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Tom Tangney

SIFF celebrates Washington-bred actor Kyle MacLachlan

Kyle MacLachlan
Northwest native Kyle Machlachlan's acting career, including this stint filming "Twin Peaks" in North Bend, was celebrated at a SIFF event Monday night. (Image courtesy kylemacLachlan.com) | Zoom
It was part homecoming, part love fest for actor Kyle MacLachlan at Seattle's Uptown Theatre Monday night.

The star of "Twin Peaks," "Blue Velvet," "Sex and the City," "Portlandia," and yes, "Showgirls," was greeted warmly by the sell-out crowd at the Seattle International Film Festival's tribute to him. His best friend from high school was there, as were a couple of his brothers, so the entire event felt like sort of a belated graduation party.

MacLachlan grew up in Yakima and spent his college years at the University of Washington in the Professional Actor's Training Program. He played Romeo at Oregon's Ashland Shakespeare Festival and was doing a Moliere play at Seattle's Empty Space when he was plucked from obscurity by director David Lynch to play the lead in the sci-fi classic "Dune."

That movie flopped but it began a lifelong relationship with David Lynch who later cast him in two of his best productions - the hugely influential film "Blue Velvet" and the ground-breaking television show, "Twin Peaks."

MacLachlan almost didn't do "Blue Velvet." First off, his mother who was suffering from ovarian cancer at the time, disapproved of the film's dark themes of sex and violence. Out of deference to her, he turned it down.

At the same time, he was offered the lead in Oliver Stone's Vietnam war movie, "Platoon." He didn't like the way Stone killed off his character at the end, so he ultimately turned it down. "Platoon" went on to win a slew of awards, including the Oscar. At the Independent Spirit Awards that year, Kyle said he was the presenter of the Best Director's Award which Stone happened to win. As Stone accepted the trophy, he hissed at him "And you turned me down."

MacLachlan eventually reconsidered "Blue Velvet" and managed to reassure his mom it would be fine.

By the way, Charlie Sheen ended up with the "Platoon" job. MacLachlan joked "Wow, I could have been Charlie Sheen! That might have been a good choice." The audience laughed it up.

As for "Twin Peaks," he was jazzed by the idea David Lymch was going to try his hand at network television. When they were shooting the two-hour pilot, none of the cast thought it would get picked up by the network. It was considered just too weird. So they were all shocked when ABC picked it up for two more seasons.

Kyle admits he was channeling David Lynch in his portrayal of the quirky Twin Peaks agent. Lynch seems to be on a different wavelength than everyone else and Agent Dale Cooper is too.

That role may have cemented Maclachlin's image as the "odd" guy. Kyle says he tried to fight that image - auditioning for more straight-forward, heroic action roles, but it never worked out.

All in all, he's happy with his long career, including his role in what's generally considered one of the worst films of all time, "Showgirls." It was pitched to him as a hard-hitting expose of Las Vegas. Instead, it became a camp classic. But hey, at least it's a classic, right?

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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