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Michael Biehn: The Continuation! Nordling Sits Down With The Director Of THE VICTIM! Also An AICN Exclusive - Michael Biehn On The Set Of Larry Carrell's JACOB!

Nordling here.

I'm sitting at a roundtable in Houston, Texas, and Michael Biehn is yelling at me.  At the top of his voice, he's screaming, "This is fucking LIFE and DEATH!  This is your life that's on the line here, and your wife, and your children!"  Granted, he's not yelling at me, per se, but describing a day on the set of THE VICTIM, Biehn's directorial feature debut.  Biehn is trying to get an elevated performance out of one of his actors, and at times he would have to yell at them.  "Don't give me that shit!  Don't fucking tell me that!  That's bullshit!  I'm playing it up here, so you better come up there with me!"  And as Biehn is describing the trials and tribulations of his grindhouse movie, it becomes obvious very fast that Michael Biehn is a man that is passionate about his craft, whether he's working with James Cameron or William Friedkin, or on the set of his own movie.

Quint did an amazing interview a few days ago, and when I was offered the chance to interview Biehn I jumped on it before I knew that Quint's was in the pipeline.  The roundtable and VICTIM screening was set up by Nick Nicholson, president of the Houston Film Critics Society, and while I love Quint's interview I wanted a chance to sit down with one of my movie heroes myself.  I still don't have a lot of interviews under my belt, and any opportunity I get to talk to writers, directors, actors, I'm going to take it.  So when Nick sent me the invite to this roundtable, I jumped at the chance.

Biehn and his wife, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, seem inseparable and there's a nice give-and-take between them that feels genuine.  They finish each other's sentences and and enjoy each other.  That came in especially handy as Biehn was trying to figure out how to get his grindhouse film off the ground: "What is a grindhouse movie?  Here's what I did, I said to myself, I don't have enough money to really put a lot of bodies in. I can't do zombies, I can't do zombie makeup, I can't do many special effects, I can't do vampires, so what can I exploit?  So, I looked at (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn)" - "I wasn't eating at the time," Jennifer said - "and asked her if she was willing to get naked for me, and she said yes, she'd get naked for me, and I said do you have any friends who'd be willing to get naked for me, and do dirty things."  A phone call later, and Danielle Harris was on board, "so I had the sex thing covered."  Throw in dirty cops, drugs, a little action and torture, and boom, instant grindhouse movie.

Michael Biehn is well known as an actor who has worked with some highly influential directors, such as James Cameron, William Friedkin, or Michael Bay.  He's been in many beloved films, inclusing THE TERMINATOR, THE ABYSS, TOMBSTONE, and he's always given great perfromances, coming from a place of reality.  So when the opportunity came for Biehn to do his own project, co-produced by his wife, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, who also stars in the film, he wasted very little time in getting behind the camera.  "The movie never would have gotten made without Jennifer," Michael said.  "After working with Robert Rodriguez, and after talking with Jim Cameron recently, and Jim was talking about Robert's brilliance, and just going out and doing it, I decided I was going to make this grindhouse movie." 

THE VICTIM is interesting in that Biehn shot it in 12 days, with very little money, and what came out of the end of it is a quite effective, genuine grindhouse movie.  Sure, the budget shows, and there are stretches that feel like Biehn is trying to pad the running time a bit, but he comes from a place of real passion and storytelling in making this film about corrupt cops, hot women, a loner in a cabin, "and fuck it, I'll just throw in a serial killer too." 

Being a director was especially freeing for Biehn.  "For me, the thing that I love so much about this project, was that I got to make the decisions.  I always liken an actor to being like a color in a painter's palette, and I always try to make that color whether it's yellow or whatever, as beautiful as possible, as large as possible, as many different dimensions of yellow as possible, but when you're the director you get to use the whole palette, and when you're the director or the producer, you make all the decisions."

What Biehn's done with THE VICTIM is impressive.  He took a project, and the time, from start of pre-production to final shooting was 25 days.  The end result is a fun, nasty little grindhouse movie.  It's effective in all the right ways - we get sex, despicable characters, girls with and without clothes on, actors chewing the scenery, and even a really great punchline in the final scene that sent the audience out laughing.  Seriously, the final scene makes the film and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and Michael Biehn play it perfectly.  I enjoyed THE VICTIM quite a bit for what it was. What it is is a new director just cutting through all the bullshit, and doing what Robert Rodriguez told him to do in his book REBEL WITHOUT A CREW - "Just go make it."

At one point in the making of THE VICTIM, Biehn got so into his work that he passed out for his troubles.  He told the story about a fight scene in the film where he told the other actor to apply the LA cop choke hold, which has since been banned.  "That was me being stupid, that was me being like let's hurry, let's get this done, and I know the LAPD choke hold, and it's different than just choking somebody. I told them to put the LAPD choke hold on me.  Then we had a guy who's like a quasi-coordinator on the show, and he's like, no no no and I went, 'Shut up, let's go, put it on me, and roll cameras!  Roll cameras!'  And I don't know, I thought I was like Superman or something, and why I thought somehow I could survive the LAPD choke hold when they banned it because it was killing people like 20 years ago.  So I thought it had to do with my breath, or something, I was just moving so fast, I was thinking nobody could choke me out.  Well, it works, that LAPD choke hold.  I just tapped out, because I knew I was going out, but I tapped out a little bit late.  I didn't pass out, but I was kinda in like La La Land for about 10 seconds."  Fortunately people were on set and able to snap to what was happening.  "I came to almost immediately, and two minutes later I was like, 'Okay, put the old-fashioned fake choke hold on me,' and that's the one we shot."

Biehn isn't done with grindhouse filmmaking, either.  He just wrapped shooting scenes for Odyssee Pictures' JACOB, directed by Larry Wade Carrell, which will premiere at Houston's Splatterfest in late September.  In it, Biehn plays the father to the title character Jacob, a 400-pound teen who goes on a rampage after his sister is killed.  Larry Carrell was able to persuade Biehn to take the part after courting and persistence - "Jennifer was so taken with his persistence and his passion, is really what it was, and he convinced her, and she convinced me, and I got on the phone with him, and it must have been an hour the first time that we talked.  And I felt that the passion of another person was the passion that I had.  And I almost get tears in my eyes when I think about that conversation because I could just hear it in his voice how passionate he was about his project, and that's how I am.  And after talking to him for about 45 minutes I said, 'You know what, I can tell that you care about this, that this is the most important thing in your life and you want to get this done and want to get it done right, and if I can help you out in any way I will.'  And it's been a blessing in a lot of ways."

Michael Biehn is entering a new chapter in his life, with his filmmaking, and in his personal life as well.  "I'm going to have to have heart surgery in the next few months or so.  It turns out that one of the top three heart surgeons in the country is here (in Houston)."  The surgery will be relatively routine - "Arnold's had it done" - and Biehn feels like it's his good fortune that all of this in his life is happening now.  With THE VICTIM, his upcoming acting work - in JACOB, Xavier Gens' THE DIVIDE, PUNCTURE, and SUSHI GIRL, Michael Biehn isn't going anywhere.  And I look forward to the day when Michael Biehn will yell at me again.

Thanks to Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Larry Wade Carrell and the folks at Odyssee Pictures, Travis Leamons, Nick Nicholson, Michael Contreras, and the Houston Film Critics Society for their help with this article.

And here's an AICN exclusive - Michael Biehn on the set of his newest acting film, JACOB, shot here in Houston:

 

 

Nordling, out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 19, 2011, 6:45 p.m. CST

    Can't get enough Biehn, that's for sure.

    by Valaquen

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 6:53 p.m. CST

    It's Biehn week here at AICN

    by ATARI

    and I'm not complaining.

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 7 p.m. CST

    Cool more Biehn.

    by KilliK

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 7:04 p.m. CST

    His wife's kinda HAWT

    by Flexfill

    Yes, I will get naked for you.

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 7:11 p.m. CST

    Here's video of them being interviewed

    by Flexfill

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKIMpsonGjE&feature=relmfu

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 8:42 p.m. CST

    It's almost 30 years since Aliens...

    by BubbaDestructo

    ...and the guy still looks like he could play Hicks if he had to. An older, bit more grizzly Hicks, but Hicks nonetheless. The guy is great. Seems like he and Jennifer are having fun doing creative stuff together. Wish them both the very best!

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 9:22 p.m. CST

    THE VICTIM...

    by KHjLL

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 9:22 p.m. CST

    When can one see it on DVD...

    by KHjLL

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 9:57 p.m. CST

    Biehn dip.

    by ewokstew

    Two times.

  • Aug. 19, 2011, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Ain't It Biehn News

    by Not The Messiah

    Make it so!

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 1:08 a.m. CST

    Biehn There Done That

    by cymbalta4thedevil

    And Lived to Tell About It.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 2:27 a.m. CST

    Biehn a long time coming...

    by Stegman84

    Wonder if he hates (not so) clever plays on his name in the same way that Kevin Bacon absolutely fucking hates them. Regardless, cool guy, great actor, here's wishing him a dafe surgery, and hoping that there is more quality work out there for him in the years to come. Including Cameron finding a role for him in Avatar 2 and/or 3, Rodriguez putting him in the next Sin City which is allegedly supposed to shoot soon, and Tarantino throwing a part his way as well, just for starters. The man deserves a 'hollywood career rediscovery'.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 3:07 a.m. CST

    Got to meet him and his wife

    by spire_walk

    His wife was very nice... while I chatted with Biehn, my wife talked with his wife. Very nice lady. Biehn however, was cool until he heard I was in the National Guard and switched into full prick mode. It took me off guard (no pun intended) and I was pretty much speechless and politely said my goodbyes... I didn't realize how much of a loser I was till it dawned on me that I had just been insulted by Kyle Reese and Corporal Hicks -- *the* archetypal Soldier of the Future. I was shattered. His wife used to star in Party of Five.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 7:48 a.m. CST

    As I read the Biehn and Todd talkbacks I suddenly realize

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    The Rock was an awesome movie because they were both in it.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 9:38 a.m. CST

    re: spire_walk

    by Terry Latner

    As awesome a character actor that Biehn is, if an actor who plays soldiers can make and ACTUAL soldier feel bad about being one, hen, yes, you are a loser. Sounds like he is a real ass, probably jealous that he couldn't cut it in the REAL world and has to settle for pretending.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 9:46 a.m. CST

    Fuck Yeah!!!

    by BuffyFaithtribyeah

    I love me some cpl.Hicks!!!

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Timebomb

    by solitaire

    Not everything he has done has been great, but he is always great in them. One of my biggest guilty pleasures is Timebomb, saw it a long time ago when HBO was featuring new action flicks on friday nights. You have prime Biehn, naked Patsy Kensit, realistic fight scenes, Richard Jordan, William Culp, naked Patsy Kensit, a "Bourne" type story with a few new twists, great action scenes and Naked Patsy Kensit. Oh, and Patsy Kensit gets naked in it. Oh, and Spire_Walk, I'm honestly sorry to hear that happened. Are you sure it was the National Guard thing? I had always read he respected the military from all the time he spent with them training for his parts.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 10:22 a.m. CST

    My Heros of Hollywood!

    by BuffyFaithtribyeah

    Michael Biehn, Bruce Cambell, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Harvey Kietel, Sylvester Stallone,JCVD,Dulph Lundgren, Kurt Russel, Tim Thomerson, Bill Paxton, Harrison Ford, Arnold the Austrian, Bill Dukes, Keith David, Tony Todd,Mark Hamill, Charles Bronson, Dustan Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jason Statham, Jean Reno, Bruce MotherfuckinWillis, Gary Oldman, Ole Clint Eastwood,Liam Neison,Crazy Mel Gibson,Jet Lee, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Cho Yun Fat, Peter Fonda, Robert Deniro, Al Pacino, Michael Dudikoff, CHUCK NORRIS,Pat Morrita,Ralph Machio,Sean Connery,Alec Baldwin,Robert Redford, Paul Newman,Bruce Boxlietner,Jeff Bridges,Sigourney Weaver, Nicholas Cage,Gina Davis,Keanu Reeves,Pam Grier,Lawrence Tierny,Don Rickels,Donald Sutherland and his boy Keifer,Joe Peshi,Martin Sheen and his two boys Charlie and Emilio,and finally Marlon Brando. There are more but not enough room/bandwith

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 10:32 a.m. CST

    @ spire_walk

    by 3774

    Do you have any idea why he reacted the way he did? i don't understand that. Does he have anti-military political views now or something?

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 1:46 p.m. CST

    "It went straight for the warhead...

    by kwisatzhaderach

    ...and they think it's cute!!!"

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 4:02 p.m. CST

    spire_walk

    by Extr3m1st

    Please expand on this story...you said you were in the National Guard and then he all of a sudden turned into a prick? My BS meter is peaking..

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 10:35 p.m. CST

    I miss Michael Biehn in big budget movies. He RULES!!

    by IronEagle74

    Cameron better find a way to get Biehn into the Avatar sequels or something.

  • Aug. 20, 2011, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Michael Biehn, anti-National Guard? I doubt it.

    by IronEagle74

    I find it hard to believe Michael would be anti-military, just based on what I've heard about him in the past.

  • Aug. 21, 2011, 1:20 a.m. CST

    I always love hearing Biehn's stories

    by Keith

    ...of various movies. He's always animated, and interested, and knows the material inside out. He ought to write a book of memoirs, they'd be really good. (I'm just reading Lance Henriksen's at the moment, and they're really entertaining.) Same goes for Mark Hamill. If you hear multiple people telling the same story of something that happened while shooting one of the Star Wars movies, it's always Hamill's that's the most entertaining. He has a very good turn of phrase and a hilarious way of seeing the world.

  • Aug. 21, 2011, 8:17 p.m. CST

    Pink Apocolypse and Extrem1st: My Insulted by Michael Biehn Story

    by spire_walk

    Believe my story or not, I don't give a shit. If you ever meet him, ask him if he remembers getting pissed off at a Guard guy at Dragon*con 2009. Okay, I was standing in line to get his autograph at Dragon*Con. Got up to him and sort of chitchatted... just told him that I thought he was a very talented actor and wished he was getting more work. Because really, it was watching this guy as a kid that made me want to join the military. He asked what I did for a living, and I said I was in the Guard. He went on saying, how that was cool, that the Coast Guard did a whole lot to help respond during Hurricane Katrina. I politely explained that I was National Guard and not Coast Guard, and said, but we responded to Hurricane Katrina as well. His response was angry and out of the blue with, "Yeah a month later!" I don't remember if he said anything else after that. I said my goodbyes and went on. Had I shown some balls I should have fired back with, "A month later?! How about that same fucking week. The line unit left so quickly the fucking commander was writing the OPORD during the convoy. Anyway, I thought he came off as a prick when I was there paying $20 or $30 just to get his autograph. Fuck his politics and his West Coast sense of reality...