David Lynch is one of our most enigmatic creators. It's said that on set, he prefers to keep actors in the dark, much like their characters. This creates performances that feel real and help the audience relate with the people on screen. 

But in a movie like Mulholland Drive, that can frustrate the people involved. It's a movie with so many twists and turns, it can be hard for an actor to put their performance in context. 

Actor Justin Theroux is no stranger to this process. He was in Lynch's Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive. And his work in both is crucial to what's happening in the movie.

Theroux told Indiewire about his experiences working with Lynch on Mulholland Drive

He said, “He’s a total outlier because he doesn’t answer your questions. I was course peppering him with a million questions like, ‘Well, why am I there? Who’s the cowboy? What’s going on? What reality are we in?'”

Theroux continued, saying Lynch “cleared the whole set. ‘Everyone get out of here.’ They were laying cable and hanging lights as you do. And he said, ‘Wait a minute, everyone’s got to get out of here. Me and Justin need to talk.’ We went in and into the house [where we’re] shooting, I think the scene where I come home and find my wife with the poor guy, [played by] Billy Ray Cyrus.

“I started asking him questions… When I finished a question, [he’d say], ‘You know, I don’t know, buddy. But let’s find out.’ He wasn’t being cute or cheeky or evasive; he genuinely didn’t know. He’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s like you’re on an escalator into a cloud with him, you never know where the escalator lets off.”

That has to be daunting as an actor. But it could be exciting at the same time to uncover a story together.

In talking about Inland Empire, Theroux said, “The crew [David Lynch] assembles are great. You’re giggling. The stuff with Laura Dern and Inland Empire, we were laughing so much. Then you go to the screening of it, your brains all over the back wall. I had no clue that that’s how that scene was gonna be, the tone of that. Most of the time I’m a pretty quick study on [tone]. but David Lynch is an absolute outlier in that respect in that what you end up seeing once he’s gone to the lab, and cut it up and put sound in and arranged at all, is so different from the experience you’ve had on set.”

Honestly, that sounds like a blast, but also frustrating.

So much of an actor's work is trusting a director, and Lynch is great enough to put all your faith in him, even if you don't know how a scene fits or plays out. Still, it has to be stressful when you want to show that you're doing a good job, but don't have all the materials you need to sculpt a performance like you would on another set. 

How do you view all of this? Let us know in the comments.