Between iconic androids, vicious vampires and enough coppers and creeps to wage war in a large city, Lance Henriksen growled his way to one of Hollywood’s busiest careers. These days it might be primarily genre gigs and videogame voiceovers but he’ll always be the man to us...
Are you the hardest working man in showbusiness?
I was doing Dog Day Afternoon and Charles Durning said to me, “Lance, you’re not going to work until you’re older.” I was 30 then and I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “You look funny.” But it’s kind of true. After I got past 60, my whole world changed. I’m even doing voiceovers, which is ironic...
In the ’70s, Pepsi Cola offered me $40,000 to do a commercial. I’ll never forget the lines: “You look good, you feel good and it shows.” I get there, they put me in a booth, I do the line and I step out of the booth to leave. I said, “I’m not gonna sit around listening to myself talk.” I threw 40 grand out the window because I was being idealistic. Now I do videogames, the [Verizon] Droid commercials... It’s funny how things change.
Tell us about your latest film, Scream Of The Banshee...
When I read the script the part was a little thin – I’m playing this dropout professor who lives in a rundown Louisiana mansion– so I played him as a gay, suicidal nutcase. I spent the whole movie walking around in a bathrobe.
Did you and James Cameron hit it off straight away on Piranha 2?
Yeah, because he had a work ethic. The first time I met him, he was up in his room making extra rubber fish, and then we were down in the parking lot making miniature boats to blow up.
How different would your Terminator have been to Arnold’s?
The difference between a dangerous, Machiavellian killer and a bulldozer... It didn’t bother me that I didn’t play it because I never expected to. I was doing a commentary with Gale [Anne] Hurd for the Blu-ray edition and I said, “I’ve been fighting this forever, Gale... I only went in to help Jim sell the movie to Hemdale [Film Corporation]. I dressed up like him, I kicked the door in and scared the shit out of everybody, then I left. Ever since, the press say I was supposed to be the Terminator.” And Gale said, “You were supposed to be the Terminator.” I’d pissed Hemdale off when I kicked their door in.
Cameron paid you back by giving you Bishop in Aliens...
I played Bishop the way I was when I was 12 years old. The whole time I was looking at people thinking, “If they treat me like shit, I’ll forgive them because I’m going to outlive them.”
What are your strongest memories of Near Dark?
Bill Paxton walked around with a black umbrella the whole time; he didn’t want the sun on him. We’d shoot all night then go to a truck-stop café in this little town called Coolidge, Arizona. We didn’t take our make-up off – we’d be covered in scars and dirt – and all the truckers would look up and go, “Oh, shit.” It looked like we were going to fucking slaughter the place for breakfast.
Weren’t you accidentally engulfed by flames making Hard Target?
It wasn’t an accident – John Woo made me do it twice! The first burn, there wasn’t enough fire so they put more rubber cement on and lit me up again. I got a little cooked on the back of both ears where they didn’t put enough gel. It didn’t even scab up, it just hurt. But that’s that, man. This is me. This is my story and I’m sticking to it.