Unlocking the Mysteries of Love
Interview with DVD Producer Jeffrey Schwarz
Conducted April 2nd, 2002
Copyright ©2002 Dugpa.com
On April 2nd, 2002, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Schwarz about his work on the upcoming Blue Velvet Special Edition DVD. All I can say is that I by the looks at it, this will be the most comprehensive Lynch film ever to be released on DVD. Finally, a Lynch film is bought to DVD and done right by Lynch and the Fans. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Special thanks to John Neff, Sarah Gelbman and Alyssa Alison at MGM, and of course Jeffrey Schwarz for making this interview happen.
Dugpa: So tell me, how did you get involved with this project?
Jeffrey Schwarz: My company is Automat Pictures, a production company that specializes in non-fiction entertainment, particularly supplemental material for DVD. We’ve done lots of titles for MGM ‘ The Silence of the Lambs, When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride, The Last Waltz, This is Spinal Tap. We’re currently working on Fargo and The Howling for the studio. Blue Velvet is one of the most important titles in their library, and they wanted to do something really special with it. They gave us an opportunity to put together a proposal for a Special Edition DVD and were very supportive of our ideas. The tentpole of the DVD is our documentary.
Dugpa: Mysteries of Love?
Jeffrey Schwarz: Yes, Mysteries of Love, which is a documentary about David Lynch and the making of the film. It includes interviews with all the major creative forces of the film, and very rare behind the scenes footage that we were able to incorporate into the piece.
Dugpa: So is most of the footage from the documentary, archival footage?
Jeffrey Schwarz: No. We did new interviews with Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, Angelo Badalamenti, Duwayne Dunham, Frederick Elmes, Fred Caruso, the producer.
Dugpa: David Lynch?
Jeffrey Schwarz: David Lynch did not sit down for a new interview. He was aware of our project from the start and approved of our concept, and knew every step of the way what we were up to. We got in touch with a German filmmaker named Peter Braatz who made an experimental film called ‘No Frank in Lumberton.’ He was on the set of Blue Velvet in North Carolina. He made this film that’s about an hour long and has got Super 8 footage of making the film and all kinds of wonderful stuff in there. He also had several hours of vintage David Lynch interview footage that he taped when David was on a press tour in Europe for Blue Velvet in 1987. It was always our intention to do a new interview with David, but while we were in production we acquired this vintage interview footage and incorporated it into the piece. We figured we would take most of it out once we got our new interview with David. When we finished our first cut and sent it to David for his blessing, he really dug it and decided that he didn’t want to do a new interview because he liked the show just fine the way it was. So David is very much represented in the piece, although he is now represented in a more historic fashion. He’s talking about the movie when it was new which actually gives it a very interesting perspective. He talks about falling in love with filmmaking again because this was right after his depressing experience making Dune. You wouldn’t get that type of perspective now. It added an interesting twist to the documentary to have him speaking from the past. We’re really very lucky to get him in there at all because he is very selective of what he gives his blessing to. I know that he has been absent from some of the other DVD releases of his films. We were pretty nervous when we sent him our cut, since it was so important to us to have represented his work properly. I got the call from his office after he had seen the cut and he gave us a thumbs up. We were very happy about that to say the least.
Dugpa: That sounds great. As far as the running time of the documentary, how long is it going to be?
Jeffrey Schwarz: When you put it all together, it’s about 70 minutes.
Dugpa: Can you tell me, before getting this project, were you a fan of David Lynch?
Jeffrey Schwarz: I’m a huge David Lynch fan, as well as everyone else at Automat. When we got the job to do this we were walking on air, and at the same time, we were really intimidated because it is a big responsibility to get this one right. It’s one of my personal favorites, and also has a huge worldwide following and has been so influential on cinema. We wanted to satisfy all the fans of the film, and also wanted to make sure David was happy with it. We didn’t want to give away all of its secrets or attempt in any way to explain away his film. We wanted to celebrate the mysteries of Blue Velvet, which I hope we did. I remember seeing it a suburban multiplex in Douglaston, Queens when it came out and there was nearly a riot in the theater. The audience didn’t know what to make of it, whether to laugh or scream or get angry. Over the last 15 years the movie just keeps getting better. We were very lucky because everybody that worked on the film has such a special feeling for it. It changed all of their lives. As we approached people to participate in the documentary, we were getting very positive responses all across the board. They were all eager to talk about their experience making Blue Velvet, and it was the first time some of them had ever spoke on camera about it.
Dugpa: So getting back to Mysteries of Love, what more can you tell us about it?
Jeffrey Schwarz: Well, Mysteries of Love, is in no way the ‘final word’ on Blue Velvet, but it’s the first documentary that has been made about it. Some of the material we found has never been seen before by a wide audience. The interviews are so forthcoming and everyone has such a special feeling about the film, especially Isabella. We gave everybody a chance to really talk about their characters, and what they needed to pull out of themselves to make these characters come to life. It’s very exciting. Dennis Hopper talks about the troubles he was having trying to get re-established in Hollywood and how this was part of that. He was very candid about his substance abuse problems and how he had been relying on drugs and alcohol for so long that it had become a crutch for him. Around this period he was sort of throwing that away and going back to traditional acting methods, which he said worked better than anything else. You really get a sense of David as an artist as well. You get a sense for how hands on he is. There is a great story that Duwayne Dunham tells about going to the set one day, and nobody knew where David was. They looked all over for him and found him in the corner putting dust bunnies underneath the radiator in Dorothy’s apartment. The camera would never pick it up, but it shows you how hands on David is in every aspect of his films. His stamp is unmistakable in every frame.
Jeffrey Schwarz: He also lets his collaborators bring their own contributions to the table as well. We wanted to touch on every facet of the process – the acting, the cinematography, production design, the sound design. There’s a section on Alan Splet. It’s also about David as an artist and touches on his background as a painter. It also talks about what the response was when the film came out. It was both celebrated and vilified. It really polarized the critics at the time. In order to show that, we were able to get a piece of Siskel and Ebert talking about the film. Ebert hated it, and still does, and Gene Siskel loved it. You really get a sense of how it split critics and audiences as well. Isabella talks very candidly about how she was blamed for the perceived failure of the film. She took a lot of the heat for it and it really upset her.
Dugpa: The documentary sounds awesome. Aside from the documentary, and brand new audio and video transfer, can you tell us what we can what else can we expect from this release?
Jeffrey Schwarz: Aside from the Mysteries of Love documentary, there is a Deleted Scenes Featurette, some promotional material, a photo gallery of behind the scenes stuff and portraits. There is a gallery of photos that Peter Braatz took on the set, and there are a few Easter eggs thrown in there too, which I’ll let you find.
Dugpa: So what can you tell me about the Deleted Scenes Featurette?
Jeffrey Schwarz: Well, I’m sure that you know that the Deleted Scenes are legendary. They have been written about, discussed, dissected’ and nobody knows where they are. I can assure you that every effort was made to find those scenes. I know that MGM had tried to find them. David had also made attempts to find them, we made our attempts to find them. Essentially, the realization was that they just aren’t around anymore. They weren’t kept. There were a few boxes left from Blue Velvet that were discovered, but the Deleted Scenes were not in those boxes. I can only assume, and I don’t know if this is accurate, but my guess is that Dino DeLaurentis is like this phoenix that is constantly rising out of the ashes and I think when DEG went under, a lot of the stuff was either destroyed or misplaced, or scattered to the winds. That’s what I assume happened to the Deleted Scenes. However, the Motion Picture Academy had hundreds of slides in their collection, which they made available to us. When we went through all these slides, we found a lot of stills that we realized were not in the movie. We figured out that they were stills from the Deleted Scenes. We separated all those slides from the rest of them and grouped them all together by scene, matching them by the screenplay, and organized them in a narrative fashion. We shot them, animated them, and added Badalamenti’s score. The piece is about 10-12 minutes, and is those scenes sort of brought to life. So until those scenes turn up in somebody’s basement, that’s the best we’re going to get. There’s a scene with Jeffrey and Dorothy on the roof when Dorothy threatens to commit suicide. There’s also the famous pool table scene at the Barbary Coast, which I guess was before Frank went up to Ben’s place. There’s a scene where Frank is attacking someone on top of a pool table, and a woman lighting her nipples on fire. I know that David was really disappointed that those scenes weren’t around. He was really happy to see what we did because he had forgotten that he had even done some of that stuff.
Dugpa: I think this is great that you guys are doing this. I know the fans are going to really love this.
Jeffrey Schwarz: I hope so. As far as long lost footage goes, those scenes are up there with Greed or the ‘Jitterbug’ scene in the Wizard of Oz. There are some pretty innocuous scenes too. There’s a scene with Jeffrey and Sandy watching TV before they have dinner at the Williams’ house. You get to see the dinner scene with Sandy’s boyfriend Mike. There’s a scene of the doctor that is taking care of Jeffrey’s father, and even a final scene where Jeffrey is giving his testimony to the cops. It looks like something right out of Twin Peaks actually. He’s sitting at a table and there’s this big log sitting right in front of him. It’s a shame that the scenes don’t exist, but this is a very tantalizing glimpse of them.
Dugpa: So can you tell me has there been any word on a possible upcoming Wild at Heart DVD from MGM, and would you be involved in it should it get released?
Jeffrey Schwarz: I’m keeping my fingers crossed. That would be really exciting. I know when I interviewed Laura Dern, she said ‘I can’t wait to talk about Wild at Heart!’ I know that movie was real important to her. It’s so great to see her in both those films because the character couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. I really hope it happens.
Dugpa: Wow. This really sounds great. This is probably the most any motion picture company has done to honor any of David Lynch’s works. I mean it when I say that the fans are just going to love this disc.
Jeffrey Schwarz: I hope so. That’s who we made it for. This is going to be the definitive Blue Velvet. Between David’s new transfer, our documentary, and everything else on the disc, you can pretty much chuck your old copy. It’s not going to get any better than this.