Born David Keith Lynch in Missoula, MT, the son of Donald Lynch, a Department of Agriculture research scientist, and Edwina, an English tutor, he spent his youth in Idaho, Washington, and later, Alexandria, VA. Intent on becoming an artist from an early age, Lynch attended classes at Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. while still in high school, followed by an aborted enrollment at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts and an even shorter visit to Europe where he had planned on studying painting. Eventually, Lynch discovered his true calling while experimenting with what he would later describe as "film painting" at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After leaving the Academy, Lynch continued to experiment, and on the basis of "The Alphabet" (1968), a five-minute short combining live action and animation, Lynch received a $5,000 grant from the American Film Institute. With that seed money he made "The Grandmother" (1970), a 34-minute short about a lonely, disturbed little boy who plants and grows a loving grandmother in his basement. Over a five-year period, drawing on personal fears about the confinements of his own youthful marriage and fatherhood, and while working in and around the AFI's Center for Advanced Film Studies in Los Angeles, Lynch created his appalling black-and-white meditation on family life, "Eraserhead" (1978). A nightmarish vision filled with grotesque physical deformities and essaying a tortured quest for spiritual purity, it starred Jack Nance in a truly hair-raising performance, the first of his frequent collaborations with Lynch.Far from a mainstream film, "Eraserhead" did, however, attract critical attention, propelling Lynch to the forefront of the avant-garde film movement at the time. During the period that followed, the young filmmaker became interested in a project being produced by Mel Brooks - the fact-based story of John Merrick, a man afflicted with a disease that horribly disfigured his body, but could not diminish the inner-beauty of the gentle man's soul. Lynch expressed interest in directing the script, leading to arrangements being made for Brooks to view "Eraserhead" - something that made Lynch very anxious. Much to Lynch's surprise, after the viewing Brooks declared him to be "a madman" - a qualification that apparently made Lynch the perfect choice - and immediately gave him the job. "The Elephant Man" (1980), starring an unrecognizable John Hurt in the title role and Anthony Hopkins as his humanitarian physician, was both a critical and a box office triumph, earning Lynch two Oscar nods; one for Best Director and another for Best Adapted Screenplay. Although hardly a conventional film, it established Lynch as a commercially viable director, and soon offers - one to direct "Return of the Jedi" (1983) for George Lucas, among them - began pouring in. Ultimately, Lynch decided to helm an adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel Dune for producer Dino De Laurentiis, not due to any affinity for the project, but because the Italian movie mogul agreed to produce Lynch's follow up effort with zero studio interference. The experience would be a vastly different one from that of "The Elephant Man," undeniably affecting the future trajectory of Lynch's career.Adapting Herbert's byzantine 500-page tome of intergalactic politics, religion, and war into a coherent film script was an incredible challenge for Lynch; the filming of "Dune" (1984) on location in the Mexican deserts, and enlisting tens of thousands of extras, even more so. In order to bring the final film in at the two-hour mark, substantial cuts and post-production changes were made to Lynch's preferred vision. The result was a nearly incomprehensible narrative, a dismal performance at the box office, mixed-to-negative notices from critics, and an incredibly painful lesson for the sophomore director. Bruised but determined, and now armed with his deal to make his next picture with complete autonomy, Lynch prepared to make "Blue Velvet" (1986). Ostensibly described as a surrealistic film noir, "Blue Velvet" defied neat categorization. Starring Kyle MacLachlan as a young man embroiled in a mystery surrounding a beautiful, emotionally troubled woman played by Isabella Rossellini, the film was clearly born out of the deepest regions of Lynch's psyche. Themes of violence, voyeurism, corruption and sexual deviance coexisted with a bucolic, small town setting reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, defining what would later become known as the "Lynchian" aesthetic. The film also marked a rebirth, of sorts, for mercurial actor Dennis Hopper, who, as sociopath Frank Booth, gave one of the more memorable, unrestrained, and truly disturbing performances in film history. "Blue Velvet" caused a sensation among critics upon its release and garnered Lynch another Academy Award nomination for Best Director, later achieving cult classic status on video and DVD.In the late 1980s, Lynch turned his energies to television, collaborating with novelist-screenwriter Mark Frost on the groundbreaking series "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1989-1991). Occupying much of the same territory as "Blue Velvet," the series chronicled the investigation into the brutal murder of Laura Palmer, a high school girl from a rural Washington town. Beginning with the Lynch-directed pilot episode, "Twin Peaks" became an instant sensation, and mid-way through its first season was a certified national phenomenon, prompting media outlets across the country to ask, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" As brightly as the series burned initially, it would sputter out in its second season, due in large part to Lynch's chaffing under network interference and his distancing himself from the show prior to its cancelation. Though Lynch's return to film "Wild at Heart" (1990), adapted from a novel by future collaborator Barry Gifford, won the prestigious Palme d'Or at Cannes, it met with critical disfavor and audience ambivalence at home. Many found the crime spree road movie's unrestrained scenes of brain bashing and decapitation all but unbearable, despite strong performances by Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern on their trek through a nightmarish American landscape. Lynch followed with another critical and commercial failure when he returned to "Twin Peaks" terrain for the feature "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992). Critics savaged it, audiences hissed at Cannes, and U.S. moviegoers stayed away, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the "Twin Peaks" time had come and gone.After a few short-lived television projects, Lynch contributed to the experimental film project "Lumiere and Company" (1995), with his visually compelling "Premonitions Following an Evil Deed." Reteaming with writer Gifford, and returning once again to a neo-noir motif, Lynch next unleashed the unapologetically enigmatic "Lost Highway" (1997) on an unsuspecting public. Starring Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty and featuring a truly unsettling performance by Robert Blake, "Lost Highway" played out like a fever dream - non-linear, often terrifying, and offering no final answer to whatever questions it may have posed. In the film, Pullman plays a jazz musician who suspects his wife (Arquette) of having an affair. For her part, Arquette plays another woman in a parallel story line, with primary characters suddenly switching places and/or identities by mid-film. Predictably, Lynch's latest offering left audiences and reviewers scratching their collective heads. Never one to play it safe, Lynch confounded expectations when he directed the G-rated "The Straight Story" (1999) for Disney Studios, a fact-based drama about an elderly man - played to perfection with sincerity and quiet nobility by Richard Farnsworth - who rode a tractor several hundred miles in order to reconcile with his ailing, estranged brother. With "The Straight Story" Lynch demonstrated an ability to tell a crowd pleasing, readily accessible story, while still making the film undeniably his own.That same year, Lynch had another go at developing a television series. With the go-ahead from ABC, he began shooting the pilot episode, but after disagreements as to content and tone, the network put the project on indefinite hiatus. Even maverick cable channels like HBO passed on the show until French producer Alain Sarde was sufficiently impressed to offer to bankroll additional footage, allowing Lynch to turn the pilot into a feature film that premiered at Cannes in 2001. A dystopian look at the pursuit of fame and the dark side of Hollywood, "Mulholland Dr." (2001) was a cinematic echo of Billy Wilder's masterpiece "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Many of the typical Lynchian touches could be found, with creepy villains, oddball secondary characters and a mid-film switch that echoed "Lost Highway," but it all played out more effectively this time. Lynch shared the Cannes Best Director Award with Joel Coen for "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001), and the film opened to universal critical acclaim. Although, to a large extent, audiences found themselves perplexed, if not outright frustrated by Lynch's latest offering, "Mulholland Dr." did relatively well in theaters and was considered a modest success. However, Mulholland" eventually became a cult classic and, along with "Blue Velvet," recognized as one of Lynch's two greatest cinematic achievements. Over the next several years, Lynch turned his attention to the Internet, filming shorts and building his website, davidlynch.com, before releasing the feature film "Inland Empire" (2006). Shot entirely on digital video, "Inland Empire" nonetheless featured many of the same characteristics as Lynch's recent movies, primarily a non-linear story, actors morphing into completely new characters, and a mystery which the auteur director seemed to have little interest in resolving.Following "Inland Empire," Lynch spent several years exploring various artistic outlets outside of feature films. Along with a plethora of digital shorts and other low-profile filmic experiments, Lynch returned to his interest in music with 2009's Dark Night of the Soul, an audiovisual collaboration with Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous). This was followed by Lynch's first album on which he sang and played instruments as well as writing and producing songs, 2011's Crazy Clown Time. A follow-up album, The Big Dream (2013), featured a collaboration with Swedish pop singer/songwriter Lykke Li. During this period, Lynch also had a recurring role on the animated sitcom "The Cleveland Show" (Fox 2009-2013) as the surreally cantankerous bartender Gus. On October 6, 2014, Lynch and Mark Frost jointly announced a new series of "Twin Peaks," set to air on Showtime. As filming began, the series expanded from the initial nine proposed episodes to a total of 18 hour-long episodes, which Lynch and Frost described as 18 parts of one extended film. Lynch and Frost wrote the entire series and Lynch directed the entirety, which expanded the show's universe from rural Washington to include storylines set in New York, Las Vegas and South Dakota, with a number of new characters in addition to nearly the entire cast from the original show. "Twin Peaks: The Return" began airing on Showtime in May 2017. That same year, Lynch appeared in "Lucky" (2017), the final film starring his longtime friend and collaborator harry Dean Stanton. David Lynch received an honorary Oscar in 2020 at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.
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