Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lance Henriksen: Androids, Aliens & Gunslingers: Profile Of A Serial Actor

In honor and anticipation of the upcoming book Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium, and the folks over at Fourth Horseman Press, to be released soon this post is in dedication and support of the effort over at Back To Frank Black. It is also a tribute to the work of a prolific character actor, an actor whose journey culminated in one of the finest performances of his career and in one of television's great characters - the road to Frank Black. The book's focus is on the character Frank Black and the series Millennium and thus the actor who embodied the spirit of that series, Lance Henriksen.

In the run up to that exciting Millennium publication, we look at the journey of character actor Lance Henriksen through images.

This entry has been a work in progress and finally it is ready and not a moment too soon, because the time is near. This is a look at Henriksen's career and the many wonderful highlights along that road to Frank Black and beyond. Some are true standouts for me personally.

Watching those early seasons of The X-Files again recently, it was clear to me that Millennium had the benefit of a learning curve by Chris Carter as a production. Millennium had the benefit of roughly three years of The X-Files to its credit before moseying out into an unsuspecting world with a series that seemed to be perfect in execution and tone. Creators, producers and writers were able to get their feet wet on The X-Files and establish and finesse the rhythm for that series before climbing into the world of Millennium. Millennium was the recipient of those growing pains because it is nearly flawless on almost every level as a production, a heady, atmospheric mix of crime drama, horror with just the right touch of science fiction possibilities.

Further, Chris Carter and his team did a remarkable job casting each series. The young aesthetic of The X-Files cast plays into its raw power. The casting of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, as Special Agent Fox Mulder and Special Agent Dana Scully respectively, is inspired. They were young and clearly still learning on the job. The two demonstrated themselves as outsiders within the FBI. This energy and dynamic really plays out beautifully over the course of nine seasons. The young cast is given the chance to learn and grow and we, the viewers, mature with them.

Conversely, Millennium had the benefit of a veteran presence in Lance Henriksen. This was a seasoned actor who clearly had seen a thing or two. There was a confidence and experience to his grizzled character and Henriksen channeled that vibe naturally, effectively and via an appropriately mature calm for the Millennium series.

Duchovny and virtual unknown Anderson work wonders with the material on The X-Files and the length of that series allowed its strengths to truly shine. The shorter length of the Millennium production was a truly fortunate recipient to find the strength of a professional out of the gate like the shoulders of Lance Henriksen. The risky Millennium couldn't afford to get it wrong. It was the immense talent of Henriksen that was the core of the series grounding it through the transitions to each season as showrunners took Millennium into different, sometimes controversial, but exciting directions.

The strengths of Millennium's storytelling craft can be traced or drawn from some of the procedural exercises of The X-Files. Chris Carter's Fire and Glen Morgan & James Wong's Beyond The Sea certainly reflect the roots and seeds from which these creators would draw upon and take much deeper with Lance Henriksen at the Millennium helm.

But beyond the fantastic work provided by Lance Henriksen for the unforgettable Millennium series he has played key characters in a number of film roles before and after. These are Henriksen's highlights over the course of a varied career. This is by no means a complete filmography as his career has been vast and varied and, sadly, rather easy to miss at times. The title is meant to be fun. Lance Henriksen: Androids, Aliens & Gunslingers: Profile Of A Serial Actor.

Lance Henriksen Selected Filmography:

Dog Day Afternoon [1975]

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind [1977]

Damien: Omen II [1978]

The Visitor [1979]

Piranha II: The Spawning [1981]

Nightmares [1983]

The Right Stuff [1983]

The Terminator [1984]

Jagged Edge [1985]

Savage Dawn [1985]

Aliens [1986] "Right before we shot it, I went up to Jim and I said, 'Rather than just a casual demonstration, what if I put my hand over Bill's hand as I do this?' Jim said, 'That's a good idea.' So we did it... That one act tells you everything you need to know about Bishop. I put my hand on top of Bill's, because I was protecting him. Bishop wouldn't hurt a fly. He wouldn't hurt anything that's alive." "Aliens was a figurative rebirth into the world of acting, as well as a game-changer in his off-screen life."

Choke Canyon [1986]

Near Dark [1987] Jesse Hooker, "Held [the family] together like my alcoholic grandfather held the family together."

Deadly Intent [1988]

Pumpkinhead [1988]

House III [1989]

Survival Quest [1989]

Johnny Handsome [1989] "His strength as an actor is that there's such clarity in his emotions. He's got a wonderful ability to tap into his emotions, and to transmit everything he's going through - the anxieties, the anger, the happiness - so clearly. So you don't feel like you're watching a guy act; you're watching real emotions." [Walter Hill]

Hit List [1989]

The Pit And The Pendulum [1990]

Stone Cold [1991]

Jennifer 8 [1992]

Alien 3 [1992] "The actor was was... disappointed with the film's nihilistic ending, which seemed to him like an insult to the mythology created by the first two films."

Delta Heat [1992]

Excessive Force [1993]

Man's Best Friend [1993]

Hard Target [1993]

No Escape [1994]

Felony [1994]

Gunfighter's Moon [1995]

Aurora: Operation Intercept [1995]

The Quick And The Dead [1995]

Dead Man [1995]

Powder [1995]

Mind Ripper [1995]

The Hills Have Eyes III [1995]

Dusting Cliff Seven [1996]

Millennium [1996-1999]

The Day Lincoln Was Shot [1998]

Scream 3 [2000]

The Mangler 2 [2001]

The Untold [Sasquatch] [2002]

Mimic 3: Sentinel [2003]

AVP Aliens Vs. Predator [2004]

Into The West [2005]/ Supernova [2005]/ Hellraiser: Hellworld [2005]/ When A Stranger Calls [2006]/ Abominable [2006]/ Pumpkinhead 3: Ashes To Ashes [2006]/ Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud [2007]

Bone Dry [2007]

Appaloosa [2008]

Pistol Whipped [2008]/ Alone In The Dark II [2008]/ Screamers: The Hunting [2009]/ Slammin' Salmon [2009]/ The Penitent Man [2010]/ The Genesis Code [2010]/ Scream Of The Banshee [2010]/ Good Day For It [2011]

The Witches Of Oz [2011]

Beautiful Wave [2012]/ The Arcadian [2012]/ Monster Brawl [2012]/ It's In The Blood [2012]

Quotes extracted from the book Not Bad For A Human by Lance Henriksen and Joseph Maddrey.


le0pard13 said...

Fantastic post, SFF! He's been a remarkable actor for so, so long. The upcoming book' Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium' can't get here fast enough.

J.D. said...

What an excellent look back at this man's impressive body of work. Looking over his filmography it is pretty incredible what he's done, from historical biopics like THE RIGHT STUFF to a vampire western with NEAR DARK to science fiction with ALIENS to gritty neo-noir with JOHNNY HANDSOME. And that's just starting to scratch the surface!

I've been a fan of his for a long time and it is great to see him getting his well-deserved dues. It has been a long-time coming.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you both!

Tough to beat Lance Henriksen. It's incredible to see the transformation of Lance as an actor through this brief history of images. While not complete, it gives you a taste of the man's versatility that would one day positively embody the fantastic character of Frank Black.

TL foreman said...


Well done...great article. What amazes me is that this man didn't know how to read until he was 30. Recorded his dialogue on tape to learn his lines...that is amazing. We hope our upcoming book to Millennium does the show and Frank Black justice. We are extremely proud of this book and there is nothing like it on the market today. Thank you for taking part in the book as well SFF!

The Film Connoisseur said...

He's great in The Quick and the Dead, but holy crap, I'd forgotten he was that dude staring at the spaceships taking off in Spielberg's Close Encounters!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

My pleasure Troy.

It's definitely a book for the ages or, in this case, the Millennium.

As many of you note here, it's nice to see the actor and this character, Frank Black, get the acknowledgement deserved. It is long overdue.

Kudos to y'all Troy for staying true to your vision. SFF