Twin Peaks Star Lara Flynn Boyle Was a Tabloid Target for Years. The Attention Helped Land Her a New Movie (Exclusive)

Lara Flynn Boyle doesn’t give many interviews these days

Published Time: 02.07.2024 - 17:31:04 Modified Time: 02.07.2024 - 17:31:04

Lara Flynn Boyle doesn’t give many interviews these days. “Oddly enough I get tired of talking about myself,” she says.

But on a June morning at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, the famed eatery that’s hosted luminaries of yesterday (Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich) and today (Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Kidman), the actress seems ready to open up about a variety of topics.

First up: Her love of show business. Boyle is explaining to me why she changed her mind and nixed her initial suggestion for her PEOPLE interview — a nondescript L.A. diner that serves tuna melts and apple pie — and opted for the glamorous Sunset Boulevard hot spot that opened in 1941, the year Citizen Kane premiered. 

“I don’t have to be like, ‘Look where I go. I’m normal,’ ” says Boyle. “I love Hollywood. I love everything about Hollywood.”

The fact that Boyle is still so enthusiastic about show business is a testament to her resilience — she’s a “scrapper,” she says several times during an hour-long chat. 

After breaking out as high schooler Donna Hayward on Twin Peaks in 1989, Boyle, now 54, enjoyed incredible success. She starred in huge franchise films like Wayne’s World and Men in Black II and earned raves (and an Emmy nomination) as driven prosecutor Helen Gamble on ABC’s acclaimed legal drama The Practice

But with the hits came harsh scrutiny: Tabloids picked apart everything from her thin frame to her on-off romance with Jack Nicholson, 87, a man 33 years her senior.

And behind the scenes she privately dealt with her own #MeToo experiences. “I’ve been in situations that were not called for. I’ve walked out of meetings and had repercussions for it,” she says, declining to name names. “We all go through it.”

Even after Boyle got married to Texas real estate developer Donald Ray Thomas, 58, in 2006 and began working less, paparazzi still hounded her. They snapped pictures while she took out the trash and, in one unflattering instance, while she appeared to take a swig from a bottle of Johnnie Walker whiskey in her car. 

Tabloids were all too happy to publish the photos alongside sensational headlines. Despite the negativity, Boyle — an Iowa native and only child raised by her single mother, Sally — never contemplated leaving the industry of which she fought to be a part.

“I never wanted to bow out. Any moment I was feeling down or sorry for myself, I made sure I did not complain,” she says while sipping on a cappuccino. “My mom used to sometimes bring me articles about other actresses to show me I’m not the only one getting a raw deal.”

It’s that tabloid attention that intrigued writer-director Niclas Larsson, who cast Boyle in Mother, Couch, Boyle’s first movie in four years. Larsson grew up in Sweden reading tabloids at his mother’s hair salon and was fascinated by Boyle. 

“The only type of literature I was exposed to between the age of 5 to maybe 10 was gossip magazines,” he says. “And Lara was on the cover a lot.”

So when he wrote the dark comedy about a cantankerous woman (Ellen Burstyn) who goes furniture shopping at a store, sits on a sofa and refuses to get up, he thought of Boyle to play Linda, the woman’s chain-smoking, bottle-blonde daughter who has little -

patience as the drama unfolds. (Ewan McGregor and Rhys Ifans play her estranged siblings.)

“I’m like, ‘What’s up with Lara?’ What’s up with the excellent actor Lara Flynn Boyle?’ I knew I needed someone who physically and mentally lived through something,” says Larsson. “I don’t think anyone can imagine what it is like to go through what a lot of women went through in the late ’90s, early 2000s.” 

While Boyle has been out of the spotlight for a few years, she brushes off the idea that her return to the big screen is some sort of comeback. “You don’t want an article to read, ‘Boyle’s Second Chance’ or ‘Look Who’s Back,’ ” she says. “I’m right here.”

Boyle chalks up her public absence to the COVID pandemic and her choice to prioritize time with her husband.

The couple, who have a 10-year-old rescue dog named Shrimp, keep a place in Texas and live there part-time. “I have a lovely marriage,” says Boyle, who met Thomas through a mutual friend at a party two decades ago. “We were together that night and ever since.”

Before she met Thomas, Boyle dated her Twin Peaks costar Kyle MacLachlan, Saturday Night Live alum David Spade and then Nicholson on and off from 1999 into the early 2000s. “I left with a bang when it came to actors,” she says of the three-time Oscar winner. “Then I went, ‘Okay, I’m done now.’ ”

She said the same about alcohol around five years ago. “Those disco boots, they’ve had their time,” says Boyle. If there was an impetus to stop, Boyle isn’t telling. “Some people are allergic to it; some people are un-allergic to it,” she says. 

The conversation turns to beauty standards in Hollywood and whether she thinks anything has changed in the years since she came to L.A. as a teenager in the 1980s after attending high school at the Chicago Academy of the Arts. 

From the outside, I say, it seems things have become more inclusive. Before she speaks, she lets out a long, world-weary laugh.

“Not at all,” she says. “The thing that gets my goat is when actresses talk about ageism in Hollywood. Ageism is human nature. It’s not Hollywood’s fault. It’s all of our fault. Myself included. I like looking at pretty people on the camera.” 

One person she does not enjoy watching: herself. “If you want to call me Norma Desmond, go for it,” she quips. “Whenever I catch a reflection of myself in a lens, I’m like, ‘Oh, cut.’ ”

Boyle may not want to see herself onscreen, but there’s an appetite for her talents. “I’m putting her in every movie I make,” says Larsson, before adding, “Let’s see how Mother, Couch goes.”

Boyle seems content to let the future play out as it may. There’s a potential project she’s excited about, but she’s learned to manage her expectations. “You have to promote yourself,” she says, “but then you have to sit back and wash your hands of it.”

Mother, Couch is in theaters in New York on July 5 before expanding.

For more on Lara Flynn Boyle, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE.

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