Benjamin Horne, played by Richard Beymer, is the richest citizen of the eponymous town. Horne is one of the few citizens whose sensibilities and dress aren't still in the 1950s; Horne is an archetypical 1980s cutthroat businessman, whose greatest desire in life appears to be the acquisition of more money. As the series progressed he was revealed, like many of the show's other characters, to have a hidden side; although, since Ben Horne's public persona was evil, his "dark side" turned out to be good, revealing him as a lonely, depressed man, disappointed with how his family and his life turned out.
For the first sixteen episodes of the series, he acted as one of the primary antagonists not directly linked to the series' main storyline of the Laura Palmer murder. In dramatic irony, he consistently came under suspicion for Laura's murder, of which he was wholly innocent, while never being suspected of the myriad criminal activities of which he was actually guilty.
Up until the revelation of Laura's true killer, Horne was used by the writers as a red herring to prevent spoilers from leaking out; at least two scenes were filmed to lead people to believe that Horne was the real killer, so that the true identity of the killer could remain a secret.
Ben Horne is one of the two richest and most powerful individuals of Twin Peaks; per Sheriff Truman, Horne "owns half the town." He owns and runs the Great Northern Hotel, the town's only apparent travel lodgings; the Great Northern also acts, on occasion, as a de facto town hall, and the only place in Twin Peaks suitable for a wedding reception, making it one of the hubs of the community. In addition to the Great Northern, Ben owns and runs Horne's, the town's only department store, and One-Eyed Jack's, a casino/brothel just over the Canadian border. His would-be monopoly on the town's economy is challenged only by Josie Packard, the owner of the Packard Saw Mill, one of the few major businesses in town which Horne doesn't own. At the outset of the series, Horne has been involved in an affair for some time with Catherine Martell, as part of an intricate plot to kill her, destroy the mill, become the beneficiary of her life insurance, and take sole ownership of the land on which the mill sits, which he intends to turn into a luxury country club.
Ben is depicted as both extremely intelligent and mercilessly cutthroat. He acts as a contrast to the simple people of Twin Peaks-- lacking their folk wisdom, he is nonetheless extremely intelligent, worldly wise, and well read, capable of quoting Shakespearean sonnets on cue. His usual attire further serves to distance him from the town-- while the majority of the populace of Twin Peaks wear western wear or clothing popular in the 1950s, Horne dresses in fashionable double breasted suits and designer track suits, both staples of 1980s fashion; upon first seeing him, Agent Cooper singles him out as a "dandy."Ben has a family, who live with him in the owner's quarters at the Great Northern. His wife, Sylvia, and son, Johnny, only appear briefly on the series; Sylvia is a put-upon trophy wife, while Johnny is a mentally disabled 27 year old with the mind of a small child, who spends his days playing cowboys and Indians. His daughter, Audrey, is an anti-social juvenile delinquent who takes every opportunity to make her father's life more miserable, apparently for no other reason than to give her something to do. For this reason, Ben, despite loving his daughter, largely dislikes her, and sees her as a lost cause. Ben also has a brother, Jerry Horne, who acts as his business partner, emissary, and best friend.
Ben is very close to his private attorney, Leland Palmer, who has worked for him for at least five years prior to the start of the series. Ben took a particular shine to Leland's daughter, Laura, who as a child encompassed all the qualities lacking in Audrey: Quiet, good natured, and sweet. For this reason, Ben showered Laura with attention, clandestinely giving her presents through Leland, who agreed to the arrangement as it both made Laura happy and made Leland look good in his daughter's eyes. As Laura aged, Ben's love for her became romantic, and he saw in the bright-futured Laura all of the possibilities his own life once held; her photo took a place of honor on his desk, while there was none of Audrey to be seen. Ben and Laura had a torrid affair shortly before Laura's death, after Laura-- without Ben's knowledge--came to work at One-Eyed Jack's. The relationship quickly fell apart, as Laura only wanted the thrill of sleeping with the powerful, older Ben Horne, and did not reciprocate any of his romantic feelings. Before she died, Laura was apparently considering either extorting or simply exposing Ben Horne with her knowledge of their affair.
Role on seriesEdit
At the start of the series, Ben is recruiting foreign businessmen to invest in his plans for Ghostwood, an elaborate country club that would take the place of Twin Peaks' scenic Ghostwood Forest. His plans are interrupted when Laura Palmer, the daughter of Ben's lawyer, Leland Palmer, is found murdered. The murder both puts Leland out of commission and gives Audrey the opportunity to paint Twin Peaks as a dangerous place, frightening away her father's potential investors.
As the first season progresses, Ben attempts to juggle his various personal and business problems in light of Laura's murder. While putting on a brave face and acting on behalf of the stricken Palmers to retrieve Laura's body and transport it for burial, Ben's true vulnerability is revealed when Cooper confronts him with knowledge of his affair with Laura.
Following Laura's funeral, Ben pours all of his energies into obtaining the Packard Saw Mill land, some of the most valuable real estate in Twin Peaks. He hires local drug runner Leo Johnson to burn down the mill with Catherine trapped inside, and then obtains the services of hitman Hank Jennings to murder Leo so that no one will ever know the two worked together. Ben's plan goes terribly awry, though: The mill doesn't completely burn; Catherine's body is never found, which prevents Ben from collecting on her life insurance policy (a matter further complicated by Catherine having made an intentional clerical error to foil Ben in the event of her death); Leo survives being shot by Hank; and Audrey is kidnapped by the staff of One-Eyed Jack's, who intend to use her to extort Ben for millions of dollars while simultaneously enacting a hostile takeover of the business. Ben begrudgingly gives Dale Cooper the requested ransom money, then hires Hank to trail Cooper, kill everyone involved in retrieving Audrey, and bring back Audrey and the money himself. Ultimately, Cooper himself rescues Audrey and returns to Twin Peaks with both her and the money intact. The matter allows Cooper to see Horne's darkest side when he learns that Ben was going to use the crisis as an opportunity to have Cooper murdered, as he disapproved of Audrey's crush on him.
Shortly after Audrey's safe return, a misunderstanding in a clue provided to Cooper by MIKE leads to Ben being arrested for the murder of Laura Palmer. With Leland simultaneously under indictment for murdering the man he believed to have killed Laura, Ben is left with the incompetent Jerry as his lawyer, his only advice being, "Get another lawyer." Simultaneously, Catherine Martell re-surfaces, alive and well, having survived the fire. Posing as a foreign investor, she first arranges for Ben to purchase the Mill Land and Ghostwood from Josie with a bogus check, and then blackmails him into signing over Josie's 50% to her in exchange for an alibi as to his whereabouts the night Laura Palmer was murdered. Desperate, and stunned at having been conned, Ben signs over his deed to Catherine, who then reneges on her promise to provide him with an alibi. Ben is left trapped in jail, where he begins to break down and reminisce about his childhood.
Eventually, Ben is used as a pawn to draw out the real killer; Cooper brings him to a meeting of suspects at the Roadhouse, which is also attended by the Great Northern's elderly room service waiter. The waiter, under the influence of The Giant, identifies Leland Palmer-- under the influence of the demonic spirit BOB-- as Laura's killer. In order to trap Leland, Cooper lies and tells everyone that he has positively identified Ben Horne as the real killer, and then gives Leland permission to accompany Ben to the jail to act as his counsel. Leland/BOB, unaware of the ruse, accompany Cooper and Ben to the jailhouse; just as Cooper and Sheriff Truman are about to lead Ben into an interrogation room, they hold him back and throw Leland/BOB inside, trapping him. The revelation shocks Ben, who can only mutter "Leland..." before he is allowed to go home.
The series of traumatic events breaks Ben, who slips into a deep depression before ultimately suffering a nervous breakdown and a psychotic break. Ben becomes convinced that he is a Civil War general, leading the South in a victorious campaign against the Union. His psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, theorizes that Ben is at least partially aware of reality, and that his fantasy is an attempt to reverse his recent misfortunes and start anew; if he can lead the Confederacy to victory, i.e. "rewrite the past," he can then rewrite his own past and have a fresh start.
Jerry, Audrey, and Bobby Briggs, under Jacoby's direction, serve to enable Ben's fantasy up to a surrender of the Union at Appomattox. Ben suffers a blackout, from which he awakens with a desire to atone for his past sins, whilst simultaneously seeking peaceful revenge on Catherine. To meet both of these ends, Ben launches an environmentalist campaign to prevent Catherine from re-building the mill or building anything in Ghostwood; he learns that the forest is the habitat of an endangered species, and manages to get the majority of the town on board to block any of Catherine's real estate developments. He makes a genuine attempt to atone for his past crimes, gives up smoking, and begins building a close relationship with Audrey (to whom he begins to teach the family business, with the intention of one day passing on the Great Northern and Horne's to her). Around this time he also loses his brothel to one of the Renault brothers.
As part of his "new life," Ben attempts to make amends with Mrs. Hayward, with whom he had an affair seventeen years ago, an affair which is highly implied to have produced Donna Hayward; Ben wants to both make up for his indiscretions with Mrs. Hayward and get to know the daughter he never had. In the series finale, Ben comes to the Hayward home to reveal everything to a heartbroken Donna. Enraged, Doc Hayward, Donna's father, violently beats Ben and splits his skull open on a piece of fireplace equipment. It stays uncertain if Ben was killed or not.
Red herring for Laura's killerEdit
At least two scenes were filmed to lead fans to believe that Ben Horne was Laura's killer:
- In one episode, MIKE takes Cooper to the Great Northern, where he claims the killer is. When Ben Horne approaches Cooper and MIKE, MIKE has what amounts to an epileptic seizure and says that the killer's scent is on Ben. Only after Leland is revealed as the killer does the scene make sense and exonerate Ben-- Leland and Ben had just been alone together in a room.
- More blatantly, a scene was filmed for Episode 14 where Ben is revealed as BOB's host. The scene was filmed so that it would spread false rumors and draw people away from the possibility of Leland being the killer. The scene plays out exactly as the one originally broadcast, wherein Leland looks into a mirror to reveal the face of BOB before killing Maddy; however, here, Ben Horne is in the Palmer house, and it is he who murders Maddy. The scene was never broadcast on TV and is not included in the Gold Box DVD set.
His last name is based on real life department store owner Joseph Horne, founder of Horne's in Pittsburgh where Mark Frost is from, while his and his brother Jerry's first names are based on the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's.