Interview: Michael Biehn On Directing & Jennifer Blanc-Biehn On Playing 'The Victim'
Nothing announces new directing prowess more then a little gritty grindhouse action. That’s the chosen style of famed actor but newbie writer/director Michael Biehn for his new film "The Victim." (Out on DVD/Blu-ray Sept. 18 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.) The film stars both Biehn as a mysterious bearded woodsman and his talented wife Jennifer Blanc-Biehn as a desperate gal who brings some trouble to his doorstep. (Plus the flick also has some solid and memorable Danielle Harris action as well!) The film, which contains equal parts sex and sin, was a passion project for the two Biehns and has become a genre favorite among fans. We got a chance to chat one-on-one with the Mr. and Mrs. to talk all about "The Victim," some of Michael’s directing influences, what it was like for Jennifer to be directed in some sensual scenes by her hubby and some questions about Michael’s past work fans will want to know. So lock the doors, grab an axe and come out swinging, here’s the Biehn team...
Where did the genesis of "The Victim" come from?
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: Initially, we were approached by someone who wanted to produce it. It was called "The Victim," but it was a completely different movie. It was written by Reed Lackey and it was like a novella – very descriptive. But that didn't end up working out and when Michael and I were both working up on "The Divide" in Winnipeg, Michael saw somebody reading 'Rebel Without a Crew' that Robert (Rodriguez) had written and got reminded on working on "Grindhouse." He got inspired and he had some time in his schedule, so he said to me, “Can we re-look at this?’ And it started from there.
Michael, what was it like first time directing and having worked with some of the best and brightest talents in the business – from James Cameron and Michael Bay to Xavier Gens and William Friedkin – who influenced you most?
Michael Biehn: I think it was a combination. Jim always thought that I would make a good director and Robert Rodriguez introduced me to the whole grindhouse way of making movies. I could not make a ten or twenty million dollar movie, but I could make a very small movie. But it was a combination of Cameron and Robert. One of things that makes Robert brilliant is that he doesn’t understand that he can't do something. He does it and that’s kind of Robert’s mantra really – let’s pick up a camera and let’s start shooting. So I got that bug and when we got back from Canada I had three weeks to write the script and three weeks to do pre-production. We got our cast together, got our locations and then we did a twelve-day shoot - I’ve never shot a movie before in less then twenty-four days.
Jennifer, I adored the scenes between just you and Danielle Harris – how much of it was in the script vs. improvised?
JB: It was definitely in the script, but Danielle and I are very good friends. So if there were things that felt that they would be more genuine a certain way, Michael was really open to us wording things a certain way because of our friendship. But the story and the scenes were basically scripted.
Jennifer, what was it like to be directed by Michael not only in the scenes of sexual tryst with others but just in general?
JB: Well, in a sexual tryst with others very funny. He’s pretty funny. In the making of that’s coming out as part of the special features you can see some really cool and funny stuff like yelling at me and Dani to get into it more! (Laughs) On being directed by Michael, I’ve worked with him on a bunch of things as an actress in the past and it was just fantastic to be directed by him. I trust him more then most anyone. He’s passionate - but so am I.
Michael, your character is rather ambiguous and creepy in terms of his nature and motives, how did you approach playing him?
MB: I didn’t even think about it – I was just directing the movie. And when they turned the camera on me I just acted. I wrote the character so I knew who he was. It was a new experience for me where I didn't have to think would I react this way or that way – I knew.
Past work. One of your pieces of past work I adore Michael is the underrated 1987 William Friedkin film "Rampage" – what was it like to work with Friedkin on that one?
MB: I think people on his set, including me, looked at him like the people on my set looked at me. I think we are both incredible passionate people and sometimes that moves over into a manic, raving, kind of lunatic behavior. That’s me and I think in my case, and his case too, nobody got fired or quit. But Billy’s the same way as I am. I don't attack anybody and say ‘you’ this or ‘you’ that. It’s more like where’s the prop – we can’t shoot the scene without the prop. Or I really hate people talking during takes, so I’ll really go off on people who talk during takes. But when you’ve got twelve days to shoot a movie you just don't have any time for people messing things up because they’re telling joke on the set. It was a wild and exuberant experience for me, I think everybody else walked around going that motherf#ckers crazy!
Also, your work in "The Divide" reminded me of the amazing layered stuff you did as Lt. Coffey in "The Abyss" – Michael, can you talk a bit about crafting those two performances and what part both James Cameron and then Xavier Gens played in molding those characters with you?
MB: Well, both are completely different because Jim basically has a script and I basically say the words that Jim asks me to say. Xavier Gens he’s very, very open to improvisation and he’s very open to re-writing stuff and new scenes. My character in "The Divide" really was the antagonist throughout the entire movie and because of all the re-writing and changing I think the Michael Eklund character ended up being more of the antagonist. I ended up being a guy that, while everyone had their humanity at the beginning of the movie and lost it, did not have my humanity at the beginning and found it. Basically Xavier would tell you that I wrote eighty to eighty-five percent of my dialogue in that movie and created that character which was written differently in the script. With Jim it’s much more specific and with an antagonist they say you don't have to like them, but you do have to understand them. So in "The Abyss" the guy was sick and he was underwater, cut off from his chain of command and people were telling him there were aliens down there. To me I was being as rational as I could under those circumstances, but for me both roles were wrong place, wrong time.
"THE VICTIM" HITS DVD/BLU-RAY SEPT.18 FROM ANCHOR BAY HOME ENTERTAINMENT.