Chilling with Lance Henriksen, Mr. "Millennium"
Seattle Times DVD writer
My gift and my curse: I see so many heinous DVDs that peering into the mind of a serial killer would be as threatening as sitting through a Linda Ronstadt show at the Aladdin.
This week I'm breaking protocol because of "Millennium — The Complete First Season" (Fox, 1996, unrated), and slashing other new releases. Set in Seattle — the pilot's pivotal strip joint was a replica of local skinstitution The Lusty Lady — Chris Carter's "X-Files" follow-up was uncompromisingly grim, fascinating, cinematically crafted, and years ahead of the forensic mysteries and grotesqueries of "CSI." Also scary enough to give the Standards and Practices lady nightmares.
Poised to become one of the all-time cult classics, it was near the top of Amazon.com's DVD sales rank even before its release. It has a 50-minute making-of doc, two episode commentaries and a look at the real-life ex-lawmen of the "Academy Group" that inspired the shadowy Millennium Group. That's probable cause for a tit-for-tat with Lance Henriksen, aka gifted profiler Frank Black.
Q: What is it about the Northwest and serial killers?
A: I know, I know. (Laughs.) I think what happened was after the Green River stuff and all of that, they kind of zeroed in on that area. You know what it is? It's the rain. Too much rain, you know what I mean?
Q: Trust me, I'm a human time bomb. How did people react to "Millennium" in 1996?
A: The biggest surprise to me was grown men saying they were too afraid to watch it. I guess it struck a chord because of the way it was set up. It had a monochromatic kind of seduction about it. It pulled people in. And once you got in there, you felt a little sad. I guess it frightened a lot of people. It was breaking new ground, that's for sure, and now it's commonplace.
Q: Actors in war films go to boot camp. Did you go to crime scenes?
A: I went to an autopsy, and it terrified me. It made me crazy. And the other thing was, I'd gotten a lot of stuff from the FBI on different cases. And when I started getting deeper into it and seeing what the pathology was to some of these things, I couldn't believe it. After we'd done the pilot, I remember sitting alone and I was reading a book, and I almost burst into tears realizing there were a group of people out there doing the work for real.
John Douglas (a famous FBI profiler), what happened to him was that he had a stroke. He was working on so many cases and so overworked that he was in a hotel room and had a stroke and almost died. In a way, that was where I patterned Frank Black. Before you meet him, that had already gone on, and he was already living on borrowed time, in a sense. Not that he was dying, but he knew the vulnerability of life.
Q: Are the trademark visual flashes psychic visions?
A: I never thought of him as a psychic in any way, shape or form. My whole thing always was that he's like a brilliant chess player that could find the elements and suddenly see what the move was.
Q: The network thought you were an unconventional choice for a lead.
A: I got one review at the time that said I looked like a mixture of Clint Eastwood and — who's that guy in the Rolling Stones? Keith Richards. I said, "Well, OK, that's all right, I don't care."
Q: The last we saw of Frank was a wrap-up in an "X-Files" episode.
A: The thing that I'm pushing for, and I guess a lot of people — there's a big petition going around — people want to see a "Millennium" film. Chris and I talked about it for the last year, I guess off and on. One of the things that's happening is the presales of this DVD are enormous all over the world. It's doing really well, and if it does incredibly well, I'm sure they'll think of a film.
Q: Is Carter the most paranoid man you've ever known?
A: No, no. (Laughs.) I remember walking into a room with him once, and him and I were alone, and he said, "You know, Lance, I sit in the corner and I observe, and you come in the building and fill the room. That's the difference between us."
Q: So the fact that it's 2004 doesn't make "Millennium" uh ... ?
A: To me, the millennium is a concept that's not the ball dropping on 2000. Look what's going on in the world. It's a phenomenon, with all the complexity of everything going on right now. That won't end. I mean, the ball dropped and then 9-11 happened.
Q: Meanwhile, you're in the new "Alien vs. Predator" film.
A: I play a billionaire in it, and his name is Charles Bishop Weyland, and he's made all his money in robotics. This is a prequel. He's dying, and he wants to do a last hurrah and be remembered for something meaningful. So he gets a group of people together to go to Antarctica. One of the satellites has found something under the ice, and he starts this expedition and goes down there. I think they made Bishop (the robot in "Aliens") in later years as a tribute to this guy. That's the rationale I'm using.
Q: What kind of a "Terminator" would you have been if James Cameron had kept you as first choice?
A: I wouldn't have been a bulldozer so much as I would have been Machiavellian. In those days I think I weighed about 150 pounds, but I would have been much more frightening, I think.
Q: You've been terminated in lots of films. Pick three favorites.
A: I think in "Hard Target," the best one was dropping a grenade in my pants. I pulled that bastard out and undid the fuse and didn't hold it far enough away, and it went off. The other one was getting burned up in "Near Dark." And of course, Bishop getting cut in half. I gotta tell you, sometimes if I get real down, if I get into a dark mood and I look back on this stuff, I go, "I've been slaughtered in so many ways. There must be something about my face that producers like to kill."
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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