As Bishop, the loyal android in Aliens, he was reduced to a goo-spewing torso. In Hard Target, his homicidal hunter met a shattering, grenade-aided end. In No Escape, his imprisoned guru got skewered on a rusty sword. After 40 movies in which he often received similarly grisly treatment, you’d think nothing could make Color of Night costar Lance Henriksen flinch.
But the 54-year-old actor still approaches the first screening of each of his movies with deep trepidation. ”I always walk out disappointed and depressed,” he says between gulps of coffee in the kitchen of his hacienda on the far edge of the San Fernando Valley. ”It’s always a painful experience for an actor — the transition between doing a character and then seeing the movie as the audience does.”
Color of Night left Henriksen especially blue: When the producers recut the movie, one of the first scenes to go revealed that his character, Buck, a smoldering ex-cop in therapy, was a bitter rival of a police detective played by Ruben Blades. ”When I saw that screening, I thought, ‘Oh, my god,”’ says Henriksen. ”I don’t think there is a lot of wisdom when the studio and the business heads decide what should go. I can understand making cuts for time demands, but I think their choices are often arbitrary and a mistake.” That key scene has been restored for the video release.
At this point, though, Henriksen is much more jazzed about his next film, the Sharon Stone Western The Quick and the Dead, in which he plays a flamboyant gunslinger. ”We shot for months, and it was condensed down into a bullion cube,” he says. ”Its energy is unbelievable.”
Illiterate until the age of 30, when he stopped drifting around the country and committed himself to an acting career, the lean, creased Henriksen dismisses the first half of his résumé, which includes such gems as Savage Dawn and Nightmares. ”I was acting like a professional fart catcher,” he says, and he dates his dramatic coming-of-age to 1986’s Aliens. Since then, he’s been on a personal and acting roll. In April he’ll marry artist Jane Pollack, and he has three movies awaiting release this year: The Outpost, a horror tale; Nature of the Beast, a road picture costarring Eric Roberts; and Dead Man, another Western, directed by Jim Jarmusch and costarring Johnny Depp.
Watching the final cuts won’t be any easier, Henriksen concedes. ”They have to strap me into the seat with those things that hold your eyes open like in A Clockwork Orange.” Some things make even tough guys flinch.