The City of Absurdity   The Straight Story1999
About the Film

David Lynch | Richard Farnsworth | Mary Sweeney
Sissy Spacek | Gaye Pope | Peter Schneider


David Lynch (Director)

David Lynch

"It's a very slow road movie."

"The emotion attracted me to the story. And Mary Sweeney who I live with has been fixated on this project since 1994 and she and her friend John Roach wrote the script and gave it to me in 1998 and that was the script that did it."

"It was the emotion of the script that Mary Sweeney and John Roach wrote, and I think it's the phenomenon of forgiveness, it's what struck me."

"This is a story about old age. And it's a story about a man's life. Richard Farnsworth is one of the most special people I've ever met. So much comes through from way deep inside. I've never seen anything like it. And it's a beautiful thing to see his face. His face says so much and in the script you learn about a regular man's life. And what he's gone through is similar to a lotta people."

"I think for me the whole thing was, as I said before, about the emotion coming from the story and I said this is maybe my most experimental movie because it was so much of a challenge to try to get the emotion and get, you know, cinema, the timing and silences and the word and then a sound and a music. And it was a process of action and reaction. But, you know, a beautiful thing to try to discover the emotion"

"It doesn't matter whether it's true or not. It's a story or everything is a story and you get into a story and you fall into a world. This is a completely different world I've been in. And it's a world that's unique. When you start feeling the story and feel the location and these different characters it doesn't matter if it's true or not. It starts talking to you and film is like action and reaction and falling into a world and that's what it is."

"Well, I'm not on any pilgrimage. I guess you'd have to say this is different from the things I've been doing lately. People react to things and I reacted to this script. It seemed like the right thing to do."

"Tenderness can be just as abstract as insanity."

"It's wrong to interpret the film as a barometer of my state of mind. You could draw some strange conclusions from that."

"We had to shoot in sequence, so we started where Alvin had lived, in Laurens, Iowa, on flat terrain and in hot summer weather. As we progressed east, the weather started changing, and we had to work fast because that neck of the woods gets bitter cold early in the fall, and nearly every scene is outdoors."

"I wanted the film to have a floating feeling, and I particularly wanted that quality to come through in the aerial landscape shots. It took a lot of explaining to get the helicopter pilots to slow down enough to get the look I was after."

"I think you've got to dig deep to do what Alvin did. He had to be stubborn, had to get over a lot of obstacles to prove to his brother he cared for him."

"Alvin is an old guy, but he's a total rebel – he's like James Dean, except he's old. He's also like a million other old guys. The body gets old, but inside we feel ageless, because the self we talk to doesn't have an age."

"When you go down down the autobahn, say you're going a hundred and sixty miles down, you don't see much and things move very fast. But meanwhile nature goes at its own speed. I just saw this Monet show at Paris. That painter goes every day and he looks the same thing but goes deeper and deeper. And it proves there is stuff everywhere to discover."

"Well, it's a great cast and I think Harry Dean Stanton is the only one from Lost Angeles. Everybody else lives somewhere else and most of the actors came from Minneapolis or Chicago. People that are, you know, more familiar with the neck of the woods where we were filming, in Iowa and Wisconsin."

"Richard is in pretty nearly every scene in the picture and sometimes you say people are born to play a role and if... wherever there was the case it's this. And such a beautiful soul and spirit comes through with Richard with every word and every look and just a great presence and natural way of being. I was so lucky that Richard Farnsworth is in this picture."

"Richard was born to play this role. He's got a quality that's so strong, and he makes every word and glance seem real. He has innocence, and that is a gift."

"I always wanted to work with Sissy and she's like a chameleon, she can play everything and do a beautiful job of it."

"It's a very good thing if you keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole. In other words follow the story and not to get lost in technology."

"A gentleman named Tony called me up and said you've got a G rating. And I said, 'You gotta tell me again because it's the last time in my life I'll hear that'. He told me again and then he said that the members of the MPAA board all loved the film... and that's probably at first as well."

"[Violence and obscene language on screen] have been pushed to an absurd extreme, to the point where you don't feel it any more."


Richard Farnsworth (Alvin Straight)

Richard Farnsworth "I was pretty much retired on my ranch in New Mexico when David Lynch called me about playing Alvin Straight. I told him, 'No, I'm slowing down and I've got a bad hip and walk with a cane.'"
But Lynch answered: That's great. Alvin Straight used two canes. You'll be perfect.

"Imagine this man, wanting to visit a brother. He can't see to drive and the only way he can get there is to ride a lawn tractor. It's, a good script. There are lots of interesting things that happen to him on his trip. I've been around a long time and I know, this is something special."

"I think it's going to be a blockbuster. This will be a movie you'll be proud to take children to see. That's important to me. I don't think there's a four-letter word in the entire movie. People are going to like it."

"I admired him very much and tried to be as much like his character as I could, talked to two of his boys, who are now truck drivers, and we filmed along his actual route. Every time we stopped somewhere, people would come by and say, 'Heck, I remember when old Alvin came through,' and tell us about it."


Mary Sweeney (Writer, Editor)

"I read about it in the New York Times when he made the trip in 1994. there was a lot of press coverage on this trip"

"Alvin's drive struck me as funny, eccentric, and oddly dignified, and I tried to option the story as soon as I read it, but someone beat me to it.
I kept tracking it until the rights became available again, and once we got them, in February of 1998, things moved like a runaway train. By late June, John and I gave David a script, and by September we were shooting the film."


Sissy Spacek (Rose Straight)

"He's a very sweet man, very sweet man, you know, very warm man. It was easy for me to love... that's really the main emotion Roses feels in this film, love for her father."

"She had a speech impediment, I guess that's what you call it."


Gaye Pope (Asymmetrical publicist)

"It's a great story. In David Lynch's hands it should be magical."

"They had a rocky relationship, they hadn't spoken to each other in years. When his brother has a stroke, Alvin Straight decides this may be the last chance to get things right. He had to get there."

"He [Lynch] will make it very visual. It's a very visual story. That's the beauty of it."


Peter Schneider (President of Walt Disney Motion Picture Group)

"It's a beautiful movie about values, forgiveness and healing and celebrates America. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a Walt Disney film."


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© Mike Hartmann