9 Directors Who Can Replace David Lynch on “Twin Peaks”

A dream has died. Showtime’s revival of ’90’s cult classic Twin Peaks has lost co-creator David Lynch over budget disputes.

While this could simply be a negotiation tactic on Lynch’s part, let’s take him at face value and assume he’s left the nine-episode revival of one of TV’s strangest series. Showtime still has co-creator Mark Frost on board, but he’s directed only three things in his life, and one in 1992 was an ill-received political drama. He found more success as a screenwriter and producer, but even then, he’s 8 years removed from his most recent gig, the disappointing Fantastic Four movie.

Twin Peaks is a brave bit of television. Whoever takes over should be just as brave a choice. Keep in mind that we’re not just looking for a director, but an overall showrunner who can master the entire creative direction of the show. There are scripts written, but they still need to be brought to screen.

Now, there’s an extra kink: I started writing my choices down according to the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system. I have no clue why; I haven’t even played since I was 14. It just started happening and it made wildly appropriate sense. So here you go:

LAWFUL GOOD: Lesli Linka Glatter

There are two big reasons for this. Glatter directed 4 episodes of the original Twin Peaks, more than any other person outside Lynch himself. Unlike many others involved in the original series, she’s stayed tremendously active since, directing multiple episodes of Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Mad Men, True Blood, The Newsroom, and more of Homeland (she also produced the third and fourth seasons) than any other director. She understands how series directing works, she has tremendous stylistic range, and she’s worked successfully inside several pre-existing show structures. She’s the safest choice here, but she knows how to deliver quality, design, and performances on a budget. She also has a working relationship with Showtime.

NEUTRAL GOOD: Lucrecia Martel

Martel’s an Argentinian director who started out making documentaries and a children’s show celebrated for it’s intensely dark humor. She is the best visualist on this list. If anyone has Lynch’s ability to evoke creeping dread by focusing on the most banal moments of everyday life, it’s Martel. She has an unsettling sense for cinematography and editing, and she’s at home evoking cinematic techniques from a variety of eras, just like Lynch. The Headless Woman was named Argentina’s best film in 2008.

CHAOTIC GOOD: Ana Lily Amirpour

If you’re looking for the best director of Iranian New Wave, Spaghetti Western, Vampire Horror, then look no further than Amirpour. Seriously, cause you won’t find anyone else doing it. Her debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was one of the very best films of 2014. She’s by far the youngest director on this list, yet she has one of the boldest storytelling mentalities. You’d have a hard time getting her, since her second film, postapocalyptic Texas cannibal love story The Bad Batch, has already signed Keanu Reeves, Jason Mamoa, and Jim Carrey. Mamoa will play a cannibal who falls in love with his food. You can see why she’s perfect for Twin Peaks. If anything, Twin Peaks might not be strange enough for her.

LAWFUL NEUTRAL: Darren Aronofsky

A director of fever dreams, he would update Twin Peaks into something altogether different. He plays by stricter filmmaking rules than people give him credit for, which allows him to create controlled experiments in madness. He’s always seeking to upset and scar, to dig out the interior emotional places in a viewer that cause panic. He may be too openly intense for Twin Peaks, but you’d be guaranteed dynamite viewing. It would be a very different series than you’re used to, but at least he’d keep the music phenomenal. Of course, you’d have to pull him away from HBO, where he’s currently adapting Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake into what’s guaranteed to be the most depressing show ever made.

NEUTRAL: Jonathan Demme

The Silence of the Lambs may be 24 years old by now, but Demme himself has an ability to shift into any number of genres without judgment. People don’t know that he’s primarily a documentary filmmaker, so he has a sense for verite and working with pre-existing material. The biggest problem is he’s awfully hit-or-miss. You want the Lambs and Rachel Getting Married Demme, the one who makes you feel like you’re watching life unfold and there’s no director at all. You do not want the meddling Demme who directed The Truth About Charlie or The Manchurian Candidate. Be warned, those were both based on classics, too.


Two words: American Psycho. Few directors have picked up so well on the subtle hell we convince ourselves we need to suffer to fit in. While American Psycho portrayed the sociopathy this engenders in the corporate world, it’s no stretch to figure out how nightmares of self-expectation play out in a small town. Harron can be funny and terrifying all at once. Her humor’s already as dark as it gets and her films keep an absolutely straight face as they tear down anything that could be described as realistic. If you want characters who treat the most insane and dreamlike moments with perfectly logical reactions, she’s your choice.

LAWFUL EVIL: Veena Sud & Nicole Kassell

Kassell debuted in 2004 as writer-director of The Woodsman, the tale of a convicted child molester that featured one of Kevin Bacon’s most singular performances. Since then, she’s often been requested by Bacon and his co-star/wife Kyra Sedgwick, helming episodes of The Closer and The Following. She made her biggest mark as the best director of AMC/Neflix’s The Killing, directing several of the series’ tensest, most chilling, and reality-bending episodes. Veena Sud was the creator and showrunner on what might be the best procedural ever made, and the two know how to craft slow-boiling and quietly unnerving episodic storytelling. The Killing was a show that seemed to stalk the viewer and carefully choose its moments to spin everything you thought you understood on its head. These two have already successfully crafted a show in the Twin Peaks formula.

NEUTRAL EVIL: David Cronenberg

Cronenberg and Lynch are often grouped together for a reason. What they seek to tell in their stories has diverged as they’ve evolved as filmmakers, but their sensibilities have remained eerily similar. Cronenberg is more comfortable relying on linear narrative and character, but he’s still obsessed with creating cognitive dissonance in the viewer. He also has a no-holds-barred sense of humor that’s even more on-point than Lynch’s. His separation between emotions, like fear and humor, are more clearly marked than with Lynch or Harron, but Cronenberg’s one of the few directors who wouldn’t have to strain outside his comfort zone to inhabit Lynch’s.

CHAOTIC EVIL: Lynne Ramsay

One of Twin Peaks‘ hallmark achievements was in portraying a reality the viewer knew was false even in the bounds of the show’s own fiction, and convincing the viewer to play along anyway. The viewer becomes an active participant, a conspirator, becoming closer to the storyteller than the characters. There’s a schadenfreude at play. Rather than getting us lost in the unreality of the show, we bask in it, ask for more, and we start to enjoy watching the characters getting lost in it. If that’s what you want to evoke, Lynne Ramsay is your director. She’s helmed the disturbing We Need to Talk About Kevin and Ratcatcher. Unfortunately, she’s most famous for a controversial exit from indie Western Jane Got a Gun. Producers crafted a narrative that dismissed Ramsay as unreliable, though the truth was far different. She’s “chaotic evil” for what she can do behind a camera, not for being collateral damage to a studio’s profound mess.

A few other directors come to mind. Some I could like for Twin Peaks are Jonathan Glazer, Michelle MacLaren, and especially Julia Leigh. Though some generally great directors such as the Coen Brothers, Sofia Coppola, and Lars Von Trier wouldn’t be appropriate for a project like this.

I’ve also read one article that suggests Joss Whedon and Wes Anderson as possible replacements. I can’t come to terms with either. I’m a huge fan of each, but the idea of Whedon quirking up some witty banter, or Wes Anderson making nightmare Lynchian sperm monsters on a level that’s so adorable is . . . just not okay. No. Neither of them is an option for this. Ever.

The ones listed up top, those are my favorites, and a few might even do a better job than Lynch could at this point in his career.

 Who would you want for Lynch’s replacement? Would you add anyone to the list?




Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel is a movie critic who's been a campaign manager in Oregon, an investigative reporter in Texas, and a film producer in Massachusetts. His writing was named best North American criticism of 2014 by the Local Media Association. He's assembled a band of writers who focus on social issues in film. They have a home base.