Lance Henriksen

Lance Henriksen Talks About Aliens, Dog Day Afternoon and Democrats

(this interview originally appeared in issue #42 of Modern Fix Magazine 2005)

Interview Lance Henriksen

Sci-Fi director Paul Anderson’s (Resident Evil, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat) new film, Aliens Vs. Predator, is a ‘prequel’ to the Aliens series. It also happens to be the ultimate comic geek fantasy, with gossip about this film (and it’s premise, the race of Aliens versus the Predator species) going back over a dozen years and fueled extensively by the comic book of the same name, the videogame and of course, the appearance of an Alien skull inside of the Predator mothership in the film Predator 2.

Lance Henriksen is an accomplished actor who you may recognize from appearances on television (The X Files, Tales from the Crypt or Millennium)… but you probably know him from Aliens, Dog Day Afternoon, No Escape or any of the other 70+ films he’s been in. I spoke to Lance for a few moments at his home in Southern California.

You got into films while you were still a theater actor.
Yes, I did about nine years in the theater before I did Dog Day Afternoon. There’s some movies that shouldn’t even be on there… I call them ‘alimony films’. I’m not exactly proud of them, but I also had to make a living. Dog Day, that turned my life around. I never thought I was going to be doing movies and thought I was going to be in theater all of my life, but film, man. I love it.

At what point in your career did you ‘become’ an actor, making a living?
It really happened because of Dog Day. I’d done so many plays and loved it at the time, but once you do a couple of films, it’s hard to want to go back, unless you can make a living at theater. All the years I was doing theater, I made $100 a week and lived on couches. That got old… I loved the acting though. But in films, good ones… you can really do a lot more, you know?

Is there a sense of frustration when some films don’t seem to get the attention you know they deserve?
It’s timing. Everything is timing. You can almost attune it to meeting a chick. You meet her at the wrong time, nothing is going to happen, but meet her at the right time… I remember when Near Dark was opening, the company went bankrupt, so the first newspaper ad for that movie was the size of a business card. We were really disheartened, and since it came out at the same time as Lost Boys, which had a lot of money behind it, it didn’t do as well as it could of… which is sad, because I think our movie was better.

What about Tales from the Crypt? An excellent television show but it didn’t get recognition.
Oh yeah! Those shows were some of the funnest things I’ve ever done. I worked on one called “Yellow” and one called “Cutting Cards” which was hilarious. Two gamblers who played ‘chop poker’, where, if you lost a game, you then lose a finger. We ended up playing checkers with no arms or legs, pushing pieces with our noses. Tales From the Crypt was a little ahead of its time in a way. Everybody on that show worked for scale, including the director. Everybody was equal and well respected.

And while your main work is acting, you’ve also got your hand in the arts, ceramic arts. What’s that about?
I was a painter, and I used to paint murals when I was a teenager. I actually traveled the world painting murals for restaurants and places like that. Then I ran into ceramics. Now, I make big, 22″ ceramics. It’s labor man, I can’t just sit in my head as an actor. You have to have a life. Fox has given me world-wide rights to do tiles with AvP on them. I’ve also had shows in Santa Barbara, and I have a gallery in Pomona.

Speaking of Aliens vs. Predator (AvP), something confuses me. The character you previously played in the Alien films, an android named Bishop, is ‘killed’. Not giving away anything, can you tell us a little about your character in AvP?
Let me just tell you this: the character I’m playing is a multi-billionaire who made all this money in robotics, and his name is Charles Bishop Weyland, and he’s dying. The reason he’s on the expedition is that he wants to be remembered for something other then his money.

I couldn’t make it to the AvP panel at Comic-Con. How was it?
Aww, you missed out, it was great. They played one of the first fights of the movie, the first Alien vs. Predator confrontation. I hadn’t even seen that scene yet. The main thing is that this has been worked on, planned out for over ten years… I know the difference between a guy that says he did it, and a guy that actually did it. This thing is amazing. [Paul Anderson’s] a really bright guy and has already done a bunch of movies, but this is the homerun. It is so loaded with specific stuff it’s really amazing. I did a couple of Alien movies, but when I saw Predator, I thought it was fantastic.

It’s good when films like that hold up to the test of time. I just re-watched Aliens with the extra twenty minutes of footage. The extra half hour is about the best ‘addition’ to an already amazing film I’ve ever seen. You get to see the families on the planet, new alien footage, tons of stuff that you never saw in the original.
You know what it is, when it comes down to it, the studio looks at it and says “We can’t get enough screenings if you leave that extra 20 minutes in”.

Could this become a franchise?
I would think so. Why not? If they can come up with scripts. That’s always what it boils down to, the storytelling. That’s what fails in a lot of films I’ve seen: a bad script will kill a movie.

You just thought of a few movies when you said that, huh?
(Laughs) Oh god yeah, but… I can’t bad mouth films. I’m not a critic. I do have to tell you, the fans of the genre are critics, but the difference between Siskel and Ebert and the fans is that fans know the story, they study the details, so they’re usually better at critiquing the film. As long as they don’t get a neurotic obsession and tear everything down bit by bit. I talked to guys at Comicon that were really bright. I was impressed. There were also over 100k people! At the National Democratic Convention, there were 35,000. I mean, politics make me ill, but that’s major. And there’s a reason about that though, the attendance. It’s not just apathy… it’s because people are being driven out by all of this rhetoric. Nobody is talking real shit at all. When you hear [John] Kerry getting that, you know, hollow sound, the preacher sound (in Kerry’s voice) “When I do this…” people tune out.

Lately Hollywood seems to be teeming with political opinions, any thoughts on that?
I voted for Arnold ’cause California was in shambles… Gray Davis and all the characters in Sacramento screwed us with their pork barrel stuff. I’m really politically interested in people who don’t have anything to gain in politics, and I really thought that Arnold was going to do that. I like him, he’s bright, much brighter then people give him credit for. He’s also a billionaire, so he doesn’t need a penny. He doesn’t need to prove anything, so that was very attractive. I don’t find many politicians that I believe in. After 9/11, we got into a lot of shit, and I think it was so tragic. Now, you’ve got guys saying “We’re not going to negotiate with you, we just want you dead” and that’s a whole other deal. That changed my whole view of everything. The democrats, as far as I’m concerned, are just desperate to get in [to office]. I don’t see them saying anything except the same old shit… they just want to blame everybody for every fucking thing that goes wrong. It’s not about what goes right anymore. They’ve talked about Medicare for so long and haven’t done shit about it. When [Bill] Clinton did that retroactive tax and ripped everyone off, I realized that these guys, it’s like handing batons off to each other. Speaking frankly, it’s like, “We’ll fuck them this year, and then next year we can spend it!” This deal is something we’re not privy to. We’ll do all sorts of stuff this year, saving money, and then the next guy that comes in, he spends it all. There’s nothing written in stone in this country.

Anything else that you’re working on?
Actually, yes. There was a potter named George Orr who lived in Biloxi, Mississippi back in the late 1800’s. I really want to do a movie on him, play him and also do the film. He was a funny guy, a bit out there, and it’s also poignant as hell. I never will ever meet him again, and I think, using that as a lever, it will make people really aware of what it means to be in the same generation together. You and me, we’re in the same generation. I might go a little sooner, but we’re together now. That’s one of my passions, this movie. It’s in the works, but movies take time. It’s all about timing.