Saturday, 23 November 2013

interview: Lance Henriksen

I interviewed Lance Henriksen twice in 2006. The first time was in April, sitting in the Romanian countryside in the middle of the night. Lance had just arrived to recreate the role of Ed Harley in Pumpkinhead III and IV and we found a corner to chat about what he was expecting. This was one of several interviews which were frustratingly lost when a cassette turned out to be defective but Lance very kindly agreed to a phoner once he was back in the United States and this second interview had the advantage that he could talk about his experience on the films, not just his expectations.

What were your thoughts when you were first approached about reprising Ed Harley in a Pumpkinhead sequel?
"Well, I didn’t think it was possible. I was trying to figure out what they were going to attempt. Then when I read the scripts and I realised it’s a ghost and it’s a metaphor, the kind of character that has very little power and all he’s doing is pointing the way, I thought: depending on the directors, this could work. I didn’t think it wouldn’t work, I thought it would. Then, when I met these two different directors, it was a real shock because their enthusiasm was really full out and they knew the movies well. Not the second one but the original one. When I finally got over there I got pretty excited about it."

As an actor, how do you go about recreating a role which you last played nearly 20 years ago?
"Mostly, as life goes on, there is a pathos to this character that I understand really well. The losses are great: he loses his son, he loses his life, he loses his world. And you really can’t be a ghost; what you’re really acting is the pathos of the whole thing, the whole event. Because I remember the event very well, I remember what I used to play that role. It never goes away. It’s funny, every role I do, it leaves its mark on me, it leaves its trail. So it wasn’t hard to resurrect - ha, resurrect - the pathos of the character."

Did you rewatch the original film?
"No, I didn’t."

When we say Ed Harley is a ghost, is he literally a supernatural manifestation or a psychological aspect of people’s thoughts, or is it left vague?
"If anything, what I was using is the area. Imagine in the Ozarks there’s a certain area, maybe a ten-square mile area, that is inhabited by all of this mystery and mysticism. When you get involved in it on a 24-hour basis suddenly you’re immersed in things that you don’t understand and things that are going on. I felt that Haggis was somebody who would live forever, she was somebody that would never die. Like Sybil, who asked for eternal life and finally was living as ash, begging to die. That’s what my idea for Haggis was. The area was the mysticism and had all of that heavy past to it, like the field at Gettysburg: it’s haunted and if you go there, you can still hear them charging."

This isn’t your first film in Romania, is it?
"Oh, the Romanians are great. They’re bright, wonderful people. Especially Castel Films. I love working in Vlad’s studio. I know him and I’m always happy to be there. Unfortunately the hours are long and I don’t have the social life, but I don’t really have a social life. It’s just a little bit isolated when you’re in another country and you don’t know the language, but other than that, it’s great. They’re professionals."

It’s kind of nice that, with you having had a role in a Hellraiser sequel, now Doug Bradley has had a role in a Pumpkinhead sequel.
"Yes, I know - it’s a small world. Hold your breath and we’ll all be in Romania."

Had you seen any of the earlier work by Jake West and Mike Hurst?
"No, I hadn’t. You know, with a lot of this you have to go on trust because what would it do? I couldn’t change anything that these guys are. Also, I wanted to see what they would be. I thought they were very different but both very passionate and prepared in their own ways. Mike was wonderfully prepared and knew what he wanted but he listened to ideas. I felt good about both of them. They’re very, very different but both, I think, very talented."

What are the differences in tone between Part III and Part IV?
"Look, this is my opinion: they’re completely different in their energies. I think that they ought to release both movies on the same day in a theatre in October, for Halloween. Have Pumpkinhead III and IV in the same theatre on the same day. because then it wouldn’t be apologising for having made a sequel, it would be saying: hey, come and have an adventure, come and enjoy yourself. That would work. I slipped around your question but I think it merits it. They’re really working hard, those guys worked their ass off."

Were you ever approached to be in Pumpkinhead II?
"Yes, I was. I was approached in Milan and I read it and I didn’t see anything that I could do in it. I didn’t feel that the script had enough of a concept to have a reason to make it, so I passed on it."

Are you surprised that Pumpkinhead still has a tremendous cult following, although it’s really just one small film from nearly 20 years ago?
"This has happened to me a few times now, because Near Dark is a cult thing and I’ve got the Aliens stuff going. It’s not a surprise to me anymore that somebody in the middle of the night would go, ‘I’ve got an idea. Here Lance, do this.’ That’s the way it is. I think that right now, people like to revisit something they approved of. Or maybe it’s always been this way, I’ve not lived long enough to really know. Sometimes when these things first come out, they get blasted. It goes from being sub-sub-sub-quality to becoming cult quality and then it becomes ... star quality or whatever. Almost as though our memories of our first girlfriends are so idealised that they ought to be canonised."

If these are successful and they made Part V or Part VI, would you be prepared to reprise Ed Harley again?
"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."

You keep yourself busy. What else have you got lined up?
"At the moment, I swear to you I don’t have anything in my mind. I’ve been offered a boxing movie - not me playing a fighter - but I don’t know what’s going to happen now. There’s a few scripts out there that are moving in my direction, I guess.”

interview originally posted 9th August 2008

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