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Hey, boys and girls.  Having interviewed him over the phone last year, we’re so happy to have had some face time with the man who stole our locked-down heart twice over in The Terminator and Aliens, Michael Biehn.  Michael, along with wife, actress Jennifer Blanc, has turned his hand to filmmaking with his first film the grindhouse thriller, The Victim.  We chatted about the dangers of chokeholds gone awry and running from psychos in microminis and high heels.

Dig it!

The Victim

Michael Biehn & Jennifer Blanc

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Where did the idea for The Victim come from?

Michael Biehn:  Actually, Jen and I were in Canada and doing The Divide with Xavier Gens.  We were just about finished wit the movie and I didn’t have anything scheduled.  I’d worked with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino on all the Grindhouse movies and Jen and I started talking about maybe we could raise enough money on my name just for one of those little Grindhouse movies.  There was a script I remembered that somebody’d brought me about a year ago.  It was kind of a Saw knockoff; it was a first-time writer.  It was kind of a novella and I wasn’t interested at the time.  Jennifer also introduced me to a guy who had some money and he wanted me to attach my name to a movie about Burt Lancaster.  I didn’t think he had enough money to make a movie about Burt Lancaster; it would have been a period piece, it would have been expensive.  We got to thinking that maybe we would take this old script and rewrite it and go back to this guy and there was a real good part in it for him. Ryan Honey, he played the bad sheriff.  So we decided to make this kind of exploitation movie.  And even though we didn’t have enough money for visual effects to do vampires or visual effects makeup -- so we couldn’t do zombies -- we really couldn’t do anything except for sex.  Jennifer agreed that we could do sex; she got her friend, Danielle Harris, on board.  So, okay, we got the sex covered; so we’ll do dirty cops and I thought we’ll do a little bit of torture, and we’ll do a little bit of action, which I had a budget for and I threw in a serial killer and then I wrote it.  I wrote it in three weeks.  During that three-week period of time, we went into pre-production mostly because the first check that they wrote us cleared the bank, and I really wasn’t expecting them to have the money when they said they’d have the money, which meant that I had to write the script in a hurry.  I wrote the script and went into pre-production, so we got the crew together.  Went to the Screen Actors Guild and cast it, we did the location, wardrobe, makeup all that kind of stuff; Jennifer did that.  She produced it along with her friend Lorna Paul.  I wrote at night and I would go out during the day and as the crew would gather, they would follow me around and I would say we’re gonna need this or that, or we’re gonna shoot in this location.  It was such a low budget I made the investors promise that I wasn’t gonna do something like Saw.  I wanted to do something that was more like a suspense movie.  I had complete control of the movie as far as all the production choices.

Jennifer Blanc: Pretty much everything; the casting choices down to who we hired for set designer.

MB: … And then who we sold it to and when we sold it.  So it finally got put together and it got made and I was all happy and I thought my job was done.  Then I realised we had to go out and sell it.  It’s hard to get it in front of people, so we started going out to film festivals and sometimes we’d show it at signings like the comic cons and things like that.  We started getting really good reviews; people started p[laying attention to it.  Anchor Bay, which is a company I was familiar with because they did The Divide, they gave us a really good deal and we got an overseas agent, so we’re selling it overseas.  It’s turned into this really nice success story.  If you’d have told me while I was making this movie in twelve days that we would be sitting here in New York, premiering the movie in New York… Jennifer would always tell me “Oh, it’ll be in a theatre. We can get to theatres.” I’d be like, “Never!”

 

LMD:  It seems like we’re entering a new age of independent cinema, where every studio is looking for the next Paranormal Activity, a film made on a low budget that brings a huge return.  Do you think The Victim or grindhouse films in general have benefited from that current mood?

JB:  It’s interesting because scary versus sex; scary is much more acceptable than sex.  The way that we freely portray sex in this movie; there’s a lot of people who like it, but there also definitely groups of people who get intensely offended.

MB:  They get intensely offended, but behind their wife’s back, they watch it. {Laughs}

JB:  Of course they are. {Laughs} Maybe they’re just outwardly offended.  And then there’s the die-hards that love it and admit they love it.  I’m just like straightforward, so I like it when people aren’t watching it behind people’s backs; they’re like, ‘I’m watching it and I loved it and I thought that was cool and kickass.’

MB:  I just didn’t have anything else to exploit. 

JB: {Laughs} There was not much blood.

 

LMD:  Actually, that leads to my question about the relative restraint of The Victim.  Even though you had budget issues, I feel like you intentionally leaned more toward the thriller aspect and the violence shown is exciting but not particularly gratuitous.

MB:  It was always meant to be a thriller.  And even the last two shots in the movie of me crushing Ryan’s head; I didn’t want to show that.  I wanted to show it over the shoulder, and they had to talk me into it, which I think was the right choice. There are some brilliant filmmakers who work in that genre; but I personally have never liked the Hostel or Saw movies or the Halloween movies, it’s just not my thing.  That was never a movie I wanted to make and that’s why I made this deal with these guys cos that’s what they wanted to make. They wanted to make a movie like Saw and I didn’t.

 

LMD:  You guys are a couple.  What was it like to shoot this movie together?  Being so involved in every aspect of the film, were you able to leave the set on the set?

MB:  I think we were to a certain extent.  I think the problem with being able to separate ourselves from work was our house was the production office.  So we had first AD’s running in and out, craft services and so forth.  But I think generally Jennifer and I lived a very normal existence around the chaos that was going on around the house.  If we had an argument on the set, it happened on the set.  There’s was no ‘We’ll wait till we get home and then we’ll argue about it.’  We were doing forty-five setups and day and she was always crying.  It was such a grueling shoot that I think that both of us kind of had a loving admiration for each other that we were going for it.  We’d stop every night on the way home from work at this sushi place and have sushi.  I was very much in love with her at that time and I still am, but it was work-intense and it was a bonding experience that we’re really doing this and really working hard.  We were really passionate about it and we experienced that together and that helped us fall in love even more.

 

LMD:  Speaking of in love and passionate. The sex scene between the two of you was very hot.  What was it like for you as a real-life couple to film that sequence?  How were you able to separate yourselves as actors and say ‘This is where we end as a couple and the characters begin’ in that scene?

JB:  Well, we did not actually have sex, so that’s where we begin and end.{Laughs} Although we were completely naked.

MB: That was the very first thing that we shot.  So when cameras rolled for the very first take, they rolled on naked bodies.  I’ve done a lot of love scenes, she’s done some, too.  Yeah, they’re a little bit odd.  I think that at our age, we’re kind of mature enough to know that it’s not very exciting with everybody standing around telling you to move there and move there.  You’ve got a blanket that kind of covers you and you just take it off and shoot.  We just kind of went for it for a while and then we’d cut and take another angle and cut.  We just messed around with it until we thought we had enough coverage.  The problem was me getting it cut down the length it was.

JB:  {Laughs} I wanted it to be longer.

MB:  It’s about five minutes long, it can’t be that long.  But I am very proud of that scene because I think that for thirty years people have been doing a lot of these scenes in movies. There’s a hundred of them every year and I think that’s a pretty good one.

 

LMD:  I was pleasantly surprised that the movie very female-driven production, which seems unusual for this type of film.  Then again, the women in this film are pretty unusual; too, they make no apologies for their good time.

JB:  I really like that you are picking up that nobody’s apologizing for anything.  They’re not the goody-two-shoes-type characters, in fact, they’re the polar opposite, and you’re still rooting for them.  There’s nobody that’s really innocent.

 

LMD:  The fighting and action scenes were really well done.  Did you guys construct them yourselves or did you have an action choreographer?

MB:  We had a guy that we rented the cabin from and he had some stunt experience and we gave him a credit cos it helps him in his career.  But for instance all the fighting that took place inside the house between me and Ryan was basically just me and Ryan going after it.  It’d be like two brothers, saying, ‘Let’s play fight,’ when we were kids and who can get who in headlock.  Let’s fight without hurting each other.  And that’s what we did for about three or four takes where we would just try to manhandle the other person and try to make it look like we were punching the other person.  But when I pick him up and throw him down, there’s no pad down there.  He didn’t have any pads on; we couldn’t afford any pads, but we didn’t get hurt or anything.  Once we got outside, that’s when it got a little bit more choreographed; that whole roll down the hill that was me and him.

JB: He {Michael Biehn} also got choked out.  When it comes to purchasing the DVD or Blu-Ray on the 18th, they’re doing a special box cover and inside there’s a behind the scenes and you will see a whole thing on how he got choked out.  There’s a lot of stuff, you see him yelling, you see maniacs happening, you see all kinds of stuff, but you can tell her about being choked out. {Laughs}

MB:  I know what is called the LAPD choke hold; which is different than how you’d choke somebody.  It’s very specific how you put it on.  I told Ryan, he’s a cop, I figured he’d know how to put it on me.  I told him that if I got into trouble that I would tap him {on the arm} and then he could stop.  So he put on the choke hold and I started to feel myself go and I tapped out, but it was a little bit too late, so I was kind of in la-la-land.

JB:  Twitching, hands twitching.  I was there with my mom and Lorna the first AD was by me and we all kind of went, ‘Is he acting?’  And I started saying, “Hello? You okay?”  Then I heard, “Cut,” and it was like ‘Oh my God,’ he’d fainted.

 

LMD:  Jennifer, your running all over the place in the tiniest of minis and not flashing anyone is one of your many cool moments.  How did you handle the physicality of what you had to do here, between the running, fighting and shooting? Did you have bumps or bruises?

JB:  Yes, not from running.  They were so concerned about me running in these heels on these rocks.  I was like, “Guys I can only run as fast as I can run in the shoes I’m in. What are you so concerned about? I’ll run as fast as she can possibly run”.  They were like, ‘Why wouldn’t she take them off?” “Shuddup! I want my legs to look good, that why she doesn’t take them off.”

Point being there’s a moment in that beginning running section where I’m sliding down a hill and I’m yelling.  This one over here had to do that six times and I really slid down the hill.  It looks like dirt, but there’s jutting rocks coming out of that thing.  There’s a point in the making of where you see me screaming and yelling and you don’t know if it’s a scene from a movie, and it’s me screaming at him cos I kept hurting myself.  I had welts for the rest of the shoot that they had to cover up and position me so you couldn’t see.  Cuts, scratches the whole thing.  I’m very proud of that.  I don’t get to do a lot of stunts.

 

LMD:  When I interviewed you for Bereavement, you’d mentioned that Jennifer was the force behind a lot of the financing for The Victim.  Jennifer, can you tell us how you got people on board for this film? Did you look to any crowdfunding like Kickstarter?

JB:  Not at that time we didn’t.  It was just getting popular.  We do have a lot of deferred payments, which is kind of similar cos people gave their services and are receiving money after the fact.  They already are starting to receive their money.  On Treachery, we did do major crowdfunding with lots of producers and different people putting into it. That is the first one I consider half-crowdfunded and half-investor-funded.  So that’s pretty fantastic.

 

LMD:  As The Victim is your true directorial debut {Biehn was meant to direct The Blood Bond, which was recut by its producer without Biehn’s input}, has this experience whetted your appetite to direct more films?

MB:  I think if I found a really good story or script that I wanted to tell, then I might do it.  I like more being a producer and finding … I think there are a lot of people out there that are really a lot more talented than I am visually.  I’m very good with casting and story and blocking scenes.  I’m very good with actors, wardrobe and then post-production, cutting.  I think I’m good with everything, but I just don’t have that thing with the camera -- that oneness with the camera that you really have to have to be a great director.  This was a pretty simple shoot, so we were just banging around with the camera.  I might do something again in the future, but for the time being what I’d like to do is find some of these filmmakers that are so talented with a camera, but so far don’t have enough world experience to have read enough scripts to know story that well, and then combine all of our talents together, her production and acting talents, my production and writing and acting talents, and then somebody who can do things visually that are really very exciting.

JB:  Michael was on the jury at Fantasia, which is a really prestigious genre festival, and there was a movie in competition called Hidden in the Woods.  This young director, he was in his late twenties, his name is Patrizio Valladares and this was the first time he had anything showing outside of Chile.  Michael fell in love with this movie.  It’s not out yet, so we optioned it to do the English-speaking version with Michael as the main character.

MB:  With him directing and us producing.

 

LMD:  Is what you did there with Hidden in the Woods and bringing forward this young filmmaker your goal for BlancBiehn Productions?

JB:  Yeah!  We just gave Travis Romero an opportunity to write.  He’s a writer who created White Collar along with his partner who helped us produce and consulted with Michael on The Victim.  We just gave him to do a movie.  He wrote it and directed it and Michael stars in it and I play a supporting role in it.  It’s called Treachery and it’s in post-production now.  Yeah, I think if we can get things done and give other people the opportunity to put their vision out there and hopefully we pick the right people to get behind.  Hopefully, we want to do something with Xavier Gens; that’s a no-brainer.  Travis is another one; he’s been a writer his whole career and now he’s ventured into writing and directing his own thing. 

 

LMD:  You have about a million projects listed on IMDB  What’s really coming up next for you guys?

JB:  Treachery is in post.  The Farm is in very, very early pre-production.  We’re already doing pre-sales on it, so it is actually happening.  That and Predicator and Up and Down with Xavier Gens are kind of linked together.  Hidden in the Woods we did just option, it’s not financed yet, we optioned it as a studio. 

MB:  We think we can get it financed because he shot it very cheaply.  We’re going to go down to Chile and shoot it down there, so we think we can get that done.  What we’re learning that you do as a producer is that you go out and you option this and you do something with Xavier Gens, or you do something with Travis Romero and you have all these balls floating in the air.  And then something will come together where money will fall into place because somebody will really like that one project and it’s all of a sudden, ‘Okay, let’s go down to Chile, we’re going to make that one next.’

 

LMD:  Was there intended irony that your “hero” in The Victim is called Kyle?

MB:  There’s a lot of things in the movie that are kind of like shout-outs to different people.  Basically our opening credits -- which Jennifer cut -- is a shout-out to David Fincher and his opening credits in Se7en.  The shots that I did like -- I probably left in two or three extra shots to make it an exceedingly long drive up the mountain -- is kind of my shout-out to Stanley Kubrick for The Shining.  And Kyle, I didn’t want to do very much of The Terminator because I didn’t want to take people out, so we named the character Kyle, his last name is actually the name of my agent that has since passed away.  I do the Quentin Tarantino thing where I saw a film once, the guy says, “Don’t Shoot me, don’t shoot me. I don’t deserve to die like this” “Deserve has got nothing to do with it.”  That’s right out of Clint’s Eastwood’s movie, Unforgiven.

JB:  And then there’s just a ‘“Thank you, Robert” {Rodriguez}, cos I read your book, I worked with you and then I went out and did this.’ {Laughs}

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Aug 24th, 2012

 

The Victim is now in theatres and coming to home video on September 18th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by L.M.D.

Film Stills Courtesy of  BlancBiehn Productions & Anchor Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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