After being praised as the best film of the 21st century in a BBC critics poll in 2016, “Mulholland Drive” took the top spot on the “Best of the Decade” lists from Film Comment, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), Reverse Shot, and IndieWire. Now, ahead of its 20th anniversary on Oct. 19, it’s time to uncover many of the mysteries behind the haunting 2001 film.
The plot seems simple enough: a young woman, played by Laura Harring, has amnesia following a car crash in the Hollywood Hills. Naomi Watts is her naive roommate, an aspiring actress. But that premise — just like the vehicle careening off the twisting, paved Mulholland Drive — eventually falls by the wayside, giving way to a debate over gender identity, the porous nature of reality, and the personal ramifications of fame.
“Like a lot of critics who adore the movie, none of us got it the first time,” Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang, who managed the LAFCA “Best of the Decade” poll, previously told IndieWire. “Any person who says they did is lying.”
Even Lynch apparently let the story lead the way. “I started asking him questions,” star Justin Theroux explained as part of the IndieWire Awards Spotlight in 2021. “When I finished a question, [Lynch would say], ‘You know, I don’t know, buddy. But let’s find out.’ He wasn’t being cute or cheeky or evasive; he genuinely didn’t know. He’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s like you’re on an escalator into a cloud with him, you never know where the escalator lets off.”
Two decades later, it’s time to see just exactly how that “escalator” came to be. Here are nine surprising details about “Mulholland Drive” that even diehard fans might not know.