The sad, bizarre reason why The Man From Another Place isn’t in ‘Twin Peaks’
Having a falling-out over creative or financial differences is so Hollywood. Having that falling out on your way down a deep, dark rabbit hole of bizarre accusations, shady motives, and decades of personal bitterness is so Twin Peaks.
This is the story of Michael J. Anderson, the actor who played the diminutive, backward-talking Man From Another Place in four episodes of the original series and prequel film Fire Walk With Me, a character once thought to be as integral to the fabric of David Lynch’s wonderful and strange world as Agent Cooper himself.
I couldn’t watch TP when it originally aired because it was so BORING. Every time I tuned in, it was people talking in a room. That’s it. And if I stayed long enough to hear what they were saying, they would be talking about NOTHING. I figured out that I couldn’t follow the plot, (or had to make one up) because there WAS NO PLOT. A man went to a town to investigate a murder. That’s it. Nothing else ever happens. Just people talking in rooms. And all this taking NEVER advanced the murder investigation ONE BIT. I liked the part that I was in, (because I was in it), but it still didn’t make a hoot of sense. Hard to watch.
And as we found out this weekend during the show’s premiere, his character — aka “the arm” — has been replaced by a talking tree.
“I liked the part I was in, (because I was in it), but it still didn’t make a hoot of sense”
Anderson’s non-involvement with the Twin Peaks revival is clearly a sore spot for the 63-year-old, who was born with the genetic disorder and has appeared in several movies and TV shows including The X-Files and Carnivale. In repeated posts and replies on his Facebook page, Anderson says that Lynch low-balled him — which still seems to be the primary reason he didn’t return.
But the other reasons run much deeper and darker than just money, at least from Anderson’s many writings going back months. Before getting into those, it’s worth noting: Anderson has repeatedly made what could be read as anti-Semitic and anti-Islam posts and comments, is a strong Trump supporter with staunch anti-globalism leanings and has made many crass comments about “political correctness.”
Back in August of 2016, Anderson accused Lynch of some heinous things that were not widely reported on, but were documented in the gossip press. We won’t repeat them here — they are easy enough to find — but they have never been corroborated or substantiated in any way. Lynch’s daughter acknowledged them in an Instagram post, wherein she reportedly said she hoped Anderson “receives the help and peace he needs.”
Showtime did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Anderson, who does not retain professional representation and did not immediately respond to Facebook messages.
Whatever’s behind the falling-out, Lynch — whose prescience was proven by the last episode of Twin Peaks, which featured Laura Palmer telling Cooper “I’ll see you again in 25 years” — seems to have seen this coming, too. In that final episode that aired June 10, 1992, The Man From Another Place tells Cooper, among other things: “When you see me again, it won’t be me.”
The following year, in the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, Anderson says “I am the arm … and I sound like this,” after which he makes a whooping sound. It’s later made clear that he represents the missing arm of MIKE (played by Al Strobel), aka the one-armed-man, who formerly hosted the evil spirit Bob. (According to further Twin Peaks lore, he cut off his own arm to rid himself of Bob’s influence.)
Rolling Stone asked Lynch about that line — “When you see me again it won’t be me” — in an interview it published last week. His reply: “That it’s more true than you think [laughs].”
As seen during Sunday night’s premiere, Cooper is still trapped in the Black Lodge — and Mike is the first person he sees. “Is it future … or is it past?” are Mike’s first words, and he eventually leads Cooper to a room with a spindly, swaying tree sapling with a talking, heart-shaped bulb at the crux of its branches.
“I am the arm,” it says, “and I sound like this” (whereupon it makes a thwip-thwip-thwip sound, not unlike Anthony Hopkins did in Silence of the Lambs).
And with that stroke, The Man From Another Place would seem to have been effectively replaced by … the Sentient Sapling From Another Place? We haven’t assigned it an official name yet, but like Anderson’s character before it, it seems to be the representation of pure evil — and the one who’s calling the shots in the Black Lodge.
It isn’t the only replacement part Lynch had to plug in to get the Twin Peaks revival off the ground. Michael Ontkean, who played Sheriff Harry S. Truman in the original series, has retired from acting. In his place is veteran character actor Robert Forster, playing Truman’s brother. And of course there’s Catherine Coulson, the Log Lady, who died in September 2015 but was able to film some significant cameos, which appear early on in the revival.
There’s also Jack Nance, who played Pete Martell, the longtime Lynch collaborator who died under mysterious circumstances in 1996; and of course David Bowie, who only appeared in Fire Walk With Me as agent Phillip Jeffries. That character is referenced in the early episodes of the new Twin Peaks — at one point we think we hear him on the other end of a telephone conversation — but it’s not known whether Bowie got involved at all before his death in January 2016, which happened sometime late in the production. If he did, that would be a Lynch-sized surprise indeed.
But at least on-screen, the absence of the Man From Another Place is felt most starkly; his red suit and jazz-dance moves were as much a part of this series as coffee, donuts, and trees. Unfortunately, the reasons he’s no longer there are as tragic, mysterious, and frustrating as anything Lynch has ever produced.