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David Lynch takes Lost Highway to Baker

By Veronica Hill, Staff Writer
December 15, 1995

BAKER – Twenty miles outside Baker, on a lonely dry lake bed, the sun is setting behind a jagged desert mountain range. Dark black storm clouds move across the darkened sky. Strong bursts of wind blow dust in every direction. The wind stops almost as soon as it started. All is eerily quiet once again.

This scene has all the makings of a David Lynch movie. So it's not surprising that the eccentric director of "Twin Peaks" fame is on this dry lake bed filming "Lost Highway," his next feature film for Warner Bros. featuring Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette and Balthazar Getty.

In the film, Pullman stars as a schizophrenic man with serious identity problems and an inability to cope with life. He is eventually caught up in a murder that he may or may not have committed. Because Pullman is losing his mind, he is unable to defend himself or remember anything about the crime.

On this particular Wednesday evening, Pullman is resting at a nearby Baker motel as Lynch and his crew prepare for a love scene in which Arquette and Getty must get naked in an old red convertible Mustang. The scene is a sensitive one, and in respect to the actors, only a limited crew will be on hand for the shoot.

"I want it to look really distorted – like hot, burning flesh," Lynch directs his cameramen. "Let's get some light on the car. Let me know when everything's ready."

With that, his henchmen get to work, hurriedly moving around props, lighting and cameras.

Smack dab in the middle of nowhere, David Lynch is weaving his magic.

"This is a film about love and insanity and murder," Lynch says. "I couldn't think of a more perfect place than this dry lake bed to shoot this scene."

After several months of scouting, Lynch chose the Baker-area site over other dry lake beds because of its proximity to Death Valley. "I wanted to be near Death Valley because we had some other things to shoot there at Scotty's Castle," he explains, a gust of wind almost blowing off his hat.

"It's been really windy here, but we've been able to makes things work," he says. "Things have been really beautiful."

Arquette and Getty, who are shivering outside their trailers in matching white robes, would probably beg to differ.

"What kind of desert creatures are out here at night?" Arquette says nervously, looking down at her bare legs. "Any snakes?"

Aside from her robe and leopard-skin stiletto heels, Arquette is naked as a newborn. She trembles as a gust of wind blows across the lake bed, rattling trailer doors and shaking makeshift tents.

"Does anyone have a light?" she asks, peeking her head inside several trailers. Her assistant, Cassie, hands her a Bic lighter as Arquette cups her hands, lighting up her Marlboro.

"Thanks," she says, walking back to her trailer, cigarette pursed between her ruby red lips. In between drags, Arquette nervously plays with a glow-in-the-dark yo-yo. "This is my souvenir from the Country Store in Baker," laughs the blond-haired beauty, whose hair is pulled and ratted into two pigtails. "Isn't it cool?"

Arquette is doing her best to keep her mind off the upcoming scene. "I really hate these things. I just want to get it over with," she says, taking another drag on her cigarette. "But the crew is pretty good about it. We only have to do a few takes."

Arquette, who is married to actor Nicolas Cage, admits that love scenes are the most nerve-wracking part of any film shoot. While many might think they cause problems between married actors, Arquette says "nonsense!"

"Nick doesn't get jealous," says the blushing bride. "He knows it's just part of the job." With that, Arquette becomes dreamy-eyed. "I love him so much," she says. "He's so romantic."

Cage, who is away filming "The Rock" in San Francisco, has been unable to visit Arquette on the set. "He can't come out because he's working," she says sadly. "But we'll see each other soon, I hope."

Arquette is clearly proud of her husband, star of such films as "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Red Rock West" and "Raising Arizona."

"Have you seen `Leaving Las Vegas?"' she asks excitedly of his most recent film. "It's so good! He should be nominated for an Academy Award."

Arquette, herself, is no stranger to rave reviews. Her last film, "Beyond Rangoon," received wide praise from critics. Tell her that, and she just shrugs. "I never read the reviews," she says. "It's too personal and sometimes people review in an adolescent way by saying you look fat or your voice sounds terrible. Things like that."

In "Lost Highway," Arquette explores her dark side. "I picked this role because my character is evil, and that's something I haven't done before," she says. "Also because David Lynch is one of the greatest directors in America and it's such an honor to work with him. His films are so artsy, dark and interesting. It's a big change for me."

While she's in town, Arquette is eager to check out some of the high desert's attractions. "It's so beautiful out here," says the actress, who plans to go on a shopping spree at the Barstow Outlet Center before she leaves. "I'd also love to go see the house in Victorville where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard used to stay in the '30s. I love them – they're my favorite couple."

It won't be the first time the actress has visited Victorville. "Actually, I met this old man in Victorville one time who told me that Victorville was called Liquorville before prohibition," she laughs. "I don't know if it's true, but it's a funny story."

Hardly five minutes have passed when a production assistant wearing all-black approaches Arquette. "We're ready," he says, signaling her toward the set. "Here goes," she smiles, tightening her robe. "This should be interesting!"

After "Lost Highway," Arquette will move on to "Secret Agent," in which she stars opposite Gerard Depardieu as the wife of a multilingual agent who runs an undercover operation from a seedy printing shop.

Pullman will appear next in "Mr. Wrong" as the seemingly-perfect man who turns out to be Ellen Degeneres's neverending nightmare. In the upcoming "Independence Day," Pullman plays The Prez in a sci-fi feature about a group of aliens who threaten to blow up the world on – you guessed it – July 4.

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