A Twin Peaks Star Has Died

One of the stars of Twin Peaks, one of the weirdest and most influential television series of all time, has died.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

twin peaks

Lenny Von Dohlen, one of the stars of the influential cult television series Twin Peaks has died. Per Deadline, Von Dohlen passed away in his home in Los Angeles after a long illness and is survived by his daughter Hazel and partner James Still. Lenny Von Dohlen was 63. While he may be best known to many audiences from his appearances in the original run of Twin Peaks on ABC (and the follow-up feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me), Lenny Von Dohlen had a long and well-regarded career in television, film, and theater. 

Lenny Von Dohlen as Harold Smith in Twin Peaks

Lenny Von Dohlen was born in Georgia and raised in Texas. He had an appreciation for the performing arts from a young age, and studied theatre at the University of Texas. He moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater, and soon found himself being offered roles in television and film. 

Twin Peaks was an enormous critical and popular hit television series when it debuted on ABC in 1990, created by the partnership of Mark Frost and David Lynch. The series initially centered on the mysterious and gruesome death of a high school student named Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the titular Washington town and followed the investigation of Special Agent Dale Cooper (frequent David Lynch collaborator Kyle MacLachlan). Lenny Von Dohlen appeared in four episodes of the second season as Harold Smith, a gentle but tormented agoraphobe who becomes crucial to the investigation of Laura Palmer’s murder. True to form with David Lynch, Von Dohlen’s initially soft-spoken character eventually led to one of the more terrifying and disturbing moments of the original Twin Peaks run. 

Lenny Von Dohlen would reprise the role of Harold Smith in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which served as both a prequel and sequel to the show. Additionally, he would appear in an episode of the USA Network series Psych titled “Dual Spires,” as an elaborate homage to Twin Peaks, along with Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Robyn Lively, Catherine E. Coulson, and Ray Wise. Reportedly, David Lynch himself was considered for a cameo on the episode, which was well-regarded by critics. 

In addition to his work on Twin Peaks, Lenny Von Dohlen was known for starring in the cult science-fiction romantic comedy Electric Dreams. In the movie, he played an architect who elaborately augments a home computer (voiced by Bud Cort) and inadvertently grants it sentience by pouring champagne on it, only to find himself in a love triangle with the computer and Virginia Madsen (who also worked with David Lynch on his 1984’s infamous Dune adaption).

Beyond his two most famous roles in Twin Peaks and Electric Dreams, Lenny Von Dohlen appeared in many popular television series, including the British science-fiction comedy Red Dwarf, the mystery series The Pretender, and Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek homage The Orville. His love of the theater never left him, and he originated multiple roles in New York productions and elsewhere. RIP, Lenny Von Dohlen.