< Return to Latter-day Saint Characters in Movies

Latter-day Saint/Utah References and Characters
in the movie

Lost Highway (1997)

"Lost Highway"
movie poster:

Lost Highway, published screenplay:

"Lost Highway" (1997)
Directed by David Lynch
Screenplay by David Lynch and Barry Gifford

Starring: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Richard Pryor, Lucy Butler, Michael Massee, Giovanni Ribisi

MPAA Rating: R
U.S. Box Office: $3,796,699
Production budget: $15,000,000

NOTE: The screenplay for "Lost Highway" has been published in book form. It can be found in libraries, bookstores and can also be found online in a number of places. Be aware that the screenplay and the film contain considerable amounts of objectionable R-rated material.

The movie "Lost Highway" features a major character who is from Utah. This character, named "Andy," was played by actor Michael Massee, who had the 9th billed role in the movie.

Neither the screenplay nor the film ever specify whether "Andy" is a Latter-day Saint. Traditionally, all feature film characters from Utah are intended by the screenwriters to be Mormons, unless specifically described otherwise. Whether or not "Andy" is LDS, it is clear from his behavior and speech that he is quite a partier, and not a active churchgoer.

The fact that Andy is from Utah is mentioned during a conversation about the two different forms of capital punishment available (at that time) in Utah.

The lead character in "Lost Highway" is jazz saxophone player "Fred Madison," played by actor Bill Pullman, whose other major roles include "Independence Day", "Spaceballs", "Sleepless in Seattle", "While You Were Sleeping" and Don Bluth's "Titan A.E." The lead actress in "Lost Highway" is Patricia Arquette, who plays Fred's wife "Renee." Arquette's screen credits include major roles in "True Romance", "Ed Wood", "Stigmata", "Little Nicky", "Holes", as well as the title role in the TV series "Medium."

Interestingly enough, "Lost Highway" is the first of two different movies in which actress Patricia Arquette is the lead actress in a film in which one of the main characters is from Utah. The other film is "Goodbye Lover" (1999), in which one of Arquette's co-stars is Ray McKinnon, playing the part of "Nathan Rollins," a Latter-day Saint police detective from Salt Lake City, Utah. In "Lost Highway" the character from Utah is a man that Arquette originally claims is her close friend, but she later plots his murder. In "Goodbye Lover" the LDS character from Utah is investigating a series of murders that Arquette's character planned or personally committed. (Arquette is not a Latter-day Saint, by the way, nor has she played an LDS character on film.)

The catalyst for the central dramatic events in "Lost Highway" is Fred's fear that his wife Renee is having an affair with Andy (or Pete's jealousy at seeing Alice with Andy, depending on how you look at it).

In "Lost Highway," the Utahn character "Andy" is first introduced when Fred (Pullman) is playing the saxophone in the "Luna Lounge," the jazz club where he performs, and he sees his wife Renee (Arquette) leaving in the company of Andy and another man. Fred only sees the face of one of these men.

Andy is fully introduced and his name is first mentioned in a later scene in which Fred and Renee are at a party at Andy's house. Fred is ill at ease there, and has a bizarre experience when he meets a character identified in the script only as "Mystery Man," played by Robert Blake. "Lost Highway" was Blake's last feature film role before he made headlines with his own real-life crime story: He was jailed for killing his wife.

At Andy's party, "Mystery Man" (Blake) tells Fred that they have met before, and when Fred asks where, Blake tells him at Fred's own house. Fred states that he does not remember, and then Blake tells him, "In fact, I'm there right now." To prove it, Blake has Fred call his own house, and he does indeed reach Blake on the line. Somehow the mysterious person is at Fred's house and at the party at Andy's house at the same time. After Mystery Man walks away from him, Fred finds Andy and asks him who that man was. Fred grabs Renee and they quickly leave the party. Fred refers to Andy by a vulgar epithet, asks Renee how they met, and concludes their conversation by saying that Andy has some screwed up friends.

In one scene, one-fourth of the way through the movie, another character (Andy's girlfriend "Marian," played by actress Lisa Boyle) points out that Andy is from Utah. While talking to her friend Raquel, Marian mentions that Andy is from Utah, and that he told her about how in Utah inmates facing execution have a choice between death by hanging or by firing squad. ("Raquel is played by actress Leslie Bega, a star of the TV series "C-16: FBI", "Head of the Class".) Marian and Raquel briefly discuss which of these forms of execution they would prefer. Andy himself arrives during this conversation, surprising his girlfriend, Marian.

The topic of execution comes up while Marian and Raquel are discussing a story they heard on the television news, about a local man who apparently killed his wife. The man they are referring to is the film's lead character Fred Madison (Bill Pullman's character). Although Marian is dating Andy, and Andy is a close friend of Fred's wife Renee, apparently neither Marian nor Raquel are personally acquainted with Fred, so they refer to him only as a person they heard about on the news.

The choice to die by firing squad in Utah is widely said to be a result of Latter-day Saint belief in the principle of "blood atonement." An article on this topic written by Lowell M. Snow for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/emmain.asp?number=31) notes:

The doctrines of the Church affirm that the Atonement wrought by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is efficacious for the sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. However, if a person thereafter commits a grievous sin such as the shedding of innocent blood, the Savior's sacrifice alone will not absolve the person of the consequences of the sin. Only by voluntarily submitting to whatever penalty the Lord may require can that person benefit from the Atonement of Christ.

Several early Church leaders, most notably Brigham Young, taught that in a complete theocracy the Lord could require the voluntary shedding of a murderer's blood-presumably by capital punishment-as part of the process of Atonement for such grievous sin. This was referred to as "blood Atonement." Since such a theocracy has not been operative in modern times, the practical effect of the idea was its use as a rhetorical device to heighten the awareness of Latter-day Saints of the seriousness of murder and other major sins. This view is not a doctrine of the Church and has never been practiced by the Church at any time.

The voluntary choice to die by firing squad was a major plot element in the 1982 NBC TV movie "The Executioner's Song," in which Tommy Lee Jones plays Utah killer Gary Gilmore, convicted of killing two men. As shown in this movie, Gilmore lobbied for his own execution, and eventually was granted the right to die by firing squad. Gilmore claimed that his choice was not based on any LDS-related reason. But Gary's brother, writer Mikal Gilmore, claimed that Gary's decision was based on beliefs about and understanding of blood atonement, and the fact that both of his victims were Latter-day Saints. Gilmore himself was not an practicing Latter-day Saint. He was raised by an alcoholic, adulterous Catholic father and an inactive Mormon mother. Tommy Lee Jones received an Emmy Award for his portrayal of this real-life historical individual. Gary Gilmore's execution was the first performed in the United States after a period of ten years during which major U.S. Supreme Court decisions temporarily halted and then reinstated the practice. (Another bit of trivia: Gilmore's girlfriend in "The Executioner's Song" was played by actress Rosanna Arquette, the sister of "Lost Highway" star Patricia Arquette.)

In March 2004, Utah governor Olene S. Walker (a Latter-day Saint) signed legislation doing away with firing squads, leaving lethal injection as the only method for executing the state's condemned murderers.

It is also worth noting that the assistant production coordinator for "Lost Highway" was Tasha Oldham, a Latter-day Saint filmmaker who later became well known for directing the award-winning LDS/GLBT-themed PBS documentary "The Smith Family: A Portrait in Love" (2002).

"Lost Highway" director David Lynch worked with another Mormon filmmaker -- Joyce Eliason -- when he made the movie "Mulholland Dr." (2001), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Eliason was the co-producer for the movie. Eliason also co-wrote the original script (with Lynch) for "Mulholland Dr." when the project was starting out as a TV series pilot. The TV series never materialized, and the TV pilot was transformed into a feature film. Eliason, who is not currently an active Latter-day Saint, has written many screenplays which have been produced as TV movies and miniseries, including the Mormon-themed TV movies "Child Bride of Short Creek" (1981) and "A Loss of Innocence" (1996). Eliason is also the author of Fresh Meat/Warm Weather (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), described as "feminist fiction from the Mormon perspective."

Excerpts from the published screenplay of Lost Highway

Source: Lost Highway (published screenplay), by David Lynch and Barry Gifford. Faber and Faber: London/Boston (1997).

Pages 36-37:

    CUT TO:


Marian and Raquel, two exquisite young women, are looking over the merchandise.

Did you see that about the guy who chopped up his wife into a million pieces?

How could I miss it? The TV won't quit with that stuff.

They're gonna cook him.

Andy's from Utah. He says there you have a choice . . . You can die by hanging or by firing squad.

Which would you choose?

Marian holds up a black teddy to her body.

Andy would go for this, don't you think? . . . Firing squad, definitely.

Do they aim for the head or for the heart?

The heart, I guess. The brain would know what's going on. Your heart would be ripped open trying to pump blood, blood pouring into the chest cavity. Savage pain, Marian.

Raquel takes a red teddy and holds it up to her chest.

Oh, that's hot... So you'd rather be hung, huh?


Absolutely... Soon as your neck snaps, you black out. It might take a while for the body to die, but you wouldn't feel it.


You might be right, Raquel.

... Raquel sees Andy walking into the store. He is sneaking up behind Marian, and motions with a finger to his lips to Raquel not to say anything. When Andy gets directly behind Marian, he puts his hands over her eyes.

Guess who?

    CUT TO:


[Here begins another major section of the film, in which Fred is on death row, but mysteriously switches places with Peter Dayton.]

Below is an excerpt from an earlier scene in the screenplay, in which Andy (from Utah) is first introduced:

    CUT TO:


A swinging party is in progress at Andy's house - the man whose face we saw at the Luna Lounge with Renee. ANDY, 37 years old, a slick guy, is seen moving through the crowd, making small talk, kissing and being kissed. The PEOPLE here are wannabe players, the men mostly shady, gold-chain-wearing, slightly unsavory types; the women dressed provocatively, big hair and skin-tight dresses. Through sliding glass doors we see... people cavorting in a swimming pool. Everyone has a drink in his or her hand. Renee finishes her drink and hands the empty glass to Fred who walks away with it. Andy grabs Renee, and dances with her. They laugh and talk. Renee appears to be a bit intoxicated.

Fred, who appears less than thrilled with the carryings on, makes his way to the open bar where he orders two drinks. When the drinks arrive he drains one of them completely, then sets the empty glass down on the bar. Then he swallows the other drink, too, and sets down the glass.

[Fred has the conversation with Mystery Man, summarized above. See the full script for details.]

         MYSTERY MAN
It's been a pleasure talking to you.

The man walks away from Fred. Renee appears and comes up to Fred.

I thought you were getting me a drink?

Just a minute.

He takes Renee by the arm and goes over to the host of the party, Andy. He grabs Andy and points across the room toward the Mystery Man, who is engaged in conversation with OTHER GUESTS.

Andy, who is that guy?

     (looking at the Mystery Man)
I don't know his name. He's a friend of Dick Laurent's, I think.

Dick Laurent?

Yes, I believe so.

     (remembering something)
But Dick Laurent is dead, isn't he?

He is? I didn't think you knew Dick. How do you know he's dead?

Andy and Renee exchange a worried look, which Fred does not notice.

I don't. I don't know him.

Dick can't be dead. Who told you he was dead?

Honey, who?... Who's dead?

Fred takes Renee by the arm away from Andy.

Let's go home.


Now! We're leaving now! I didn't want to come here in the first place.

Fred drags the reluctant Renee out of Andy's house.

    CUT TO:


Fred is driving fast and recklessly. Renee is drunk and is smiling at him.

How'd you meet that a--hole, Andy, anyway?

Renee stares out the front window - thinks back.

It was a long time ago... I met him at this place called Moke's... We... became friends... He told me about a job...

What job?

I don't remember... Anyway, Andy's okay...

He's got some f---ed up friends.

Later Pete Dayton (who may or may not be the same person as Fred Madison) is having an affair with Alice. Pete is played by Balthazar Getty, an actor whose smaller roles include "Natural Born Killers" and "Mr. Holland's Opus," and whose larger roles include "Ladder 49" and "Slingshot." Alice is played by Patricia Arquette, the same actress that plays the part of Fred Madison's wife Renee. The screenplay describes Alice as a woman who "looks exactly like Renee except she is about eight years younger." Alice may or may not be the same person as Renee.

Alice is the girlfriend of a ruthless gangster named Mr. Eddy, who won't let her go and threatens to kill anybody else who wants to date her. (Mr. Eddy is the same person as Dick Laurent.) Pete wants Alice to run away with him, but knows they need to get some money in order to do so. Alice tells him that she knows a person who they can rob. She is thinking of Andy, but does not yet name him. Later, in the scene below, Alice tells Pete the details of her plans to rob Andy.

So, should I call Andy?


That's his name...Andy. Our ticket out of here.

Yeah. Call him.

Alice gets serious.

I'll set it up for tomorrow night. You'll meet me at his place at eleven o'clock... Don't drive there... Take a bus ... Make sure no one follows you...His address is easy to remember... It's 2224 Deep Dell Place... It's a white stucco job on the south side of the street... I'll be upstairs with Andy... The back door will be open... That leads into the kitchen - go through the kitchen to the living room - there's a bar there... At eleven fifteen, I'll ask Andy to fix me a drink... When he does, you can crack him in the head... Okay?


Lemme call him now. Make sure he's not already busy tomorrow night.


Still entwined with each other, Alice reaches for the phone and dials a number. It starts to ring and she smiles at Pete when she hears it being answered.

Andy?... It's me, Alice. How ya doin?...
Andy... I can get away tomorrow night... I could come to your house... That sounds good... Around nine... Yeah, me too, Andy... Great... See ya then.

She hangs up the phone.

         ALICE (CON'T)

Why are ya goin' so early?

'Cause that's how long it's gonna take, baby.

What if Andy tips off Mr. Eddy?

Are you kidding?... I've got so much on Andy, it isn't funny.

Later, in one of the final scenes in the film, Pete goes to Andy's house. Alice is there. Pete finds that Andy has made an "adult" film featuring himself (Andy) and Alice. Making this film is the "job" that Renee told Fred about when she explained how she first met Andy.

In a jealous rage, Pete strikes Andy in the head with a heavy, bronze figurine. This injures Andy, and causes him to stagger but not fall unconscious. Andy charges at Pete and strikes him, but then Andy falls against the corner edge of a rectangular glass-topped coffee table. With Andy dead, Alice gathers up loot from Andy's house and urges Pete to flee with her. Alice and Pete drive away in Andy's car.

There are more scenes in the film that take place in Andy's car, and later we see detectives and other policemen investigating the crime scene at Andy's house. A photograph there at Andy's house, which shows Andy with Renee/Alice and Mr. Eddy/Laurent, is also looked at by a number of different characters. But Andy, now that he is dead, has no more lines.

The most widely accepted explanation of "Lost Highway" is that much of the film (the parts with Fred and Renee) is actually a dream or mentally created reality fabricated by Pete Dayton as a way to escape the unbearable reality that he has killed Alice. Pete's mind created for itself a separate fantasy reality to which he could flee mentally, but his guilt caused his tragic acts to be replicated even in his originally ideal fantasy.

Webpage created 23 January 2005. Last modified 31 January 2005.