John Malkovich as the Log Lady from ‘Twin Peaks’ (all images from “Playing Lynch,” courtesy Sandro Miller)

Cue “John Malkovich killed Laura Palmer” theories: For his latest project, “Playing Lynch,” actor John Malkovich dressed up as all your favorite David Lynch characters, including Special Agent Dale Cooper and the Log Lady from cult ’90s TV show Twin Peaks. For the project, Malkovich collaborated with photographer Sandro Miller, who directed a 20-minute series of vignettes, titled Psychogenic Fugue, that meticulously and uncannily recreates scenes from David Lynch’s oeuvre.

Talking into a tape recorder — “Diane, never drink coffee that has been anywhere near a fish” — Malkovich is a damn fine copy of Special Agent Dale Cooper. He also plays an ether-huffing Frank Booth, from Blue Velvet, applying lipstick while screaming “pretty, pretty”; a chipmunk-cheeked Lady in the Radiator, singing “In Heaven,” from Eraserhead; a vampirish Mystery Man, from Lost Highway; and David Lynch himself, presiding in an armchair in the Red Room. The vignettes rival the original Lynch scenes in their creepiness.

The clips are being released one by one, with already four released, through Monday, October 3rd. They can either be downloaded individually or as a complete 20-minute film for $10. Proceeds go to the David Lynch Foundation, which aims to use Transcendental Meditation to help people suffering from traumatic stress.


John Malkovich as The Lady in the Radiator

A social media poll determined which characters Malkovich would play. Twin Peaks‘ Dale Cooper was the favorite by a landslide. Sandro’s own pick, Lady in the Radiator, wasn’t voted into the top 10, but made the cut anyway. Malkovich studied the characters obsessively before filming. “We would have the actual scenes playing over and over on a TV set and he could watch it,” Sandro Miller, who directed each clip, told the Wall Street Journal. “He would be saying his lines, moving his mouth and his nose — it’s like watching this clay ball morph into something real.”

The vignettes are soundtracked by The Music of David Lynch, a new tribute album featuring leading artists covering songs from the auteur’s films. Zola Jesus covers “In Heaven,” Sky Ferreira does a rendition of “Blue Velvet,” and The Flaming Lips play the score to The Elephant Man. 

Malkovich and Sandro, as he’s known, are longtime collaborators. A couple of years ago, Sandro photographed the chameleonic actor posing for recreations of famous photographs, from Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” to Andy Warhol’s “Self Portrait (Fright Wig),” in “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to photographic masters.” The performances were as eerily accurate as they are in “Playing Lynch.”  

“Psychogenic Fugue” seems to follow Lynchian logic — it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if it turned out that John Malkovich will be playing all the characters in the upcoming Twin Peaks revival.


John Malkovich as Special Agent Dale Cooper from ‘Twin Peaks’


John Malkovich as the Mystery Man from ‘Lost Highway,’ from “Playing Lynch,” directed by Sandro Miller (2016)


John Malkovich as Special Agent Dale Cooper, from “Playing Lynch,” directed by Sandro Miller (2016)


John Malkovich as Special Agent Dale Cooper, from “Playing Lynch,” directed by Sandro Miller (2016)

Watch clips from “Psychogenic Fugue” and explore “Playing Lynch” here

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.