David Lynch On His 'Empire,' Turning Down 'Jedi' -- And Cooking Quinoa

Idiosyncratic director also says he's seen 'Bourne Ultimatum': 'There's nothing wrong with a great Hollywood blockbuster.'

You haven't lived until David Lynch has called you "buddy." Unfailingly polite, enthusiastic and honest, it's immediately clear in conversing with the filmmaking icon that he remains as independent as he's ever been. Just take a look at the newly released DVD of his last film, "Inland Empire." Of course, the DVD includes all 172 minutes of the perplexing story of "a woman in trouble" (the film's tag line), but it also features more than an hour of additional scenes (yes, that means more of his actors in rabbit costumes), an extended interview with Lynch and even a cooking segment with him.

Lynch took time out from his painting and daily weather reports (featured on to discuss the new DVD, his love affair with digital filmmaking and why he turned down directing a "Star Wars" film.

MTV: Traditionally there aren't a ton of extras on DVDs of your films. Why load this one up and pull the curtain a bit on your process?

David Lynch: Pulling the curtain on some things isn't good. I always want to protect the film and experience for people. But this time there were a lot of scenes ... that formed a kind of thing that I call "other things that happened." It's like, you meet the family in the film -- except for the sister who lives in Ohio. And now with this it fills that out. And then -- I don't cook, but I had this recipe for quinoa. And cooking shows are very popular. So I thought I'd do a cooking thing.

MTV: Perhaps the cooking show could be a new part of your career?

Lynch: Let's talk at MTV because it could be big. It could be huge, man. [He laughs.] A black and white cooking show with stories, because there's a lot of waiting in cooking.

MTV: When you released "Inland Empire," you went on a sort of barnstorming tour, taking the film from city to city. Was that effective?

Lynch: We live in a field of relativity, so it worked out relatively well. In the Midwest, theatrically, on the seismic meter, we hardly made a blip. It's kind of sad when you go and do all these things to reach certain people that may have a great experience if they go but they just don't go. I wonder about the 17-year-old girls in the Midwest. If they could embrace "Inland Empire," I think they would have a great experience in that theater. With the DVD, now maybe there's a chance for them.

MTV: Do you think audiences are more or less apt today to go to films that revel in abstractions like yours do?

Lynch: I think there's a slight trend toward embracing new cinema, non-Hollywood blockbuster cinema. It's not erupting, but because of the Internet, I think people have more of a chance to get buzz going on alternative cinema, so I think it's hopeful out there. It just hasn't penetrated the smaller places.

MTV: In the extras it's clear that you love your actors. But I'm wondering how you convince someone like Naomi Watts to put on a rabbit costume? Did she have any trepidation?

Lynch: No. Actors are very special human beings. They yearn to take on a new character and they yearn to go deep into that and make it real. They yearn for it! It's such a thrill.

MTV: Are you planning to go back to any of your earlier work and add bells and whistles to the DVDs?

Lynch: The only one that's been talked about is "Fire Walk With Me." There are many short scenes that weren't in the final film that on their own are interesting. They just never fit in the film. There's talk of me editing and mixing those. There's a scene with Jack Nance. It's a short scene with Ed [Wright], who played Mr. Mibbler. I loved this guy. He was in "Wild at Heart" as well. Both of them are gone, so to fix those scenes, for the memory of them, it's real important.

MTV: You shot "Inland Empire" using digital technology. Will you ever go back to film?

Lynch: Never. Digital is so friendly for me and so important for the scenes, a way of working without so much downtime. It's impossible to go back. Film is a beautiful medium, but the world has moved on. The amount of manipulation we can do, anybody can do, is so much the future. Film is so big and heavy and slow, you just die. It's just ridiculous.

MTV: Do you ever find yourself drawn to Hollywood blockbusters?

Lynch: I saw "The Bourne Ultimatum." I liked the first one the best but the third one is second-best. I like entertainment. Cinema can say many things. There's nothing wrong with a great Hollywood blockbuster. But sometimes you're [into] it like crazy while it's going and when you leave it sort of pops and evaporates.

MTV: I know that controlling your films has been a big issue for you since "Dune," because that film didn't turn out as you intended. Are you ever tempted to relinquish a little control in order to have access to a bigger budget?

Lynch: Never! Never! Never! Money could never make up for dying the death of seeing what could have been and not making it that way. Maybe it's because I came from painting, but it's just theater of the absurd. The filmmaker doesn't have the final say. It's absurd! A nightmare, a horror! Why would anyone do that?

MTV: Is it true you almost directed "Return of the Jedi"? How close did you come?

Lynch: Not close at all. I had a meeting with George [Lucas]. I like George. It was his thing. I said, "You should direct this. It's your thing! It's not my thing."

MTV: Did he flat-out offer it to you at the time?

Lynch: Yeah!

MTV: But you immediately declined.

Lynch: I called him the next day.

MTV: Looking forward, do you think you'll continue to move further into experimental filmmaking, as in "Inland Empire"?

Lynch: I don't know which way anything will go because it's all about the ideas that come that you fall in love with. In between things, there are no ideas -- and then suddenly there's the idea. If you fall in love with it, you know exactly what to do. Sometimes it can be surprising.

MTV: Do you ever worry the idea won't come?

Lynch: Sure, but that's how come I meditate every day, because when you meditate, you transcend and you experience the unbounded infinite ocean of creativity. And the ideas start flowing easier.

Check out everything we've got on "Inland Empire."

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