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Hey Boys and Girls, weíve just had the dream of many eons come true by talking to a feller whoís had a lock on our heart for a long time.  Michael Biehn - Kyle Reese in Terminator to some, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens to others and Ringo from Tombstone to still more -  is one of those actors whoís enjoyed a long and interesting career and seems universally adored by fans.  He was kind enough to sit for a candid chat around his new film, Bereavement and mentioned some lovely things about its writer/director, Stevan Mena, who also has a thing or two to say about his fright-filled opus.

 Come with me if you want a good read!



Michael Biehn


The Lady Miz Diva:  When I told friends I was arranging this interview, every person I mentioned it to said, ďOh man, thatís so cool. Tell him heís so cool.Ē

Michael Biehn: I wish more studio executives felt that way, but I do appreciate anything that I can get.


LMD:  Well, your career is unusual because youíre an actor who gets cast in both lead and character roles and youíve not only had longevity in your career, but quite a few renaissances.  To what do you attribute your duration in the business?

MB:  Well, I have four children to support {Laughs}.  You know, thatís kind of an interesting question, Iím not sure that Iíve ever been asked that before and Iím not really sure what the answer is other than the fact that I really enjoy what I do.  I am really passionate about what I do.  I was never really a movie star.  People look back and say, ĎWell, you were in Aliens and youíre in this and youíre a movie star.í  I never was really a movie star.  I was never on the cover of magazines or dating famous actresses; I was always kind of a working actor.  Therefore, I never really got these really high salaries of people like Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise or Charlie Sheen and guys in that ilk were getting back then and Iím not sure exactly why.  I always used to tell my agent I didnít want to be a movie star.  I just wanted to be an actor and it kinda worked out that way.  The problem was I didnít get paid as much and I didnít get the choice of scripts that I wanted.  I really kind of shied away from publicity for a long time.  One of the things I didnít realise was that I wasnít going to get the choice of roles or characters to play that I wouldíve had if I had been a bit more of a movie star.  Thatís really the most important thing is roles.  And to tell you the truth, one of the reasons that Iíve been working for such a long time and done so many different things is because I have had to take films and television shows that I really didnít want to do because I did have a family and four children.  I mean, we live a nice middle class life and everything -- upper middle class I would say -- but you know, four kids and college and all that kind of stuff.  Iíve just been always kind of a working Joe type of a guy and so Iíve done a lot of work that I didnít really wanna do and felt like I had to do.  The worst thing that ever happened to me was IMDB, because I used to be able to take all that crap off my resume.  I could walk in there with the top of my credits and go, ďHere ya go!Ē  Now theyíll already have it, usually, and say ĎTell me a little bit here about Megiddo or The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian?Ē


LMD:  A lot of people have the same needs, but donít have the opportunity to work as frequently as you have.

MB:  Yep, well I love what I do.  I think Iím very smart when it comes to characters and dialog and I think Iím good with directors.  Iíve worked a lot of directors over and over again; Iíve done 3 or 4 things with Jim Cameron and 3 or 4 things with Franc Roddam,  I did a film with Billy Friedkin.  Producers and directors seem to like me because Iím a pretty good story editor and Iíve got a pretty good BS meter and Iím pretty good at saying, ďThis doesnít make sense. Maybe we could do this?Ē  Iím pretty good at not only pointing out problems in a script but having solutions for them, as well, and Iíve gotten good to the point where Iím now directing myself.


LMD:  With your new film Bereavement, youíre taking on the horror genre, which Iím not sure Iíve seen you in previously.

MB:  I donít like horror movies.  I donít like violence for the sake of violence.  Now Iím not saying that there arenít some very, very talented filmmakers that choose to use that genre to show their talents.  One of those is Rob Zombie, who is an incredibly interesting and talented filmmaker, but I just donít like all that gore.  Sam Raimi first started out with the Evil Dead stuff.  Itís just not my cup of tea.  Iíll tell you what happened on Bereavement was they sent me the script and I read it and thought itís kind of this boring role, itís got this child and torture and all this type of stuff and I canít do it.  But I went out and I watched Malevolence which was {Stevan Menaís} first movie and after I saw that  I said to myself there something about this guyís style of making a movie that, to me, had more to do with working with somebody who had a style.  Okay, his genre is horror -- and I would love to work with Rob Zombie or Eli Roth, even though itís not the type of movie that I would normally do -- when you get somebody whoís kind of a master at it, then you go ahead and do it anyway.  I donít think Stevan is recognised the same way, but there was something about the way Malevolence was shot and lit that I thought was very interesting and I thought I was dealing with somebody who was a true filmmaker and his genre just happened to be horror. So thatís why I decided to do it.


LMD: Thereís a very painterly quality to the tempo and frames of Bereavement that reminded me more of horror from the 1970ís like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the Wes Craven films or even John Carpenterís Halloween.  More like an independent film than the very exploitative, brash stuff that we know as horror today.  Was that indie quality appealing to you?

MB:  I donít think of it as being an independent film, to me, that thatís one thatís not a studio film.  First of all, I havenít seen Bereavement, but Malevolence was beautifully done and beautifully shot and that is what definitely persuaded me to work on this movie, that Malevolence created such an interesting canvas to tell his story on as far as the way he moved the camera and the shots he picked and the actors he picked to work in the movie.


LMD:  Speaking of the actors, Alexandra Daddario who plays your niece in the film seems an up and coming, bright young thing.

MB:  Well, she is.  Sheís obviously doing really, really well.  You know, I knew at the time that she would do well because sheís not only beautiful, but sheís talented.  Sheís just a talented girl and I knew that right away.  And when you have somebody who is as beautiful as she is and you add somebody that is as talented as she is, you end up with someone like Angelina Jolie, who Iíve worked with before.  I knew right away when I saw Angelina, I said to myself, ĎThis girl is like wow.í  And Michelle Pfeiffer is the same way, just gorgeous but thereís that talent underneath.  It takes a while sometimes for Hollywood to notice these things and to get in the right projects, but I guess now sheís doing the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and David Fincherís directing that.  I think sheíll be a big star.


LMD:  Stevan Mena is a young director whoís only done a few feature films and youíve been involved in many.  Was he open to your interpretations or suggestions?

MB:  To tell you the truth, no.  First of all, heís the nicest guy in the world, heís a sweetheart and he takes his work very seriously, but doesnít take himself that seriously.  He has a vision.  He sees his movie; he writes them, he produces them, he directs them.  Heís a little bit like Cameron that way.  I found him less flexible than even Jim Cameron as far as ďHey, Stevan maybe you could change this dialog here?Ē  Or, ďAre you sure you wanna shoot it this way?Ē  I joked with him all the time, ďThis is never gonna be in the movie,Ē he would just smile.  Heís a little bit like Robert Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez is the guy who I think has got the movie shot, cut, edited, composed and with the credits on it before he starts shooting.  Stevan kind of reminded me of that and I, because Iím very good at dialog changes that make sense, I was expecting him to be more open, but at the same time I really respected the fact that he had a very strong vision of what he wanted.  I canít say that he never took a suggestion from me, but I remember him as being somebody who was not a pushover by any stretch of the imagination, or was like, ĎOh, Michael Biehnís done a bunch of movies so I should listen to him,í at all.  He definitely knew what he wanted and come hell or high water, whether it took six months or six years he was gonna put on the screen what he wanted to put on the screen.


LMD:  You mentioned youíre directing for the first time.  Can you tell us about your directing projects and what directors inspire you?

MB:  Iím really excited about The Victim.  Iím actually on a foley stage right now looking at the movie and weíre putting in some sound effects.  When weíre talking about inspiration, the person that really inspired me to direct movies was Robert Rodriguez. Heís a very, very inspiring type of guy and I talk to him a lot.  We had a lot of fun making the Grindhouse movies and he said to me. ďYou know you should make a grindhouse movie.Ē  I said, ďI dunno, Robert, Iím not really that familiar with cameras and stuff.Ē  He said, ďJust go write it and go shoot it, man.Ē  So I told him Iíd make a grindhouse film someday and we laughed.  Heís just a joy; heís just an incredible force of nature, and Quentin also.  I promised myself I was gonna make this grindhouse movie.  I was working on The Divide with Xavier Gens when I saw a guy in a restaurant reading Rebel Without a Crew, the Robert Rodriguez book, so I reread it and said, ĎWhat do I need to make a grindhouse movie?í  So I sent my girlfriend, Jennifer Blanc off to see if she could raise a very small grindhouse-style amount of money.  I was gonna write the script.  I was gonna need sexy girls.  I was gonna need dirty cops, a little bit of action, violence, and what the hell; Iíll throw in a serial killer.  I wrote a script that has all those elements of violence in it and we shot it in 12 days and weíre real proud of it.

The other one that I directed was a much less fulfilling experience because I went over to China and I worked not in Beijing and not in Shanghai; I worked in a studio that was 2 hours outside of Guangzhou.  No one there really knew how to make a movie.  I wrote that script along with some other friends.  I didnít have a production manager, I didnít have a script supervisor, I didnít have a first A.D., so I kinda had to organise.  I had two actresses; one who didnít speak any English and neither one had ever been in front of the camera before.  But still, I was working and still thought I was making a pretty decent little movie.  Then I finished shooting it, then for whatever reason, the producer of the movie decided that he was going to take over and he decided that he knew better, I guess.  Iím not sure if they ran out of money or what, but they were supposed to have me fly back to Hong Kong and cut the movie and do all the post on it which takes about six weeks.  There was a lot of work to do.  He decided he was going to do that himself.  Itís like playing quarterback in a football game and you play the first half and then the second half somebody else plays.  So, I donít consider that my movie, I didnít direct it, Bey Logan directed it.



Director Stevan Mena


The Lady Miz Diva:  Bereavement is a prequel to your film Malevolence.  What inspired you to write more about the character from that film?

Stevan Mena:  I wrote a 500Ėpage book that I broke into 3 scripts.  I always knew that I needed a more disciplined cast to pull off the drama that was in Bereavement, so I shot Malevolence first.  The other reason was I thought it would be more interesting if you didnít know anything about the killer.  Bereavement is his backstory and origin and I always find it much more sinister and scary if you donít know anything about the antagonist, thatís why I did them out of order.


LMD:  Were you concerned that people who hadnít seen Malevolence wouldnít get all there was to know in Bereavement?

SM:  No, actually, I think itís better that you haven't seen it, because thereís a lot more surprise if you havenít seen it.  If you have seen Malevolence, you kinda know where it all ends up, especially with the kid, so there certain rug-pulls that youíre gonna anticipate.  But if you havenít seen it, then all of itís new to you, so I think thereís a benefit both ways.  My distributor is re-releasing Malevolence on DVD and Blu-Ray when this comes out, so weíre hoping people will want to check it out.


LMD:  You have a great cast.  Did you get everyone you asked for?

SM:  I got everyone and more, because when we cast Alex, she was a nobody; it was her first real feature film and look where she is now.  Since then Chris Columbus watched some of her stuff and cast her in Percy Jackson {and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief} which was a huge role in a 100-million dollar movie and then she also just filmed a spot in Hall Pass.  Sheís just so beautiful and so smart, I personally think sheís gonna be another Jennifer Connolly.


LMD: What did you see in her that made you decide she would be the next big scream queen?

SM:  I donít know exactly what it was when I cast her.  Itís kind of funny cos, Iíd talked to about 150 different people and on my way home from casting that day I saw her picture on the cover of Psychology Today, but I didnít realise it was her, and I went, ďOh my God, that girlís beautiful. Wait a minute, I know her.  I just talked to her today. Ē I took that as a sign, so she got the role because of Psychology Today. {Laughs}


LMD: Youíve also got Michael Biehn in your cast.  Whatís he like to work with?

SM:  All I can tell you is Michael Biehn is one of the nicest guys Iíve ever met.  Totally professional, totally fun to be around and just really, really smart.  He had a lot of great ideas he brought to the character and just a total pleasure to work with.  He even had some nice things to say when we wrapped.  Sometimes when youíre on a shoot like ours, which was really an arduous shoot, you can get some grouchy, grumpy people who can really get frustrated.  He never once got frustrated.  Literally, on the last day of shooting, he was lying on the ground for 9 hours without moving and then he gets up and thanks the crew for a wonderful experience.  Hey, what more can you ask for, heís really cool.


LMD:  Itís interesting because when I asked Michael if he had a lot of leeway to interpret the role heíd said he hadnít but that was okay because he knew you had a vision of what you wanted.  That you had the whole movie cut in your head in a way that reminded him of Robert Rodriguez.  Do you agree with his assessment of your work style?

SM:  Thatís really interesting, because I donít know if I necessarily see it that way.  He may be giving me a little more credit than Iím due.  Iíll meet him halfway with that; my thinking is that I certainly like to adhere to the script.  I spent a lot of time trying to get that as perfect as it can be, but when I get on to the set, I donít like to let that interfere with what could be a spontaneous flash of genius.  I never like to box in my actors cos you never know what youíre gonna get, and if you try and manipulate them too much, you take the life out of it.  I see that in so many performances where it feels like theyíre just robots and Iím definitely not like that.  Iím not Hitchcock, where I literally dangle them like puppets.  I definitely like to give them their freedom.


LMD:  Did you have John Savage in mind when you created his role?

SM:  You know, I didnít, but my wife actually grew up on Long Island, as well as I did and so did John Savage, and so she knew him from a very young age.  She actually recommended him and I thought thatís a great idea.  He is a perfect example of why you donít want to box in or limit your actors cos you never know what youíre gonna get when John Savage takes the floor.  Every day is an adventure with that guy and certainly when we got to the editing room, we had a lot of choices because he never does the same take twice.  Sometimes thatís challenging from a directorís viewpoint to keep it on base, but itís so much fun to watch.  You just wind him up and let him go.


LMD:  You have two young boys playing the killer at different ages.  There are some heavy themes and graphic violence in their scenes.  How did you approach those subjects with them?

SM:  Thatís funny you should say that cos those kids, especially Spencer List Ė he was actually disappointed that he didnít get to kill his sister on camera.  He was having more fun than any of us!  He was like ďMore blood, more blood.Ē  We had to dunk his head into frozen water that was supposed to be blood and he was, ďMore, more!Ē  We were desperate to go home and he wanted to keep going.  Every night was like Halloween night to that kid, he was having a blast.

I will say about the younger boy, Chase Pechacek, we did have a moment cos he was only like 5 or 6 years old and in the beginning scenes we did everything in camera, thereís no special effects.  So he didnít see really anything, but he heard it and he curled up into a ball when he heard it.  So I thought letís do this without sound and maybe itíll help and when we did the screaming in post-production, he was fine.


LMD:  Iím taken with the look of the film and the long camera shots you chose of the landscapes and around the mill.  Did you have the look of the film already in your head when you began the project?

SM:  Yes, and Iím so glad youíre saying that because Iíve had a couple of people watch it and thought the film moves a little slowly because of those scenes.  But to me, those scenes mean so much because they immerse you in the location and they really make you a part of the movie.  I love movies like The Shining that take their time and really get you immersed into the picture.  There are so many movies that are fast-cutting and that really lose that effect.  But to answer your question, it was very much pre-planned and as far as the look of it, the layout, you donít really see too many houses.  There were some houses that got into the picture, but if they did, we painted them out.   We were very careful to make it seem like in Jaws; when theyíre out on the water, thereís no other boats.  In here, thereís no other houses that are gonna help you, thereís no neighbours.  It was a very concerted effort to make you feel isolated when youíre watching the movie.

That was actually inspired by the fact that I grew up in East Meadow not far from Joel Rifkin, who murdered 18 prostitutes.  I found out after he was arrested that he lived around the corner from my house!  I was  actually very inspired by that, I thought, ĎIf this guy can kill 18 people in his basement with his mother upstairs, then certainly Graham Sutter in the middle of nowhere can get away with what heís doing.í


LMD:  Bereavement does a great job of building a very creepy atmosphere from the start and scares before a drop of blood is spilled.  Then thereís a lot of blood spilled.  Do you think that had to happen, do you need that quotient of violence and gore? 

SM:  You absolutely do and Iíll tell you why; because when youíre telling a story from this perspective and youíre using a lot of verisimilitude to tell the story, you canít punk out at the end and not show that.  Look, at the end of the day itís about a movie about a guy butchering and killing people in a slaughterhouse.  You can only pan the camera away so many times before people start to call you on it and say, ĎWhat is it, a budgetary issue?  What is it?í  Youíve got to tell the story truthfully and I felt that especially in todayís day and age with kids so desensitised to violence, you really have to allow them to experience some of the violence onscreen.  And I think it was pretty tasteful in a lot of stuff, I mean in a lot of stuff, I did pan away, but eventually you have to give in.  And especially when Sutter dies, you wanna see him get his because you hate him.  Youíre cheering at the moment, youíre like, ĎYes, this guy is getting what he deserves,í even though he is a victim and you feel bad for him and there is some empathy.  But he gets what he deserves and this is right and you kind of get rewarded with his gore.


LMD:  What do you hope audiences will take away from Bereavement?

SM:  I hope that when they watch it theyíll take away the effort I was trying to make to reintroduce storytelling into the horror genre.  I kind of feel like thatís been lacking.  Everybody feels like pushing the envelope means more blood and more gore and certainly, thereís a lot of blood and gore in this film, but I feel like Iím pushing the envelope with the experimental way in which drama is introduced and carried through with this film.  Itís very rare to find films like this where you feel like thereís a juxtaposition of horror and also drama, but not just youíre ordinary drama, itís pretty deep. Itís like one minute sheís in an Afternoon Special and in the next sheís running for her life. I donít remember the last time I saw anything like that; I think itís a unique take.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

February 14th, 2011







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