Childhood & Early Life
David Keith Lynch was born in Montana, USA, on January 20, 1946. He was raised by his parents, Donald and Edwina Lynch. His father worked as a scientist for the ‘Department of Agriculture.’ Because of his profession, Donald’s family had to move around the country quite frequently.
David was a unique kid right from his childhood. He hated attending school, and loved hanging around with his friends. Although his family kept moving around frequently, Lynch had no problems in making friends.
Lynch hated school as the education wasn’t as fulfilling as he thought it would be. Hence, he focused more on extracurricular activities, such as painting.
During his high school days, his grades went from bad to worse. This was when he told his parents that he wanted to study painting. Initially, his parents were against his decision, but after realizing that he was serious about something, they allowed him to go ahead with his own plan.
However, he started having issues with his parents when he started painting in his friend’s workshop. He would get so involved in his paintings that he would sometimes spend the entire night in his friend’s workshop. After many such nights, his father asked him to stop painting. But he did not pay much heed to what his parents said and just kept painting.
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David Lynch decided to take up painting as a serious career option. Hence, he got himself enrolled at ‘The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts,’ in Boston, but he quickly got bored of it and dropped out after a year. He told his parents that he dropped out as he was uninspired.
He then went on a tour of Europe in an attempt to learn the nuances of painting from the famous expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka. He and his friend Jack Fisk had visited Europe, hoping that they could work there with Oskar for at least three years. However, when they couldn’t meet Oskar Kokoschka, they had to return to the USA in just 15 days.
After returning to the US, Lynch moved to Philadelphia and got enrolled at ‘The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.’ Lynch later said that the days he spent in Philadelphia were the formative years of his life. The gothic buildings and the overall vibe which the city had, formed the basis for his first few films.
Lynch started painting ardently during his stay at the academy. He then made a short film titled ‘Six Men Getting Sick’ after deriving inspiration from one of his dreams, in which he saw his paintings move. Lynch fell in love with the art of filmmaking as he realized that he can convey much more through films.
He then invested his entire savings on another short film. Lynch’s films were different from mainstream cinema as they exhibited images and sounds that seemed to be coming straight out of a nightmare. The artistic community at the ‘Pennsylvania Academy’ praised him for his vision. This encouraged Lynch, who moved to Los Angeles in order to give his filmmaking career a shot.
‘The American Film Institute’ had just started operations and Lynch was one of the earliest students to enroll at the institute to learn filmmaking. He then made a short film titled ‘The Grandmother,’ which earned him an opportunity to make his first feature film. The proposed feature film was titled as ‘Gardenback,’ but the project did not materialize and Lynch started working on a new feature length project called ‘Eraserhead.’
Lynch started working on his feature film ‘Eraserhead’ in the early 70s. Initially, the project was funded by the ‘American Film Institute’ (AFI). But the film couldn’t be completed with the $10,000, which was given to him by the ‘AFI.’ He then started investing his own money into the film. After five years of hard work, which involved physical and mental exhaustion, the film was finally released in 1977.
The film was a nightmarish representation of a man’s fears. The dreamlike imagery and highly unusual narrative kept the film from entering film festivals. Eventually, the film was selected and was screened at ‘The Los Angeles Film Festival.’ The film was ridiculed at the festival with some critics calling it ‘awful.’
A distributor named Ben Barenholtz came to know about the film. He then contacted Lynch and expressed his interest in releasing the film. The film was initially screened at several theatres where it took the midnight slot. The film slowly started catching the attention of many. Esteemed director Stanley Kubrick watched the film and called it one of his most favorite films of all time.
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Hollywood star Mel Brooks saw the film and said that he absolutely loved it. He contacted Lynch and offered him the job of directing a film titled ‘The Elephant Man,’ which starred Anthony Hopkins in the lead. The film was a massive commercial and critical hit. It received eight Oscar nominations, including ‘Best Director.’
Lynch gained popularity as a director, and started receiving offers to direct mainstream Hollywood films, but Lynch focused on doing things that he liked and hence had to reject some high profile films, including ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.’
He then wrote and directed a film named ‘Dune,’ which was a high budget science fiction film. The film was a disaster as it failed to impress the critics and the audience alike. Lynch later termed it as the ‘worst experience of his life.’ Since the television and extended versions of the film were modified, Lynch requested the broadcasters not to give him the directorial credit. However, the film turned out to be a cult classic.
Lynch wrote and directed ‘Blue Velvet’ in 1986. Although the film was unorthodox as compared to the usual American films, it became a huge success. The film also received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Director.’
His next directorial venture was the 1990 film ‘Wild at Heart.’ It was Lynch’s most unusual film as it had a fairly straightforward treatment. However, it also had the trademark elements of a David Lynch movie and it became a big commercial and critical hit. It eventually won the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’
In the same year, Lynch came up with the TV series ‘Twin Peaks.’ It was an investigation drama about the murder of a girl named Laura Palmer. The series became a mega success, eventually becoming a rage in America. Many critics praised the series, with some calling it the beginning of a new era in American television. Lynch’s trademark style of filmmaking contributed to the series’ eventual success.
However, during its second season, Lynch had a disagreement with the producers regarding the revelation of the killer’s identity. Lynch then parted ways with the series without completing the second season. Following this, the series started faring poorly and the overall ratings of the show went down. Lynch was then requested to return for the final episode, which turned out to be a cult classic, just like the series.
Lynch then made a prequel film to the series and titled it ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,’ but the film proved a colossal failure and Lynch’s career took a plunge. He made his comeback with the 1997 film ‘Lost Highway.’ Although the film is now considered a cult classic, it was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release.
Lynch redeemed himself with the 1999 film ‘The Straight Story.’ Just like its title, ‘The Straight Story’ was a linear film and it earned Lynch another ‘Palme d’Or’ nomination at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’ The film follows a heart-warming tale of an old man, who sets off on a journey to meet his dying brother.
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In 2001, Lynch came up with ‘Mulholland Drive,’ which is now widely known as one of the best films ever made. The film was originally meant to be a TV series but the project was dropped at the last minute, owing to the unusual narrative techniques employed by Lynch. While unusual narrative was Lynch’s biggest strength, it was also his drawback as many producers would back out upon hearing his narrative.
Lynch then reworked on the script and turned it into a feature film. Lynch was honored with the ‘Best Director Award’ at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’ In a poll conducted by the BBC, ‘Mulholland Drive’ was named the ‘Best Film’ of the 21st Century.
In 2006, Lynch directed ‘Inland Empire,’ which remains to be his last feature film to date. The film was praised by the critics and also turned out to be a commercial success. Lynch gave up filmmaking after stating that Hollywood is no more a fascinating place for him. He also said that earning money has become the only motive of the majority of producers and filmmakers.
Lynch’s fans got excited in 2014 when he announced ‘Twin Peaks: The Return,’ which is the third season of his cult classic series. Lynch directed all the 18 episodes of the series, which was released in 2017. The series became a huge commercial and critical success. Lynch also acted as an FBI officer, reprising his role from earlier seasons.
Lynch has also directed several commercials and music videos. After quitting filmmaking, he has kept himself busy making music. He even released a couple of music albums, namely ‘Crazy Clown Time’ and ‘The Big Dream.’
David Lynch loves coffee and has famously said ‘A bad Coffee is better than no Coffee at all.’ He also has his own brand of coffee, which he has named ‘David Lynch Coffee.’
Lynch has had several long term relationships with many women. He married Peggy Lentz in 1967, but the couple called it quits a few years later. His daughter, Jennifer Lynch, who also happens to be a film director, was born out of this first marriage.
Lynch then got married to Mary Fisk in 1977, and got divorced in 1987. His high profile affair with ‘Blue Velvet’ actress Isabella Rossellini was much talked about. Upon breaking up with her, Lynch went on to marry Mary Sweeney in 2006. He divorced Mary in the same year and got married to Emily Stofle in 2009.
Lynch is a strong supporter of transcendental meditation. He says that he practices transcendental meditation on a daily basis. He also promotes it in schools and colleges throughout the USA.