Now that Twin Peaks: The Return has concluded, creator David Lynch has opened up about his use of David Bowie’s character Phillip Jeffries in the show. The Return certainly gave Twin Peaks fans plenty to chew on, and was a show that managed to be exciting, scary, bewildering, tedious, hilarious and shocking – sometimes all within the same scene.
It was quite a ride, though opinions are somewhat mixed. Some viewers hated the show's measured pace, the lack of closure for certain storylines and that Agent Cooper spent most of the series trapped inside Dougie Jones’ body; others loved it for those exact reasons. Whatever the response, it’s a show that will likely inspire much debate and dissection in the years ahead, especially in regards to the final scene.
David Bowie fans were hopeful the late singer might have shot a surprise cameo as Phil Jeffries prior to his death, but as Lynch explains in a new Pitchfork interview, he never got to speak to the singer about the role.
“I never even talked to him, but I talked to his lawyer, and they weren’t telling me why he said he couldn’t do it. But then, of course, later on we knew.”
Lynch got around Bowie not being able to participate by transforming Jeffries into a large, steam shooting machine who appears in a couple of key scenes. When asked if the singer knew how the character would appear on the show, Lynch responded:
“No, no, no. He didn’t know that. We got permission to use the old footage, but he didn’t want his voice used in it. I think someone must have made him feel bad about his Louisiana accent in Fire Walk With Me, but I think it’s so beautiful. He wanted to have it done by a legitimate actor from Louisiana, so that’s what we had to do. The guy [voice actor Nathan Frizzell] did a great job.”
The director is also keen to point out Jeffries hasn’t actually transformed in a giant tea kettle.
“I sculpted that part of the machine that has that tea kettle spout thing, but I wish I’d just made it straight, because everybody thinks it’s a tea kettle. It’s just a machine.”
Philip Jeffries' appearance – and subsequent disappearance - in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was one of the many long-running mysteries of the series, and while it’s sad David Bowie was unable to reprisal the role, Lynch was still able to corporate Jeffries in a fittingly bizarre, respectful way. There are currently no plans for further Twin Peaks, but Lynch hasn't ruled out another series; though if it ever happens it's a long way off.