He's not cute. He's not trending on Twitter. He's not on Dancing With The Stars, and he isn't engaged to a Kardashian. Barely a blip on the pop culture radar, to most he's "that actor" with the craggy face and gruff voice.
But Lance Henriksen is a name you and me know as well as our own. And the title of his memoir, Not Bad For A Human, speaks directly to us as a line of dialogue we have all geekily quoted more than once or twice.
Much as I've loved Henriksen's work over the decades, before this book (co-written with Joseph Maddrey, who met Henriksen when they worked together on the documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film) I knew very little about the man. I wasn't especially curious (his work has always spoken well enough for him) but as it turns out this memoir intrigues throughout.
The book begins, at it should, at the beginning: the practically illiterate young Henriksen led a hardscrabble life back east revolving around foster homes, petty crime, absentee parents, abandonment, isolation, going AWOL, thrown into the brig… and, finally, acting in Hollywood.
Henriksen started onstage, and moved into film. His stories from the set of Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon (in which he was a bit player, yet still had enough personal magnetism to elicit a piece of sage advice from Charles Durning) dovetail nicely into the thick of a lifelong journey as the actor found his way from working with Steven Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and into his seminal role as the not-quite-human Bishop in James Cameron's Aliens. Then he starred in one of the most vicious vampire films ever, Near Dark, and went on to create an indelible character on series TV as criminal profiler Frank Black on the gory and hard-hitting Millennium (created by Chris "X-Files" Carter). Those are just a few of the highlights in a genre-steeped acting career that's still going strong.
Revelations for most readers will include Henriksen's deep love and commitment to art: as an admirer, and as a participant. Not only the cinematic arts, but painting and pottery too! Who knew? Well, I guess you do now… but it's not a spoiler, I promise. There is so much more to Henriksen than you can imagine. Interviews with Henriksen insiders such as Don Coscarelli, Bill Paxton, Walter Hill, Stuart Gordon, and Jim Jarmusch add dimension to the actor's already vivid and colorful accounts. What's more, this substantial hardcover book features artwork from Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, Tim Bradstreet, and Mike Mignola to name a few of the talented scribblers.
Sometimes wry, often droll, but also serious and candid, this memoir is way better than "not bad".
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson