Why ‘Twin Peaks’ Recorded Over David Bowie’s Original Performance
David Bowie gave his blessing for Twin Peaks to revisit his Fire Walk With Me cameo, though even the original Phillip Jeffries footage had a slight tweak at Bowie’s request. As David Lynch now reveals, there’s good reason they committed the cardinal sin of recording over Bowie.
Showtime’s revival drew heavily from Lynch’s 1992 prequel-sequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, including the use of Bowie’s ethereal Agent Phillip Jeffries. The late singer understandably declined to reprise his role, given the secrecy of his ailing health, though Showtime’s The Return did reuse a bit of Bowie’s footage when not depicting the character as a giant kettle (it’s exactly as weird as it sounds).
If you’re wondering why Bowie sounded different in the older footage, it wasn’t solely to sync with the character’s new voice, Nathan Frizzell. As David Lynch told Pitchfork, Bowie’s one request was that his old lines be re-dubbed by an actual Louisiana native; apparently embarrassed with his original performance (h/t Vanity Fair):
We got permission to use the old footage, but he didn’t want his voice used in it. I think someone must have made him feel bad about his Louisiana accent in Fire Walk With Me, but I think it’s so beautiful. He wanted to have it done by a legitimate actor from Louisiana, so that’s what we had to do. The guy [voice actor Nathan Frizzell] did a great job.
Lynch also clarified a few matters of Bowie’s participation, including that he’d only actually spoken to Bowie’s lawyer, and only later found out why Bowie himself was in seclusion. Not only that, but the Phillip Jeffries “kettle” isn’t a kettle at all, but merely looks like one by Lynch’s own inadvertent design. I’m still going to call it a kettle, David.
Either way, Twin Peaks made a fitting tribute to Bowie with or without his voice, just as it ended up eulogizing a number of other actors who died during production (or shortly after, RIP Harry Dean Stanton).