Under the guidance of director David Lynch, actors Laura Dern and
Nicolas Cage are filming variations on a getaway scene outside a
seedy hotel in New Orleans's French Quarter. When Lynch gives the
sign, Dern, 23, and Cage, 26, bolt from the hotel for a '65
Thunderbird convertible. As the onscreen lovers make the five-yard
dash for the umpteenth time, they encounter some unexpected
commotion: Lynch has grabbed 60 locals, many of them transients
living at the hotel, to give the duo a rousing farewell cheer. Happy
with this bit of true grit a Lynch signature that Dern has dubbed
a Davidism the director is ready to frame his next shot.
Four years after his erotic thriller, Blue Velvet, shocked and
enthralled moviegoers, it's clear that Lynch, 43, hasn't lost his
knack for exposing the bizarre elements of the everyday. ''He likes
things in a certain state of decay,'' says Julie Duvic, who scouted
locations for Lynch's latest effort, Wild at Heart. ''His imagination
is a little off.'' Indeed, two weeks earlier, while filming a scene
at a fleabag bungalow in Los Angeles, Lynch unleashed his surrealist
wit: Dern and Cage look into the courtyard and see three obese
actresses naked save for veils making a porno movie. ''It added
nothing to the plot directly,'' admits co-producer Monty Montgomery.
''It was just something crazy David wanted.''
In his 13 years of filmmaking, Lynch has made crazy his calling
card. This, after all, is the man who gave us a spastic woman and a
mutant baby in 1977's cult classic Eraserhead and a severed ear and a
sado-masochistic madman in Blue Velvet. ''When people first meet
David, they expect him to be neurotic and crazy and sick, but he's
not,'' says longtime love and Blue Velvet star Isabella Rossellini.
''It's just that he looks at life in a different way.'' Whether he
can turn his off-center vision into the mainstream will be seen later
this spring when Lynch's television series, Twin Peaks, hits prime
time. ''When David speaks, he sounds like he just got off the
Greyhound bus from Iowa,'' says Steve Golin, a Wild co-producer.
''But underneath that Jimmy Stewart look you find a darker side.''
It's that shadowy, subterranean world that Lynch again explores in
Wild at Heart. The movie follows 20-year-old Lula Fortune (Dern) and
her ex-con boyfriend, Sailor Ripley (Cage), as they flee across the
country from Lula's vengeful mother played by Dern's real mother,
Diane Ladd and the hitmen she employs to shorten Sailor's life.
''This is my road picture, except there isn't a role for Bob Hope,''
Road to Hell, maybe. Lynch's odyssey promises to be even more
perverse and sexually twisted than his voyeuristic Blue Velvet
although Lynch says he will keep it within the bounds of an R rating.
Along the way, Dern and Cage are menaced by a yellow-toothed Willem
Dafoe and followed by a detective (Harry Dean Stanton). Rounding out
the Lynch mob is Rossellini as a bleached-blond accomplice. Cage, for
one, is thrilled with his walk on the wild side. ''I like things
pushed to the edge of reality,'' says the actor, who so identified
with the Dracula he played in 1989's Vampire's Kiss that he ate a
live cockroach during filming.
Near the tail end of shooting in New Orleans, a member of the crew
tells Lynch that as they were setting up their cameras earlier that
morning, a woman had come over and asked, ''Hey, y'all need a whore?
I'm a real one.'' When Lynch hears this, he laughs, pauses, then
asks, ''Golly, can we still get her?'' And that's a true Davidism.