We interview Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn about Grindhouse movie The Victim and their upcoming projects.
Los Angles, California, it’s just gone 9am and Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn are logging into Skype. From the Farm back in the UK we wait for them to get their notes together and say hi.
They come online and they look tired. OK, it’s early in the morning but the reality of what the movie business is about hits home, once a film is wrapped up you then have to sell it, and the Biehn’s have been flogging The Victim everywhere.
A victim, no pun intended, of his own cult status, Michael tells us the ability to chat over the internet is a welcome luxury after having flown all over the US and Europe promoting, what he admits was, a little project that has been received better than he ever imagined it would be.
So what of The Victim? You can read our review here, but essentially it’s a low, very low, budget Grindhouse movie that Michael was inspired to create after working with Robert Rodriguez on Planet Terror. “I picked up the story and ran with it, and everything moved so fast,” explains Michael. “I was writing the script while we were starting pre-production, but we’d managed to get funding and so the project picked up speed.” Jennifer cuts in, “it was crazy we had to organise the entire shoot while Michael was concentrating getting the script right and then we had the shoot wrapped up in 12 days.” From start to finish the whole project took the team three months.
The Biehns are a tight unit. They bounce off of each other well and they’ve got a good bunch of friends and family supporting them all the way. A lot of them had a variety of different jobs each while making The Victim and they all clearly worked hard to do the best they could, but Michael doesn’t try and pretend it is the best movie he’s ever worked on. “I felt that The Victim would be a project that would be a lot of fun, something to try out and experiment with, I spent a lot of time on set making sure everyone knew we weren’t making a blockbuster. I never in my wildest imagination thought it would then be reviewed by The New York Times and be received across the world the way it has.”
We are not surprised; this is Michael Biehn, destroyer of cyborgs from the future and Xenomorphs, gunslinger of the Wild West and Navy SEAL. He in himself is a great brand and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that wasn’t aware of him, even if it was just in an ‘I know that face’ moment. In fact, talking about him over dinner, the night before the interview, a farmhand points out that people know more Michael Biehn movies than think they do. That, for us, is why The Victim is getting the kind of cult status and cult reviews we’re seeing. Everybody knows, and loves, Michael Biehn.
Despite having a few separate projects they are working on, Jennifer works hard with Blancbiehn Productions and her own acting career and Michael is looking forward to the release of Treachery, the pair do have a few joint projects. In fact they’ve started to become the go-to-guys for Grindhouse movies. As we chat with Michael, we hear Jennifer laugh as she reads us an email received that moment from Chilean Grindhouse and Horror director Patricio Valledares (Hidden in the Woods). He loved The Victim and now wants to work with them on his own project. Jennifer explains his English isn’t perfect and his email ends with “I love you, you’re my godparents.”
Godparents of Grindhouse they may be and passionate about film-making they still are, but even Michael admits it’s time to maybe think about slowing down. “You know, I’m 58 now…” Jennifer corrects him “no honey you’re 56.” Michael laughs, “see I can’t even remember my own age.” We remind him it’s probably OK for him to think about slowing down a bit as he’s had one hell of a career. A brief mention of The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Navy SEALs, The Rock, Tombstone and you can feel the pride emanate from across the Atlantic. “I love” adds Michael, “that people in their 20’s love those films, more so than people my own age. The biggest compliment I’ve had is guys coming up to me and telling me their mum named them Kyle after watching The Terminator.”
While Michael is a self-confessed quiet man who tends to shy away from the press and isn’t all ‘up in your face’ like some other Hollywood celebs, even he can’t deny how awesome it is to have kids named after one of your best roles. “Those films have spanned a whole new generation and it’s great that kids are really excited about something that was made before they were even born.”
So what of those future projects? Well, Michael is still auditioning, but not all roles are achievable, recently he lost out to Keith Urban after trying for the main man in Dredd. But there are ideas he’d love to put together himself. We suggest a Western and Michael’s intrigued: “Yeah a Western could be good, Tombstone was one of my favourite films to work on, but they’re expensive. I would love to do a story about (the exploitation of) Native Americans, but US audiences aren’t too keen on films that don’t portray the US as the best country in the world and besides Westerns don’t sell well overseas.”
Reality hits home again, that’s what making a movie is all about. Yes, they’re fun to do but at the end of the day if they aren’t going to sell then you won’t get them made. But, if budgets are an issue then maybe the Grindhouse genre is something they could concentrate on, a Grindhouse Western perhaps? With the Biehns at the helm it might just work.