All of this from a man who was illiterate until his 30s. Moviefone caught up with Henriksen to chat about the recent anniversary of 'Aliens,' whether he'd like to appear in a remake, and the rampant ageism in Hollywood these days.
A colleague of mine just interviewed Sigourney Weaver for the 25th anniversary of 'Aliens.' Can you believe it's been 25 years?
No, I can't, unless I look in the mirror.
I think you're one of those people who kind of looks the same throughout life. That ageless look.
We did a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly, and everybody was there. They asked me what I wanted to wear and I said, 'A double-breasted linen suit,' they said OK. I was joking.
When we spoke with Sigourney, she said that she has it in her to do one more movie with Ripley in it. What are your thoughts on that?
Oh, hell, that would be great, wouldn't it? Yeah, she's a good actress. I think that that's a poignant character in her life, for sure.
And Bishop isn't dead, technically.
No, not at all.
So you could come back as well, feasibly.
Well, there were more copies made, so it's possible. I'd come back for that, oh hell yeah. I'd probably go to Thailand and get a facelift first.
Well, yeah, you're not supposed to be human, so, I don't know. They could use some tape or something.
Yeah, like clothespins!
How did you approach playing an android-type creature?
Well, it wasn't difficult at the time and I look back on it and realize it was really an inspiration. And I found that if I played myself at about 12 years old, my emotional life anyway, that there's a great innocence in that, and I thought that this whole thing was about thinking that living things were quite beautiful. It was a critical moment for me, that movie.
In terms of actual real extra-terrestrials, alien life forms, what are your thoughts?
Well, it's become like a religion. It's all speculation about life forms from space. Not only are we speculating about it all but we're also trying to find the footprint in the sand as it were, and we haven't found anything.
Looking back over your massive career, is there a role that you think had the most impact on your life in general?
Always the last one. Always the last one that I did. Seriously. Because I don't look back over [my career] and think. 'Aliens' certainly has the biggest impact, it was like an epiphany turning-point in my work, but I just did a movie in Georgia and I played a "What now?" farmer guy, and I loved doing it. I really love the work, otherwise I wouldn't still be doing it.
And you've worked with amazing directors too. Is there any particular lesson that you were taught by any of them that you've carried with you?
The best directors are the ones that are most prepared and the most relaxed about it. I don't really enjoy working with directors that should be in front of the camera with all the dramatics, but I love the work. When someone's prepared, that gives you the freedom to really do your work.
Is James Cameron like that?
Jim is very well-prepared. He started like I did at the very bottom of the industry. He can do set work, he can do camera, he can do anything when it comes to movies. But I think he's evolved into something that I really love watching, which is he just keeps breaking new ground all the time and he won't settle. He wants the adventure, he wants the adventure as much as I do. I love it. Every question I get about Jim always starts with, 'Is he hard to work with,' that kind of stuff, and that's not the case at all.
I also read this fact about you: you were illiterate until you were about 30. That's unbelievable to me.
You're a writer, right? And you understand the English language from that point of view. And for me, if you don't need it, if you don't know about it, for years I was a painter and an artist and I never had to have it. I wasn't stupid, so I understood concepts and I could wrap my mind around it.
How did you manage to memorize scripts?
Well, the first movie, the first job I got, I got somebody to put it all on tape and memorized it that way. But the thing was, I'm a very quick learner and when I knew I had to have it, I started diving into it. And for a while, I had to use a lot of excuses like, "I need glasses, I have to work on this and come back." That kind of thing.
I think it's amazing that you managed to succeed so much despite it.
There is a good upside to this because I think in pictures, I don't think in words. You're a writer and I know you don't quite understand how anybody could not understand the English language, and I can't even put the commas in the right place or the spelling is a little off. But I thought in pictures, so it gave me an edge. When I read a script, I see it, I don't hang on the words. Because when you write a narrative, it still doesn't tell you how to do it. So, I approach it from a more primitive place and it seems to work for me so that's the way I have to do it.
You also do a lot of video game acting now.
I just finished Mass Effect 3.
Are there any games that you've worked on or any games out there that you think should be made into a movie?
I think the world of comics has really changed. I was just at Comic-Con and I think a lot of comics are being made into movies. But to me, I think video games really get their start out of comics. When I was a kid, I read 'Tales From The Crypt,' you know. I loved the pictures, the drawings, but McCarthy was telling everybody it's an attack on innocence. Destroy all comic books. We've come a long way since then.
What's coming up next for you?
I've already finished something that's coming out, it's called 'Bring Me The Head Of Lance.' It's a comedy about ageism in the industry. We're hoping it's going to be a series. It's really funny.
It's going to be on TV?
That's what we're hoping. The whole thing is improvised, it's a wonderful show.
There's been a lot of talk lately about ageism in Hollywood.
We're one of the few countries that are continually denied death. Really denying it. We're all going to die, luckily we don't know when.
Kim Cattrall told Moviefone that she can't seem to get any good roles in Hollywood. What she's done is she's gone to the UK and she's doing theatre.
You walk into an audition and they have -- I don't audition anymore, I get offers -- but when you walk in, they have a little box that you can check: are you over 40 or are you under 40? If you're over 40, there's less roles.
But funny. It's very funny, the way we're handling it. Tim Thomerson is in it, Adrienne Barbeau, and a lot of really good people. If we do a series, then that means every actor that's having that problem is going to be on that show talking about how it's affected their lives.
Are you going to be appearing in any movies any time soon?
Oh yeah, there's quite a bit happening. I'm in a movie called 'Anguish.' I've received an offer to write a comic book, so I'm going to do that too. And I'm also going to write a comic book on a script that I wrote that I never really tried to get made. The ironic part is it will probably turn out pretty good, and somebody will pick it up and make the movie. It's like going through the looking glass.
If you're in Canada, you can meet Lance Henriksen at Fan Expo, which runs from August 26-28 in Toronto. Otherwise, just wait a bit. We're sure Henriksen will be in something else soon.