Happy Halloween everyone, and a special happy birthday to our distinguished interview guest today – Michael J. Anderson! For the uninitiated, Michael is well known and celebrated as “The Little Man from Another Place” on Twin Peaks! As the iconic and cryptic backward speaking messenger of the Black Lodge, Michael was front and center in some of the most hair-raising and bizarre scenes to ever air on network television. We talked about his career and Twin Peaks, and what the real “Killer BOB” was like! Grab some candy, sit back and enjoy!
BD: Where did you grow up and what was it like – and where did the “future famous” backwards talking originate?
MJA: I grew up in Denver, Colorado in a very bland and normal suburb. We developed backwards talking in junior high as a secret code when many of us got small recorders that could run backwards.
BD: What prompted you to switch careers from working on computers with NASA and Martin Marietta to acting?
MJA: I made a documentary, with Norris Chumley titled Little Mike, about the little man who works on the space shuttle. This documentary won first prize in the Sony ‘Visions of US’ contest, and it also won a silver medal in the International Film & Televison Awards. I started getting letters and offers from all over the world. Suddenly, I felt like my life-long dream of becoming a rock star (which I didn’t know I had until just then) was on the verge of coming true. I felt like this was a brief window of opportunity through which I must leap or forever lower the ‘Rock Star’ flag. So, in a burst of exhuberant over-confidence, I quit my position with Martin Marietta and moved to NYC to seek my fame and fortune. It was a lot like Jack and the Beanstalk. I traded a perfectly good cow for some ‘magic beans’. (laughs)
BD: What was your first big acting gig and what was it like?
MJA: The first time I was ever actually paid to ‘act’ was in a children’s movie called “The Great Land of Small”. The movie was fun to watch, but making the movie was like the space shuttle on steroids!
BD: When and how did you first meet David Lynch, and were you very familiar with him beforehand?
MJA: In response to an ad he had placed in Variety Magazine for a little person with some physical ‘problems’, we sent David a copy of “Little Mike”. Soon we were having lunch with him and Isabella Rosellini in a NYC Cafe called ‘The Blue Magoo’. At the time of our first meeting the only one of his works I was familiar with was Dune.
BD: Were you originally approached for Ronnie Rocket or Twin Peaks by Lynch?
MJA: The ad placed in Variety was in reference to Ronnie Rocket. Twin Peaks came along by surprise, years after Ronnie Rocket had been shelved.
BD: How close has Ronnie Rocket (which you can read all about here) come to production and what can you tell us about it?
MJA: It has been shelved forever, however, for a time it had Francis Ford Coppola behind it. It was a bizarre and amazing script. Interestingly enough, I began writing ‘The Secret Diary of Ronnie Rocket’ but in the absence of the movie it seemed rather moot. (laughs)
BD: What was it like working with Frank Silva as “Killer BOB” on Twin Peaks and what was he really like?
MJA: The contrast between the character ‘Bob’ and Frank Silva could not have been more stark. Frank spoke with a very soft voice and often through a slightly humor informed smile. We would be sitting on set drinking soda pop and chatting pleasantly. David would call him to the camera and Frank would do this thing that would make all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then David would call ‘cut’ and Frank would sit back down and resume our chat and it was quite a jolt.
BD: How did David first explain the red room scenes from Twin Peaks to you, and what did you think at first?
MJA: There was NO explanation of the scene, whatsoever. I presented him with an intepretation of the scene to which he got a sour look and said “No, no that’s not it at all. Do you stil think that?”, “I guess not.” “Ok then, we’re ready to shoot”. He would just wipe away any concept I had and then replace it with nothing. One time I asked “David, what is the context of this scene? What happens before or after this?” “Well Mike, this scene doesn’t have any context. There is no before or after this scene.” At the time, it made me angry because how can there be a scene without context. But when I saw the finished product, he was right. The scene floated in mid-air, with no linear context. He was telling the truth, I just couldn’t grasp it.
BD: “The Man from Another Place” seems to be mainly associated with David Lynch. Did you work much at all with Mark Frost during your time on Twin Peaks, and what was it like working with him if so?
MJA: To my knowledge, I never met Mark Frost.
BD: Do you remember any scenes of yours from the series or the film FIRE WALK WITH ME that were deleted?
MJA: Sometimes very brief snatches would be used of something that went on much longer, but nothing deleted in its entirety that I can recall.
BD: What was your overall experience like on the show and where does it rank among your favorite roles?
MJA: Especially in contrast to some of my later experiences in the industry, Twin Peaks was one of the best experiences of my life. We were all subject to the scrutiny of Lynch’s ruthless opinions but he carefully protected the well-being and diginty of every human being on the set. “The Man from Another Place” is one of my all-time favorite roles and despite bigger roles, it is clearly the centerpiece of my career.
A huge thanks goes out to Michael for participating in this interview. Make sure to stick around for another Twin Peaks interview with Don Amenolia (Emory Battis) later this week!