It’s summertime and nothing says summer like a good, old-fashioned creature feature! If the thought excites you, look no further than director Benni Diez’s directorial debut, “Stung,” arriving in theaters and on VOD on July 3. The film focuses on Paul (Matt O’Leary) and Julia (Jessica Cook), young party caterers who are trying to make ends meet. Adding fuel to the fire, they are also hopelessly in love – although neither is willing to admit it for fear of rejection. They find themselves headed to the countryside to work an upper-class garden party at a remote country villa. It seems like your run-of-the-mill gig until a group of violent spider wasps crash the party. Things are not as they seem as the wasps take partygoers as hosts to spawn even greater terror — 7 ft tall predators with an insatiable appetite for destruction. It’s up to Paul and Julia to stop the creatures, fight for their lives and, incidentally, get their stumbling romance in order. The film co-stars the iconic Lance Henriksen as Mayor Caruthers, who adds genuine excitement and solidifies the ambitious cast. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Lance Henriksen to discuss his role in “Stung,” his passion for acting and working with young filmmakers, his recent autobiography and his iconic role in the cult television series, “Millennium.”
When it comes to work ethic, no one has anything on you! One of your latest projects is Benni Diez’s creature feature, “Stung.” He spoke very highly of working with you!
I couldn’t speak more highly of him! He is a director we’ll be hearing from a lot in the future. When you think about what happened with these guys, it is really inspiring. All the guys had been in film school together. They came up with a script with Adam [Aresty] and decided they would be the crew, producers and do it all. It turned out to be one of the most creative situations I have ever been involved with. I love those situations! All of these young guys are out there putting their hearts on the line and it was great and it really shows in the movie. The editing and the choices they made were so subtle and cool. Their level of humor was quite sophisticated in a lot of ways and there are things that are funky and down and dirty as well. There is really something for everyone in this movie.
You have done a lot of work with young directors in recent years. What appeals to you most about working with these young creatives?
Even though I just turned 75 and my body isn’t what it was during my 30s, it is still a skin-bag holding the young Lance. He didn’t go away! I have that youth in me! It didn’t go away and it won’t until I kick the bucket. The point is that I resonate that people who have an open mind, not simply ambition, when they are going after something they are passionate about. I can relate to that completely. I am not some jaded actor who is like, “Oh, where is my trailer?!” [laughs] I am still very much interested in creating and collaborating. It is the lifeblood of any actor.
I am sure you read a lot of scripts but what was it that spoke to you when “Stung” came your way?
I loved the idea of playing an alcoholic, loser politician that is running for re-election! [laughs] Hey man, to be honest, the only way to get back at injustice in the world is through your art. If I could play this guy and show the rough cog that exists in these guys who are pretending to be kings, princes or princesses, I am happy. It is an expression. I thought, “I can handle this!” The script itself was very ambitious and you can see that in the finished film. It was something I knew I wanted to be there for. I had also never been to Germany, so I thought it could be really cool and it was. The actors who are in the film were also a big selling point. Matt O’Leary is a really funny guy and Jessica Cook is an amazing young actress. It just made the whole project so cool. Everybody was on the same course. I really like the movie when I saw it, I really did, and I was glad to be a part of it.
I am sure you take a little something away from every film you work on. What did you take away from your time on this project?
I have to tell you something, man. That is the hardest question in the world because if I took something away from every movie I have done, I would be a psychopath or a psychotic! [laughs] The only way for me to handle it is, when I finish a film or see it when it is done, to leave it behind me like a cat leaving a kitty litter box! [laughs] They don’t look back! They do it and go! You have to or otherwise you will spend your life in a slight delusion. When I get on a set, it is all fresh and new. It is like I am starting from zero again.
The movie industry changed in so many ways since you first started out in your career. What are your thoughts on the art of movie-making today?
I guess it happens at some point in every generation, but I am aware of something. If Benni and those guys could make “Stung” for whatever the budget was, I don’t know and I don’t care, is kind of a smack in the face of corporate obsession. They are not making movies for audiences anymore. They are making movies to wow a potential audience, if you know what I mean, with all the CG and everything else. I am really proud of young moviemakers for taking on the corporate mind. I really am. I would love to see any movie they make. I know from a personal relationship that Jim Cameron puts every dollar on the scene. It’s not a matter of proving it anymore. He wants to make his movie, so that is not the kind of corporate I am talking about. I am talking about the endless superhero films with CG to the point you are inundated and don’t know what is reality anymore. It is like staring into a cell phone for 10 hours a day. You know what I’m saying? I would rather be at the other end with the guys who are doing plays and movies. They don’t have giant budgets but they are making good movies and good statements. I sound like I am on a soapbox! It sounds a bit like Caruthers trying to run for office! [laughs]
I wanted to ask you about your recent autobiography, “Not Bad For A Human.” Did you have any reservations about that project?
Ya know what? Seriously, I had a deal with the guy who co-wrote it with me. The deal was that if we got halfway through and I felt like it was a lot of bullshit, I would throw it in the trash and never look back. I am not afraid to exert labor if there is a goal and I don’t get disappointed if the goal doesn’t work. We tried and that was the main thing.
We got halfway through it and I said, “We have to start over, man. The last story that I told you, I felt so good being honest, I would like to go back and start over and work our way through it.” That is what we did! I felt very liberated by it. It was a solid year-and-a-half of going to a confession every day! I have never killed anybody and the worst things I have ever done don’t stack very high on the list of no-nos. I just struggled. That is my whole thing. I struggle until I get the answer. I have more of a boundless energy which is a gift from my mother.
If you could go back and give a younger Lance Henriksen some advice as a young actor starting out on his journey, what you would say to him?
Oh, buddy! I think I did it just the right way for me. I had a lot of skins to shed, like a snake, that came from outside of me. In doing that, I learned who I really was, what I really think and what I really feel. My success came from the help of a lot of very generous people along the way, especially in the early days. I never went to high school and I hated school, so I had to face a lot of stuff and a lot of revelations about who I really am and where I really fit in all of this. If you can do that, you are good. You don’t have to spend $500 an hour for a shrink! [laughs]
It seems we are moving into the revival age of television. Two great examples are “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files.” Is Frank Black of “Millennium” a character you have interest in revisiting?
I would love to revisit the character. It would be a major challenge because that was 20 years ago. I was with Megan Gallagher recently because Mark Snow, the guy who did the music for “Millennium” and some of “The X-Files,” was releasing a new album. I hadn’t seen her in 18 or 19 years. Finally, there she was and she looked exactly the same! I didn’t say it but I thought, “Are you a vampire?!” [laughs] She looked exactly the same. She looks great! It was a fun moment. Looking back on the series I think it was a strong series. It was very good television. I really do believe that if we had gone on another year or two with it, it would have found itself, if you know what I mean. One of the issues with “Millennium” was that the producers changed every year during that show. With each change came a different energy. I loved doing the show, I just wish it could have gone a little further to find itself. The reality of what would ever happen from a thing like that is going to come directly from Christ Carter. It is very wrapped around him. Shit, I should have just given you the simple answer, which is, “Yeah, I would love to.”
Thanks so much for your time today, Lance! I look forward to our next encounter and wish you continued success!
Thank you, Jason! It is always a pleasure!
‘Stung’ hits theaters and VOD on July 3rd! Check out the trailer to see what all the buzz is about! Become a fan of the film on Facebook.