Lance Henriksen

Active - 1972 - 2021  |   Born - May 5, 1940 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction, Action, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Upon graduation from the Actor's Studio, Manhattan-born Lance Henriksen spent nearly two decades playing villains. An agreeable-looking fellow offscreen, Henriksen portrayed the foulest of murderers, rapists, perverts, extraterrestrials, and other antisocial types on the stage (Richard III) and screen. He made his first film, It Ain't Easy, in 1972 (although his studio bios list his screen debut as Dog Day Afternoon in 1975), then concentrated his skills on the melodramatic requirements of The Jagged Edge (1985), Johnny Handsome (1989), Jennifer Eight (1992), Dead Man (1995), and many others. In interviews, Henriksen claimed to "live" his parts while portraying them, which, he admitted, was a self-defeating practice. A close friend of director James Cameron, Henriksen posed for Cameron's preliminary character sketches for the robotic antagonist of the 1984 thriller The Terminator. The producers liked the sketches but not Henriksen, and the role instead went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. In compensation, Cameron saw to it that Henriksen was cast as a heroic android in his 1986 film Aliens.

In the years that followed Henriksen gained reputation as an actor who could bring compelling nuance to even the most mundane of roles. Moving into the 1990s Henriksen did indeed appear in a number of forgettable films, but the ones that did leave an impression on audience did so with remarkable zeal. From his menacing role as the head of a tribe of nomadic vampires in Near Dark to a tortured portrayal of a vengeful father in Pumpkinhead, Henriksen's colorful characters consistantly elevated what may have been dismissive, two-dimensional players in the hands of a lesser actor. After reprising his role as Bishop in the troubled Alien 3, Henriksen packed heat as an over the top hunter of human's in Hong Kong action film director John Woo's American debut Hard Target. By this point the dedicated actor had earned a reputation for doing whatever it takes to make his characters truly memorable, and a scene in the climactic showdown of Hard Target found him continuing to chew scenery evern after he accidentally caught on fire (a scene that actually made it into the final cut of the film)! Henriksen's role as a cocky gunfighter in director Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead proved without question a highlight of his roles from the '90s.

In 1996 Henriksen made quite an impression on television audiences as the lead character in producer Chris Carter's shortlived X-Files spin-off Millennium. As a former FBI profiler with a unique gift for peering into the minds of some of the nation's most feared criminals, Henriksen gained his most notable exposure to date and longtime fans ate it up. Unfortunately the series only ran for three seasons and Henriksen was back to his old bag of tricks in a seemingly undending series if B-movies. It certainly appeared as if Henriksen was becoming less choosy with his roles, and though the integrity he would bring to those roles generally helped him to stay afloat in a sea of forgettable efforts, it appeared as if the waters were finally threatening to overtake him. While it was indeed a relief to see Henriksen back on the big screen in Scream 3, there was little even he could do to make The Mangler 2 more watchable. Fortunately during this period, actors were becoming more prominant in video games, and Henriksen's distinct voice lent notable atmosphere to such efforts as Red Faction II and Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. Henriksen's role in the suprisingly agreeable horror sequel Mimic: Sentinel helped to lend the movie some weight even if his actual screentime amounted to a little more than ten minutes, and if a wince of pain could be heard following the announcement of his involvement in Hellraiser: Hellworld fans could at least hold out hope for a return to the franchise that helped to launch his career in the long-anticipated Alien vs. Predator. Unfortunately, it didn't, though Henrickson continued to enjoy success in voice roles, among them including When a Stranger Calls (2006), a teen horror film in which he voiced the role of a serial killer who stalks his victims over the phone before hunting them down, and Superman: Braniac Attacks, in which he voiced the character of Brainiac (2006). Henrickson took on a starring role in Abominable (2006), which followed the effort to save a group of girls from death by Yeti. 2007 was another busy year for the actor, who worked in a slew of horror films including Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud and The Seamstress, as well as the crime thriller Bone Dry. In 2008 he joined the cast of Pistol Whipped, an action thriller following a down-and-out man hired to kill a notorious gangster. In 2011 he worked alongside Lauren Holly in Scream of the Banshee, another supernatural horror, and played Henry Gale in The Witches of Oz (2011), a fantasy adventure following the tales of an adult Dorothy Gale battling to keep the Wicked Witch of the West from crossing into her reality.

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  • Lived with relatives in Borneo for three years when he was a child, then went island-hopping around Fiji and Malaysia for a year with his sailor father.
  • Only attended grammar school for about three years; he learned to read when he was 30.
  • Served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to '58, rising to the rank of Petty Officer Third Class; also spent two years in the Merchant Marines.
  • Studied at the Actors Studio in New York City.
  • Director James Cameron originally wanted him for the title role in The Terminator; the part eventually went to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Nominated for a 1987 Saturn Award for Best Actor for his role in the enduring creature-feature Pumpkinhead.
  • Won a Best Supporting Actor Saturn Award in 1993 for his role as Emil Fouchon in the John Woo action-thriller Hard Target.
  • Is an accomplished potter and painter.