Lance Henriksen has been in so many movies, we could all have different favorites. Aliens and The Terminator are likely to come up on most lists, but with over 200 credits, everyone may have their own personal Lance Henriksen favorite. I wanted to talk about them all, but Henriksen joked about his attitude towards Memory Lane. “I stay off of Memory Lane,” he laughed. “That’s a bad neighborhood.”
This weekend, you can see him in the giant wasp movie Stung, in theaters and on VOD from IFC Midnight. Henriksen plays the mayor who joins a group of caterers fighting off an attack of giant wasps. I got to speak with Henriksen about his latest movie and as many classics as I could.
Nerd Report: When they call you and ask you to do another monster movie, do you have a sense of “oh no, here we go again?”
Lance Henriksen: No, no, no, not at all because all the nuances are completely different and a completely different group of people. It’s really the tone of the thing that encourages me, or I walk away from it. These guys all knew each other. They all went to film school together. They sent me a trailer of it, like a sizzle reel, just a small scene out of the movie they want to do. I saw that and I went, “Wait a minute, this is pretty cool.” So I was happy. I was really happy.
Nerd Report: What was the scene?
Lance Henriksen: It wasn’t actually in the movie but it was a guy running down a hallway with something chasing him, and it ended up being a wasp. I thought it was so well done, I thought these guys can make a movie. There was no doubt in my mind.
Nerd Report: Was there a point in your career where you realized monster movies were becoming your trademark?
Lance Henriksen: Yeah, but I’ve done an equal amount of westerns and thrillers, all kinds of stuff. Science fiction and horror films are morality plays. Remember back in the old days, all the westerns were always about a morality issue and that’s what they are. I’m headed out to do Badlands now so it’s fine with me because it’s good storytelling. They’re pushing the envelope.
Nerd Report: Have special effects changed a lot between Aliens and now?
Lance Henriksen: Aliens was practical effects. I’ve done quite a few practical effects even recently. I did Harbinger Down with Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff. I also worked with Stan Winston who was all practical effects. There is a marriage happening now because CG is one thing and it’s sort of going back to where I thought it was going to be originally. You’re using CG because that’s the only way you can do it, either budget wise or the physical aspec of something that they’re trying to pull off. So the practical effect is coming back.
Nerd Report: What did you think of this character when they described him to you, the elder statesman mayor?
Lance Henriksen: Oh, I loved it because I love to show that politicians are a little more ragged than they pretend to be, so I felt really good playing him. I like it. The only way you can get back at things is through your art. I had a very good time. It’s a combination of all the idiocy that I’ve seen over the years.
Nerd Report: You have hundreds of movie credits. Do you remember all of your roles?
Lance Henriksen: No. No, because I would be a psychopath if I did. I finish a movie and I walk away from it like a cat leaving a cat box. They don’t look back. Otherwise I would be storing up way too much stuff. I have a real life too and it’s a good one. I’m really happy.
Nerd Report: Do the big ones like The Terminator and Aliens stay with you?
Lance Henriksen: Memories and moments in that, but they all wrap around the people that were involved. That’s what I remember. I don’t think about scenes in movies so much as I think about the people that I work with.
Nerd Report: One of my favorites is Man’s Best Friend. Does that happen to be one you remember?
Lance Henriksen: Sort of. The dogs I liked a lot. They had seven dogs in that movie and they gathered them from all over the world and they trained each one of them to do something special. So it was great fun.
Nerd Report: I liked it because we had just seen so many lovable dog movies, I thought it was fun that the dog was the killer. You were sort of the Frankenstein mad scientist.
Lance Henriksen: Yeah, exactly.
Nerd Report: You talked about westerns earlier. Was The Quick and the Dead a good memory for you?
Lance Henriksen: Oh yeah, that was really cool. We were up in Tucson and you had all these guys who’ve gone on to really kick some ass. It was a good time and I especially like Sam Raimi. His enthusiasm about film was incredible. That trick that I had to flip off the horse, that wasn’t in the script so when I came up, I said, “Sam, I want to show you what I’ve been working on for shooting the card out of that little girl’s hand.” He got so excited, he was like a kid. That’s the way he is. He loves making movies.
Nerd Report: They let you do a flip? They didn’t have a stuntman do it?
Lance Henriksen: No, I did it.
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