LANCE HENRIKSEN INTERVIEWED (2005): No rest for an old cold-eyed geezer

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LANCE HENRIKSEN INTERVIEWED (2005): No rest for an old cold-eyed geezer

Lance Henriksen in daylight is a strange thing.

As an actor - from his role as the android in Aliens almost 20 years ago through the Millennium television series in the mid-90s to the current Alien vs Predator movie - he's a man whose crumpled, carved features have always been half-lit.

He moves through shadows, then usually gets killed in some especially brutal manner.
So the open-faced, amusing man sitting in a suite at the Hilton is a surprise. He waves away a makeup artist and, after a firm handshake, makes unwavering eye contact of the kind which has stared down a thousand camera barrels, and tells one anecdote after another.

71DJZoIBaiL._AC_SY679_Henriksen, contrary to expectation after some of the roles he has played, is a thoroughly nice guy - which might explain why he has appeared in almost 100 movies, had countless minor roles on television, done theatre, and is now here to shoot a Visa commercial in Queenstown.

But as a nice guy who enjoyed working on Alien Vs Predator he has made time to talk up the movie even though not contracted to do so.

But he'd also just as soon talk about his pottery - he has a studio at his 5ha property in the hills of California - or tell a funny story about one of the worst films he made in which he had to sit cold and naked by a campfire in Africa and be jumped on by a big black man carrying a crucifix.

"I still don't get what that scene was about," he says.

Henriksen isn't so much a big name in movies as a familiar face.
He has acted alongside Al Pacino (in Dog Day Afternoon) and was in such big marquee numbers as The Right Stuff and Terminator as well as in cult flicks such as Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man.

But he's also played Charles Bronson in The Jill Ireland Story, was in Piranha Part Two, The Spawning and admits he might have been in a few too many sequels. His reputation lies in getting killed in dark, sci-fi thrillers.

"Only a percentage are like that, I've actually done a lot of westerns. But I love the genre because they are all morality plays, even though you've got monsters and rubber creatures running around.

51n_jJub2UL._AC_SY780_"You can't do every movie - although I do a lot of them - and the thing I'm longing to do is ... it's not that I think I'm funny ... but I long to do a situation comedy.
"I'm pretty slapstick in my life but nobody sees that. You get typecast. I'm from New York and I have a shit-detector that's outspoken. I'm very streetwise and the producers detect that. So they get me on a movie and kill me.
"I go into their offices and I'm sure when I leave they say, 'You know, he'd be great to kill'. I've been killed every way you can imagine."

Alien Vs Predator - directed by Paul WS Anderson - is a prequel to the two separate franchises and allows Henriksen his own little joke: his character is Charles Bishop Weyland, the name a hint at his part in the James Cameron-directed Aliens which made his reputation.

"I never thought I'd be in another Alien movie but Paul wanted a connection to the other films. I said there was a continuity in playing an android and a dying billionaire. The connection is that an android is not real so anything alive is fascinating to him, and guy who is dying is in the same situation."

New York-born Henriksen – who left school at 12, was itinerant for many years, at 30 could still barely read, used to have other actors read scripts to him and would memorise all the parts from tape recordings – says the four months shoot in Prague was long but among the easiest he has done, and was on sets as big as soccer fields. He also respected Anderson who was open to his ideas, although he knows his place. He might make a few small suggestions but largely leaves all that to the writers and director.

68547805_maxThis is the wisdom of years working his way up with some of the best. Names like James Cameron - who made Terminator and Titanic - are dropped easily into his conversation because they are old friends.

"I did his first movie back in Jamaica on a US$300,000 budget. When I got there I was a hungry young actor and they had no wardrobe. I was playing a harbour cop so I had to buy the clothes off a waiter. His jacket had epaulettes and his trousers had a stripe down the side. I gave him $100 out of my own pocket and I had some 'Save The Whales' buttons which I put on my jacket upside-down so you couldn't read them.

"Jim was in his hotel room making rubber fish because they didn't have a budget and so he was doing that himself.
"So in a way I have seen him through the lowest end of the business - and his next movie was Terminator so he took off at warp speed.
"But we had connected in a real sense through the labour of what we were doing.

"The challenge for me in a part is if it's something I haven't done.
"If I'm going to have a rough time doing it, then that's what I'll do. If I'm in the comfort zone, I can't. I have to get off-balance enough to be alive."

And, these days, the scripts keep arriving. He admits he's walked through a few roles in the past, was talked into the successful Millennium tele-series by its creator Chris (X-Files) Carter and is surprised he has managed that rare feat of juggling television and film parts. He prefers film because 16-hour days for 10 months on a television series takes it out of you.

Not that his film schedule allows much downtime. He's off to South Africa after Queenstown to shoot Supernova "about the sun exploding and killing us all".

Retirement? "There's no sense in it. There's always going to be a role for a geezer."

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