This began as a response to this thread: http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2578
, but I thought it would be more at home here...
N. Needleman wrote:I'm not sure what Ray Wise's take would be on that short segment - I think he's maintained that the way he reconciled the twist was to take the more literal interpretation, which was that Leland was by and large just a hapless vessel for BOB who would never harm his daughter. I may be misreading some of his interviews. That is an actor's journey and their prerogative in terms of their internal take, though I do not 100% agree with that interpretation.
Yeah, that's one of the fascinating things about the whole Leland/Bob conundrum. Wise has also talked about inventing a lot of the mannerisms and approach in ep. 16 so it's easy to imagine that without Lynch's involvement, the show tipped heavily towards the Bob-being-fully-in-control-of-Leland partly because of Wise's own view on the matter. (I've always found Frost difficult to read on the subject: in interviews he makes it all sound much more ambiguous than it plays onscreen, and despite his love of the supernatural his readings of characters on the show - most notably Cooper - tended to be more ambiguous than Lynch's usual approach to characterization, at least up to that point in his career.) It's a tour de force performance but the idea of leaning so heavily on this interpretation is a dramatic and thematic mistake, to my eyes at least, and I'm glad in the film Lynch coaxed a more nuanced presentation of Leland's dark side.
Wise's read on Leland/Bob is still quite evident in certain moments, like when Wise grimaces at the window (or in the woods) or when his face shifts dramatically from one mode to the other in several scenes. But it seems like Sheryl Lee's avowed view of the situation - that Laura was very much a realistic survivor of her father's abuse, with Bob's function primarily psychological - is given at least equal weight (note that Lee is, as far as I can determine, the ONLY person to openly acknowledge FWWM's central subject as incest at the time of its release - Lynch's comments to Chris Rodley came several years later). This is especially true in the "wash your hands" scene which plays very much like an abusive father rather than an otherworldly demon, singlehandedly changing my read on Leland/Bob when I watched it for the first time. And of course there's that easy-to-miss line, "I always thought you knew it was me." I'm curious as to Wise's take on this dialogue, since it seems so unambiguous as an indictment of Leland (and it's delivered in an unmistakably "this is Leland speaking" manner, even aside from the fact that Lynch explicitly follows this shot with Bob on the other side of Laura to underscore their separation).
Anyway, just to be clear, though I have a very different read and am honestly quite uncomfortable with the idea of Leland not being responsible for the incest, I don't begrudge Wise his interpretation at all. He had been playing Leland for over a year and a half when the truth was revealed to him, and he's often talked about how much he hated the idea of turning this character he loved into an incestuous serial killer both because he felt so attached to Leland the lovable, well-meaning loon and because he was a new father himself. Pulling this trick on an actor is really harsh and even when they're a seasoned pro like Wise was, a sensitive director is going to feel somewhat uncomfortable about putting them in this position (added to which, Wise was essentially being laid off).
I sometimes wonder if Bob's demonic aspect wasn't inspired partly by Lynch wanting to give Wise something to hold onto, to soften the blow. It wouldn't be unlike him to do that - consider how the angels were ostensibly rooted in Lee's and Phoebe Augustine's objections to the bleak ending. The genesis of the Leland/Bob conceit has always been shrouded in mystery to me. When did Lynch and Frost chose Leland as the killer (Frost says it was shortly after the pilot, but when exactly, and what was the trigger)? When did they decide he was going to be demonically possessed? How did they work out the mechanics of Bob's possession, or did they purposefully want to leave it ambiguous?
I know Frost has said there would be a supernatural aspect to Leland from the beginning but...well, I guess I'd really just like to know more about what that means and when it really occurred. Because Frost seems uncommitted to something this extravagant in the first season given how he plays out Coop's psychic clues and essentially defuses the one-armed man storyline. That's why I'm inclined to think it was originally just "Leland did it, plus there's this weird supernatural aura surrounding Twin Peaks" and only became "that supernatural aura is directly responsible for Laura's death" when they had to actually deliver on this plot rather than leaving it as a vague secret hovering in the background as originally planned.
Plus, all of Frost's other work suggests that he isn't much into giving devil-made-me-do-it outs to characters. The possessed parents in The Believers, the Satanic villains of The List of 7, and the greedy politicians in Storyville (some of whom start off seeming sympathetic) all made conscious decisions to choose the path of darkness, and his episodes of Hill Street Blues have several fairly sensitive portrayals of abuse victims (and their unsympathetic abusers) as well as indictments of society looking the other way. Though in the past I've leaned toward Frost as the progenitor of Bob controlling Leland, with Lynch favoring a more damning view of the father, lately I've come to seeing it more as a war within Lynch himself (appropriately!), the cauldron from which the complex characterization of his later films is born (which was closer to my original view as well, before I started digging into Frost's involvement).
I also suspect - based on almost NO evidence, just a hunch! - that Mary Sweeney preferred this more "realistic" portrayal of Laura and her father's relationship and probably coaxed more of that out of the film by highlighting certain moments and cutting certain lines. But I'm probably overstepping my bounds with that speculation, haha, because who knows. It's interesting that she and Lynch bonded over the cutting of the killer's reveal and Roadhouse reaction in ep. 14 though (the first thing she ever edited for him).