Catherine Coulson might not have had a lead role on Twin Peaks, but it was her introduction as the Log Lady that set up David Lynch’s small-town surrealist mystery from the very opening scene leading into the pilot episode.
“There are many stories in Twin Peaks,” the Log Lady slowly said as she introduced the show. “Some of them are sad, some funny, some are stories of madness, of violence, some are ordinary, yet they all have about them a sense of mystery about them. The mystery of life, and sometimes the mystery of death.”
Catherine, the actress who gave Log Lady her clairvoyant battiness, died of cancer Monday morning at the age of 71. Her character had carried on a relatively high level of prominence well after Twin Peaks ended, even inspiring memes ahead of her return to the screen in the upcoming Showtime revival.
An early collaborator of David, Coulson was also an assistant director on the Lynch cult classic Eraserhead. It was on set there that the pair first conceived the idea of the Log Lady, though at the time she was actually a Log Girl, as it was 1977 and Catherine was much younger. David’s original idea was that she would take her log around to different experts in various fields of study, and then have them talk about their discipline as well as the Ponderosa Pine log she would carry around with her, Coulson told Brad D Studios in 2011.
“So the idea was, for example: I would go to a dentist, and we’d put a little blue towel on the log and the dentist would probe the rings and talk about dentistry as well as the wood. There would be a different expert every week and that was the idea for the series.”
Of course, the later incarnation of the Log Lady bears almost no resemblance to this idea. Still for some reason it struck Lynch to include Catherine when he was given the green light on Twin Peaks. He flew her out to the set and put her in a “plaid skirt and logging boots” to shoot the Log Lady pilot. When the show went on air, and the the Log Lady became one of the most recognizable characters, Coulson was floored.
“I think that character was well received or popular so they just kept writing in places for The Log Lady to appear. We made up alot of the backstory for her, and figured out alot about her husband and the fire, and put a picture on the mantle of her husband and the story grew and David and Mark kept writing and the rest is history! I remember thinking this is great to work with my old friend David again but we had no idea how popular it would become. Then it was like, ‘whoa’.”
Catherine continued to play the Log Lady in a smaller role in the second season and had another brief appearance as the character in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. As the show has found a new generation of viewers, Coulson’s Log Lady is without a doubt one of the characters who most emblematically represents the show’s oddball ambience. David himself released a statement to the media following her death, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
“Today, I lost one of my dearest friends, Catherine Coulson. Catherine was solid gold. She was always there for her friends — she was filled with love for all people, for her family, for her work. She was a tireless worker… She had a great sense of humor — she loved to laugh and make people laugh. She was a spiritual person — a longtime TM meditator. She was the Log Lady.”
Despite the death of the Log Lady Catherine Coulson, Twin Peaks is set pick up on Showtime sometime in 2016.
[Images via CBS and Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]