LANCE HENRIKSEN'S pumped out 100-plus films in his illustrious career—and pumped out copious amounts of blood doing it. He also happens to be super nice! The gruff-voiced actor took time from his hectic shooting schedule to talk about a project he's proud of, It's in the Blood. It's the debut film from a pair of filmmakers from Kentucky, making its Portland premiere at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival (see "Of Cthulhu and Henriksen," this issue). Henriksen stars as a hard-drinking Texas sheriff who's trying to make amends with his estranged twentysomething son. Hoping to heal from a traumatic past, father and son head into the woods for a hunting trip—only to be haunted by guilt and a sinister beast lurking in the fog-enshrouded wilderness. Warning: There's a few spoilery references to It's in the Blood in this Q&A.
MERCURY: Hi, Lance. Thanks so much for talking with me!
LANCE HENRIKSEN: Hi, Courtney. It's really funny the route that [arranging this interview] took [via Dark Horse Comics' Scott Allie, who is a special guest at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival]. I'm doing a comic with those guys.
What's it about?
Uh uh. I can't tell you. The only reason I can't tell is they're going to announce it in December. I'm doing five different comics, so it's pretty cool. We've already written it. We're working on it now with [artist] Tom Mandrake. It's pretty cool.
Hey, this film festival is a pretty amazing thing. I think Scooter Downey, the guy who directed [It's in the Blood] is going to be there.
I watched the film last night and really enjoyed it.
Oh good. Good. That's [star/writer Sean Elliot and director/writer Downey]'s first film, which is quite an amazing feat. We shot that down in Austin, Texas, in the outdoors, the whole thing. That was a choice because of the terrain and the characters. I was playing a sheriff in a small town, obviously a small town because they wouldn't have put up with me otherwise. It was a pretty cool movie to work on.
How did you end up working on the film?
They actually sent me the script and then I had a long conversation with them on the phone. I think they were still in Kentucky at the time. And I just quizzed them on what their plans were and how they were going to work on it. Then when we got down [to Austin] we improvised a lot and finally found the characters. It was a real genuine process—it wasn't just standing up and shooting lines across the room.
Did you improvise a lot of the dialogue?
Oh yeah! It's pretty amazing isn't it? It's a very intriguing film, because you think it's one thing and it's another. I think the most important element of the film is that it had to be real, as in you never caught anybody acting in the movie. It always had to be something that was really going on.
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with the film in Portland. We have won so many awards already. It's becoming phenomenal how it's resonating with people in all kinds of places.
I like all the gory bits in the film.
Oh good. I love that scene. It was beautifully done.
I'm excited to see the audience response to it.
You know you've got a successful film when at least two or three people walk out because they don't like the scene that you talked about.
A knife plays a pretty prominent role in the film.
It's the third character or fourth character.
Did the filmmakers ask you to do Bishop's knife trick at any point with that knife?
No, they didn't. They were kind enough not to do that. Waiters ask me to do it. I even had a cop pull me over once, because I was speeding a little bit—not much. He pulled me over and he said, "Now where do you think you're going?" And I rolled the window down and he went, "Bishop!" Then he said, "Do the knife trick!"
Did he give you a ticket?
No. He said, "Get out of here. Just don't do it in front of me." It was a great moment. I have a few of those.
After Dog Day Afternoon, I remember... because I shot Sal at the airport—that was my role in the movie. I had a guy sitting across a room from me, pointing his finger at me like he had a gun. I thought, 'This is chilling. I don't want this.' And it went from that to a different time when a waiter comes over and tells me he has a script—he's an actor and he's got a script—and he handed me a butter knife and said, "Would you do the knife trick?" I said, "After you tell me the specials."
What sort of preparations did you do for your role in It's in the Blood?
We spent a few days rehearsing. Then in rehearsals, we did a lot of theater games to try to find out what that [father-son] relationship was going to be like. We did a lot of trying to find out what the power relationship was going to be. It's all based on the material, so it's not just playing theater games. We really wanted to find out what it was going to be like to be under pressure in this relationship, because I'm playing a father and [Elliot's] playing a young, estranged son trying to get back into the fold. I was trying to lighten him up, because he's a very heavy kid because we had terrible things happen in the past. There's a lot there. It's like a stew with a lot of ingredients. It's not just miso soup... a little piece of tofu floating in some fish water.
I'm sure this goes without saying, based on your career—but your character is put into mortal peril in this film.
Naturally. They kill me in about every movie I do. It's crazy. I have a 12-year-old and every time I get a script, she goes, "Dad, are you going to die in this one?" And I know she's asking because she hates it. My older daughter was the same way. I think I get killed about 75 percent of the time. The other 25 percent of the time I come out a hero.
The best monsters kill you though.
I've been killed by everything—hand grenades, burned, you name it.
The Terminator, the Predator, and Alien...
Sure. When I die in movies, they don't even tell me how to do it. They figure I already know. I've died every kind of way you can. This movie was really interesting, because what it amounted to was what most parents really fear. You don't want to have your children die before you. It's more than anybody can bear. One of the things that bothers me most in the news is children getting wiped out by their parents. I can't even imagine it. To have something like that happen would be the worst thing that could happen to a parent. You'd throw yourself in front of a bus to save your child.
This is off topic, but my husband would really like you to know how much he loved Millennium.
Oh great! Thank you. Tell him I said thank you.
Is there still talk of doing a Millennium movie?
We're trying. It's starting to heat up, because a book has been written with most of the people that have been connected with Millennium. So it's a little bit like Martin Luther nailing his manifesto to the door of 20th Century Fox and saying, 'Look, there's no reason not to do this movie.' So that's happening really quickly now—probably in about three months the book will be out. I want to do the movie. I think it's even more timely now than it was then.
I know fans would be really excited about that movie.
Oh yeah. There's a lot of unresolved stuff about how it ended. That's why it's lingering like it is. I think most fans feel the same way—actually, I don't call them fans anymore, I call them the "Tribe." I put out a biography—I know it sounds vain—and whenever I sign the book, I sign it "We Are Tribe."
What else are you working on besides the Dark Horse comics?
I'm leaving for Chicago to do a movie tomorrow. It's called The Caretaker. I'm very busy [laughs]. And I'm not complaining, believe me.
Well, thanks so much for talking with me, Lance.
You have a terrific day. What's your husband's name, by the way?
His name's Eric.
Say hi to Eric for me.