John Early Is Figuring Out How to Be Sincere

As the star of the sharp new indie ‘Stress Positions,’ the irreverent comic works in a more serious vein. He tells Cracked why he’s getting comfortable with being earnest — even if he’s scared everyone will think he’s pretentious

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We Almost Lived in A World Where David Lynch Directed ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

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We Almost Lived in A World Where David Lynch Directed ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

David Lynch began his film career directing indie bizarro-fest Eraserhead, followed by an Oscar nomination for the poignantly warped Elephant Man. So it was a freakish moment right out of a Lynch movie when a film executive tapped him on the shoulder and said, “David, we think #3 should be Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” 

But that’s exactly what happened. Universal exec Thom Mount was the genius who believed Lynch was the guy to helm Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age classic. And Mount enlisted Crowe to help convince the director to take the gig.

“I had a meeting with David Lynch,” Crowe told Variety on the film’s 35th anniversary. “He had a very wry smile on his face as I sat talking with him. He went and read it. We met again. He was very, very sweet about it, but slightly perplexed we thought of him. He said this was a really nice story but ‘it’s not really the kind of thing that I do, but good luck.’ He got into (his) white VW bug and drove off.”

“Slightly perplexed” is one way to look at the choice of Lynch to direct a teen sex comedy, even one as thoughtful and nuanced as Crowe’s. That kind of thinking is why studio executives get paid the big bucks, folks.

If you never heard that Lynch was approached for Fast Times, you’re not alone. The movie’s eventual director, Amy Heckerling, never heard about it either until years after the film was completed. “I had no idea of that at all,” Heckerling said about the alternate-universe version of her first film. 

Heckerling, only 27 at the time, got a copy of the script from producer Art Linson. After she shared her detailed ideas about how to approach the movie, he introduced her to studio execs and soon, she was the one meeting with Crowe. “I love him to death. He’s a genius,” she said. “We started playing with different ideas. The book, I thought, it had just such an amazing wealth of material. I thought a lot more of it could be incorporated into the script.” 

One of her ideas that Crowe loved was blowing out the concept of the 1980s shopping mall. “I love how all the action is centered around the mall in the book. Let’s make the mall an even bigger character for the movie,” Heckerling told Crowe. He loved the idea, declaring that “Amy completely got it.” 

Heckerling was a perfect choice, of course, but who wouldn’t want to slip through a sliding door into the world in which Lynch directed Fast Times? Would a young Kyle MacLachlan have played Spicoli? Would Damone scalp concert tickets while inhaling narcotic gas? Would Mark “Rat” Ratner have discovered Mr. Hand’s severed ear?

The puzzle of what would become Lynch’s third film was nearly as baffling as the ending of Twin Peaks. In addition to Fast Times, studios also tried to convince Lynch that a perfect follow-up to Elephant Man would be Return of the Jedi. I’d love to see either one, but at least we live in the universe where David Lynch’s third movie was his weirdo take on Dune.

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