Lance Henriksen Talks About Overcoming Illiteracy, Memorizing Lines and Getting Out of Character

Promoting his new showbiz memoir Not Bad for a Human, Hollywood veteran Lance Henriksen talked to the Newark Star-Ledger about overcoming illiteracy, how he separates real life from fiction and why he takes every role he plays seriously.

“I’d get a friend to put the whole play on tape and I’d just listen to it over and over again. I wouldn’t just memorize my lines; I’d memorize everyone’s lines…” the 71-year-old recalled about not being able to read, even as an adult actor. “I’m very literate now, I love to read, I read constantly — words don’t resonate the way they do to a person with a formal education. They’re like a maze, a puzzle that has to be opened up. I don’t think in words, I think in pictures, in images.”

Henriksen is probably best known for his role in the Alien film franchise, but he’s appeared in well over 100 movies and television series and lent his voice to to a number of video games. No matter what, though, he brings his A-game to every set. “My feeling is, I do a lot of low-budget films. I don’t do low-budget acting. I have no interest in just goofballing my way through, thinking ah, no one’s ever going to see this anyway…” he said. “What’s frustrating to me is when, on a low-budget movie, people don’t take chances. A big-budget movie, that script’s your bible, nobody’s going to risk going off the page. But when you’re doing a very low-budget film, why not take some chances, intellectually, artistically?”  It seems that if Henriksen were to keep memorabilia from even half of the productions he’s worked on, he’d have the world’s worst case of multiple personality disorder. “I don’t (get out of character),” he explained. “Not for awhile, anyway. Which is the bad thing about being a primitive actor. That’s why I don’t have one souvenir in my house from any movie I’ve done. Because if I held onto a jacket or a hat, and I put it on again? That minute I would be right back in that character. It’s so bizarre.”

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