Conversations...with Actor, Producer & Director, Richard Green.


Richard Green

He gained international fame as the Magician in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and is now close to completing the long-awaited documentary I Know Catherine, The Log Lady about the incredible life of Catherine E. Coulson.


My pal Richard Green is an actor, producer, director and musician. He is also one of the nicest people in the business and agreed to sit down with me and chat all things art.


Lindsey Bowden (LB)

HI Richard, thanks for joining me today. How are you and how are things in LA at the moment?


Richard Green (RG)

Things in LA are good, they’re opening back up which I’m a little concerned about as people seem very cavalier about their health and other peoples health, but at the same time it’s nice to be able to go some place and do some things. Covid has affected me slightly different to some other people I know as I’ve been working on the project for three and a half years so I’ve been sitting in a cave all that time anyway. So, when we were told to stay at home I was like ‘ok, and you’re going to deliver food here too? Ok!’


LB

I know, that was the best part! So, let’s talk about you and when you were young. Did you always know you wanted to work in the Arts in some form? Was it always in your blood?


RG

I don’t think I considered the notion of working in the arts until later in my life, I was just in the arts. It wasn’t about work, it was about play. The first press I ever got was, I think, in first grade. I had created a little play with my friends on the lawn of our school. We were using the bushes and the trees, there were lines and entrances, and a photographer from the local paper came by and shot pictures of this. So, I think I’ve been doing this all my life. My mum said that as a young child I was singing all the time, and I always have a million melodies in my head and need to get them out there. I’m not sure if that makes me a meglamaniac.


LB

No I know completely what you mean, I have them too, not music, but stories in my head that I just want to tell the world. Because I formally trained as an actor, I’m playing the scene out as I write – I think every creative can relate to that. So onto your training. You attended the prestigious California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, where alumni include Tim Burton, Sofia Coppola and the great David Hasslehoff - can you talk a bit about your initial training and the springboard and the discipline, if any, it gave you?


RG

Well I didn’t go to Cal Arts straight from high school, I actually left high school after my junior year and went to an experimental school where I was further educated in improvisation. I then moved to San Francisco where I did street theatre, including performing verse in the street where I did, what I believe, was a Lancashire accent based on my love of Stan Laurel (Laurel & Hardy).


LB

Can you still do it? Can you do it now?


RG

(Laughs) No way! So, when I first got to San Francisco I had gotten a theatre job going around parochial

Richard Green in Theatre of Marvels, San Francisco

schools in a van with a guy who had studied with Max Reinhardt, a lot of local actors worked for this guy, but they weren’t paying me for the rehearsals, so I went and auditioned for the Dickens Fayre which took place in this old building for 4 days over Christmas. I improvised a song for them and said I could do that easily, so they gave me a tall top hat and said I could pass the hat for them. I made some good money and carried on doing the parochial schools too, but that was so bad that I quit and that’s how I ended up doing the street theatre. I then did what all hippies in their late teens did and went to Europe for a while which is where I decided I needed to go to school to study acting. I decided that because if I wrote something or improvised, I knew what to do, but if you have me a written piece such as Shaw, what I didn’t know was how to break into that character and understand how to deal with the structure of the play. I had no technique for penetrating a script and I felt I would be foolish to not master acting to some level if I was to become a director and writer. I always thought Yale was the place to go to and so I wrote so many letters to the Head of Acting but I never sent them as I thought I didn’t have a chance. So, after heading back to LA for a bit I called up CalArts and the woman on the phone said I had great timing as a new Dean was coming in and wanted to bring in a couple of new students with him. So they were holding last minute auditions in 2 days and could I get up there? So I drove up there, did my 2 scenes, was given some direction and improv and it turns out the new Dean was no other than Robert Benedetti, the previous Head of Acting at Yale and the man I had been writing endless letters to that I never sent. He asked me, with my experience, why did I want to go to CalArts and I said “because I don’t know how to be the actor I want to direct”. Thing is, I had no money, so he did some calculations and said they he couldn’t give me 4 years training and accommodation but he could give me 3 and make me a second year student. He also said he would make sure I could make films while I was there. This man saw what I was doing and gave me an opportunity. So you ask me if I learnt discipline? No. What I learnt was hustle. I learnt a school like CalArts was a microcosm of the entertainment world. It’s a big game, and it’s not based on art, it a show business.


LB

Well I’ve lived in London for 23 years so I get it, I know how to hustle too!


Richard Green and just a few of the Peakies from the Twin Peaks UK Festival 2018.

RG

Well, you’re an extraordinary entrepreneur. I don’t know all the works you have done but I know the festival (Twin Peaks UK Festival) which I thought was beautifully run, and artistically classy and true to the spirit, it was so beautiful and amazing. It was wonderful.


LB

Thank you Richard, I appreciate that. (I have an emosh moment!). Well, let’s carry on!

You have done a lot of TV shows and Voiceover, which we’ll chat about in a bit, but you are most known for playing the role of the Magician in the 2001 David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. The scene you appear in is iconic. Can you talk a little about the process of working with Lynch, if you knew how special that scene would come to be, and also working with our mutual friend Rebekah Del Rio who sings the infamous Llorando in that scene?


Richard Green in Mulholland Drive

RG

Well, I did not really work with Rebekah Del Rio, we were in the same sequence, but we shot my scene a couple of times and then we shot her introduction and her scene. I will tell you that the first time I ever heard her version of Llorando, of Crying* was on enormous speakers in the Tower Theatre, when she came out and lip synced it (for the scene). John Neff is a brilliant sound engineer and producer, and whatever he did to that song in David Lynch’s booth, with the acoustics in that theatre, it took my breath away. So we met briefly and that was it. We didn’t get to know each other until years later when we saw each other at guitarist Justin Johnson’s Halloween party. So, I don’t know if I’ve ever told much of this story, I may have, but I hadn’t spoken to David (Lynch) since Jack Nance’s memorial in Pasadena, and at that memorial he said “Richard, I remember you but I don’t remember how you know everybody” So I reminded him that I was a another fayre in San Francisco and I was playing an evil magician. I also told him how, when I was 11, I designed a 7ft gallows for a magicians act that had a noose and a curtain that would go halfway, a box and a rope, and I would come out as The Great Abraxor, stolen from Herman Hesse’s book, and I would snarl at the audience and just be comically mean. Then they would handcuff me and I’d stand on the box, noose around my neck, obviously tied off to a post above the gallows. The rope was then given to a member of the audience who would pull the rope, and I would die, my feet kicking, I mean I really milked it for all it was worth. And then of course I would come out alive and well. So I told David all of this, and he’s real big on building things so I think that got his attention. At the end of the memorial I gave David a two hour book on tape of my rhyming film The 7 Year ZigZag, which is about trying to start the new Swing musical in the 1980’s. 2 years later he called me up on a Friday afternoon and said he had this role for me that he wanted me to do on Monday. I said Ok. Then he said can you do costumes tomorrow, I said sure, sure. Then he said “Oh, by the way, I want it in French and Spanish too”.


LB

(Laughs) Of course he did!


RG

It’s Friday afternoon and we’re shooting on Monday. "Do you have a translator?" He said. “I don’t”. So, I had to have 2 friends translate 7 pages of monologue into French and Spanish. This was now Saturday night, and I shoot on Monday. 7 pages of dialogue is hard to remember enough, but in 3 languages?! So what I did was choose which bits should be French and which bits should be Spanish, and when I got there Monday morning at the Tower Theatre, I said to David “Here’s the Spanish, French and English version – here’s 30 pages”, and I then performed the piece. And he loved it. It was the most immediate approval and best encouragement I ever had. It was just a grand thing. You know what it’s like to perform. When you’re in it and the piece itself works, you can just feel the energy from anyone in the room.


LB

There’s nothing like it.


RG

I could feel that, and it was wonderful. It allowed me to do something…I don’t know where I’d be right now, or what I’d be doing right now without that film. I didn’t have good managers or agents at that time to take advantage of it, so I didn’t really get a lot of work from it, but it allowed me to do something that I needed to do. I felt like I’d hit a certain mark, this was film history. This film won the Palme D’Or* and later it became even more reknowned. If I never do anything else, I’ve done that.


LB

It’s an incredible film and actually over here in the UK the BFI* named it the best film of the 21st century, so to be part of that as an actor is so special.


RG

I will say that when I went to see David Lynch to interview him for I Know Catherine, The Log Lady, his was the first interview I conducted, he said “Hello Richard”, then went up the stairs and he turned, and he said “No Hay Banda”, so it set the mood for when he sat down for maybe the most intimate interview I’ve ever conducted. I felt that I was the same audience for him, the same two eyes looking at each other, that he was for me for Mulholland Drive. He has great stories, and he’s just so present that you feel like you’re living his stories with him.


LB

That is the word that most people describe David as, present. So, continuing your role in the Lynch universe, you then, with your production company Next Step Studios, produced the documentary I Don’t Know Jack about the life and death of actor Jack Nance, star of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. His story is a hell of a story, what made you want to tell it?


Richard Green Executive Produced the documentary I Don't Know Jack about the life of Jack Nance.

RG

I tell you what made me want to tell Jack’s story. The memorial I was telling you about where I last saw David Lynch, well after that I invited everybody back to my place in West Hollywood. Of about 100 people, around 60 come back to my place and we just had a great night full of music and laughter, it was beautiful. I remember thinking we could just interview everyone here about Jack and you have a movie, but I didn’t really think about it at the time, I just experienced it. Then, I hired an assistant, Chris Leavens, who was the biggest Eraserhead fan and he suggested that Jack Nance’s life and death would make an interesting documentary. At the time I was gearing up to film The 7 Year Zig Zag, but I thought about it and thought all I’d have to do is interview everyone at the party so why not! So, I went to David Linderman who was the director of the theatre company in San Francisco that Catherine Couslon and Jack belonged to and who introduced them to David Lynch, and I asked him if he wanted to get involved. I also spoke to John Achorn, who had known Catherine for a long time. He told me to call it I Don’t Know Jack, and to get Chris Leavens to direct it. And I thought that was great, a 23 year old wanders in with an idea and gets to direct his first feature. Beautiful. Catherine was instrumental in getting permission from David Lynch to use footage from Eraserhead. I wasn’t at the interview with David, but it was a lovely interview that Chris conducted. It’s a good film.


LB

Fantastic. Catherine of course was married to Jack Nance, so let’s talk about Catherine and this amazing project that you have created called I Know Catherine, The Log Lady about the incredible life of our mutual friend, the late Catherine Coulson. She, of course, sadly passed away in 2015, we both miss her very much. For you personally this has been quite a journey and has literally taken you to people from all over the world, especially with the impressive Kickstarter campaign which was hugely successful. Can you talk a little about this whole journey, the future of the doc and why you wanted to share Catherine’s life?


Catherine E. Coulson as the Log Lady in Twin Peaks: The Return

RG

You know, the idea hit me the day Catherine died. I knew she had shot her part in Twin Peaks: The Return 4 days before, and that just struck me as “wow, there’s a story there, how did that happen?” I kept thinking about it, and Twin Peaks had been announced as coming back so I thought it would be easy to get the project funded. But I’m not really connected in Hollywood so I couldn’t get access to the right people. But as I gathered more information, I became fascinated by the story. I have a big project I’m working on for after this one and I needed to learn about crowdfunding so the film about Catherine was a good way to get that knowledge and teach me what I need to know. It took about 7 months to build the team. I was extremely lucky that Pieter Dom from Welcome to Twin Peaks stumbled across the video I made to convince David (Lynch) that we should go ahead with the crowd funding. Pieter became instrumental in creating the campaign, reaching Twin Peaks fans and a larger population as well. It was amazing and I learned a lot. I tell any artist if you’re doing a Kickstarter you have to make those rewards really good and it’s going to be time consuming and expensive. We are so close to finishing but we still have thousands of pictures that need to be placed, but we have an incredibly tight and moving story. It’s changed me as a person. Dealing with life and death, commitment and follow through, relationships, anger and pain, fear and worry and art. Every day I get up and I live with this profound person, and all the profound people that tell me their stories. We’re talking about Pulitzer Prize winning playrights, we’re talking about Academy Award winning directors, many people who are in themselves, professional storytellers, all talking about Catherine and how she impacted their lives.


I Know Catherine, The Log Lady. Directed by Richard Green about the life of Catherine Coulson.

LB

Well listen, while we’re talking about this I want to take this opportunity to thank you for asking me to be a part of it, because as you know Catherine was a wonderful friend to me, especially when my mum died, she meant the world to me and I loved her very much, so thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. And probably because it’s the only time on IMDB that my name will appear next to David Lynch and Kyle Maclachlan, so thanks for that too!


RG

There you go! Well, I will say I didn’t pick you out of the blue. A lot of people knew you and knew how important you were to Catherine and how important the Twin Peaks UK Festival was as a top-notch artistic venture. I put you in the film because your story is wonderful, you tell it in a beautiful way, and it’s about Catherine.


LB

Well, you’ve told Jack’s story, you’re telling Catherine’s story, you are a natural storyteller, but is there anyone else’s life story you would like to tell?


RG

(Thinks) That’s a good question.


LB

I mean, your own story is amazing.


RG

Well, I did The 7 Year Zig Zag and I’ve always wanted to tell a roadtrip story, just about a particular roadtrip that I took, that would be interesting. Actually, there is a movie I was writing. I got the idea, I think while I was at CalArts, it’s something I really want to make and it’s mentioned in The 7 Year Zig Zag, it’s called the Doomsayer. It’s about a hippie who thinks the end will come in 7 days, and all the ways he tries to get people to wake up to the world. So as I’m finishing up I Know Catherine... I have 3 other projects that I’m working on, and hoping that all of the big media companies are going to come beating down my door and offer me a 3 picture deal, you know, you have to have projects and say “here, how about this, or this!”. It has occurred to me that after seeing I Know Catherine... someone could approach me and offer another biography and I guess then I would have to really think about whether I want to commit 3 or 5 years to telling someone else’s story.


LB

Well, let’s move away from Catherine and talk about your voiceover work, because, let’s face it Richard, you have one of the most charismatic voices ever and you do get a lot of voiceover work. Do you think there is a different way in approaching a character more for voiceover than there is for screen acting?


RG

Well, I think we’re talking about apples and oranges really, because if I’m doing a character than you’re playing a role and it’s the same thing as doing it on camera. I do the same kind of work, but I don’t necessarily think too much about the walk of the character or the clothing if I know it’s going to be animated. But the same internal work, that work which I learned at CalArts, how to break down a script and so on, that’s the same work we do whether it’s Shakespeare or Ibsen, or The Simpsons. The promo work is different. The stuff you do as an announcer “Next up on ABC” or whatever, that’s a very different set of skills. Some of it has to be an understanding of marketing, of how they’re selling it and why, and that you have to prepare for in a different way. That you have to be very centred on the one objective, it’s all about commercial. If what you’re selling is cars on discount, it may just come down to whether they like your voice. You may have to make that car sound like it will make you sexier, or whether it’s safe for your kids. You’re tracking the emotion. The words they give you carry the message, the voice tells you how to feel about the message. It’s all about the attitude.


LB

Your big love is your music isn’t it? I mean, you’re sat at your piano right now…


RG

I am!


LB

I have also sat at that piano with you! Where does your music fit into your work? Give us a tune!


RG

You want a tune? What tune shall I play… Hey Jane!


(At this point Richard calls into his phone where one of the I Know Catherine… Executive Producers, Jane Albusche, is listening to our chat).


RG

What shall I play?


(Jane suggest a song called What’s It Like, a song Richard wrote).


RG

What’s It Like? Really? OK.


(Richard proceeds to play a stunning song which can be heard on the full chat on my YouTube channel – link below.)


LB

That’s wonderful Richard, I loved that. Thank you so much, I miss singing at your piano and can’t wait to come back. When I come back we must have a little sing song at your piano.


RG

Oh yes please!


LB

Well, that’s all the questions I have for you today.


RG

Thank you for letting me talk about myself!


LB

Of course! You are full of interesting stories, and I love listening to them. Thank you again Richard.


RG

Stay safe.




Follow Richard Green on Instagram @richardgreenactor


Follow ‘I Know Catherine, The Log Lady’ on Instagram @logladyfilm and Twitter @LogLadyFilm


Follow Lindsey Bowden on Instagram @lindseybowden76 and Twitter @lindseybowden76


Watch the full interview on YouTube below.






*Crying – song by Roy Orbison.

*Palme D’Or – highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.

*BFI – British Film Institute

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