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Lance Henriksen Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Lance Henriksen

This is an interview from March 23, 2011 with Lance Henriksen from the Syfy movie Scream Of The Banshee. In "Scream of the Banshee," when a college professor opens a mysterious and ornate box discovered hidden in the tunnels under her university, she and her students hear the horrifying scream of a bloodthirsty Banshee. Everyone who hears the scream is fated to die a strange and terrible death. Now the professor, her daughter and a few of her students must try to stop the Banshee.

Question:
You've had this vast career and you've done so many things, including now the autobiography. If you had to pick one, only one, which has been your very favorite and why?

Lance Henriksen:
It's always the last one, it's always the last one. Because it's so present in your body even. I liked Scream of the Banshee because it was a real challenge. When I got down to Louisiana there was a plantation that we were shooting in a big plantation house. And it was already decorated with a lot of mannequins and things like that. And I thought, "How am I going to pull off this character, I mean, if this is where he lives?" And I thought, "Oh man, I'm going to go for it." And I'm playing a guy who is a professor and he's been fired and he has a secret and he's suicidal; he's got all the defects of character that an actor loves to play. So I had a really great time. I really did.

Question:
How did you initially get involved with Scream of the Banshee?

Lance Henriksen:
Well they called me and asked me and sent me the script. The usual issue. They want to know if you're interested. And I read it, and I thought, "This is really interesting." And also, I love the concept that if you're not acting, you're not an actor. You're more scheming. And you know I'd rather be an actor. So I say, "Yes." Well, what happens when you say yes is you have an adventure. That's the point.

Question:
What made you decide to write an autobiography?

Lance Henriksen:
It happened really by accident. I didn't know if I could be that honest by writing a biography, because I have a lot of stories. And I had done a thing called Red, White and Blue, which was an anthology of horror films. I narrated it with a man named Joe Maddrey, who's a writer. And he came to my house and said, "Lance would you do this?" You know, "Would you consider doing this?" And I like Joe so much that I completely relaxed.

And as we got into the book I said, "Joe if I can't be honest half way through this, let's stop." And he said, "Okay, if that's the deal that's the deal." And so we started, and the more I worked on it, the more I enjoyed it. So it ended up being something that I'm proud of. You only do one, you don't do a sequel. You know there's no Bio 2, you know. So I put everything into it. Another thing that's going on with it, we got some of the best comic book illustrators to illustrate the movies because I wanted it to be accessible to the fans. So I'm very excited about that. It's a very interesting book.

Question:
What was it about this character and about this film that made you want do it when you read the script?

Lance Henriksen:
It's like taking a chance. I had finished a film and there's an ironic twist to all of this. What they challenged me with was somebody completely different than anything I'd ever considered doing. The guy is a fired professor living in a plantation in Louisiana. And his whole world is like, a guy that's sort of hiding out. And he's suicidal and he's a real wacko. And I thought, "I would love to play this guy only because there's no edges to it." I actually asked for the smallest gun possible. And he toys at committing suicide on video, but never does it.

And so he's got such character defects that I thought, "Man, it's the closest thing to comedy without making it a comedy that I could do." And not that I think I'm funny, I think situations are very funny. And they can be dark or they can be anything. So I really had a great time on it, and I knew I would because the people were very supportive down in Louisiana, the company. And so was the director. He just let me cut loose, so I had a great time. Wait till you get a load of my hairstyle, you're going to love it.

Question:
So you're associated, in a lot of people's minds, with that whole Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre. Is that something that you've sought out over your career, or is it just really how it worked out?

Lance Henriksen:
No, it just worked out that way. If I would had been born 30 years earlier I would have been in all the Westerns. It's just the way that the industry goes. I mean back in the day there were reasonable budget Westerns. The kind of running around the same rock on a horse. But here we are in an age of a lot of different kinds of fears and things. And then, so you have science fiction and horror genre doing our morality plays the same way that they would have done in Westerns. And so I really accept it. I absolutely accept it. Because in every respect fantasy, it's like doing abstract paintings. I mean it's just the era that we're in.

Question:
You were in a Nicholas Gyeney independent film called the Penitent Man?

Lance Henriksen:
Yes, yes. When I read that script and when I finally met Gyeney, he was like 23 years old. And I thought he had written something beyond his years. And I thought it was well done. You take it on and try to find the core of it for yourself as an actor. And I really enjoyed working on it, I truly did. It was very difficult, but it was worth a try. And the outcome is certainly out of my hands. And I'm grateful that I had a chance to do it. Yes, he's a bright guy. He's a very, very bright young filmmaker. He'll go far I'm sure.

Question:
How does it feel to be in Syfy's 200th original movie?

Lance Henriksen:
Is that right? Wow. That's pretty cool man. I've always liked Syfy. They really try to do something. So I'm really happy about it buddy. It's coming right on at a very great moment. I've got a biography coming out; it's called Not Bad for a Human. And it's coming out May 5, on my birthday. And so it's like when you do something current like this and it comes out at the same time as your biography it's that great timing thing that works out. I'm really happy. I hope people like this. I think they will.

Question:
The film looks reminiscent of Pumpkinhead with a Southern setting. Did you get that feeling at all on set?

Lance Henriksen:
Yes, it's plantation. When I arrived down in Louisiana and I saw the local, it was this beautiful, like this columned plantation house. And it was really wacky, I mean the whole yard was full of mannequins and the inside of the house was eccentric as you can get. And my favorite thing about it is I'm playing a fired professor who again, is suicidal and he's toying with the suicide and putting it on video. He's a real eccentric.

As an actor I like those character defects to try to play them in an interesting way. Because it's certainly been done. Defects of character have been done a lot in movies, and I really enjoy it. Enjoy the challenge. It's a little bit like trying to play Bishop after you had Rutger Hauer and other guys performing an android. Well how are you going to come up with your own? And I found a way, but it wasn't being competitive. If you were trying to be competitive with those guys you'd burn. You'd crash and burn.

Question:
The character's kind of wacky, and something different than what you've done before. How much leeway did you have with injecting your own style into the character?

Lance Henriksen:
Well my director just let me go. I told him what I wanted to do, based on what I saw and what I read in the script. And he just said, "Do it." The first thing I asked for, "What is the smallest gun I could use in the movie that could actually kill you?" And then they found it for me, we started off on a great footing. And Lauren Holly was wonderful in the movie. And I got to smell her hair when I grabbed her around the neck.

Question:
Can you talk about working on Millennium and also with crossing over to The X-Files as well?

Lance Henriksen:
Millennium was a three-year experience. We did 60 shows in three years. So that was a lot of shows. And working with Chris Carter, and these great writers they had on it. I think we were a little ahead of our time at the time. Chris doesn't think that, but I do, that it was going in a direction that, a couple more years and we would have really made a mark a lot larger than we did. Even though some of those shows I was very, very proud of. Like at least half of them. It was tremendous amount of work. We're still thinking that we should do a movie.

Even after all these years it would be amazing to do it. So much has happened you brought up The X-Files, the crossover to The X-Files was to me a little odd. Because when you think of all the things that happened since that problem with computers in 2000, that they wouldn't turn over. Everybody was afraid and they were buying water. It was a crazy moment, but nothing happened.

And then everything that's happened since, imagine what Millennium would do with all the things that are going on in the world right now. So it has the capacity to be a movie. But anyway, yes I loved doing it. It changed my life because the guy that I was playing was so much more educated and smarter than I was, so I had to live up to it. And I learned a lot. I really did.

Question:
So what would be your ultimate dream role?

Lance Henriksen:
There's a potter that lived back in 1800s, out of Biloxi, Mississippi, and his name was George Ohr. He was of Russian descent, but they called him the Mad Potter of Biloxi. And I'd love to do a great character study, comedy about that guy's life. That would be my dream role. I know it's an oddball thing, but it's true. It's a true story. He lived at the turn of the century in the 1800s.

Question:
It looks like you have a lot of other projects coming up. Is there any that you can talk about?

Lance Henriksen:
Yes, the one that I'm proudest of, on May 5 my biography's coming out. And Jim Cameron gave me the name for the book, and it's called Not Bad for a Human. And all of the illustrations in it are done by some of the best comic book artists in our country, and even in Australia; Ashley Wood, a lot of guys from America. And to make it more accessible to the audience that I care about, which are the genre audience and science fiction audience.

So I'm very proud of it. We just finished it. We worked on it for over a year with a writer named Joe Maddrey. So I'm very proud of that one. That's a big moment for me. Again I have to say it, there is no Biography 2, you just do one.

Question:
Do you have any advice for people that want to act?

Lance Henriksen:
Read my book. I do have advice for people but it's not advice from a pulpit. Believe me, it's more tangible than that.

Question:
You're a Writer, an Actor, a Painter, a Potter - you're kind of a renaissance man. Where does that creativity came from?

Lance Henriksen:
You've got to promise me something, you'll read my book. It's called Not Bad for a Human. It's coming out May 5. But I'll answer the question. When I was a kid, it was all the parents and grandparents came out of the depression era. And they were all freezing bread in their freezer and they were covering their sofas with plastic. And they had plastic runners on the floor.

And there was a great distance between them and anything authentic. And that really, my whole childhood, it made my skin curl. And it was an automatic response that a kid has, because we're all about looking around and then something authentic we were looking for. And fantasies, you know? And so I think that drove me into the arts, I really do. And I think the only other thing that made me survive as a human being was getting into the arts. That's for sure. I'm surrounded by people that are very bright and, they invite you in. You know what I mean? They're gracious And so it gave me a great education.

Question:
Do you watch yourself on TV or the big screen? And what thoughts do you have about that when you watch?

Lance Henriksen:
No I don't. When I'm making a movie I never watch the dailies, I see the movie once and that's it. Because it's really not about that for me, it's not about the externals, it's when I'm on a set, I don't want to see it, I want to be subjective in it. And so that's sort of my habit now. So I stay sort of a subjective because that's what I do, that's my career, that's one of my abilities.

After we've done all this talking today, I'll be really sick of the sound of my own voice. So it's the same thing, you know what I mean? I don't need to watch it because I've had the adventure. I mean for me it's all an adventure. I don't do low-budget acting, I just do the same acting whether I'm in Jim Cameron's movie or - it doesn't matter. I try to do good work. There's no snobbery in there.

Question:
Are you still in touch with Brittany Tiplady?

Lance Henriksen:
I've talked to her. Yes, she's a grown woman now. And very beautiful and she's got the same eyes. That's what blew my mind. I hadn't talked to her in, I don't know, maybe ten years. And then when I saw a picture of her I went, "Oh my God." There she is and she's bright and she's full of life. And yes, I was really happy about it. Because one of the things that happened was right after Millennium I had a little girl of my own. My wife gave birth. And I remember the whole time I worked with Brittany, I really felt like she was my kid. It was a wonderful relationship. So yes, she is the most wonderful actress. I mean a wonderful child, let's put it that way. Because most of the time she wasn't acting. But she had the skill to remember all the things she had to do. But she was a great human being, of course, naturally. All children are.

Question:
Since your book is going to have the comic book artistry in it, are you considering attending Comic-Con this year?

Lance Henriksen:
I can't. Only because if the crowd is too big, it's 180,000 people, it's too much for me. I took my daughter down there, my 11-year old, and all I did was spend all my time worrying that she was going to get lost, you know? Because you're caught between somebody with a sandwich in their hand and somebody, you know in a costume. Yes, it's like really crazy. I might go visit it one day, but I couldn't do any more than just visit. I love it, don't get me wrong, but that's just too big. I'm going to be at a lot of other conventions this year, you know with the book and everything.

Question:
What particular scene are you most proud of in this SyFy TV movie?

Lance Henriksen:
It's the retelling of the screaming of the banshee myth. My role in it is just this eccentric, suicidal kind of, fired professor who's discovered something and he's trying to - he doesn't know how to live it and he doesn't know how to live without it. And he pays the ultimate price. In every way, I really enjoyed doing that show because the director gave me free run. He just said, "If that's what you want to do, go for it man." And he supported it. It's a crazy character I'm playing. I mean I, you know, I can't wait till you see it. It's really bizarre.

Question:
Did the other actors that were with you in this, did they ask for notes from you and advice?

Lance Henriksen:
No, no, no. I was too busy being this guy. Lauren Holly and these people, when I first came on the set, they looked at me like, "What the hell?" They didn't know what I was doing or what I was going to do -- which is really wonderful. It's a wonderful moment. So we really had a good time down there. And working in Louisiana, they were very generous. It was a terrific location as well.

Question:
What's your favorite Western project you've worked on?

Lance Henriksen:
Well you know, there's been four of them; Appaloosa with Ed Harris, I loved playing Ring. You know, and then before that I did a movie called Gunfighter's Moon. And then one of my favorites of all time was with Jim Jarmusch, we did Dead Man. You know, I was in that with Johnny Depp and all of that. You know, I ride really well and I shoot a gun really well. And I love the genre because I knew Rex Rossi, who was a guy that had been bought by Tom Mix to be in his, you know in his Wild West show.

And Rex was one of my best friends. And he taught me how to ride and do trick mounts and all that kind of stuff. And once I did Westerns I was hooked. But it sort of was the end of the Westerns in a way. You know, there's been very few of them made. But I love them. They're morality plays and you know I never wanted to play a guy who was acting like a cowboy, rather you know, play someone who had a real life and then he also was trapped into situations.

So a little bit like comedy. I don't think I'm funny but I think situations are funny. And I don't think I'm a killer, but situations could force you to do things that you, you know, you have to do. So you know I mean it always is - well, to what degree. Everything in acting is about, "To what degree are you asking me to go?" I'm grateful for the work I've been offered.

Question:
Do you still sell your pottery?

Lance Henriksen:
No. I don't want to ever sell it. I just you know, it's the one thing I've got. You know, there's one thing in life that I won't do - I won't do music. Because I'll feel like I'm the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral and I just want music to stay pure and I want to listen to it and enjoy it, dance and you know.

But pottery is a little bit like that for me. I just want to make it and stack it up in the corner and look at it occasionally. And go on to the next adventure with it. Because I do love it, there was a time when I first started in pottery where I had to make 1000 cups. And I thought, if I ever have to do this again I'm never doing pottery again. I'm just protecting that wonderful gift I've been given. You know, that I know how to do it, I love it. I really do.

Question:
So, would you ever be interested in writing or directing?

Lance Henriksen:
I think I would co-direct because I love actors and I've got a very good eye. You know, I'm not a second guesser so much as I see what's going on. But I don't think that I would be very happy with, you know getting inundated by financial issues. I mean I would love to co-direct with somebody because that would be a real freedom and an adventure and of course leave all the pain and misery to them. I'm not glib about it. I would take the responsibility to make a really good movie but you know what I mean? I know what my strengths are.

Question:
You keep talking about your book; do you have a Web site where we should read about it?

Lance Henriksen:
Yes if you go on the Internet the Web site is Not Bad for a Human.

Question:
Do you gave any upcoming movies?

Lance Henriksen:
Yes, I've actually got an offer to do a movie in the month of May. There's a movie I'm very proud of that I've already shot the first 20 pages of, and it's called Ambush. And it's a character, I'm playing a guythat's very similar to Ted Turner, he's a billionaire. And it's going to be a very good movie. The first 20 pages were a fight scene, that's why we did it first. And so it's going to be directed by Joe Bauer, who's a really terrific guy. So I'm very, very excited about that. And that's coming up very soon.

Question:
The creatures that you've faced in your career have surely fueled the nightmares of the world. Do they appear in your nightmares or does being behind the scenes eliminate that? And, of all the creatures you've fought, which one do you think you could actually defeat in real life, if your life depended on it?

Lance Henriksen:
The only one that's appeared in my dreams is the one from Aliens. Giger's version of that necromancy, it's almost like a tic. It's very, very much, somehow attacking our core, a reptilian core. That creature is something like a baby and tic combined, it's very frightening. And so, and it strikes that unconscious core. And that one I had scared the hell out of me. I mean it really did.

The only one I think I could beat, if my life depended on it, would be the Predator. Because you know if it was in my territory, in my domain, with the guns that I've got, I think I could hurt him pretty bad. I mean, that's the only one though. The rest of the, - when you get into metaphysical creatures, they don't play fair.

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