An Interview with Michael Biehn & Jennifer Blanc

Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc in The Victim

Michael Biehn is one very tough hombre! Over a thirty five year career, the fifty-six year old Alabama boy has saved the humanity countless times by smashing Terminators, slaughtering Aliens and refusing to give Ed Harris’ `god-damn orders!’ This week sees the DVD and Bluray release of Biehn’s directing debut, The Victim; a “deliriously entertaining slice of grind-house sleaze,” that we recently awarded 3.5 stars. ( You can read our full review here.)

The Victim stars Biehn and his wife Jennifer Blanc, who is also the producer of the film, and is the eagerly awaited next step for an enduring, and ever popular, cult icon. Michael and Jennifer were gracious enough to invite us for an interview to discuss The Victim, their relationship and why you should never second guess James Cameron…

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Michael Biehn: Hi Liam, this is Michael and Jennifer. How are you?

Hello guys! Thank you for finding the time to speak to us at Front Row Reviews, we really do appreciate it. On a personal note, I’m a very big fan so this is a really big moment for me.

MB: Ha ha, thank you! How old are you?

I’m twenty four!

MB: Well, I’ll tell you what’s cool about guys like you: When we made The Terminator, you weren’t even born yet y’know! It came out in 1984, we shot it in 1983, and Aliens of course you were around for but you were like two years old and Tombstone. There was Tombstone, Aliens and The Terminator and I get that there’s a second surge of young filmmakers who love those three movies. I’ll tell ya more often than not I get kids who come up to me and say you know, `I loved you in Terminator, I think you’re the baddest ass in the world, and Aliens is the best movie in the world, I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s really fun to watch children get stuff that you made like twenty-five years ago.

Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese in James Cameron's, The Terminator

MB: Thank you! Well I’m glad you got it, so many people didn’t get it. When I put that `Not based on true events’  subtitle up at the beginning, I thought everybody knew that all cards were off the table but some people still wanted to take the movie seriously but uh, it sounds like you got it right on the nose.

I watched it with my whole family. In fact that moment you mentioned, the `not based on true events’ subtitle. We all loved that, we thought right of the bat we we’re going to enjoy ourselves

Jennifer Blanc: Me too!

MB: Your family all liked it too? [Laughter]

You and Jen clearly worked very hard on the film, and it looked like a very personal project, so what did you both think of the finished result?

MB: We were extremely pleased with it; we were both very surprised by how much attention it got. We made the movie in twelve days. We had three weeks of pre-production, we had to deal with the screen actors guild, we dealt with locations and casting. I wrote the script over that three week period and then strait into a twelve day shoot which is always hard although not impossible. We shot it with one camera, we shot day and night: We wanted to have fun with it and we wanted the audience to have fun with it, so we had a lot of fun making it. I was a little bit of a maniac; I ran round screaming at people the entire time and they would just laugh me off, and it seems that the people we we’re making the movie for were getting it and really enjoying it. So we are really happy about that. I figure that for me, it’s kind of like the crowning achievement of what I’ve done up until this point. To be able to make a movie in 12 days and have it get so much attention…I really didn’t think anybody was ever going to see this movie! I kept telling my crew not to worry because, `this won’t end up on the big screen, don’t worry about that it will be strait over to Netflix.’ The first time we screened it, it was at this huge theatre and now it’s playing at like 40 theatres, all across Europe and all across the United States and Canada. We showed it at Belfast, Japan and all across the United States just so we could get people interested in it and get a good deal from Anchor Bay [The films distributers] which we eventually got. Anchor Bay are a great company and they have it out there now, so you’re not going to be able to walk out of your house without tripping over a copy of it.

Well I already have a copy in my house, so there doing well so far! With you and Jennifer working together as man and wife, what sort of pressure does that put on you and Jennifer as a couple?

JB: I’m going to say that I don’t think there is any pressure because we both have this dynamic, pressure cooker-like passionate relationship anyway. One minute we’re both really passionate about a subject and getting really excited and we end up fighting and then suddenly kissing and making up. You know, after 16 years of knowing somebody you would think it wouldn’t stay the same way but it still feels that way today.

MB: I would say as well, that, on set, I am a very passionate person and passion can sometimes look like anger. I saw this when I was working with Michael Bay, Val Kilmer and Jim Cameron of course, those guys really want to get things done right and I’m the same, I want things done right so emotions run wild so I was running around set like all of those guys mixed up together. On the worst days I was just screaming at everybody, y’know, like `I need a prop here, where’s the fucking prop?’ But nobody quit and nobody got fired, but Jennifer was the only one out of the whole crew who would stand up to me.

JB: That’s because no one else had the balls to stand up to you.

Michael Beihn in Tombstone

MB: She would be screaming at back at me, and then I would scream back at her then before you know it the whole set is sitting down watching me and Jen just shout at each other, sometimes they were worried we would murder each other. There are a couple of moments on the `making of…’ that are like that. The cameras were rolling, we would get into arguments usually about things on the production like `why was she looking at that guy for so long’ so we would start fighting and screaming at each other and she would start crying but it was like, we would just turn the camera on and shoot scene 12, boom! She would come on camera and look just wonderful. As soon as we quit shooting, we would cool straight back down and we would drive down the hill to the same sushi place, we would have a nice meal together and start over the next day. It was madness, like a bunch of ants climbing over each other or whatever. It was exciting but it was very tough and very very tiring. We didn’t have any stunt guys, we only had one camera and we were doing 45 set ups a day. Whenever you see a shot that’s like the interior of a car, that was shot on one guy’s driveway that had foliage on both sides of the street. We had to shoot this on a very, very, very low budget over only 12 days, so you save where you can.

It sounds punishing. In the film, your characters, Kyle and Annie, are both hiding out in the forest for a majority of the runtime, do you ever wish you could run away and hide from fame?

MB: Well I’ve never really been that much of an `out-there’ personality. I’ve never really had publicist and I never did a lot of press for my movies. I have to now because I own a part of this film. Over the last twenty-five years I’ve tried to keep my head low, a bit Ed Harris like y’know, just try to do the work. On the other hand Jennifer likes to go out to all the showbiz parties on the red carpet, seeing everybody so it’s different for both of us. She goes to these parties and hangs out with all the celebs and then she gets home and it’s just us again.

So you don’t have to hide away but you’re never going to be completely anonymous either.

MB: I’ve never had to hide away. I can walk out my door and go down to the grocery store and spend an hour buying groceries and only occasionally, like once or twice a day, would I get people say `hey, aren’t you the guy from…’, or `man you we’re great in this and great in that’ They sometimes recognise me from really weird movies, like Borderline for instance. Sometimes I’ll be in the gym and the guy on the bike next to me will take his earphones of and say `Aren’t you Michael Biehn, my names Kyle! My dad named me after you in Terminator!’ That guy was cool; I was like `so you’re meeting your name-sake, that’s cool!’ But it’s really nice to see a younger generation, like twelve year olds saying they love Aliens,` I’ve seen it a hundred times.’ I mean they don’t say that about Batman, although there probably are people out there who have seen batman 100 times, but it surprises me that they are still saying that about Aliens, and there still loving The Terminator and there still saying they loved Tombstone and Kyle Reese.

You must be really proud to have a body of work that will stand the test of time. You’re probably aware that there were a lot of rumours liking you to a part in Avatar. Can you confirm if those rumours had any truth to them?

MB: Well there is something there. Me and Jim met about that but I think when it comes to Avatar the particular thorn in my side was when he cast Sigourney in the movie. When he cast Sigourney, he phoned me and he said that he felt with Sigourney AND me in the movie people would be getting that Aliens vibe and he didn’t want people to look at us and just see Ripley and Hicks. Jim said `people would be remembering Ripley and Hicks.’ I waited a long time to hear back about the movie, and while I was waiting there were a lot of false starts, like Aint It Cool News reported that I was playing a role. So I was phoning the producer every month for updates and ultimately it was disappointing to miss out on that movie. But at the end of the day, you don’t second guess Jim Cameron. You, just can’t question the guy. I mean he makes the biggest movies in the history of movies. He waits ten years to make a movie, and while he’s waiting everyone makes their movies like the Harry Potters and all that, but when Jim makes Avatar it makes more money than any other movie has ever made before. There are academy award nominations everywhere you look. You just cannot question him. I mean this happens, I understand the reasons, and we have it a lot. I say to Jennifer all the time, `we can’t both be in this movie or that movie, we can’t play those characters again it will look stupid, it would be just like The Victim.’ I understand exactly what was happening. I mean I don’t know what’s going on with Jim, if he ever wants me in another one of his movies that’s fine by me. I love working with him, we are good friends, he is a guy I would take a bullet for and I really mean that. He’s a very special person but at this point in his life I think he’s interested in the sea than making films…I think he doesn’t want to be the new Jacques Cousteau, he wants to be THE Jacques Cousteau! 

 

Michael Biehn as Corporal Dwayne Hicks in Aliens

So can we assume that we won’t be seeing you reunite with James Cameron in Avatar 2?

MB: Nothing to report so far but if anything changes in that regard, I’ll be sure to let you know.

A fan can dream! So what does the future hold for you and Jen; have you got any new projects lined up?

JB: We have one in the can now, in post-production called Treachery which is a physiological drama type thing; which is being written and directed by a guy called Travis Romero, Michael is staring and I have a supporting role. We also have a movie we are trying to get made right now called Hidden in the Woods, which screened at Fright-Fest this year. It’s a Chilean movie, which we are looking at translating and remaking with Michael as the bad guy. There may also be a trilogy of films next year with Xavier Gens.

It sounds like you’re very busy. So Jen, now that you’ve experienced life as a producer, do you feel like taking a step back from acting. Have you caught the producing bug?

JB: I’ll always be an actress first and foremost, but I have to take a step back sometimes because I can’t always star; not with everything a producer has to do. For example in Treachery, I’m just excited to be a part of it. Producing is an especially time consuming exercise, but sometimes I like to star without doing any producing. Like I’ll be working on a film soon with Brad Dourif from the people who made The Warning, and that’s just as an actress. So I love being a producer but that won’t stop me from being an actress.

That’s good news, because I really enjoyed The Victim and I look forward to seeing what you’re working on next.

JB: Oh thank you.

Well, once again we would like to thank you for inviting Front Row Reviews to speak with you.

JB: Well we are very happy to have support for the movie.

MB: We are really happy that you get the movie, every once and a while somebody gets it.

Do have any messages at all for your fans in the UK?

JB: We’re very grateful for all the support from the UK for the movie, so thank you to all our fans! We’re independent film-makers now, so go get The Victim!

MB: It’s better than page 3!

 

-The Victim is available on DVD and Bluray Monday 24th September.

About The Author

Liam graduated from the University of Kent in 2012 with a first class degree in Film Studies. Whilst studying at Kent he discovered his passion for cinema criticism by questioning the merits of as many examples as possible'; from Hitchcock's The Lodger, to The Hangover Part II. Liam's cinematic range encompass' genres and auteurs far and wide, however, the fusion of technology with outstanding storytelling is where his key passions lie: Therefore, the work of James Cameron, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson forms the bulk of Liam's must see catalogue.

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