Lance Henriksen is a very busy man, constantly working. With over 200 acting credits, he must be doing something right. Especially known for his wonderful and often creepy contributions to a plethora of horror and sci-fi films (Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Terminator, Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, Aliens), Henriksen also rocks other genres like drama (Powder) and western (Appaloosa, The Quick and the Dead). His versatility and enthusiasm for his craft have awarded him an immense career made up of some blockbusters, but many cult favorites. His latest is Stung, a terrifying thriller with giant wasps (the insects, not the people), which opens July 3 in limited release. Henriksen shared his five favorite films with us, in anticipation of the release, and the list is right here:
I love that movie. I worked with him [director François Truffaut], but I remember seeing that movie long before. I didn’t even know it was such a fantastic film for everybody. When I saw it for the first time I thought, “I’m actually looking through a window back to the 1920s Paris.” Everything I love about that era. I met Truffaut and I was with him for about six months on Close Encounters and I realized suddenly that he had done 400 Blows which is really the story of my life as a child. I wondered who would make a film like 400 Blows, why? And then I met him. I love that one.
I thought this movie was mind-blowing. It’s a western and a morality play. It was everything. And of course [Toshiro] Mifune was so unbelievable. That impressed me for my whole childhood. It’s black and white but I remember it in color, which is weird. There’s another film — the Japanese films had a big effect on me. There’s a movie called Mishima, and this was about a suicide in Tokyo. Some movies are inextricably bound to a kind of era of expression and that’s another one from that same era.
I’m trying not to pick movies I’m in. The one I really love, and it’s got every great comic in it, is this one. I could watch that movie anytime, it’s so crazy and wonderful. I saw it in the theater when I was a kid. It was a blockbuster for that era, and certainly the advertising made it seem that way. It was a beautiful movie — funny, and oh, God… It just went on and on and on. Just like the title.
This thing hasn’t died. I saw it not long ago, probably four or five months ago. And it was fresh and not dated, and the acting isn’t dated either. The whole thing has lasted all these years, and it’s still fresh.
RT: It holds up, maybe because there’s so much meaning behind it metaphorically. You could just enjoy it or you could read things into it.
I’ve been to some conventions and guys have walked up to me that were current military members. Like 100 of them over the years, and they had all joined because of the camaraderie of what they saw in Aliens. It blows my mind.
RT: If you’re going to pick one of your own movies, that’s the one to pick.
I wasn’t looking at it that way, I was looking at it as having seen it a number of times over the years and it doesn’t bother me to see it. I really enjoy it.
I gotta tell you man, I saw it and I couldn’t believe it. These guys all went to film school together, and they all got together to make this film, and they use their taste and courage. They came up with something that is uniquely its own. I am proud of it. I’m proud of them for doing it.
RT: I’m a big nature-gone-wrong fan and am a harsh critic. When I saw Stung, I couldn’t figure out how much money they had, because it looks so good. It looks as good as a big budget film. Were they mostly practical effects?
Yes, they were.
RT: It looks so good and is so, so brutal. It also has this weird charm to it.
Good, I’m glad to hear it. The thing that audiences will love is that it’s relentless. It has a great sense of humor like, “Oh you think we’re done? Not even.” It is so good. I really loved it, and it has very sensitive editing.
RT: The deaths are really good too.
I die in about 50 percent of the movies I’m in, you know.
RT: That’s true, I guess. With a movie like this with a small budget, how did they get you on board?
I just want to be in something good. If there’s a challenge involved and I think that these guys have proven in the script that the challenge can be realized, then I’m on board. I love what I do. I gotta use a metaphor: if I could play the violin really well, or I could sing really great, I would be happy standing on a street corner doing it the rest of my life. My job is acting, it requires a conspiracy among all the people involved. That’s what I like. It’s the same as being on a street corner playing a violin so well the birds fall out of the trees.
RT: Did you know what they planned to do with the effects?
Yes. Before I said yes they sent me a teaser that they had done. And what was great was the screenwriter Adam was on the set every day of the shoot. If we had a thought about a line or something we’d like to try to do in the scene or say, we did it. The backing of Benni [Diez, director] and Adam [Aresty, writer], you got Matt O’Leary and Jessica Cook in it. These people worked their hearts out. We loved doing it. I think it’s going to be a big hit.
Stung opens in limited release on July 3.