Catherine Coulson, the actress who gained fame in the 1990s as the enigmatic “Log Lady” on David Lynch’s cult classic television series, Twin Peaks, has died of cancer, the New York Times is reporting. She was 71.
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At the height of its fame, Twin Peaks was known for its cast of eccentric characters, perhaps none more eccentric than the “Log Lady,” played with gusto by Coulson. Almost always seen carrying around a log — which was a character in itself, to an extent — Coulson’s character treated her log as something of a talisman, a pet, and/or a supernatural portal. The Log would often deliver cryptic, and usually not very helpful, messages to those who came and went through Twin Peaks. Or maybe the Log Lady was just crazy — that’s the question left for Twin Peaks viewers to figure out.
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Before gaining fame on Twin Peaks, Catherine Coulson was a classically-trained actress who happened to be friends with David Lynch, the avante-garde director and producer who would ultimately go on to create the show for which she was best known. In 1974, Coulson appeared in Lynch’s film, The Amputee, appearing as a woman who had had both legs amputated.
In 1977, Coulson and Lynch had discussed Catherine acting in Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead. Instead, however, Coulson wound up working as an assistant director on the film. However, while working on Eraserhead, Lynch and Coulson began discussing characters, and together the two came up with Margaret Lanterman — a.k.a. the Log Lady. In Coulson’s version of the character, the log would go through daily activities like dentist appointments, according to the Guardian. The Log would star in a show called I’ll Test My Log With Every Branch of My Knowledge — fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the character was instead retooled into the Log Lady on Twin Peaks 13 years later.
Throughout her career, Catherine Coulson and David Lynch continued both their friendship and their creative collaborations. In fact, Coulson has set to reprise her role as the Log Lady for a revival of Twin Peaks, set to air on Showtime in 2017.
In a statement made available via MSN, Lynch mourned the passing of his dear friend and collaborator.
“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 [transcendental meditation] meditator. She was the Log Lady.”
Always the joker, Coulson kept up her sense of humor about her collaborations with Lynch decades after Twin Peaks. At an event in Philadelphia last year, a reporter asked her if Lynch had any advice for her character in the Twin Peaks revival. Coulson responded: “He suggested I talk about sustainable forestry.”
When she wasn’t in front of the camera, Catherine Coulson was behind it — in fact, most of her film and TV credits include behind-the-scenes jobs such as assistant producer or camera operator.
In her later career, Catherine Coulson was a mainstay at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where she acted for 22 seasons.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Alberto E. Rodriguez]