When David Lynch tells you you've gone too far, it's hard to know whether it's a badge of honor or a sign that the bottom has fallen out.
That's what director Jennifer Lynch had to decide after showing the script for her film Surveillance to her famous filmmaker father.
"I got a phone call from my father, who said, 'That's way too fucking sick. You can't have dark win over light'," Lynch says. "I don't see it that way. He challenged me to find a different ending. I did and I shot it -- and it will be on the DVD. Put it this way: I hadn't seen a serial killer film that thrilled me in the way I wanted to be thrilled."
And her father's response when he saw the finished film? "My father said, 'You're the sickest bitch I know.'"
Which was shortly after he agreed to put his name on it as executive producer.
Surveillance, a tense and gruesome little thriller that opens Friday, stars Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as a pair of FBI agents who arrive in a small town after a multiple murder. The killings appear to be the work of a team of serial killers they've been chasing -- and they need to interrogate witnesses who may have seen the culprits.
But the truth proves elusive as the stakes escalate. That was the aspect that Lynch found most intriguing -- that two people can witness the same event and come away with different versions of what happened, she said in a telephone interview.
"As a human being, it's easy to be wrong," Lynch, 41, says. "When something happens, people see things in the same way that they want to be seen. Very few witnesses are reliable. I love that about human beings. We're all so completely fragile. That's what fascinates me."
The script, which she co-wrote with Kent Harper, sprang from a script Harper had written, about three witches on a desolate highway: "Kent and I had been producing short films and he asked me to read a script he had," Lynch says. "It triggered these memories of a cross-country trip with my mother and stepfather."
Lynch, a single mother of a teen-age daughter, resisted the impulse to get her father's imprimatur on the film as she developed it. But once the script was finished and financing wasn't forthcoming, she showed it to him. Still, it was a hard decision, because Lynch doesn't want people to think she's riding on her father's coattails.
"When he offered to put his name on as executive producer to get it made, I realized I had to put that bullet in my now-empty gun," she says.
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