Frank Booth (Blue Velvet)
|First appearance||Blue Velvet (1986)|
|Portrayed by||Dennis Hopper|
Frank Booth is a fictional character and the main antagonist in David Lynch's 1986 psychological thriller Blue Velvet, portrayed by Dennis Hopper. A violent drug dealer, he has kidnapped the family of lounge singer Dorothy Vallens, holding them hostage in order to force her into becoming his sex slave; their encounters are characterized by Frank huffing an unknown gas from a tank he carries with him, which causes him to exhibit a split personality between two individuals he identifies as "Baby" and "Daddy" and whose personas he assumes to engage in acts of ritualistic rape. Frank is partners with a police detective known as "The Yellow Man" (for his distinctive sport coat), who helps Frank kill rival drug dealers, later stealing their supplies from the evidence room so that Frank can sell them himself.
Role in the film
An aggressively psychopathic gangster, drug dealer and pimp, Frank is the central figure of Lumberton, North Carolina's criminal underworld. He kidnaps singer Dorothy Vallens' husband and son, holding them hostage to force Dorothy into becoming his sex slave. When he is with Dorothy, he exhibits a kind of split personality: "Daddy", a sadist who beats and demeans her; and "Baby", a child who ritualistically rapes her while begging her to gag him with a piece of blue velvet cloth. His sexual arousal is highlighted by fits of violent rage, enhanced by inhaling an unidentified gas from a tank.
After Dorothy proves reluctant to continue her relationship with Frank, he severs her husband's ear, which is found by college student Jeffrey Beaumont. While investigating the case, Jeffrey spies on Frank abusing Dorothy. Later, Jeffrey and Dorothy begin a sexual relationship. Jeffrey begins following Frank and observing his day-to-day life, learning that he is partners with a police detective whom Jeffrey calls "The Yellow Man" after his distinctive sport coat, and who murders rival drug dealers so that he can later steal their supplies from the evidence room and provide them to Frank.
Frank catches Jeffrey and Dorothy together and forces them to accompany him to the apartment of "Suave Ben," the man holding Dorothy's husband and son. At Frank's instigation, Ben lip-syncs a performance of Roy Orbison's "In Dreams", which causes Frank to suffer an emotional breakdown. After, Frank takes Jeffrey to a lumber yard and kisses Jeffrey before subjecting him to a violent beating. Sometime later, Frank murders Dorothy's husband, nearly beats her to death, and leaves her naked on Jeffrey's lawn.
Jeffrey follows Frank to Dorothy's apartment, where he finds the corpse of Dorothy's husband and the Yellow Man, whom Frank has shot in the head in anticipation of leaving town. Using a police radio to distract Frank, Jeffrey hides in a closet with a gun and watches while Frank returns to the apartment to execute The Yellow Man. As Frank begins searching the apartment for Jeffrey, he ambushes and shoots him to death.
Frank's lines and extensive use of the word "fuck" are frequently referenced in pop culture. The line, "Don't you fucking look at me!" was voted by Premiere Magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema", and was sampled by electronic act Faultline for use in the title track of the album Closer, Colder. Industrial group Pigface sampled one of Booth's lines for use in the remix song "Sick Asp Fuck." Samples of Frank speaking are strewn throughout Mr. Bungle's self-titled album. Most notably, the track "Squeeze me Macaroni" samples Frank's lines "Man, where's the fucking beer, man?" and "One thing I can't fucking stand is warm beer, makes me fucking puke!" The band Ministry samples the Booth line "Let's hit the fucking road!" in the song "Jesus Built My Hotrod". Several samples of Frank Booth are used in the Acid Bath song "Cassie Eats Cockroaches" from their debut album When the Kite String Pops.
When hosting Saturday Night Live, Dennis Hopper appeared in a skit as Frank Booth, hosting a game show titled "What's That Smell?", which he opened with Frank's line "Hello, neighbor."
In a 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, David Lynch was asked "Who is a more dangerous gentleman, Frank Booth or Marcellus Santos?" Lynch replied "That's a good question. I'd rather hang with Frank Booth. I'd rather chill with him, and wait for a booty call, than with Marcellus."
- The character ranks #36 on AFI's list of the top 50 film villains of all time.
- Premiere magazine listed Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper, as #54 on its list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, calling him "the most monstrously funny creations in cinema history".
- Empire magazine placed Frank Booth as the 67th Greatest Film Character of all time.
- "Don't you fucking look at me!" was voted by Premiere Magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema".
The part of Frank Booth was originally offered to Willem Dafoe and Richard Bright, who both turned it down. Michael Ironside has stated that Frank was written with him in mind. When Hopper read the script, he called director David Lynch and said, "You have to let me play Frank! Because I am Frank!"
Robert Loggia had expressed interest in playing the role of Frank Booth. He showed up for an audition, unaware that Dennis Hopper had already been cast, and proceeded to wait for three hours, growing increasingly agitated. Upon seeing Lynch and learning of Hopper's casting, Loggia launched into a profanity-laden rant, which remained in Lynch's head for years. Loggia, years later, received a phone call from Lynch requesting his performance for antagonist Mr. Eddy in his 1997 psychological thriller Lost Highway. His tirade would eventually become Mr. Eddy's road rage scene.
Throughout the film, Frank Booth uses a medical mask and tube to inhale some kind of stimulant from an aerosol canister. The identity of this gas is a subject of controversy. Lynch's script specified helium, to raise Frank's voice and have it resemble that of an infant. However, during filming, Hopper, an experienced drug user, claimed to have insight into Frank's choice of drug, and said that helium was inappropriate. Lynch later explained the change:
I'm thankful to Dennis, because up until the last minute it was gonna be helium — to make the difference between 'Daddy' and the baby that much more. But I didn't want it to be funny. So helium went out the window and became just a gas. Then, in the first rehearsal, Dennis said, 'David, I know what's in these different canisters.' And I said, 'Thank God, Dennis, that you know that!' And he named all the gases.
- "AFI's 100 Heroes & Villains". American Film Institute. June 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- Prato, Greg (August 18, 2011). "David Lynch's First Solo Album is on 'Crazy Clown Time'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Premiere. Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
- "Interview: Michael Ironside". Horrornews.net. October 16, 2014.