Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lance Henriksen: Acting Like He Means It

* recombined excerpts from various interviews tell a summary of Lance’s acting ethos in his own words*

The first thing that comes to mind is that, when I add up all the films, it’s an accumulation of moments.
Oh yeah, I have a lot of films coming out. I’ve been very busy and I can’t even remember them all. I did about 9 years of theatre-- New York, I did it up in Boston, I was in the Guthrie Theatre, Minnesota. I did a lot of little plays everywhere.
I love the concept that, if you’re not acting then you’re not an actor. I’d rather be an actor. So, I said, “Yes.” It really happened by accident. I have a lot of stories. I always try to do good work.
I’ve just been doing all kinds of work. If you check me out on IMDb, they don’t even have them all listed on there yet. It would be easy to say yes, but let me just say this: the only thing I respond to and respect most is labor.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a career right now and I would have faded out.
If they asked me to do a puppet show, I would try.
It was a wonderful creative process all the way around on that film, but that’s what my whole world is, because I’m desperate to take chances. I like to have an adventure with my portrayals. I’m not just in it for the salary.
Everybody seems to think films are easy to do and they really aren’t.
Again, for a young actor to be on those sets, to see the effort going into it and being a part of that whole process, it’s a wonderful thing to have happened in your life.
I think children are the only heaven I'll ever know when you really get down to it - my children are the only heaven I'll ever know. They're incredible to watch and they are the best of what we are.
When I was a kid, I would run away from home a lot, and I would go to the movies.
When I say ‘ran away’, I mean I wouldn’t ever go to school; I hated school.
I think that’s why school was so boring to me. Because they would talk about stuff that I thought I would never use. I had no interest at all and would just stare out the window all day. There’s no single way to do anything. School doesn’t necessarily produce functioning and active people.

And when I was seeing them (movies) as a kid I did detect the falseness of a lot of it, and I got an early image that if I told the truth I could do it better, and when great actors came along and some of these movies started changing into real character studies and people telling the truth about their lives with their performances I really knew there was a place for me.
Listen, I have a lot of flaws as a human being. Everybody has a certain amount of character defects-- one of the reasons I got into this industry in the first place was because really, in a lot of ways, it was the only place I could go. I've been a painter and an artist-- I love the arts and all I know is working from my intuition and that's where I'm at and why the role of Frank Black was so good for me-- it was a role that required lot of restraint and observation. Those are things that are natural to me anyway. And only because that's the truth - I'm telling the truth.
I think that drove me into the arts, I really do. That really did it. The only other thing that made me survive, as a human being, was getting into the arts. I was surrounded by people that were very bright and they invited you in. They were gracious. So, it gave me a great education.
Some movies you agree to do because you are not working and they ask you if you want to come to the Philippines. So, you say, “Alright. Yeah, why not,” and then you do the best that you can. You’re really just basically spending your time making chicken salad out of chicken shit, you know?
Again, for a street kid from New York with a third grade education – to be surrounded by all of this talent over the years has really been a gift for me.
My gratitude for that is always there and it’s the reason I take it serious and do the best work I can no matter what movie I’m in.
I don’t care if the budget costs fifty bucks; I’m still going to put the effort into it. I’m one of these people who never leaves a set. I’m always on set and watching what’s going on. Ever since I started I don’t like to go to the trailer and cool my heels I really want to be on the set. Even on Millennium I was that way. In terms of movies, one of the things that happens is that the more you’re there the more you pick up on things, and I don’t like to walk away from that.
But I feel pretty invincible in the sense that if I take a job on I'm going try to do something very special with it no matter what the limitations; and I’ve said it before and I really mean it, I don't do low budget acting. If I take a job on and the material offers any route that offers any kind of quality, I'll go for that route. It's like water seeking its own level, you know what I mean? There’s no way I’m going to get on there to humiliate or embarrass myself. I’m not responsible for any movie that I do. I mean, I’m really not. I’m responsible for my work, but not for the thing as a whole, and we all have to work.
Yes, but you know what though? Again, this is the alimony thing I was talking about earlier. Certain movies they say, “We’re going to pay you this amount of money. You should come get involved.”
I immediately start thinking, “Okay, alimony film.” They turned out to be really bad sequels, sub-par. You would hit the video store shelves and there’s my name in this horrible-ass movie. I don’t want to name the film, but what a complete piece of shit. It happens, you know. I’m not one of those guys who plans his career; I just sort of take what is offered.
When you get into a budget like that and these people are risking their money, even in an alimony film, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve really got to give it your all.
I know I don’t hold back. I don’t mock them or walk through it.
I can’t do that; morally, I just can’t do it. That’s been my career all over the place. I’m playing everything you can imagine and to me that’s the fun of it all. If I stopped enjoying it, I would quit entirely and just make pottery.
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 have a certain limit and I have always thought that somehow that was OK, that was all right to be an actor and have those limits and know them.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who know what acting is all about. What part of it is about is getting stimulated and have a reaction to it all. I try to get that out of anybody I’m working with, especially when you’re working on a budget that’s not very large. I think to myself that I’ve done enough of these movies to know that we are not going to be able to compete with a hundred million dollar movie. So, what are we going to do instead? Let’s use our imaginations and turn this film into something. Even a tiny, simple scene-– let’s turn it into something. That’s always my goal.
I’m always willing. The thing is, I’m willing for the adventure and if it’s a worthy adventure, I’ll go. Remember, I got these scripts ahead of time so I knew what they were. As soon as I know what I’m going for, if there’s something to do and I think it’s worth doing, I’ll do it. Sure, why not?
I’m not one of those guys who sits around trying to design a career: my career speaks for itself already! It’s some mishaps, it’s some great stuff: I don’t mean me, but the movies I’ve been in. Some have been extraordinarily good and some have been mishaps and others have been fine. I love working though, I really do. I love playing bad guys, but good guys that have a good thing going on, I like that too.
I think that no bad guy thinks of himself as a bad guy, and what they do is not bad all the time. I’m usually playing good guys that everybody thinks are bad but actually turn to be good guys.
But I don't only want to do the Hollywood ‘bad guys' or ‘good guys', it's about playing characters that have a full range of emotions.
It's a piece of entertainment where you investigate these types of characters and make audiences believe it, just what's going on and lead them down unusual paths.
I find a lot of inspiration in acting just comes in a flash and then if you pursue that inspiration you expand it and you see how it affects on the whole world.
We're not a usual creature, humans.
What I try and do with those roles is build a real dense character that has a life to him. I don't know if the movie worked, but the character really worked!
Anyway, it was putting together pieces of a character and I love that. Believe me, I love acting-- otherwise I wouldn't do it, I'd stop.
It was one of those times, again, where I was not working and when you say ‘yes’ to some things-– things can happen that will benefit your career. It challenged me and I like challenges.
Nothing you do in this business happens overnight. Sometimes it takes a couple of years, so I’m very patient. I don’t get lazy and I do the work now, knowing that down the road, something will happen with it.
I live with the kind of attitude of gratitude, believe me, that's how my life really wants to be and to be accepted in the industry like I have been, it's been wonderful, I have nothing to complain about at all!
So anyway, that's my struggle. That's not everybody's struggle.
I came into this business not because they invited me, but because they couldn't stop me.