The evolution of ERASERHEAD star Jack Nance

After David Lynch saw Jack Nance’s performance at a local theatre in Philadelphia in the early 70s, he cast him as the lead in his 1977 avant garde film, ERASERHEAD. A few years prior to their first meeting, Nance had been seriously considered for the lead in THE GRADUATE, a role which would have launched him off on an entirely different career than the one he had working alongside Lynch.

ERASERHEAD was originally supposed to shoot for six weeks, with Nance earning a modest salary of $25/wk, but due to budget restrictions and technical complications, the film took five years to complete. Clearly, a relationship between Nance and Lynch had been forged, because he went on to act in all of his subsequent films, except THE ELEPHANT MAN, until his untimely death in 1996, an event that took place, oddly enough, in the Pasadena Winchell’s Donut Shop I frequented as a kid (Nance was actually hit on the head at the donut shop, and apparently died in his sleep at home that night).

Aside from ERASERHEAD, Nance is best known for his role in “Twin Peaks” as Pete Martell, the kind-hearted yet bumbling husband of Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie), who, if you remember, was in cahoots with Ben Horne. If it’s been awhile since your last “Twin Peaks” marathon, it’s entirely appropriate pre-Halloween viewing (though not as appropriate or weird or scary as ERASERHEAD). My favorite Jack Nance moment, and actually one of the most memorable and quotable scenes of “Twin Peaks” in general, is the fish-in-the-percolator scene. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, enjoy:

ERASERHEAD plays on Saturday, October 22nd on Sundance Channel.