THRIV­ING AS AN ODD­BALL

Lance Hen­rik­sen is quite the char­ac­ter him­self, hav­ing trav­eled the world be­fore hit­ting the stage.

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - By Su­san King su­san.king@latimes.com

Early in his ca­reer, Lance Hen­rik­sen worked for six months with inf lu­en­tial French film­maker Fran­cois Truf­faut when both men acted in di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg’s clas­sic 1977 sci-fi fan­tasy, “Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind.”

Hen­rik­sen played Robert, the as­sis­tant of Truf­faut’s in­quis­i­tive French sci­en­tist Dr. Lacombe.

Nearly four decades later, it’s still an ex­pe­ri­ence Hen­rik­sen re­mem­bers vividly.

“We were close to the end of the shoot­ing and he said to me, ‘I have some­thing for you,’ ” Hen­rik­sen said in his dis­tinc­tive grav­elly voice. “He gave me a pack­age, and it was the script to ‘ The 400 Blows.’ ”

Truf­faut’s 1959 drama about his trou­bled child­hood spoke to Hen­rik­sen, who had iden­ti­fied with the young char­ac­ter, An­toine Doinel. When he first saw the film, he said to him­self, “Who would make a movie about my child­hood? That was my child­hood.”

The ac­tor had never talked to Truf­faut about the film or his child­hood, but the film­maker must have sensed that con­nec­tion, Hen­rik­sen said.

“It was so mov­ing to me that I had been seen and heard with­out hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion,” he said. “I was sit­ting in my trailer weep­ing.”

Hen­rik­sen’s early life was ac­tu­ally far more com­plex than Truf­faut’s. Hen­rik­sen first ran away from home at age 5.

“But that didn’t last very long,” he said with a smile.

In his youth, he worked as a shoeshine boy to help sup­port his sin­gle mother, a wait­ress.

“I shined shoes all over Man­hat­tan,” Hen­rik­sen said. “I would give half the money to my mother be­cause we needed it. The other half I would go to movies. I sat and watched ‘The Big Sky’ with Kirk Dou­glas one day maybe six or eight times. I got out at 4 in the morn­ing and would go home.”

Hen­rik­sen hit the road per­ma­nently at age 12.

“I hated school,” said the gre­gar­i­ous char­ac­ter ac­tor, now 75. “I never went to high school.”

But the New York na­tive did go to sea, trav­el­ing around the world with the Navy and the Mer­chant Marines.

“I trav­eled all over Europe paint­ing mu­rals,” Hen­rik­sen said. “I was a pain­ter. When I’m not act­ing I make pot­tery.”

For the first three decades of his life, Hen­rik­sen didn’t bother to learn to read. In fact, he learned his part in an off-Broad­way pro­duc­tion of Eu­gene O’Neill’s “Three Plays of the Sea” when he was 30 by hav­ing a friend read the en­tire piece on tape for him.

“I learned ev­ery­body’s lines,” said Hen­rik­sen, who at­tended the Ac­tors Stu­dio as an ob­server. “The play opened, and we ran for a few months. I started do­ing plays off-Broad­way.”

Hen­rik­sen not only learned how to read but also be­came a writer. In 2011, he pub­lished his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “Not Bad for a Hu­man,” and his five-part Dark Horse hor­ror comic book se­ries “To Hell You Ride,” which he wrote with Joseph Mad­drey, came out in 2012 and ’13.

Since mak­ing his film de­but in 1972’s “It Ain’t Easy,” the tall, lanky ac­tor has made more than 150 films and ap­peared in dozens of TV se­ries. Hen­rik­sen has worked with di- rec­tors such as James Cameron, Sid­ney Lumet, Kathryn Bigelow, Sam Raimi, Wal­ter Hill, Philip Kauf­man, Richard Rush and John Woo. He played the an­droid Bishop in Cameron’s 1986 block­buster “Aliens,” Mer­cury as­tro­naut Wally Schirra in Kauf­man’s 1983 epic “The Right Stuff,” a mag­netic leader of vam­pires in Bigelow’s 1987 “Near Dark” and an ex-FBI agent who can see into the minds of crim­i­nals in Chris Carter’s 1996-99 Fox se­ries “Mil­len­nium.”

This past year has been par­tic­u­larly busy. Be­sides nar­rat­ing the FX se­ries “The Strain,” he guest starred in three episodes of NBC’s “The Blacklist” and has the hor­ror film “Harbinger Down” com­ing out in Au­gust. And Hen­rik­sen re­veals his comedic bent in “Stung,” a hor­ror film that hear­kens back to the crea­ture thrillers of the 1970s; it ar­rives Fri­day in the­aters and on VOD.

Shot out­side Ber­lin, “Stung” cen­ters on a gar­den party at a fancy es­tate that turns into a blood­bath when mu­tant killer wasps go on a feed­ing frenzy. Hen­rik­sen plays Car­ruthers, the al­co­holic mayor up for re­elec­tion who seems more in­ter­ested in vintage wine than that guests are be­ing eaten alive.

“Aliens” is the fa­vorite film of “Stung” di­rec­tor Benni Diez and writer Adam Aresty.

“It came to the point where we had to cast the role of Car­ruthers,” Diez said by phone from his home in Cologne, Ger­many. “We had a lot of op­tions. I said to the pro­duc­ers, ‘Just for the fun of it, can we ask Lance Hen­rik­sen?’ A few weeks later my pro­ducer called me and said Lance is do­ing the movie.”

Hen­rik­sen couldn’t say no to the part.

“They sent me this lit­tle sort of siz­zle reel,” Hen­rik­sen said. “They had one scene of a guy run­ning through hall­ways and some­thing is af­ter him. And then you see what it is. I read the script and said, ‘You know this would be worth do­ing.’ I’m very odd­ball in terms of what I will do and what I won’t do. When I find some­thing that’s cre­ative on ev­ery level that I can re­late to, I am will­ing to take a chance.”

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

“I’M VERY

odd­ball in terms of what I will do and what I won’t do,” says Lance Hen­rik­sen, who has ap­peared in more than 150 films.

Se­bas­tian No­zon, Peter Hacker GmbH / XYZ Films

HEN­RIK­SEN RE­VEALS his comedic side in the new hor­ror film “Stung,” shown above along­side Jes­sica Cook, as a boozy politico fend­ing off mu­tant killer wasps dur­ing a fancy gar­den party.

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