Interview: Michael Biehn Talks Comedy Series 24 HOUR RENTAL, ALIEN 5!
When I joined the Icons of Fright team as a contributor a few years back, the first interview I conducted was with a childhood hero of mine, Michael Biehn. Biehn and his wife/producing partner Jennifer Blanc-Biehn were in Los Angeles, doing a signing at Burbank’s Dark Delicacies and were both nice enough to take a few moments out of their schedule to chat about the film they were signing for, THE VICTIM (interview here). It was a big deal to me, and something that helped push me into working my ass off as a writer, and a real turning point for me on a personal level. This previous week, I spoke to Biehn about what’s happened since our first interview, his role in XLrator Media’s mobster comedy series 24 HOUR RENTAL (now available via HULU), and about what to expect from director Neill Blomkamp’s ALIEN 5 film, which would see the return of one of Michael’s most famous roles: Cpl. Hicks.
As Icons of Fright’s Editor in Chief, it was not only a great conversation (Biehn is always incredibly easy to chat with) but something that left me smiling, thinking about my early days with Icons and how much fun things have been since then. Read on!
It’s been a while since the last we spoke at your signing for THE VICTIM at Dark Delicacies..
Oh wow, yeah! That’s cool. Since then we’ve been pretty active, Jennifer more than me, but yeah. We sold THE VICTIM to Anchor Bay, and then we did TREACHERY, THE NIGHT VISITOR and THE NIGHT VISITOR 2, which we also sold to Anchor Bay. We did another one, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS..
Oh yeah, the remake of the Patricio Valladares film, right?
Yeah. All because of that film, THE VICTIM, we’ve been able to form kind of a Roger Corman kind of thing with Jen and I. I’m kind of out of it now, I sort of helped get it all started, with having a little bit of a name. So yeah, I’m not in them much anymore, I produce them, but Jennifer mostly handles that. We like to look for new talent and usually try to get a name in there and we make films anywhere from $400,000 to as low as $25,000. It’s been a lot of fun to get that started, this Roger Corman-ish thing.
I bet. Staci Layne Wilson (film journalist/director) has directed a couple of things for Blanc/Biehn Productions, right?
24 HOUR RENTAL is such a fun series. You almost never get that situation-like comedy approach to mobster stories and having watched the entire season already, I loved how unique and just downright funny it was. You’re not typically known for comedy roles, how did your involvement with the series happen?
George (Mihalka, director) offered me the part and I had only done one other comedy in my life, with John Landis. It’s just a lot of fun, working with comedians. Getting stuff made these days is hard, I was just working on a film with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers that I just got home yesterday from doing, it’s tough work, getting a movie made. It can be twelve hours a day and just a lot of hard work, I don’t think a lot of people realize that, all of the sweating that goes on. When you get a chance to do something that is funny and get to work around people who are comedians, it makes it a whole lot easier. When you’re laughing the whole time, it’s hard work, but a different kind of work. I’ve spent so much of my 40-year career playing cops and people in the homicide division..and I’ve had my past with alcohol problems but have been sober for seven years now, so I knew all of that stuff inside and out. This character was grumpy and I guess I accidentally have that look to me which intimidates people (laughs). I have that gruff exterior and can be very politically incorrect at times, so I think that’s what really attracted me to 24 HOUR RENTAL. When I read the scripts, they were SO politically incorrect and outrageous, and I thought, “this would be fun to do”. That and the chance to really work with comedians who were very funny guys. There’s nothing better than to just follow them around and laugh all day long. I love good comedians, whether it’s Louis C.K., or even Howard Stern. I’m always looking for the next comedian to make me laugh, I just love comedy. So yeah, it was a lot fo fun, and I found some similarities with my character, definitely not the sexual fetishes he has, I mean I’m pretty normal when it comes to my sexual preferences (laughs), but it was fun.
As far as the filming of the series, was it filmed continuously like you’d do on a film, or was it broken down?
One of the only challenging things about doing 24 HOUR RENTAL was the time constraints that George had while making it. Basically when you shoot a movie, you typically tackle around three pages a day when you’re doing a big movie, and in episodic television, like with shows like HAWAII 5-0, you shoot around eight pages. With this show, I think George was shooting like sixteen pages a day, the time element he was under was just incredible. With any profession, whether you’re a director, a house builder or a doctor, time is always important. If you’re a doctor and you only have fifteen minutes to look at a patient, if you shave off 30 seconds or a couple of those fifteen minutes, you might not make the same diagnosis that you would if you had the time you needed. When shot it for the most part, at once, but towards the end because of my time, they kind of shot me out for time. I’ve never worked with anybody who worked so fast and George, he’s been around since MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and is a MASTER at getting stuff in the can.
You mentioned your 40-year career point and I’m curious, at this point in your career, having played so many iconic characters, is there perhaps a type of film you look for that you haven’t yet had the chance to do or how do you decide whether or not do a film?
I don’t work that often. At this point, I’ve been able to be a part of some many great movie, but I don’t think there’s going to be another TERMINATOR or ALIENS or THE ABYSS or TOMBSTONE. If it does come along, I’ll see it and I’ll know it and will definitely jump on it, but the older you get, the less likely you are to get those parts. I’m really pleased with my resume’ and what I’ve done in my life so far, as far as an actor and a director. I directed one thing and that was THE VICTIM and having to write that movie in twelve days and doing pre-production while writing it and even shooting it in twelve days, I’m very proud of that little movie. Who knows though? They’re talking about doing another ALIENS movie, with Neill Blomkamp, and Fox came and announced it and Sigourney (Weaver) has come out and announced it. The basic idea is acting like ALIEN3 and 4 never existed, so if you go on Neill Blomkamp’s site, everyone can see all of the artwork for that. I know Ridley Scott is doing his movie first and is going to be the executive producer on this one, so I’m really looking forward to that. I know that Ridley’s focus is on the second PROMETHEUS (now titled ALIEN: COVENANT) and I’m sure that he and Fox both don’t want that and Neill’s movie to come out right next to each other, because they’re kind of two different worlds, with ALIENS taking place thousands of years later, which is how they explained it all to me, but at the same time, they want to give them a similar feel. I know they’re putting the brakes on Neill’s movie just for a little while, but I really think that it would be embarrassing to Ridley and Fox and Sigourney if they just didn’t make the movie.
Oh trust me, I agree with you, I’m dying to see THAT one.
I think when they put that out there and have pictures with me as Hicks again, people were excited and though I’m not into online stuff much, my kids saw a lot about it on Reddit. They were excited. They’re planning on bringing me and Newt back and at this point Newt will be around twenty-seven years old. I know that every actress in Hollywood is going to want to play this one, it’s really a passing of the torch between Sigourney and this younger actress who would play Newt. It would keep the franchise alive and the studios would make money, because that’s what the bottom line is now: money. That’s why you end up seeing TERMINATOR 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10 and THE FAST AND FURIOUS 7, 8, 9, and 10. So when that happens, the ALIENS film, maybe that will be one more movie that I can make a mark with, plus, Neill is such a talented guy. When I saw DISTRICT 9 for the first time, I was glued to my seat, going “wow”. So I’m hopeful for that one.
24 HOUR RENTAL is now available exclusively on HULU.