Androids, Comics, and Ghost Prostitutes: A Conversation With The Legendary Lance Henriksen

Throughout his career, Lance Henriksen has played everything from curious androids to paranormally powered FBI agents. But with his upcoming comic book To Hell You Ride, the actor gets to spin a Weird Western horror yarn that's been haunting him for decades. (Also, what did Bishop himself think of Prometheus?)


Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, check out an exclusive first look at the preview trailer for To Hell You Ride, which is narrated by Henriksen. Here's the comic's synopsis and preorder information, and you can find our interview with Lance below:


Writer: Lance Henriksen, Joseph Maddrey
Penciller: Tom Mandrake
Colorist: Cris Peter
Cover Artist: Tom Mandrake
Publication Date: December 12, 2012

A deadly curse plagues the small town of Telluride, melting the flesh from its victims—the violent revenge four warriors set in motion when their sacred burial grounds were disturbed for the sake of gold miners' greed!

What was your inspiration for To Hell You Ride?

Lance Henriksen: In the late 1960s, I ended up in Telluride, Colorado. It wasn't like the country club that it is now. It was very raw. Skiing was there, but snowboarders have now entirely overrun it. Back then, it was late at night, the town was empty, and it was winter. I was in a bar, and I'm sitting there, looking at people, wondering, "This is a box canyon at the end of the road. What are they doing here?" I thought, "Well, they must be reincarnated miners and hookers from back in those days." At the same moment, a poem from Dylan Thomas hit me. And it was:

I have heard many years of telling,
And many years should see some change.
The ball I threw while playing in the park
Has not yet reached the ground.

What it gave to me was that this place had a little bit of a cursed feeling about it. A curse that would [come to] fruition whenever it wanted to, and for whatever reasons it wanted to. You go back to something terrible in the past, and the ramifications are still happening now. It's like ecology in a way.

Illustration for article titled Androids, Comics, and Ghost Prostitutes: A Conversation With The Legendary Lance Henriksen

So the story just fell in my lap, and I wrote a movie out of it. Nobody was interested in the script back in those days. It was certainly the beginning of the story. Another element that came in was that I ran into a medicine man from the Klamath River Indians. He took me under his wing and told me this amazing story about a tribal elder who was asked by the police to find a missing girl.

This was back in the 1930s. The guy walked through his house backward for miles through the town and woods. People followed him, wondering what the hell was going on. The guy stopped, turned around, and said, "She's here." They flipped over this big flat rock and found the girl. She was dead. [The medicine man] said, "The guy that did [this] would turn himself in in around a month." And he did.


All these strains of the idea started inspiring me. As a kid, there was a painting of Appeal to the Great Spirit that I would see when I would get oatmeal bowls out of the cupboard. This painting, it was so real to me that it frightened me.

All of these things combined at Comic-Con. [Dark Horse founder] Mike Richardson came up to me and asked me if I wanted to do a comic. This story immediately popped into my mind. [My biographer] Joe Maddrey worked on it with me and [illustrator] Tom Mandrake, who taught us as we went along. We've been working on this for a year.


That's certainly a constellation of inspiration. You've done some iconic Western roles in films like Near Dark and Dead Man — did your acting experience lend itself to crafting this comic?

Illustration for article titled Androids, Comics, and Ghost Prostitutes: A Conversation With The Legendary Lance Henriksen

Lance Henriksen: I've had a long career, and as a child I've had an incredible pleasure out of comics, namely Tales from the Crypt (until the McCarthy Era and they got rid of them all). Later in life, I've realized the specificity and choices to make a comic. It's a great artform that is like sitting around a campfire telling a great scary story.

I go back to when they had black and white movies in the theaters, and you'd have these zombies from the Victorian era rising up to pull you down into this spiritualist Victorian ethic. There's this Victorian ideal, "If I have enough clutter, death won't find me if I'm so busy." Nowadays [zombies] have changed from that to contagion and environmental factors. When we get in transition from any times in our eras, these monsters and quarantine stories come up. We've made one very scary and specific.


So yes, we're creating a mythology here. In a way, being born is a sort of ecological contagion. When you have longevity of family, we remember our grandfathers and maybe our great-grandfathers. We somehow don't have the capacity in modern life to remember further than that. All of the ramifications of their lives have an effect on us, and we're not aware of it.

Illustration for article titled Androids, Comics, and Ghost Prostitutes: A Conversation With The Legendary Lance Henriksen

Speaking of Western horror, there's a story floating around about how you and Bill Paxton almost ran afoul of the police while method-acting as vampires during the filming of Near Dark. Could you elaborate on this?

Lance Henriksen: It's all true. We didn't want to let those parts go. We were enjoying it so much. Kathryn Bigelow, being the kind of director that she is, absolutely wanted that. I tend to want to personalize everything I do. I can't just recite a script. Bill Paxton and I decided to go out to Tombstone and visit the graves of guys we knew because we'd been living so long — the cycle of our [characters'] journey across America was 40 years.


On the way there, I had a gun that I practiced with under my seat. It wasn't real, but it looked real. We were in full make-up because we had left early as soon as the sun came up. A cop gave us a ticket for speeding. I was in a convertible. Bill, knowing where I was coming from, said "Lance, don't, don't, don't!" He knew I would talk to the cop in character. The cop actually backed up because I had a look in my eyes like he was my next meal. He threw the ticket at me! Also, Bill Paxton walked around with a black umbrella the whole time. It was a great image, and he wouldn't put it away. We were living this thing.

Whoa. Any other particularly memorable occasions where you immersed yourself in a role like that?

Lance Henriksen: Aliens was a major turning point for me. I'd seen Ian Holm and Rutger Hauer do their androids, and I thought to myself, "How can I compete with that?" I quickly realized, "Don't compete." The predicament that Bishop was in — I started using my emotional life of when I was 12 years old. If people were mean to me, I'd think, "Well, I'm going to outlive you, so I can forgive you for your behavior." Bishop also saw all living things as this miracle, because he wasn't alive. I also gave it the idea that I was a young black kid in South Africa — if I made a mistake, something bad would happen to me.


So I had all those things going, but there was an innocence about it that I didn't fully realize would have an impact on the movie. It's an innocence that could be dangerous and offered the audience a lot of questions that needed to be answered. [This role] was all about creating this emotion rather taking it as an intellectual idea.

What did you make of Michael Fassbender's performance as the android David in Prometheus?

Illustration for article titled Androids, Comics, and Ghost Prostitutes: A Conversation With The Legendary Lance Henriksen

Lance Henriksen: I haven't seen it. I was kind of bugged that they never even talked to me. I'm waiting to see it, but on my cell phone. That's my rebellion. [Alien Versus Predator director] Paul Anderson had a brilliant way of handling [Bishop's appearance], and it ended up being successful for that movie. [Alien 3 screenwriter] Walter Hill also put me on the prison planet. When an idea is good it works. I love Ridley Scott's work, but he didn't go in that direction. But I'm feisty, so I have to watch it on my cell phone.


More information on To Hell You Ride can be found at Dark Horse Comics' website. Trailer music credit: César Gallegos/Mateo Latosa. Bottom image via.



I believe that Ridley Scott didn't much like "Aliens," which is where Bishop made his debut, and which also explains why he wasn't asked.