The casting process, according to Mulholland Drive

The tiny man, Richard Nixon, the film composer, the cowboy.  These men run Hollywood.  In your dreams.

A pair of Italian brothers are financing a motion picture.  It appears to be the story of a fictional or semi-fictional girl singer from the early sixties.

These Italians are tough customers.  They know what they want, and they have extremely high standards for their espresso.

How do we know they’re tough?  Because one of them is Richard Nixon (not to mention a Texas bar-owner) and the other is — I can barely even say it — a film composer.

Whatever you do, don’t mess with a film composer.

The tough Italians want an actress named Camilla Rhodes to play the girl singer.  They are adamant about this.  They are so adamant about it they can barely speak.  They tremble with fury at the thought of anyone opposing them.

The director of the picture, a young man named Adam, doesn’t yet know who he wants for the part, but he knows he wants a say in the matter.

The studio is willing to put on a show of compromise for the director, but ultimately the decision has already been made — by a tiny man who lives in a windowless dark room.  No one may touch the tiny man, who doesn’t even have a desk or a television, only a telephone and a glass wall with an intercom that faces a pair of double doors.

The tiny man seems to be the studio head, and he seems to be sympathetic to the Italians’ choice of girl.

It seems to be a bleak existence for the tiny man, but he appears to be content.  He has, it seems, immense power and the few people who speak to him do so in stammering, gasping tones.

The director balks at the Italians’ behavior.  No one’s going to tell him who to cast in his picture.  He walks out of the meeting and trashes the Italians’ limo.  I guess no one told him — the Italians are Richard Nixon and a film composer.

It’s nice to think that, in the world of David Lynch, a film composer outranks Richard Nixon.

The director soon feels the wrath of the Italians.  They freeze his bank account while the tiny man in the dark room shuts down production on his movie.  They strongly urge him to go see a cowboy who lives at the top of the Santa Monica mountains.  The director (who has problems of his own) goes to see the cowboy who dishes out folk wisdom with an eerily calm demeanor and obliquely threatens the director’s life.  The Italians, it seems, don’t know any Italian hit men — they must rely on eerily calm cowboys to do their dirty work.*

The director, humbled, awed by the displays of power from the Italians and the tiny man, goes to the next day’s casting session.  Casting sessions in Hollywood, it seems, are expensive propositions.  Sets are built and actors are put into full makeup and wardrobe.  (Across town, a young actress, freshly in town, goes to try out for a picture and finds herself in the room with the lead actor, who apparently has made it his priority to attend every audition.)  The Italians’ choice auditions and the director wisely points to her and says “This is the girl.”

And young actors ask me every day how to get an agent.  If they were to only watch Mulholland Drive, they would know that agents have nothing to do with it.  You are either chosen in advance by Italians working in concert with a tiny man in a windowless room, or else you walk in the door and get an audition with the star.

Of course, in the latter case, the elder, visiting casting director indicates that the producer (Alcott faveJames Karen) is going about his production all wrong.  “He’ll never get this picture made,” she sighs.  It makes perfect sense — he hasn’t made the proper arrangements with the Italians and the tiny man.  It’s like they always say — it’s who you know.

Who the burnt guy is who lives behind the diner and owns a small blue box I have no idea.

*Wait a minute — they know some Italian hit-men after all.  They send one mountainous one to the director’s house.  He is unable to find the director, but he punches the director’s wife and her lover unconscious anyway.
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9 Responses to “The casting process, according to Mulholland Drive”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Wow, that movie almost makes sense. The one I saw also had an attractive woman sitting down the aisle, so that didn’t help my powers of concentration.

    What about the tourists? I don’t even remember the tiny man.

    The Italians, it seems, don’t know any Italian hit men — they must rely on eerily calm cowboys to do their dirty work.

    Spaghetti Westerns have served them well. These are powerful men, and know what they like. And they like calm cowboys.

  2. mr_noy says:

    It’s interesting that you should post something about Mulholland Drive. Just last night I was searching the net for interesting DVD commentaries and I stumbled upon a fan-made commentary for Mulholland Drive by a couple of writers for Flak Magazine.

    I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but I’m intrigued based on the brief, but very good analysis by one of the same writers. It’s as good a reading of the film as I’ve come across.

    Nevertheless, neither your analysis nor theirs has been able to answer the question that still haunts me: Namely, what the hell is Billy Ray Cyrus doing in this movie?

    • Todd says:

      That analysis pretty much agrees with what I thought of the movie, except they say that Diana kills herself over her grief of causing Camilla’s death — I think she kills herself because there is a pair of detectives pounding at her front door.

  3. craigjclark says:

    “This is the girl.”

    And with the exception of the most fucked-up hit ever committed to film, you have perfectly described my favorite section of Mulholland Dr.

  4. urbaniak says:

    That cowboy guy was spooky.