gig. Stone being an atypical biopic helmer, he crafted something as controversial as it was memorable. The film underperformed but gave MacLachlan a sort of immortality away from the red curtains and swaying trees of the series we associate him with.
A spectacular entry on the actor’s CV, though not necessarily for the right reasons, was Paul Verhoeven‘s soft porn Hollywood flesh-fest Showgirls. All eyes were on Elizabeth Berkley‘s aspiring exotic dancer Nomi Alone, though floppy-haired entertainment director Zack Carey (MacLachlan, pictured with Gina Gershon) also appeared as a main character.
Famous for assorted lurid sequences, such as a sex romp in a pool with Malone and Carey that’s about as raunchy as a seal clubbing, it nevertheless evolved into a camp favourite. MacLachlan’s serious acting career wasn’t done any favours but this is yet another case of the star staying firmly in the public consciousness, even if he was surrounded by heaving bosoms.
MacLachlan left the likes of Showgirls far behind thanks to films such as Timecode, an audacious experiment by director Mike Figgis. Following the tangled lives of movie types played by Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgård and Holly Hunter, it split the action four ways by presenting a quartet of mini-films on one screen.
If you look at the top right image and squint you’ll spot MacLachlan as Bunny Drysdale, taking part in the improvised antics. The technique didn’t take off but it put the actor in good company, something he experienced the same year care of Ethan Hawke‘s Hamlet, directed by Michael Almereyda.
What better way to round off this retrospective than with Timecode, a groundbreaking technical tour de force, an area the star is currently resurgent in via Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks: The Return is available on Showtime and other streaming services