Alien Vs Predator: Interview with Lance Henriksen & Sanaa Lathan

Alien Vs Predator: Interview with Lance Henriksen & Sanaa Lathan
Interviews with the stars of the upcoming sci-fi/horror film.
Updated: 08-11-2004 caught up with Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan at the Comic-Con 2004 Convention in San Diego, CA. in late July, where they were talking about their upcoming horror film Alien Vs Predator.

Set in present day, Alien Vs Predator follows a team of drillers, scientists and archaeologists led by a rich industrialist (Lance Henriksen) who travel to Antarctica to investigate ancient ruins buried deep beneath the ice, which predate those in Egypt and Mexico. Sanaa Lathan plays Alexa Woods, an environmentalist. When they reach their destination, the group finds disturbing evidence of an alien race and before long, the murderous creatures wake up for the dinner bell. ("Time for Tender Viscera!")

Alien Vs Predator roars on to big screens across the nation on August 13, 2004.

So if this is a prequel that must mean that both the alien and the predator live. How does one win?

LH: Well, you are really digging, aren't you? (laughter)

Following the logic here…

LH: There is a logic but this is a different avenue, a different take on it but I won't tell you. It's only a few days away. It's brilliant, it really is.

Lance, are you happy to return to this character?

LH: Of course, for me it's like a cycle and it's a closure for that character -- not that they couldn't bring me back down the road. I mean, they did it obviously. But this is a prequel so... When Paul asked me -- we had a meeting together and he was such a gentlemen, he described the whole movie to me. And then I said, "I'm in, Paul." It was great. It was a great idea and a great script.

Do you love these kinds of horror movies just on your own time? Do you like to watch them?

LH: Yeah, sure. They're great morality plays, you know? I play a multi-billionaire that hires Sanaa to lead an expedition to Antarctica. She's an expert on cold weather and a lot of other things. We get down there and walk into the mouth of an alligator without knowing it. Cool stuff.

How great was Lance to work with?

LH: Oh shit (laughing). I was great to work with?

SL: (laughing) How are you going to ask me that in front of him.

LH: I'll leave the room.

SL: No, he was great. He made it so…

LH: (chuckles)

SL: No, truly. I can honestly…I'm happy to answer this question because he had the most experience out of all of us. Haven't you done like 90 movies?

LH: Yeah.

SL: Which I think is amazing, and he came on the set like it was his first time. I mean, he was so enthusiastic, so fun.

LH: So were you guys.

SL: To make a movie -- and a movie on this scale -- is very grueling at times. Long, long hours and you know it's cold weather conditions. He was fun. He was great. You know, very dedicated to the character and the story and also at the same time in between takes just kept it light and fun.

LH: We had a good time. We really did.

SL: Practical jokes.

LH: They are a great bunch of people. All of us work together so well. No fights, no nothing. I mean, it was truly… You know that cliche of bullshit rolling downhill? Paul Anderson is such a gentleman and the climate on the set with the crew and everybody was so easy. It felt like we were all friends so there was a chance to laugh and to support each other. It was great. It was really great.

What's it like for you to be revisiting this character or a version of this character over the years?

LH: It's the muy air.

SL: The muy air? What's that?

LH: The atmosphere. When I walked on the set and saw the alien I was back immediately. I remembered being in London and shooting that thing. It was instant, it was instantaneous. Of course, I did "Pumpkinhead" and a lot of other movies with the guys that did those monsters so they were there, too. So I was going like, "Tom, Alec" you know, like a reunion?

The Stan Winston people?

LH: Yeah. That was Stan's first movie and these guys were on it. Now they've gone on their own.

Did the film leave it so that your characters could possibly come back?

SL: You can always come back (laughing).

LH: Yeah, you see what they do. I'm certain Sanaa is coming back. Certain. I would bet everything I made on this.

Do you have a contract for sequels?

LH: You know what? Wait until you see the movie. Wait until you see what happens. You'll know. I don't want to tip anything.

SL: I'm taking his lead. Can we answer this?

LH: You know what I mean? The issue right now is with a sequel, like this is in a sense a sequel, it's a prequel but it's a sequel as well, but I don't think that anything that people are hoping for is going to be missed, and we've gone way further than that. The biggest disappointment would be, of course, if you failed it. But that's not going to happen.

Sanaa, you're kind of the Ellen Ripley character. Do you have elements of that kind of strong woman?

SL: Definitely she's a strong woman but I would say that's probably the only similarity.

LH: That's true.

SL: I mean, as different as me and Sigourney look is as different as these two characters are. It really is this character that Paul has created. She's her own woman. She's smart; she discovers things about herself and rises to the occasion in very scary situations. She's pretty fierce.

LH: There's nothing more fierce than the female, like the momma lion. Believe me, my wife is a good example (laughing).

SL: He knows firsthand.

LH: But it's got that rich quality.

Did you have to learn a lot of technical jargon to play a scientist?

SL: I'm not a scientist. I'm actually an environmentalist who is very familiar with Antarctica. I'm kind of like the safety guide. It's the other people who are the scientists and the archaeologists.

LH: We brought together the best, the best that we could find.

SL: My character is learning as I go along. I'm just there to make sure everybody is safe.

Did you have to do a lot of acting against things that weren't there?

SL: (Laughing) Yes.

Did you ever feel kind of silly or did you really get into it?

SL: Well, you know, it's funny because my mother, when I got the part, we were all really excited and she said, "This will probably be a really hard movie for you physically but easy acting-wise." And I found that that was completely wrong. It was probably one of the hardest films acting-wise that I had to do because it's such a high state of emotion and then on top of it you're -- you know, the monster isn't there -- and you're having to create that for yourself.

Was there a funny little prop, like a sock on a stick, in place of the creature?

LH: No, no, they did better than that (laughing). You know the other thing about this movie is that most of it was physical but parts that just brought that action and the extra mile was miniscule by comparison to a lot of stuff being made today. All of our stuff was actually there but then to go that extra [mile], that's when she's talking about there's nothing there.

When you were in "Aliens," there wasn't any CGI effects, were there?

LH: There was none of that. None.

How is it different for you doing this film? How was the technology and the puppetry?

LH: The technology was extraordinary because Cameron and those guys -- you know, Stan Winston at the time -- they had an Alien Queen with like four guys in it. Two in the top and then they were operating stuff. But we had problems to overcome like with CG you can rip somebody in half -- today it's nothing. But in those days, I had to actually act backwards. We did a whole scene backwards because the Queen couldn't actually grab anything. Old stuff like that. But it was, again, it was a little bit like doing a low budget film in a sense that you had to use your cleverness as opposed to saying, "Don't worry. We'll get that on the green screen." I don't really like giving up that much power to the green screen. You know what I mean? I really want to be part of it. I mean, Dennis Quaid had to do a whole movie where he's talking to a dragon that wasn't there. A tennis ball on a stick -- that's what you're talking about. I can't even imagine that.

I hope they put eyes on it at least.

LH: Yeah. Like the crew gets funny and they draw a little smile on it. You go, "Yeah, thanks."

How does this incarnation, in the sense that this is an incarnation of the character you played in the other films, compare with the previous two?

LH: The only similarity is that Bishop, because he wasn't human, thought anything alive was the most beautiful thing to see. And in this one, I'm playing a guy who's dying so the same thing exists. When you're dying I would imagine that seeing life for the last time or soon, you'd think that all living things are so beautiful. And I think that that was part of the dignity of the character. That's what I respond to, more human things.

How did the footage from "Alien Vs Predator" compare to your experience while you were filming?

LH: It's beautiful.

SL: It is beautiful and it's so big.

LH: It's such a big movie.

SL: Even though the sets were the most amazing sets I've ever experienced to work on, they were massive and so detailed.

LH: Unbelievable. The sets were a city block and the screen's going to have to be as big as this wall to be seen.

SL: It definitely matches that and even surpasses that in terms of the bigness. It was beautifully shot. I think it falls in the "Alien" tradition.

For the DVD set of "Millennium" that's coming out, did you do commentary?

LH: Some. Yeah I did. I hadn't seen it in about four years. A girl who was in the show with me, we sat there and watched it together and we talked about it and it was like shocking how good the show was. I didn't realize it because I was just doing it and I didn't get the chance to see them. Because we worked such long hours, I couldn't even watch the tapes. So when I finally saw them, the quality of that show was really high.

Do you think that show might find an audience on DVD?

LH: The sales are phenomenal on it right now. And then I'm such a dreamer I'm saying to Fox, "Let's stick it on HBO. We've got language, we can do it again. Let's go. Or how about doing the movie? Let's do the movie." If I revisited Frank Black now with the distance I've gone on it, it would be a whole other dime. I don't mean totally, but I mean there's an element that I would have loved to have seen, that I've always wanted to have seen and now I could actually verbalize it.

With Chris Carter talking about potential X-Files films, has there been any talk at all about incorporating your character into his films like he was in the show?

LH: When I went over and did the X-Files [series], you mean? There's a funny story. Chris said to me, "Lance, you want closure on Frank Black. This will be the last show and do it on the X-Files." I said, "Okay," and I get the script and I read it and it's zombies. I said, "Now wait a minute. How is that closure?" You know, what is this? So he just kind of used it. You always get what you deserve somehow.

Interview by Staci Layne Wilson for

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