The City of Absurdity   ERASERHEAD
About the Film

David Lynch | Jack Nance | Catherine Coulson
Jack Fisk | Doreen Small


David Lynch

Eraserhead arose (more or less) from "GARDENBACK", a story Lynch wanted to film in the first place. "GARDENBACK" was a story of adultery.

LYNCH: "When you look at a girl, something crosses from her to you, and in this story, that something was an insect which grew in this man's attic, which was like his mind. The house was like his head. And the thing grew and metamorphosized into this monster which overtook him. He didn't become it, but he had to deal with it, and it drove him to completely runing his home."

"I felt Eraserhead, I didn't think it."

"My original image was of a manīs head bouncing on the ground, being picked up by a boy and taken to a pencil factory. I donīt know where it came from."

He describes his 22-page script as "a kind of free-form poet"

"It's my Philadelphia Story. It just doesn't have Jimmy Stewart in it."

"Eraserhead was born in Philadelphia."

"I had my first thrilling thought in Philadelphia."

"...when I was there it was a very sick, twisted, violent, fear-ridden, decadent, decaying place."

"There was racial tension and just ... violence and fear. I said to someone, all that separated me from the outside world was the brick wall, and they started laughing, like "What more do you want?" you know? But that brick wall was like paper."

"You try to become as far away from the outer skin as possible and stay inside. And brick walls become like paper in your mind, they're not a protection at all. So many things come into your house. You try to become very small inside yourself."

"There's things in the air and as soon as you go into a place you can feel...ah...different...ah...I mean, if you go around the feelings start changing. I'm not sure if you're...I think even if you're a blind you could probably feel these things."

"It was a strange life. For the first time I really lived beneath the surface. I was never aware of anything normal. I was only aware of this world of fear and art. I lived inside that cocoon of fear."

"I lived at 13th and Wood, right kitty-corner from the morgue; That's real industrial. At 5:00 there's nobody in that neighborhood. No one lives there. And I really do like that. It's beautiful , if you see it the right way."

" you go around in Philadelphia you see things and thoughts begin to form...I saw a woman in a backyard squawking like a chicken, crawling on her hands and knees in tall, dry grass. I saw many strange things."

"I saw a grown woman grab her breasts and speak like a baby, complaining her nipples hurt. This kind of thing will set you back."

"...a large family was going to a christening of this small baby. And a gang came swooping down on the other side of the street, and attacked the family. And in the family there was a teenage son who tried to defend the whole bunch, and they beat him down, and they shot him in the back of the head."

"The whole film is undercurrents of sort of subconscious ... You know, and it kind of wiggles around in there, and it's how it strikes each person. It definitely means something to me, but I don't want to to talk about that. It means other things to other people, and that's great."

"The films gotta make sense somehow, you know, in your own way. When you go to a mystery film and they tie it all up at the end - to me, that's a real let down. In a mystery, somehow in the middle it's all opened up, and you can go out to infinity trying to form your own conclusions. There's so many possibilities. And that feeling is like, real neat to me.. In Eraserhead, there are a lot of openings and you go into areas and it's all...There're sort of like rules you kind of go by to keep that feeling kind of open and I don't know, it's real important to it. It's more like a poem or a .... more abstract, even though it has a story. It's like an experience."

"Henry is like sort of a confused guy, and he's sort of come unglued. He's trying to maintain, and there are problems."

"Henry is very sure that something is happening, but he doesn't understand it at all. He watches things very, very carefully, because he's trying to figure them out. He might study the corner of a pie container, just because it's in his line of sight. He might wonder why he sat where he did. Everything is new. It might no be frightening, but it could be a key to something. Everything should be looked at. There could be clues in it."

"The lady in the Radiator was not in the original script at all. It was a very dark film until she came along."

"Well I don't talk about those [Lady in the radiator's cheeks] but she's beautiful, isn't she?"

"I had a very happy childhood. These things in Eraserhead come from somewhere unseen; it's not a surface kind of thing... If it's from my own life, I don't see it. It's from so far inside, hidden, that it can only come out in an idea, which kind of balloons out. I don't know where it comes from."

"For me the film cost a lot of money. The warehouse only cost about 35 or 50 dollars to build, but other things cost a lot of money. You know you can build something and work it up over some time and really make it look just the way you want it to. The most frustrating part of the whole thing was finding locations. There just isn't anything in L.A. like I wanted. Like the front of Mr and Mrs X's house I'd seen a place in San Francisco that he had the kind of feeling I wanted. But when we went looking in Los Angeles, we finally had to build it. In the movie, it's just a facade. In fact, the steps are styrofoam, and there's no porch at all. When Henry walks up there, he's standing on a plank. The whole thing was barely held together."

"Ideas sort of pop up out of some different levels somewhere, and down in there that's where Henry is. So it's hard to say it's a philosophy or anything. Everything makes sense to me, you know. Eraserhead is real logical to me, and it has rules that were followed and it has a certain feeling that was followed all the way through. And you sort of tune into that at the beginning of the film, and you sort of know what's right. And it makes certain sense to me and it feels right."

Here you can order "Lynch on Lynch", the ticket into the world of David Lynch edited by Chris Rodley.


Jack Nance (Henry Spencer)

"He showed me this little script he had written for Eraserhead. It was only a few pages with this weird imagery and not much dialogue and this baby kind of thing."

"It seemed like we were never going to finish the film. We had to scrap an awful lot, and we failed an awful lot. But we were kids then."

"David went through a spiritual crisis when he was making Eraserhead. That's when he developed his program of meditation."

"I was reading all of these strange images in the script. And then I got to the final scene where there’s the giant baby head. I was struck by that because it was describing , in some detail, a sort of hallucination that I had at one time when I was very sick and running a fever. I was in a hotel room in Great Bend, Kansas, in a blizzard, dying, and I had a terrible nightmarish kind of hallucination. When I was reading that scene I thought, 'My God, this is exactly like that time in Great Bend.' And then later, when he introduced me to the baby, I said, 'That' it.' "


Catherine Coulson (assistant camera, assistant to director)

"I had worked on other AFI films, where it was just assumed that the actors and technicians worked for free, but David took his initial money from AFI and paid everybody. I was making $25 a week, but when we ran real low on money, we cut everybody's salary in half. I put it all back into the food; we would all kind of pool our money to some extent. It really did seem like our film, even though it was David's film. There was a sense of collaboration."


Jack Fisk (Man in the Planet)

"I'd just started growing a beard. And I‘d had it about two weeks. David got this stuff to cover my beard, but make my skin look kind of deformed. When I went home after doing this, I tried to get it out. Sissy (Spacek, his wife) didn't want me to shave my beard off, so I was in a tub of hot water, pulling it out a piece at a time. I've never really forgiven David for that."


Doreen G. Small (production manager)

"I was under the bed to keep tension on the umbilicals – the 'billy cords' as Jack would call them. And Jack pulled, and we sort of missed, and one of them landed in his shoe. He got so grossed out that we had to stop filming for a couple of days."

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