Lance Henriksen is an icon of horror and sci-fi cinema. Having starred in the likes of Pumpkinhead, The Terminator, Near Dark and Aliens he has worked with some of the world's most influential directors including James Cameron, David Fincher and Kathryn Bigalow. As the android Bishop he's battled aliens and as Charles Weyland he's fought Predators. Indie eye-catcher It's In The Blood is Henriksen's 177th screen credit and he continues to work tirelessly gracing numerous movies with his beloved presence. Not bad, for a human...
Simon Bland: Hi Lance, huge thanks for taking the time to chat! I saw the movie recently and I'm looking forward to talking to you about it.
Lance Henriksen: Great man, yeah we had a good time making that movie I've got to tell you, we really did. It was a rough movie to make but it was terrific to do.
SB: You must get offered a lot of scripts, what made you want to get involved with It's In The Blood?
LH: Well, I like the father son issues because I have two children and there was something about it where I thought, 'if we do something here that's honest and don't get caught acting and that kind of shit...' because in a lot of horror films people tend to do histrionics as opposed to connection and so the real gift was that when I got there, Scooter Downey (Director) and Sean (Elliot - Co-star) were very available to really find a way into this movie where we were improvising. A lot of the dialogue that you're seeing in the film was all improvised. So we had a script and we had a good script but in the situation of movie making as you probably know, they say 'Action!' and you go. I remember Marlon Brando once saying 'Just because they say action doesn't mean you have to do anything' but the point I'm trying to make is that if you work on an improvisation before they shoot, when it starts to really work, that's when you roll the camera and we would always tail slate so we had a lot of footage and Scooter would actually shoot stuff when we didn't know he was shooting so it was a great experience for me because I love that kind of thing, that we find it, we discover it together and we're not like tin soldiers that are just reciting everything.
SB: Were there any specific traits that appealed to you in the character?
LH: Well you know at a certain age there's a really regrettable thing that happens. When people get older, especially men, and they lose a wife, they lose family, they lose a connection like that - it's really like doing hard time. It's like being in prison although a lot of men don't really talk about it that much. Writers do and people in the arts, but they don't really talk about what it's like. One of my favourite scenes is where he's sitting at a table by himself, he's telling this story about white noise, 'I didn't pay the television bill and I drink and my life has become white noise,' - I mean that's a pathetic dark thing and that's besides the guilt that he's feeling about what happened. It's a very complicated thing because everybody's fighting it but it's inevitable. If you, late in life, divorce your wife or lose your wife, one of the things that happens is that it's not that easy to find someone else so you end up being isolated like an old lion out on the Serengeti plain who's bee ejected from the pride. So there's that level, the other is that he has a job, he's trying to make it in the world, he's a sheriff of this little spindly-ass town. And then there's the son and he's been making an attempt to...I'm certain that at one time of another this guy thought of suicide but that's another issue You see there's so many levels to this thing and I was never trying to play it like a dirge, I'm not somebody who has that nature anyway, I don't like to go there because I see it a lot, people professionally suffering and there's so much suffering in that movie...God, my leg is cut off! That's one of my favourite scenes man.
SB: When you chose roles what character aspects excite you and make you think 'This will be a challenge'?
LH: Well there's so much to do in that movie. First of all I'm not from Texas so there's that whole world of Texas that I like. I actually like it, I've been to Texas many times and I love westerns, I've done about five westerns. I've always loved the idea, it's an American phenomenon, unless you're from Argentina, they have it too but certain countries have the understanding of what a western is. The Native Americans call horses the Sacred Dog and in a way I was thinking of Russell as a Sacred Dog.
SB: Chemistry is an important part of the film. How was it on set with Sean, did you have an instant chemistry?
LH: No we built that, we rehearsed for a week before we started shooting and we really did a lot of work. In fact we would drive to work every single day and drive home together so we talked, we talked endlessly and wouldn't let go of the connection once we made it. He's a great kid, he wrote it with Scooter.
SB: What were your first impressions of Scooter, were you confident that this guy knew what he was doing?
LH: No (Laughs). No, he looks sixteen to me, Scooter’s a very young looking guy. This is his first movie and Sean, you can see how young he is. They’re around the same age but Scooter looks much younger and I was worried. I remember working once with a guy from NYU and he was doing a school movie short, I was a young actor in New York, I was off Broadway and I’d done a lot of plays and I walked in and he said “can you do emotions? Like can you get angry and then laugh and do this and that’ and it was so collegiate and that was what I was afraid of. I walked out on that meeting by the way but Scooter was never like that. I was a little afraid of that before we started and we rehearsed. I remember before I took the movie I got my agent to get Scooter’s number and I called him and we had about an hour long conversation on the phone and I wasn’t auditioning him or anything like that but I wanted to get a sense of him, because I wanted to do the movie but I wanted to get a sense of how he reacts. So in the conversation I would throw out little red herrings and see if he bit and he didn’t, he was very, very bright and I think I felt that he was prepared in some way and I knew it was going to be an adventure, there was no doubt in my mind. I’m one of these believes in if somebody gives you a challenge then you take it and try to do it, you don’t sit and argue about it, you try to do it. And then when it comes time for you to want to do something and you’re challenging them, then they’ll do it for you too. I remember that car scene - Scooter was sitting in the back of that car and he came up with that idea and I went ‘oh, I’m going to kill you man this is going to be the end of my career, are you kidding me?’ The orgasm in the car, when I saw it I said ‘oh Scooter, I’m dead, man’ because I have no high octaves, my voice is kind of set in concrete now…
SB: Was that a hard scene to do?
LH: Oh yeah, shit yeah. Make a total ass out of yourself. I’d like to do that scene at a party…
SB: I'm sure you'd get lots of interesting looks if you did that at a party.
LH: Oh yeah or do it in a restaurant. There was a scene similar to that done in a restaurant but a woman did it…
SB: When Harry Met Sally?
LH: Yeah that’s it. After we did it I said, “this is When Russell Meets Sean’ but nobody wants to see a man have an orgasm. I was trying to make it sound like a reverend in a church, one of those crazy guys who gets up there and starts cutting loose.
SB: You've worked with a lot of high profile directors, what do you like a director to offer you and when do you like them to step back and let you do your own thing?
LH: Well, it’s a conspiracy making a movie; it’s a conspiracy to do good work, right. And some directors that I’ve worked with and I won’t mention any names, they don’t get you so it’s an uphill battle. You have to stick by your guns in terms of knowing the character you’re doing is going to work so you do it even if they don’t get you and then when they see the daily’s a week later they go ‘oh, that’s what you were doing’ and when they say that shit I’m thinking ‘yeah and you made me fight for every fucking inch of it’ – excuse my French – but I don’t say it. I have a real sense of story telling as well and then there’s the really great ones like Kathryn Bigalow, when we did Near Dark where she was a member of the vampire family, although we don’t call them vampires we call them Nocturnal Nomads and everything felt absolutely natural almost to the point where we all talked in shorthand. After a while there was no necessity to direct us we were there together.
SB: On the same wave length?
LH: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s all kinds, it’s an adventure.
SB: It's In The Blood is surprisingly touching at points. How much of that was on the page and how much was created on set?
LH: Well again, by the end of the movie, by the time we shot that…that was all improvised by the way even the scene around the fire. I made up that story about my wife, ‘she use to keep my balls in a box and she’d let me visit them’, all of that was improvised and we had become such a tight unit together that we were living that movie and that’s what you want. But again it’s give and take. It took them a long time to get the movie to the point where you saw it. They worked very, very hard at it and it’s his first movie and I think it’s a phenomenal movie on a lot of different levels. We shot that down in Austin Texas and the whole movie was basically outdoors, even the house that I lived in. Scooter took me out to the location at one point and I said ‘What? That’s my house?’ because it was a garbage dump, it looked great on film for the movie but you had spider webs and the roof was caving in and if it rained during the shoot we wouldn’t have had a chance, it was really the armpit of Texas, I’ve gotta tell you, if this isn’t the asshole of Texas, I don’t know but I can see it from here! But anyway it was perfect, it ended up being perfect but again this was a guy with a vision.
SB: One of the great things about the movie is that it allows people to interpret it in their own way. Do you have your own personal interpretation of the movie?
LH: Well what you saw on film is my interpretation but the idea of a monster being created out of someone’s anger - it’s a great idea. You could tell that story in many ways, you really could. You could almost say that the movie is a story being told by Sean’s character, that it could have been bookended that way but I like the way he did it and I like the way it was edited and the way it happened.
SB: As a relatively small movie, did you enjoy the freedom to experiment? I imagine on some of the bigger studio films you've done it's harder to add something on the day...
LH: Well especially if it’s a shitty idea. They guard their scripts because there’s so much money invested in the script, the script is their money, it’s their investment so a lot of people guard it but if you have a good idea…Jim Cameron would take my ideas and certain people that are confident in themselves and have a little bit of power even when they didn’t have any because they’re confident, you try things of course because you want it to be alive. Movie acting is not about being a talking head and spitting out lines.
SB: Are you a fan of the horror genre today?
LH: Sure, but certain ones, not everything. I really liked 30 Days of Night, I thought not only was the script great, Steve Niles worked on that but the director, he did such a great job., it was so complete that movie, it really was. If you’re talking about horror films that’s on the top of my list, I really loved it.
SB: I saw on IMDB that this is your 177th screen credit...
LH: I actually have more than that but I don’t like to talk about the alimony films…
SB: Is there a role that you'd still love to do, something that's close to your heart?
LH: Well I’m starting a movie on the 17th of next month called Champion and it’s a family story with a dog, it’s just a terrific movie, I’m not playing a bad guy and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s really good stuff and I’m going to be shooting that in San Antonio Texas again. Texas seems to be my good luck state! But anyway, there is a movie that has to be written, I already have one script but it wasn’t what I wanted but it’s a movie about a guy called George Ohr who lived in the late eighteen hundreds in Biloxi, Mississippi and he had ten kids and he was a potter but it’s a real person and he was so ahead of his time. If you can imagine Biloxi Mississippi back then - he was a true artist and very funny and very eccentric and that’s the movie that’s out there that I want to do someday, even if I have to direct it. I don’t want to direct, believe me I don’t, but I do conspire with directors enough to know that I could conceivably do it with somebody, both of us directing it but I want to play George Ohr. I want to do it before I have a walker.
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