The short, sad life of Jennifer Syme is not one that is often discussed these days. But during her 28 years, she made a significant mark on those around her and frequented the upper echelons of Hollywood celebrity. In some ways, this would bring about her downfall.
Jennifer Maria Syme was born in Pico Rivera, California on December 7, 1972. At the age of eighteen she moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the movie business. It was not long after that that she found work as an assistant to the maverick director David Lynch.
Lynch is a famously eccentric and boundlessly imaginative filmmaker whose masterpieces Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and The Elephant Man have redefined the way we think about screen storytelling.
One of his boldest experiments was the 1997 movie Lost Highway. Jennifer Syme snagged a cameo role in the distinctly arthouse and very ‘Lynchian’ movie. It is one of the very few appearances she ever made on screen, and certainly the most recognizable.
Following her work with David Lynch, Syme joined a music label leading to PA work for Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, as well as work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Following the tragic loss of her baby and subsequent relationship breakdown, Jennifer was said to be consumed by depression and heading down a bad path with a cocktail of prescription medication. She made an effort to start afresh with a role as a record company executive, but her downward spiral proved insurmountable.
On April 1st 2001, Syme attended a party at the house of Hollywood rockstar – Marilyn Manson. Jennifer and Marilyn met on the set of Lost Highway and apparently struck up a good friendship. Syme was reportedly driven home from this party by another guest shortly before sunrise, however, decided to drive back to the party shortly after.
It was on this drive back in the early morning of April 2nd that Jennifer Maria Syme was killed on Cahuenga Boulevard when her Jeep collided with a row of parked cars. She was ejected from the vehicle and died instantly.
Jennifer Syme’s mother, Maria St. John, later sued Marilyn Manson for wrongful death, alleging he had given her “various quantities of an illegal controlled substance”. Manson vehemently denied these claims and the matter was settled out of court.
She was 28 years old when she died and was buried beside her daughter, Ava Archer Syme-Reeves in Westwood Memorial Park.
Keanu Reeves has said that he found Jennifer Syme’s death “very, very difficult to cope with”. He also used his experience of grief in order to portray his character in the 2014 film, John Wick. In an interview, Keanu told reporters, “I thought it was one of the foundations of the role. I love his grief. I relate to that, and I don’t think you ever work through it. Grief and loss don’t ever go away.”
An eerie element of the case is the fact that the crash which killed Jennifer Syme virtually mirrored the crash which is a central plot point of the David Lynch movie Mulholland Drive.
The movie had wrapped prior to Jennifer’s death, so there is no way Lynch could have modeled the scene on what happened to her. But he evidently retained a great deal of affection for his one-time assistant.
Mulholland Driveis dedicated to Jennifer Syme. It is a testament to Jennifer’s quiet and unassuming influence that a great auteur like Lynch should feel inclined to dedicate one of his definitive cinematic statements to her.
Finally, in the quick clip below, Keanu himself gives what is possibly the most poignant take on life & death that only a human with his experience in the matter can deliver.