Ray Wise on NPR (old interview from 1990)

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Ray Wise on NPR (old interview from 1990)

Postby LostInTheMovies » Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:55 pm

Just ran across this post on alt.tv.twin-peaks (I've been going through the archives a bit at a time each day). EDIT: Added the first part after I thought I couldn't find it. It contains the stories we've heard a bunch of times (Pt. II has more unfamiliar material - at least it was unfamiliar to me!). That said it places the conversation about Leland being the killer the morning after the Emmies which, according to Google, means Ray Wise did not find out Leland was the killer until September 17, 1990!

Pt. I

Leland Speaks!
If you have yet to catch Fresh Air on National Public Radio, make the
effort to find it. It is one of the best interview shows anywhere,
anytime. Produced in Philadelphia at WHYY, the show is hosted by
Terry Gross, a bright, articulate, broadly educated woman who holds her own
against film makers, actors, musicians, writers, even writers calling
her from the Federal Pen. Dont miss it!.

I say that 99% because its true, and only 1% because it may work in my
favor if the copyright police call me about what follows. Anyway, on
12/12 Terry talked with Ray Wise.

[Terry Gross says] [This interview is dedicated to television critic
David Biancouli (sp?) ] who seldom lets a week go by without
mentioning Twin Peaks on our show.

[audio from TP, Cooper says] Did you kill Laura Palmer?

[Leland howls repeatedly, and says] Thats a yes.

[Terry Gross] It was two Saturdays ago that Leland Palmer confessed to
killing his daughter, Laura Palmer. Right after the confession, the
evil spirit Bob left Leland's body, and Leland died -- which means the actor
who played him, Ray Wise, is out of the series. The perfect time we
thought, to ask Ray Wise what it was like to star on Twin Peaks.
Since the premier of Twin Peaks the characters in the series, and the TV
viewers who watched it, had asked the same question: Who killed Laura
Palmer? I asked Ray Wise when he found out.

[Ray Wise] I found out the [morning] after the Emmy Awards this last
summer, and Mark Frost and David Lynch called me up to their office --
actually called Ben Horn (Richard Bemer) and myself, and Sheryl Lee,
who played Laura and who played Maddie Ferguson, up to the office -- and
we went into a small room that was devoid of furniture. It was very dark
[Terry Gross begins to laugh] This is true - with a kind of lava lamp
[she really laughs] in the corner - a lava lamp waterfall, as I
recall; and David was sitting on the floor cross-legged, and so was Mark, and
so was Sheryl Lee, and Richard and I came in and we sat down,
cross-legged, and David leaned over and put his hand on my knee, and
he said "It was you". [TG laughs] "It was always you, from day one it
was you".

And I sort of bowed my head and curled up into a fetal position and
said -- I really can't say the word that I said at the time -- but it was
"Oh, shoot!"

[TG] Why were you upset?

[RW] I didn't want it to be me, you know? I really - I -I grew to
love Leland Palmer and his strange ways, and I didn't want it to be
him. Oh, it's like having a close friend turn out to be a killer,
and go to prison, and all that sort of thing. I just didn't want
it to be Leland. I wanted Leland to go on and on [he chuckles].

[TG] Did it ease the pain though, knowing that in a way he was
innocent, 'cause after all he was possessed, it wasn't his own
motivation that killed Laura Palmer.

[RW] Absolutely. Mark went on to explain my last show, and the
meaning of the last show. And they also filled me in on some of
the background that I hadn't been aware of, that Bob had been
inside me for the last four or five years. Leland is a true
innocent in a sense because he was totally possessed by this evil
spirit Bob, and yeah, when they told me that it really took the edge
off it for me. I was able to accept it a lot better after that.

[TG] Did the writers know right from the start that you did it? You
know, that Leland Palmer was the vehicle...

[RW] Oh yeah, Mark and David, they promised me that they did [he
doesn't sound completely sure...] they knew it from the start. I
don't think they knew quite how they were going to arrive at that
point, but I think that they knew who they wanted it to be. And it
was me. I was the sacrificial lamb.

[TG] Let's talk about that last scene -- the death scene -- after
you confess, and then, you know, you're, you're [she approaches the
word with some embarrassment] you're barking [she laughs]. Was that
--whos idea was it for you to bark?

[RW] That's me, that's all me. Tim Hunter directed that episode and
Tim did a wonderful job, but I had all these things sorta planned out
in my head, the way I wanted to approach it anyway. The times when I
was possessed by Bob I wanted to exhibit certain things, and then when
I became Leland again I wanted to show certain things. The bark just
sort of, uh, came out -- very feral thing, very wolf-like, very
animal-like, and very vicious, and it just seemed to fit with the
woods motif. [They both laugh] You know, the wolf in the woods, that
kind of thing. So, I did it anyway.

[TG] So you've known the secret to who killed Laura Palmer since
the summer. Were you like pledged to secrecy, and were you protected
from the public in any way so that no one would find out...

[RW] Oh yeah, yeah, they made us do everything except sign a paper.
They stamped numbers on all of our scripts so that if one of our
scripts fell into foreign hands they would know the party responsible
for losing it. I mean it sounds funny, but it was true, that they
tried to impose maximum security on the set, so that no one would know
and so there wouldn't be any leaks. And they even tried to fool the
crew some times, you know, they would have us do certain scenes with a
couple of different actors. And they would film it, actually waste
money, and waste film to shoot superfluous footage just so that people
wouldn't know who the real killer was.

[TG] What were some of the ways people tried to get you to reveal who
killed Laura Palmer?

[RW] Well they just start talking to me, you know, they just start
talking to me and asking me supposedly harmless questions -- and it's
wonderful to be able to talk to you right now with this load off my
chest [she laughs]. I don't have anything to protect [he begins to
laugh] I don't have anything to protect any more. I can be pretty
truthful, and it's great to feel that way. But people would just
start out asking me little questions, seemingly harmless ones, and then try
to lead into the big one and try to slip it in by me without my
knowing it. But I always clamp down on it and say, "Look, I'm sorry, I can't
answer that".

[TG] When you first started to work on Twin Peaks, what kind of
overall description and what kind of character description did David
Lynch give you?

[RW] Well you know, when I first came in on Twin Peaks it was
originally for the role of Sheriff Truman. [Oh..., says TG, somewhat
surprised] [And] David and Mark were seeing me for that role. And
then we talked for about -- our first meeting we talked for about
twenty or twenty-five minutes, about just life in general and the
first cars that we owned -- I think David's was a Volkswagon, and mine
was a little 1960 Alpha Romeo convertible that was in pretty good
shape, and anyway, we talked about our cars and a couple of people that we
had in common, and that was the extent of the interview.

They called me back a few days later, and my agent said "Ray, you
know, they're interested in you for the part of Leland Palmer".
And I said "Wait a minute, Leland Palmer? Who's he?" So I opened up
the script and I quickly rifled through the pages, and "Ah, yes,
there's Leland Palmer right here... ah ha... he hears that his
daughter's been murdered... ok... he cries here... dit, dit, dit,
dit... ah, he goes to the hospital to identify his daughter's body and
he breaks down and cries here..." and I thought "Oh my, this guy... is
spending a lot of time crying! He's a lot of time with grief". And
that was my introduction to Leland Palmer, I had to quickly look him
up in the script.

And then several days later we were all chosen for our various parts,
and we flew up to Seattle about a week later to begin the pilot, and I
thought Leland was a pretty normal, straight-forward, simple kind of a
guy, who was a pretty good lawyer in town, reasonably intelligent,
reasonably articulate, who was well liked, and unfortunately had a
young daughter who was murdered. That's what I thought he was in the


I'm going to take a break and post this first part. I'm not
transcribing this as fast as I thought I could. Let me know if
anyone's interested in seeing more.

-- Steve


Leland Speaks (Part II)
Herewith, the remainder of the Fresh Air interview (NPR) with Ray
Wise from 12/12.


[Terry Gross, after a break] ...he played the role of Leland
Palmer, and of course it was Leland Palmer who killed Laura
Palmer, but Leland was inhabited by the evil spirit of Bob at the
time. Who came up with that Leland Palmer dance and the weird

[Ray Wise] Well, the dance, the actual dance that you saw is
mine, it's my creation.

[TG] Oh great, why don't you describe the dance for our listeners
who hadn't been following.

[RW] The Leland Shuffle? [they both laugh] Well, through his
grief, has become oh just terribly, terribly sad, just moping
around in corners and he can't seem to be able to deal with the
thought that his daughter is gone, that she was murdered
violently. And he sort of regresses back to a time in his past
when he used to listen to big band music on the record player that
his father introduced him to, and he loved that big band music so,
and so he would play these songs from that era, the big band music
and they would soothe his spirit, calm him down, and make him feel
a little better.

And when he played these songs he would naturally, kind of, do the
dance of the time, which was a kind of a modified jitterbug, and
he would vary it with some slower steps. And if people were
watching very closely they would have seen that the imaginary
partner that Leland was dancing with varied in height from time to
time, and that sometimes that person would get very small -- and
that was little Laura when she was a little girl, and I, and
Leland taught her how to dance and she would stand on his feet and
he would take the steps for her.

And so all of these things were going through Leland's mind at the
time -- the soothing music, dancing with his daughter, and then it
would become too much for him and he would start to cry, and to
wail, and to sort of hold his head in his hands, and that was the
beginning of the Leland Shuffle -- doing that modified jitterbug
holding your head in your hands and wailing and crying. And
dancing with no one, there's nobody there, just dancing with

[TG] You know, I'm thinking in Twin Peaks a lot of the actors
were either considered washed up, like Richard Bemer, and Peggy
Lipton hadn't hadn't been on anything for a long time...

[RW] Well, you know we don't like to say "washed up", just "out
of the public eye"...

[TG] Yeah, thanks [a chuckle from both], and a lot of the actors
weren't very well known to the public at all, so there's an
interesting mix of people...

[RW] A great mix...

[TG] Yeah, I'm wondering if there was a great esprit de corps
because of that. I could see a lot of actors having a special
investment in this, 'cause it was a chance to be before the public
in a way that they either hadn't been in a long time, or hadn't
ever been before...

[RW] Well you know, you're saying it better than I could say it.
That is, it's absolutely true. Some of those people, in fact most
of them, Richard Bemer, Russ Tamblyn, they're joys to work with
and I love them all dearly, and Piper Laurie, and just all the way
down the line the various personalities from different ethnic
backgrounds, and we were all thrown together, chosen by David and
Mark, who in their great wisdom picked a group of people they new
instinctively would get along. And we did.

[TG] In a lot of ways Twin Peaks was this weird version of a soap
opera. Now you did a real afternoon soap opera for about six
years, Love of Life.

[RW] Yes I did, uh huh.

[TG] Describe the character you played.

[RW] On Love of Life? Oh yeah, I played a guy named Jamie
Rollins, and when I started on that show in 1970 he was a college
student, he was a kind of a pseudo-hippie-radical type who started
riots on campus, and in one episode I remember I caused the
President of the University to have a heart attack. So that's the
way he started, and then six years later he was a lawyer in the
District Attorney's office. Now you tell me [she laughs] how
that could possibly happen, but it did.

[TG] Social realism...

[RW] Yes... and in that six and a half years' time I was a cub
reporter on the newspaper, and I had Marsha Mason there for a
while as a girlfriend on the show, and I was almost poisoned by
Christopher Reeve who later turned out to be Superman, he played
character named Ben; and I was a garage mechanic, then a law
clerk, and I worked for a judge for a while, and just a million
things happened. In the meantime my wife ran off with my child,
and my little child fell through the ice and died, and I had an
affair with one of my good friends' wives, and she became pregnant
with our illegitimate child, and just a whole slew of things... my
best friend died of a rare blood disease...I mean, I can't even
tell you all the stuff that happened, but it did, it was a lot of

[TG] You obviously have a nice sense of irony. Was it hard for
you to take the role or the show seriously?

[RW] Love of Life? Oh yeah, sure it was [he laughs] yeah it was
very hard to take it seriously. But we tried to do the best we
could. And it was a great job, I mean, you learn how to act in
front of a camera and you do it on a daily basis, and you make a
pretty good wage, which is always a desirable thing.

[TG] In your film career you've worked with some interesting,
very quirky directors. Ok, there's David Lynch from Twin Peaks,
Paul Shrader [sp?] directed you in the remake of Cat People, Wes
Craven in Swamp Thing. Do you like quirky movies like that?

[RW] Well yeah I do. As a matter of fact I do. I enjoy watching
them and I certainly enjoy doing them, being in them. And I think
that because I like to do movies like that, that they sort of
gravitate toward me. These parts become available to me because I
want them to be available to me and I end up doing them. Yeah,
that's the kind of thing I like, and it is true that they seem to
suit me I think.

[TG] You're interested in horror? It says in your bio that you
have the original 1897 edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

[RW] Yeah. I'm steeped in it, yeah.

[TG] How'd you get started?

[RW] Oh I don't know, I suppose it might have something to do
with my Rumanian heritage. I'm half Rumanian on my mother's side
-- no I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with that because
we've been here in this country for many, many years. But I do
enjoy those legends of Count Dracula - Vladim Paylor [sp?] you
know, early on in the 14th, 15th century, and the whole vampire
mystique, and I just love to be scared. I love to lie in bed late
at night under the covers and have that book in front of me and
shiver a bit when I read passages, certain passages. And it feels
good, it feels -- to be on the edge, you know, of that kind of
danger, literary danger, that isn't life threatening -- it feels
pretty good and I enjoy that feeling.

[TG] now that your character of Leland Palmer is dead, is there
any chance that you're going to be coming back as an apparition or
in a flashback?

[RW] Well from your words up to God's ears [she laughs hard, he
chuckles] I don't know... I suppose that that's always possible,
it would be interesting and I'm sure that some thought about that
has been bandied about. They don't miss a trick up there in the
Twin Peaks office.

[TG] You're at NPR's Los Angeles bureau now, I'm in Philadelphia,
we're not really looking at each other. I mean we can't see each
other, so I need to know: is your hair really dark, or is it
really gray?

[RW] Well, oh, you mean my real hair. My real hair is dark, dark
brown, and they had to make my hair white through a terrible
chemical process that I don't think anybody should have to endure,
but I did for several months. They had to use major chemicals and
large amounts of them to make my hair as white as it looked on the
screen. And right now I'm only half and half...

[TG] It's only half grown out?

[RW] Yeah, I'm very Madonna-ish, I guess. Very very dark roots
that are about an inch long, and then about an inch of white hair
on top of that and it looks, everybody tells me that it looks
quite good, but I can't imagine that. I'm just giving my hair a
breather. I'm letting it rest a little bit and I promised my wife
that I'm going to get it cut within the next couple of weeks.

[TG] Well I want to thank you a lot for talking with us, it's
been a lot of fun to meet Ray Wise.

[RW] Yeah, it's great talking to you. A lot of people, they've
seen a lot of Leland but not a lot of Ray and it's nice to talk to

[TG] Actor Ray Wise.

[some cool, smoky Twin Peaks music starts, and fades slowly...]

Thanks to those on the net who sent the nice encouraging notes,
prompting this second posting. I apologize for not responding
individually, but this being my first week on the net I have
yet to become competent on some basics, like replying to email!

Nevertheless, my priorities are clear. I know how to keep up
on ALT.TV.TWIN-PEAKS. I'd say all else takes a back seat.
Steve Carol

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