It was just another quiet day at his cabin when Kyle answered a knock at his door. What takes place next is a tale of lust, rage, fear, revenge, torture, and killing. Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Ryan Honey, Denny Kirkwood, and Danielle Harris as Mary, star in this thriller that raises the question – who is The Victim?
On April 9th, Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn were in town to screen their movie, The Victim, at the Kansas City Film Festival. I got a chance to sit down with the two to learn a little more about the movie.
DRC: “The Victim” definitely has that exploitation/grindhouse feel to it. Did working on Grindhouse have any influence on you choosing to direct a movie in this genre?
MB: I did Planet Terror with Robert Rodriguez. I really enjoyed Robert, and talked to Robert a lot about directing. He kind of inspired me to go out and do one myself. I told him I wasn’t sure if I could or if I could write it and he was like go ahead Michael, you can do it I’ve got confidence in you. So I decided I was going to make a grindhouse-like movie but I didn’t have a script. Then after we got done shooting something came up then something else and I never got around to doing it. Then last year I was shooting a movie, called The Divide, directed by Xavier Gens, and I saw a guy reading Robert’s book, Rebel Without A Crew. I thought to myself, I was going to make that movie, so I called Jennifer up to see if she could find some money for us. . .
JBB: (Corrects Michael with a laugh) You turned to me in our house.
DRC: What attracted you to “The Victim?”
MB: Jennifer had shown me a script some people wanted me to get involved in 6 months earlier and I said as long as you’ve got the money I’ll get involved with it. As it turned out they didn’t have any money, so that script languished and Ryan’s money languished. So I rewrote a script that was written by Reed Lackey. Good story, good characters, it was written kind of like a novella, and it need a polish to say the least. So I started working on that and once we knew the money was there Jennifer started putting together the crew.
DRC: So Jennifer besides starring in, you also produced “The Victim,” Can you tell us about that?
JBB: Yeah, there is a girl named Lorna Paul who is my producing partner, who is particularly good at putting together low budget films and trying to get the highest quality people. Part of the hiring process was me as well; there were certain people that I brought to the table, certain people that we requested. Basically it was 3 weeks of putting that crew together, while Michael wrote the script, then 12 days of shooting. Michael and I had a vision and I think we are really happy with what we executed in that short of time.
MB: Considering we shot it in 12 days, Say your building a house and you’ve got $100,000 and 6 weeks to build it, you’re going to probably build a pretty nice house. But if you’ve got $10,000 and 6 days it’s going to be a different kind of house. You’re just not going to be able to build the kind of house that you want. I’ve been working 35 years in the business and I’ve never shot any movie that I’ve ever worked on, even the cheap stuff I used to run up to Canada for that went straight to dvd, they were all shot in at least 24 days. This one we shot in 12, actually 11 and a half days, some long some short. You know it’s a small movie but it’s got some nice production value to it and a good story. It’s actually more of a character driven piece, more than a grindhouse. I started calling it a grindhouse movie just because I wanted people to know it was low budget, exploitation, a lot of sex, violence, a little torture, a serial killer and all that kind of stuff.
JBB: We’ve started calling it a Guilty Pleasure and if other people feel it’s a guilty pleasure, we would feel really good about that.
DRC: You guys took on a lot of responsibility on this movie writing, directing, starring. Were there times when it was tough to juggle it all?
MB: Yes! Jennifer found the original material that we worked off of, and she found the money and kind of put us all together and pushed this whole thing forward.
JBB: (laughing) I was very pushy about it!
MB: Very pushy! I knew it was going to be a lot of work. She end up doing all the post production producing, which is a lot of work, she did the opening credits, the end credits
JBB: with Vance Crofoot who was our editor.
MB: If I was going to do a movie for a small amount of money, I wanted to be in charge and I wanted to be in control. You can be in a low budget movie and if you’re not in control you can look really bad. Standing on bad sets, saying stupid words, talking to monsters. So I said I’d do this movie but I have to have control over all the artistic production and sales of the movie, and they agreed to that. It’s been great I’ve had complete control but at the same time, I’m abit of a perfectionist and at times it became an obsession for the both of us. We both just wanted it to be as good as possible. You know we had the production office running out of our house.
JBB: We’ve learned some lessons. I mean if we do a sequel or whatever our next project is we won’t have craft services delivered to our home, we won’t have staff in our house or living in the house next door. Which is what we did, we rented a place next to ours for a bunch of the girls to live in from out of town.
DRC: So you guys have thought about doing a sequel?
JBB: We were actually, we don’t know how real this is, but we were possibly discussing shooting a sequel in Kansas City. I think no matter what we are doing or where we are doing it, we need to have an office space that everybody has a common ground to work out of.
DRC: I know you two have worked together in the past, but how was it for the both of you as a couple, with Michael being the director?
JBB: It was totally different! I trust Michael implicitly, I hold him responsible for a portion of the jobs I’ve gotten. I basically said to him before we started, “I’m relying completely on you, to make sure I give a good performance.”
What did happen was Michael has a tendency if he’s not happy with something he just cuts. My theory is, and Michael disagrees with me is he’s used to a certain way of filming and doesn’t want to waste the film, but with HD you can just keep going and cut around it. So I spent a lot of time screaming, why are you cutting?
MB: My feeling about it is once a scene starts going south, it’s kind of hard to pick it back up like half way through it and have it be exactly like I want it. So we argued a lot, we fought a lot, we were screaming at each other through the entire movie, but we love each other. The thing that was different about it is when you work for a director you don’t really scream at them.
JBB: But when you’re a couple with them it’s easier to go, “WHAT!”
MB: “Just do what I fucking say!” We basically bickered, fought like producers and directors do but since it’s personal with us we just let it all out there on the set.
JBB: But if you see the EPK if you see pictures there were a lot of tender moments too, where we’re in the corner hugging and feeling happy about the production.
MB: I have a tendency to be like a lunatic, I was screaming throughout the entire movie. At one point I lost my voice.
JBB: (laughs) Everyone was like, “He lost his voice! We won’t get yelled at today”
MB: Towards the end of the movie there was this one crew member I hadn’t yelled at and he was kind of upset that I hadn’t yelled at him.
DRC: It sounds as if “The Victim” is something you guys put a lot into and really got behind. Was that kind of the feeling with everyone on the set?
MB: Yeah, we had a lot of people that were willing to work for no money at all, deferred money, just kind of believed in the project. Everyone had a good time, nobody quit, and nobody got fired.
JBB: There was almost one firing before the movie even began, it wasn’t really a firing.
MB: There was? I don’t know who that was. Probably me.
DRC: Jennifer, you play Annie in “The Victim,” can you tell us a little about her?
JBB: Annie is a stripper…
MB: With a heart of gold
JBB: Stripper with a heart of gold. She’s kind of a party girl, but not as much as her friend. She ends up in a lot of situations because of her girlfriend. But she’s truly the heroine/damsel in distress in the story. She’s more realistic, she’s just a working girl that’s gotten into a really bad situation.
MB: There is an aspect about the movie, kind of a theme in the movie that relates to in real life. That’s women’s power over men through their sexuality, and Annie’s character uses her sexuality over and over again to get what she wants.
JBB: Even bad girls need protection.
DRC: Michael, you’ve played some iconic characters in the past. Kyle Reese from “The Terminator”, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks from “Aliens”, Johnny Ringo from “Tombstone,” is your character in “The Victim” like any of them in any way?
MB: I think if anything Kyle reminds me of the character I played in Aliens, kind of a reluctant hero, doesn’t really want to get involved in the first place. He’s just this guy that lives up in a cabin; he’s got a past, and trouble integrating into society. He’s just trying to get away from everybody and get his act together and that’s when Annie shows up at my doorstep pounding crying, “There after me!” and I’m like oh fuck! I can’t help you I can’t get involved, I can’t deal with cops. She kind of twinkles her eyes at me, lifts her skirt abit. Then I’m like alright, I’ll help you. Then she pulls me in deeper and deeper. Kind of like what she did in real life. (both laugh)
DRC: Out of some of those bad-ass characters you’ve played, do you have a favorite?
MB: I think my two favorite characters are Kyle Reese and Johnny Ringo. Johnny was the most fun to play but my heart is still with Kyle Reese. That was like my first really great role that I got. There was a lot more heart there. Johnny was just this crazy mother fucker.
JBB: I thought you said he wasn’t crazy, he was just misunderstood.
MB: No, he’s crazy! Johnny was just a drunk with a death wish, I thought.
JBB: Who was very smart and well read.
DRC: Jennifer I know you and Danielle Harris are really good friends, what was it like working with her on this?
JBB: It was really easy to work with Danielle, because she is one of my best friends. She’s been working for so long that she’s very smart and good and just kind of comes in does her thing and it’s always good.
DRC: Michael you have worked with a virtual who’s who of top actors, is there anyone you would like to direct?
MB: Bill Paxton comes to mind, Nick Cage, Kurt Russell, Billy Bob Thorton I’d love to work with. Val Kilmer I’d like to work with again. Actually I’d like to work with 50 cent again, see if I could be the one to pull a great performance out of that kid. There just a lot of people that were a lot of fun to work with Chris Backus, Jeff Fahey, Freddy Rodriguez, James Russo. (pauses, smiles, laughs) and I wouldn’t mind directing Angelina either.
DRC: So besides tonight’s screening, when will fans get a chance to see “The Victim?”
MB: What I’m doing is on May 3rd (a big day for us) we’re screening it at the New Beverly Theatre in LA and it’s sold out. We’ve got Kevin Iwashina, who is our sales rep, and he is going to try and sell our movie. He’s got about 30 buyers coming to the screening. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell it to a distributor and they’ll make that decision. So I can’t tell you when it will be seen, but it will get out there because it’s a good little movie. It will also show at the Another Hole In The Head festival on June 4th, at the Roxy in San Francisco.
DRC:Michael I want to thank you and Jennifer for talking with me. Is there anything you want to add before we wrap this up?
MB: I just want people to see the movie, and know it’s meant to be fun, like a diversion, like I said a guilty pleasure. For updates check out The Victim website.