The list of characters across Mulholland Drive. Spoilers will follow.
Played by: Naomi Watts
An aspiring actress who has just arrived in Hollywood looking for her big break. Also a doppenganger of Diane Selwyn.
- The Ace: She`s talented, pretty, compassionate and despite not being a detective manages to come closer to discovering the conspiracy than an actual detective.
- Canada, Eh?: Where Betty came from.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's as radiant in looks as she is in personality.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Looks very dainty and feminine in a 1950s sense, but is in love with Rita.
- Mary Sue: An In-Universe example, who turns out to be Diane's idealized image of herself. Diane is a failed actress who got dumped by Camilla. She didn't get a part in The Sylvia North Story because the director didn't like her. She's bitter and filled with rage. Diane imagines/dreams that she is Betty, a talented actress who knocks everybody's socks off at the audition. In her fantasy, she wins the love of "Rita" instead of getting dumped. And in her fantasy she didn't miss out on that part because she wasn't good enough, she lost the part because the Mafia made Adam Kesher cast someone else.
- Ms. Fanservice: Despite being very wholesome and proper, she`s got a sexy side that comes out during her audition and later that night when she has sex with Rita.
- Nice Girl: Never has a bad word to say about anybody.
Played by: Laura Harring
An amnesiac woman who was the target of a failed assassination. Also a doppelganger of the real Camilla Rhodes.
- Aborted Arc: Who was she and why is there a target on her head? We never find out.
- Censor Shadow: In the bedroom, when Rita unrobes, we see little more than just her silhouette against the light coming in through the window.
- Color-Coded Characters: Rita usually wears red and black.
- Dye or Die: After seeing a corpse in the bed which she believes to be her own, Rita decides to cut her hair short in an attempt to avoid being recognized. But Betty has a better idea, hiding Rita under a blonde wig of her aunt's.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Laura Harring's amnesiac character takes the name "Rita" after seeing a Rita Hayworth poster.
- Lipstick Lesbian: She even wears lipstick when she has just showered.
- Ms. Fanservice: She`s naked twice in the film.
- Quest for Identity: Rita with the help of Betty, after her amnesia from the car accident.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: In sharp contrast to blonde-haired Betty.
Played by: Naomi Watts
A failed actress who is bitter over her ex-lover.
- Ate His Gun: How Diane Selwyn killed herself.
- Broken Bird: It's implied she started out just like Betty, but losing out on roles and eventually getting cruelly dumped by Camilla took their toll on her.
- Bury Your Gays: Kills herself in the end.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Near the end, Diane Selwyn has this kind of date. It is extremely unsexy, seeing as how she's weeping as she's getting herself off and implied to have been out of guilt for trying to assassinate Camilla.
- Disproportionate Retribution: After Camilla cuckolds her, Diane has her assasinated.
- Fan Disservice: The masturbation scene displeases some viewers.
- If I Can't Have You...: Seemingly Diane's motive for murder, after Camilla breaks off their relationship, with jealousy over Camilla's far more successful career being a secondary motive.
- Light Is Not Good: Has blonde hair and tends to wear a lot of light clothes, but is the type of person who would hire an assassin.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The morning after having Camilla killed, Diane spends the rest of the day wracked with guilt. She hallucinates that Camilla is still alive, masturbates out of frustration and eventually kills herself when the hallucinations get more chaotic.
- Never My Fault: The whole dream sequence is Diane creating a false narrative where Camilla survives the hit, which was orchestrated by an Obviously Evil organisation. Betty`s audition shows that she's very capable despite the cheesy script, wishy-washy director and possibly sleazy co-star, as if to say that Diane's failed career had nothing to do with her own shortcomings.
- Never Say That Again: Diane demands this from Camilla during the couch scene, when Camilla says she wants to stop having sex.
- Psycho Lesbian: Diane Selwyn goes mad with jealousy after Camilla dumps her.
- Sanity Slippage: Diane becomes the victim of this.
- Shadow Archetype: To Betty. While Betty was the nicest gal you could ever hope to meet and a talented actress, Diane is implied to be a mediocre actress and is very bitter by the time we meet her.
- Straight Gay: She has at least one dinner dress and can pass for Lipstick Lesbian when she makes the effort.
- Yandere: Organises a hit on her ex-lover after getting dumped and being forced to watch her make out with at least two different people. Despite this, she still longs for Camilla.
Played by: Laura Harring
A rising star who was Diane's former lover.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She puts on a sweet and friendly exterior for Diane, but at the same time treats her like she's disposable.
- Bi the Way: She's slept with both Diane and Kesher.
- Bury Your Gays: Diane has her killed out of spite.
- Idiot Ball: Sure, make out with the director and a random woman in front of your unstable ex-girlfriend. What`s the worst that could happen?
- Lipstick Lesbian: Always looks impeccably well-dressed. That is, when she is dressed.
- Ms. Fanservice: She gets a topless scene and is cast as the love interest in Kesher`s film.
- Shadow Archetype: To Rita. Rita was devoted to Betty and was simple enough to not break Betty`s heart. Camilla isn't quite so pure of heart. There`s also the matter of one surviving a hit and the other is heavily implied to have not.
Played by: Justin Theroux
A film director who has to deal with an unfaithful wife and a micro-managing executive studio.
- Aborted Arc: There`s some build-up between him and Betty, but the dream ends before it can go anywhere.
- Big Fancy House: Adam Kesher has one of these. Of course, he does live on Mulholland Drive, a place famous for its Big Fancy Houses.
- Butt-Monkey: In the dream world, Adam's day goes From Bad to Worse as it seems as though everyone and everything is conspiring against him. By the end, he's a broke man hiding out in a seedy motel in downtown Los Angeles.
- Averted in the real world, where everything goes smoothly for him. His divorce left him with all the spoils, his film seemingly wrapped up with no major issues and it's hinted that he'll marry Camilla.
- Cuckold: Adam finds his wife with the pool man and after some struggle gets shamefully evicted from his own home. Given that this all happens in Diane`s dream, there`s a sense of sweet irony to be had regarding his affair with Camilla.
- Deadpan Snarker: Adam in the first half becomes one as he tries to understand just what the hell is happening to him. By the end he's permanently trapped in Sarcasm Mode.
- Held Gaze: Has one with Betty during their brief interaction.
- Home-Early Surprise: Adam is fired from his directing job so he comes home early to find his wife in bed with the poolman. After a scuffle, he is forced out of his house.
- Would Hit a Girl: Adam almost did this to his cheating wife until the poolman/her lover intervened. Later, a mobster didn't hold back on doing the same thing.
Played by: Michael J. Anderson
An enigmatic figure who has a lot of influence over the film industry.
- Aborted Arc: After getting set up as the Big Bad, we find out he doesn't even exist.
- The Artifact: Presumably if the film was made into a television series he would have had a larger role with a satisfying conclusion.
- Body Horror: Mr. Roque`s bizarrely shrunken head on top of his normal-sized body is a slightly more subdued example.
- Creepy Monotone: He also talks with as few words as possible, adding to his creepiness.
- Decomposite Character: He sabotages Adam's film and tries to get Rita killed. While Betty may have the appearance of Diana, Mr. Roque represents all of Diane's villainous tendencies.
- Emerging from the Shadows: How he's introduced.
- Evil Cripple: Stuck in a wheelchair. It's implied he may have some degenerative disorder, given he has trouble talking at certain points and sits in a room which lets in no sunlight.
- Executive Meddling: In-universe example with the dubious figure of Mr. Roque, who is working entirely behind the scenes, exerting his power through the Castigliane brothers ("This is no longer your film"). It's one of the main themes of the first of the movie's two parts, portraying Hollywood as an outright conspiracy/gang that enforces arbitrary decisions onto directors for unexplained reasons.
- Little People Are Surreal: Played with, although most viewers aren't sure what's even going on in that scene. Basically, dwarf actor Michael J. Anderson (of Twin Peaks fame) wears the prosthetic body of a big person, with only his head showing. The effect is weird.
- The Mafia: It's highly implied that Mr. Roque and the Castigliane Brothers aren't your typical meddling executives.
- Obviously Evil: A creepy-looking man who sits in the shadows and pulls strings couldn;t possibly be a bad guy. Could he?
Luigi & Vincenzo Castigliane
Played by: Angelo Badalamenti (Luigi) & Dan Hedaya (Vincenzo)
Studio executives and possible mafia figures that demand Adam Kescher do a recast.
- Creator Cameo: Angelo Badalamenti also composed the soundtrack.
- The Mafia: It's highly implied that Mr. Roque and the Castigliane Brothers aren't your typical meddling executives.
- Not So Stoic: When they`re first introduced, they say very little and show no emotion outside of cold judgement. Then one of them finds his espresso isn`t to his tastes and the whole scene goes off the rails.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: At the move exec conference, Luigi Castigliane is more interested in his espresso than the discussion about the main actress.
Played by: James Karen
A film producer that knows Betty's aunt.
Played by: Chad Everett
An actor that Betty auditions with.
- Dirty Old Man: His character coerces his friend`s daughter into sleeping with him. It's hinted that this wasn't entirely just an act.
- Fan Disservice: The suggestive scene he does with Betty would be more sexy if it wasn't for the noticeable age gap.
- Rewatch Bonus: He mentions acting out the same scene with another, dark-haired actress whose name he can't recall.
Played by: Wayne Grace
A director that auditions Betty.
- Aborted Arc: Downplayed. The film he's working on is never elaborated on, but his assistants say that it was never going to go into production anyway.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: His direction is incredibly vague."It's not a competition. The two of them. With themselves. So, don't play it for real...until it gets real."
- Stylistic Suck: His direction is of no help at all. It's Woody and Betty who carry the scene.
Played by: Melissa George
A well-connected actress whom Adam Kesher is forced to cast.
- Composite Character: Of the real Camilla and her new blonde lover.
- Decomposite Character: Everything Diane hated about the real Camilla is projected onto her, while her outward appearance was given to the less complex Rita.
- Small Role, Big Impact: She makes only a single appearance, but it's implied that Rita's attempted murder was done to get her foot in the door and force Adam to cast her.
- Pink Means Feminine: During the musical audition scene, all the women auditioning have pink in their attire with Melissa George's Camilla Rhodes wearing an all pink dress.
Played by: Robert Forster (McKnight) & Brent Briscoe (Domgaard)
Two detectives who investigates the failed attempt on Rita's life.
Played by: Maya Bond
Betty's aunt, who allows Betty to stay at her place while she shoots in Canada.
Played by: Patrick Fischler
A man who has sinister visions revolving around the Winkies diner.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: As soon as he sees the bum, he collapses into his friend's arms and goes completely still.
- Hero of Another Story: His scene is entirely independent of the major plots and in the real world he's just some guy that Diane saw out of the corner of her eye.
- Oh, Crap!: After telling his companion how the dream plays out, he breaks into a cold sweat when reality plays out exactly the same way, compelling him to go down into that back alleyway...
- Or Was It a Dream?: His reason for coming to Winkies is to address the dreams he keeps having of someone hiding behind the building causing something that leaves his companion terrified.
- Properly Paranoid: The crux of his scene was that he was right that there's something sinister festering behind Winkies.
- Stepford Smiler: At first he's all upbeat and talking about his dreams like they're no big deal, but it barely hides the sense of dread he's been carrying.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: It's implied that only he can see the bum behind Winkies, as it appears right in front of his companion, who doesn't even acknowledge its existence.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: He's killed off in his very first scene. His brief appearance in the real world gives us no insight into his character.
Catherine "Coco" Lenoix
Played by: Ann Miller
Betty's landlady in the dream world and Adam's mother in the real world.
Played by: Mark Pellegrino
A hired hitman that's been tasked with hunting down Rita/Camilla.
- Blatant Lies: The hitman telling a watching janitor that his heavyset victim is hurt bad, and he wants to call an ambulance for her, while she's violently struggling in his arms.
- Conversation Casualty: Joe executing Ed in the middle of a cheerful conversation.
- Epic Fail: In the dream world he`s tasked with killing a man and making it look like a suicide. As soon as he slips his gun into the man`s hand, he accidentally sends off another bullet that wounds a woman in the next room. He tries killing the woman, but attracts the attention of a janitor. He kills both of them, but the janitor`s vacuum cleaner is left on. He tries silencing the vacuum cleaner by shooting it, which causes an electrical short that sets off the fire alarm.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Perpetrated by the most negligent hitman since Vincent Vega.
Woman in #12
Played by: Johanna Stein
Diane Selwyn's old flatmate.
- Ambiguously Gay: She was a roommate of Diane's in both worlds and looks noticeably less feminine than all the other women.
Played by: Bonnie Aarons
A derelict who lives in the alleyway behind Winkies.
- Ambiguously Human: Just the way it slides out of nowhere, its Ambiguous Gender and the fact that it's impossibly filthy hint that it's no ordinary bum.
- Daylight Horror: The "man behind Winkie's" scene is somehow made even more disturbing by the fact that it happens in broad daylight.
- Grotesque Gallery: The "man behind Winkies" isn't exactly someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere else for that matter.
- Humanoid Abomination: There`s no clear explanation as to who or what this person is.
- Jump Scare: One of the most iconic examples of the modern age - This is how the man behind Winkies is introduced, only to disappear just as quickly.
- Mundane Horror: The "man behind Winkies" scene is the quintessence of this. Two men are talking in a diner, with one of them telling the other about a nightmare he had, in which there was a horrible abomination in the back of the diner. Everything happens in broad daylight, with many customers around, and nothing indicates anything out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, they go to check, and when it looks like nobody is there, and he is about to calm down... the abomination actually appears.
- Nothing Is Scarier: A Lynch trademark, exemplified in the "man behind Winkies" scene. Almost five minutes of low-key, almost hushed conversation as build-up, then the two men leave the diner, with both of them (and the audience) terrified of what they might find behind the restaurant as the camera creeeeeeeeeeeeps towards the wall, and then, BOOM.
- Psychopomp: One possible theory. Dan drops dead as soon as he sees it. Later on it releases the old couple who terrorise Diane into suicide. As Diane's body goes cold, the bum can be seen fading into focus.
Played by: Jeanne Bates & Dan Birnbaum
A sinister old couple who take an interest in Betty/Diane.
Played by: Lafayette Montgomery
The owner and manager of a corral who has a vested interest in Adam Kescher's film.
- Alien Fair Folk: The Cowboy may be this, given his relation to electricity (lightbulb turning on/off when he appears/disappears), his somewhat peculiar appearance and behavior, and numerous similarities to characters of this type from Twin Peaks.
- Emerging from the Shadows: The way he only appears when a light flickers on gives off this vibe.
- Faux Affably Evil: Acts friendly and tries to engage in small talk with Kesher, all the while looking down his nose at him and making it clear that Kesher must submit or suffer the consequences.
- No Brows: The Cowboy's creepiness is amplified by his lack of eyebrows.
- Wham Line: "Hey pretty girl. Time to wake up."
Played by: Richard Green (The Magician), Cori Glazer (Blue-Haired Woman) Rebekah Del Rio (As Herself)
Performers at a late-night club.
- Author Avatar: The Magician's words carry meaning that seem to come straight from the mouth of the director.
- Beard of Evil: While calling the Magician "evil" is a bit of a stretch, he's still pretty creepy.
- The Chanteuse: Rebekah Del Rio. When she collapses, the song keeps playing, implying that she was lip-synching the whole thing. Then again, it's hard to tell with this movie.
- Classy Cane: The Magician has one.
- Cold Ham: There is no band...
- Gratuitous French: The magician abuses this trope.
- Grief Song: "Llorando" translates to "crying".
- Kubrick Stare: The Magician gives one with a sinister smile before seeming to disappear in a puff of smoke.
- Large Ham: NO! HAY! BANDA!
- Love Nostalgia Song: The song "Llorando" is either a Break-Up Song or a song about a loved one dying.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Magician repeatedly says everything is fake, but if you pay close attention you`ll see he made a cane materialise in his hand and makes it disappear seconds later. There`s also the way he disappears in a puff of smoke.
- Rewatch Bonus: The blue-haired woman can be seen observing from a balcony as the Magician delivers his soliloquy.
- Smoke Out: The Magician finishes his act using this trick.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The woman at the very end of the film.