The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Let’s Imagine Ben Stiller In The World of David Lynch

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageHere’s the truth of it: David Lynch wants to be friends with Ben Stiller.

As a Lynch maniac, I mostly adore his every move. His movies have entranced me ever since I first caught Dune on cable TV years ago, and the thought of him expressing his approval for a take by saying, "Solid gold, peachy keen" in that Midwestern twang of his keeps me warm at night.

So Lynch announced to the world on Twitter that he wants to be friends with Stiller. On its face, that doesn't sound like much, but for me, it's intriguing as heck. How would Stiller fit into the Lynch universe?

In an effort to get a handle on this, let's try to place Stiller in an existing Lynch movie. I've seen pretty much all of Lynch's movies (except for The Cowboy and The Frenchman), so I feel like I can make some decent guesses. Before I go on, let me be clear: When I suggest Stiller for any of these roles, I'm not arguing that he would be better than the original actors. I just think that Stiller could also have played the parts.

That said, I submit for your approval:

Ben Stiller as Fred Madison in Lost Highway

Lost Highway remains my favorite Lynch movie, though I can't explain why. It combines a rock-solid three-act structure with a bewildering plot, but it's packed with some of my favorite Lynch performances, including Bill Pullman as the cuckolded jazz singer (and identity switcher) Fred Madison.

Pullman's a big lump of an actor, with a round face that's seemingly incapable of changing expression. Those traits served him well as a Lynch leading man.

Going back to Fred Madison: Pullman's trembling, doughy jawline largely defined his performance. When he's not mugging for the camera, Zoolander-style, Stiller's big, lamplight eyes assert themselves. I wonder how Lynch and cinematographer Peter Deming would have made use of them.

Stiller boasts an extensive career as a comedian, but he also turned up in the Neil LaBute heart-grinder Your Friends and Neighbors. LaBute's movie is the cinematic equivalent of getting punched in the stomach for two hours — like Closer without the poetry. Watch Stiller in action as a cuckold:

Moving on …

Ben Stiller as a wacky FBI agent in Twin Peaks

I realize that Stiller's a polarizing figure. I feel like he reached some kind of zenith with The Ben Stiller Show, only to become overexposed in his later career. That may be, but I think his goofiness could have found a home in Twin Peaks, especially as an FBI agent.

Let's not forget that virtually all of the FBI agents were clowns (in the Shakespearean sense) on Twin Peaks, from the kookily spiritual Agent Cooper to the weirdly belligerent Agent Rosenfield to the hard-of-hearing Agent Cole.

There are many, many funny videos from The Ben Stiller Show, but I ask you to watch Stiller as a "scared straight" public speaker and imagine him as a special agent.

And finally …

Ben Stiller as Adam Kesher in Mulholland Drive

In case you don't remember, Justin Theroux played film director Adam Kesher in Lynch's cinematic sibling to Lost Highway. I admit that I simply chose the one Lynch character who bore the closest physical resemblance to Stiller, but despite Theroux's funny, detailed performance, I still think Stiller could have shone in this role.

I can't think of a Stiller moment that's analogous to any of Kesher's scenes, so I'll just share my favorite scene — the meeting with the Cowboy.