It's been 33 years since David Lynch released his film Blue Velvet, an exercise in what came to be known as "Lynchian" surrealism that begins with the college student Jeffrey Beaumont's discovery of a severed ear. Since then, the director has effectively created his own universe with Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, and Mulholland Drive, but Lynch had never officially been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which made up for its decades-long oversight by awarding him with an honorary Oscar at the Governor Awards on Sunday night.
Blue Velvet wasn't just one of Lynch's early masterpieces. It was also the film that solidified the status of Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, and Laura Dern as his muses, making it no surprise that they were the ones to present him with the Oscar. In their introduction, Dern described Lynch's process to the audience: "He says ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve gotta go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure, they’re huge and abstract, and very beautiful."
Evidently, Lynch wasn't in the mood to go deep on Sunday night. "Congratulations to the other honorees tonight," the director began his speech, which clocked in at less than a minute. "Everyone have a great night. You have a very interesting face. Good night." (Still, it proved meaty enough to prompt a debate; apparently, there was some confusion over whether Lynch had said "face" or "fate.") Fortunately, the trio got to spend a bit more time chatting with Lynch backstage: "Back with my family," Dern wrote on Instagram, with a photo of what she described as "the best reunion ever."
Dern, now 52, has known Lynch since she was 16, when he cast her in the film and gave her the nickname Tidbit. As Dern recently recalled to W, their first encounter was as off as you might expect: "He looked at me and I was waiting for his magical words. And it was a magical moment but he went, 'I have to pee.' And so he disappeared. And then he came back and we talked about life and high school and meditation and I was getting ready to audition and that never happened. He was like, 'Thank you very much.' And then I left," she said.
Thanks to the second and final step in the audition process, Dern got to know MacLachlan—with whom she held hands while walking across the stage on Sunday—early on, too. "I got a call that he wanted to meet me at Bob's Big Boy to see if Kyle MacLachlan and I could get along or something. It was like a chemistry lunch. And so the three of us had lunch at Bob's Big Boy, and the rest is history," Dern continued. "We ordered malts and French fries and David was doodling on napkins while Kyle was doodling with a knife into his ketchup. And I mean, a girl either goes, these are really bizarre men and they are twin souls, or I am in love with both of these people and want to spend the rest of my life with them, which is how I responded."
It seemed like Rossellini was also feeling sentimental on Sunday, when she Instagrammed two photos of herself with the director—one from the Governor Awards, and one from 1990, when he won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.