A small and often unrecognized part of Fire Walk with Me, Yvonne Roberts worked as a stripper when she was asked by David Lynch to be a part of the prequel to Twin Peaks. Today, Roberts focuses on her own artwork (she makes installations, paintings etc.), and she remembers her scene in Fire Walk with Me as a strange and pivotal point in her life. Roberts has had to deal with many difficult events and personal tragedies, but she has a positive outlook, and she is very insightful when it comes to cinema and visual arts. I talked with Yvonne Roberts about Fire Walk with Me, the world of Twin Peaks, off-the-grid people and David Lynch as an artist akin to Picasso.
AH: Could you say a few words on the casting process on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. I have heard that you were working as a stripper, not an actress, when you were cast for Fire Walk with Me. Is that correct?
YR: What happened is that I was working for a telegram agency, and this was a stripping telegram. The bulk of my work was generally bachelor parties, birthday parties etc. I was out working, and when I came home, my husband said that I had to call the producer. “They want you to be in a movie. They want you to be a prostitute in a movie. I think it’s legit.” I went to the casting office, and I was very suspicious. I had been approached before by a really shady company called New Faces, and, on further investigation, that turned out to be a bad deal. They were frauding people.After we found out that it was legit, the casting lady said that I had to go see David Lynch and that I had to look like a North Dakota prostitute. They actually got me a date, saying that I should look like a 1974 North Dakota prostitute, so I got some platform shoes. But even then I was thinking that I might not do it because, ironically, I had a lot of jobs that day, and I thought that I wouldn’t do it because I thought that it would end up costing me more money than I will make for it.
AH: I have heard that in the 1990s, at different clubs, you would kiddingly use the line “I’m not a prostitute. I just play one in the movies.” What is the story behind that?
YR: I always had to straighten people out on the thought that I was not a working girl. “I’m not really a prostitute, I just play one in the movies.” [She laughs].
AH: Could you say a few words of the scene that you are in? It seems like a very absurd scene. We have a bus, loaded with children who are screaming and crying, and then you and another girl are arrested by Chester Desmond with the help of another cop. The scene in my view has a strange and surreal kind of tone to it. It is strangely disconcerting, yet somewhat over-the-top or funny at the same time. How would you describe it?
YR: True to David Lynch and everything that he does, you don’t get any backstory, which is cool for the actors because they are as excited as the viewers. “Where’s this going fit in, and how is this going to be used? Why am I here?” After they did the first take, David came up to me and he said, “I want you to speak. I want you to say, ‘Because I said so!’, like you’re really angry. Unfortunately, they ended up using the first take. He didn’t really give any clues.
AH: You say that David Lynch didn’t really give you any clues. How would you describe his directing style, and what, in your view, makes him stand out as a genuine artist or an auteur, if you will?
YR: He does not follow any conventions or restrictions. He follows his own ideas and his own artistic philosophy. He’s different. He’s like a Picasso – he dares to paint outside of the lines. He is not doing anything to people-please, he is doing it for himself… He’s brilliant because he’s also into painting and meditation. He is an artist in every sense of the word. When you see David Lynch and you hear him talk, it’s such a contrast to what he does as an artist, which is much darker. Everything he does with the music and the different sounds, the ambient sound and the different sound effects, is something you don’t hear in everyday movies.
AH: Fire Walk with Me has been much maligned by different critics and fans. Vince Canby even called it “the worst movie ever made,” and only recently have people begun to see the film is a positive light. Why do you think that many people didn’t like Fire Walk with Me?
YR: I think that people were expecting something else or something more – like the missing pieces. I think it’s great what David did. The highest achievement for an artist is to invoke a reaction from the audience. In a way, the film was deeper than the series. It was raw, and it kind of jolted the viewer, and it caused them to think. He shakes people out of their comfort zone. He goes beyond what you expect.
The Missing Pieces is kind of like a kaleidoscope, but that is also an interesting part of the storyworld.
AH: Many people have some strange stories about Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me, in terms of how they discovered the show, and where they were at the time. Your discovery of Twin Peaks was also strange, almost like the show itself. Could you tell me how you discovered Twin Peaks, and how elements from Fire Walk with Me reflected experiences in your own life?
YR: My dad patrolled the area out in North Bend in the 50s and 60s, and his last name and my maiden name is Moe, and in Fire Walk with Me we drive into a place called Moe, and I thought of my father. He had passed away, when I was seven. I felt my Papa’s presence there with me that day. David was asking why I was smiling so. I didn’t have the nerve to tell him why, didn’t know him well enough to feel comfortable with sharing. I thought he might find me a bit odd.
I remember the first time I saw the premiere of Twin Peaks. I didn’t really pay attention to the TV, but I heard the music, and I said, “That sounds like North Bend.” So I turned my head and looked at the screen, and when I saw that iconic mountain up at North Bend, I was just amazed. The score of Twin Peaks really managed to capture the essence and feel of North Bend.
Many people describe Twin Peaks as surreal or bizarre, but it is very realistic in a way. There’s a subculture of off-the-grid people up there in Snoqualmie and North Bend, people who are not relying on electricity etc. I call them ‘the hill people’.
AH: Twin Peaks has often been described as one of the most important and influential TV series of all time. Do you think that it has had an impact on modern television drama? If so, how?
YR: There are so many facets to it. Instead of just sedatedly going through the plot, it causes the viewer to think and it tickles the imagination. It also helps us do what I call ‘shadow talk’ – it helps you get in touch with and understand your darker side.
As opposed to conventional television, it doesn’t program the viewer. And just the content of it, it’s so unique and interesting. Everyone on this planet is a broken straw, and to me Twin Peaks just highlights that when people do something like that [i.e. like killing your own daughter] they are not in their right mind.
Trailer to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992):