Actor Kyle MacLachlan has been a fixture in movies and television for decades. Starting with the recently remade 1984 sci-fi epic Dune, the chipper actor has long been a favorite of cult fandom and mainstream audiences. How has MacLachlan pull off that level of adoration? It helps that his primary collaborator, director David Lynch, also has a knack for luring in diverse demographics. The two have continued working together across the decades, and it’s not just because they’ve had hits.
Kyle MacLachlan has a fantastic career outside of David Lynch movies
MacLachlan’s career started under Lynch’s guiding eye in the sci-fi/adventure Dune. Though the movie was a box office misfire (more on that later), the young actor was never short on work. He became a character-acting fixture in films such as Dream Breakers and The Doors, according to IMDb.
MacLachlan’s uniquely endearing energy landed him a spot on the TV show Tales From the Crypt, which also had him in the director’s chair. Then, after a breakout role working with Lynch in the early-’90s series Twin Peaks, he found new life as a TV mainstay.
The actor became a major recurring character on Sex and the City. He also starred in In Justice, a legal drama that laid the groundwork for The Good Wife. In addition, he appeared twice on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, years apart. On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he played a mysterious recurring villain. And he left his indelible mark on sketch comedies like Portlandia and the primetime soap Desperate Housewives.
The man has range, to say the least.
Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch could be Hollywood’s most interesting ongoing collaborators
Audiences met MacLachlan in a curious way. He was recruited to play Paul Atreides, the lead in the second attempt at adapting author Frank Herbert’s sprawling sci-fi drama Dune. Lynch, enjoying newfound Hollywood clout thanks to The Elephant Man, got the go-ahead and massive budget to get the film finally made.
In an interview with GQ, the now 76-year-old actor said, “I was 23, just graduated from acting school. [I had] no idea what was happening, honestly. But I knew the book really well. I had been Paul in my imagination for so many years.”
Sadly, the film bombed at the box office. Often, that spells the instant end of a risky fresh-faced lead’s career. Instead, Lynch invited MacLachlan back for a completely different type of project: the surreal small-town crime drama Blue Velvet. The film was a hit relative to its budget and laid the thematic groundwork for Twin Peaks, Indiewire reports.
That show saw massive success, to the point it helped define the 1990s zeitgeist. MacLachlan’s FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper became instantly iconic. But as with all of Lynch’s flashes of mainstream victory, it didn’t last.
ABC demanded a resolution to the central mystery of the show, according to Chatelaine. Afterward, the bizarre series lost much of its viewership. Lynch himself left the project for much of the second season, returning only to wrap the show with a disturbing cliffhanger.
Lynch, as dedicated to his art as ever, made a 1992 feature film prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It left critics cold because it failed to address the cliffhanger. However, it developed a cult following thanks to the brutal thematic clarity it brought to the life of character Laura Palmer.
Throughout Lynch’s hits and misses, MacLachlan has remained his leading man. They have such an effortless rapport that the director has called the actor a nickname — “Kale” — for over three decades, Indiewire reports.
The actor and director reunited in 2017, but a rumored new collaboration won’t happen
Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch reunited for a third season of Twin Peaks — also known as Twin Peaks: The Return — premiering on Showtime in 2017. The show was, again, a total swerve away from audience expectations. Instead of the whimsical vibe that permeated the original series, horror marked the sequel. This time, Lynch fans and critics responded with raucous praise. But ratings didn’t meet expectations.
A sequel series is up in the air — and according to Lynch, nothing is planned. A rumored Netflix series that might have served as an oblique follow-up to Twin Peaks didn’t materialize.
But the former Agent Cooper has more than enough on his plate to stay busy while Lynch figures out what’s next. MacLachlan recently joined the cast of Amazon’s Fallout, based on the popular post-apocalyptic videogame series.