How Marilyn Monroe Inspired ‘Twin Peaks’

Marilyn Monroe’s movies are different from David Lynch’s output so it seems odd how Lynch’s most popular show wouldn’t exist without Monroe. Lynch was going to write a movie about her but abandoned the project for a very specific reason. However, Monroe later inspired a significant element of Twin Peaks. Lynch has an interesting take on Monroe’s enduring appeal.

The Twin Peaks sign
A scene from Twin Peaks | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Why David Lynch’s script about Marilyn Monroe was never made into a movie

Twin Peaks is often considered one of Lynch’s most popular works. However, Twin Peaks was the brainchild of both Lynch and writer Mark Frost. According to the book Room to Dream, Frost and Lynch tried to make a film about Monroe’s life.

“An agent at CAA brought us together to work on a feature called Goddess for United Artists,” Frost remembered. The film was to be based on Anthony Summers’ famous book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. “David struck me as a straightforward guy with a greats sense of humor and we clicked on that level right away – we made each other chuckle…. We both wanted to expand the story beyond strict realism and inject lyrical, almost fantastical moments to it, and we  started seeing a synchronistic way of working together.”

“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Marilyn Monroe

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Goddess was going to take some bold choices with Monroe’s life story. For example, the script implicated Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy in Monroe’s untimely death. Frost was pleased with the script, however, producer Bernie Schwartz was not. While Lynch and Frost never made Goddess, this was not the end of Frost and Lynch drawing inspiration from Monroe.

Monroe’s influence on ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’

According to Vanity Fair, Lynch said Monroe had a huge influence on the character of Laura Palmer. “You could say that Laura Palmer is Marilyn Monroe, and that [my movie] Mulholland Drive is about Marilyn Monroe, too,” Lynch opined. “Everything is about Marilyn Monroe.” Considering Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive have very different stories, it’s fascinating how Monroe inspired both.

“Laura Palmer’s Theme”

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The similarities between Monroe and Palmer are obvious. For example, they are both very sexualized blonde women who die tragically young. In addition, Monroe’s death inspired mourning across the nation, the same way many people in Twin Peaks are saddened by Palmer’s death. In addition, characters in Twin Peaks try to piece together Palmer’s mysterious death, much as fans and conspiracy theorists continue to believe Monroe’s death hasn’t been solved. Interestingly, Agent Dale Cooper references Monroe at one point, saying he’d like to know how exactly she was connected to the Kennedy family. In an interview with Vice, Lynch discussed Monroe’s appeal.

“It’s hard to say exactly what it is about Marilyn Monroe, but the woman-in-trouble thing is part of it,” Lynch said. “It’s not just the woman-in-trouble thing that pulls you in, though. It’s more that some women are really mysterious.” Monroe certainly pulled Lynch in, to the point where he created a show inspired by her.