Lance Henriksen sees future self in ‘On Fire’ grandpa


Lance Henrikesen (L) and Peter Facinelli's sruvival film, "On Fire," is available on digital and pay-per-view platforms Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Cineverse

1 of 4 | Lance Henrikesen (L) and Peter Facinelli’s sruvival film, “On Fire,” is available on digital and pay-per-view platforms Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Cineverse

NEW YORK, Nov. 14 (UPI) — Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Right Stuff and Aliens icon Lance Henriksen says his latest film, On Fire, hits a little close to home, casting him as an elderly man in great peril during a natural disaster.

“I’m a little embarrassed by it because I know I am facing the same as I get older,” the 83-year-old actor told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

Inspired by real events, the movie follows Dave, an ordinary man (Peter Facinelli) trapped with his ailing dad, George (Henriksen), his pregnant wife, Sarah (Fiona Dourif) and teen son Clay (Asher Angel) in a California blaze that threatens them and their home.

Nick Lyon wrote the film with Ron Peer. Lyon also directed the movie until he tested positive for COVID-19 and handed off the camera to Facinelli.

On Fire will be available via digital and on-demand platforms Tuesday.

Cantankerous George, who is dependent on an oxygen tank to ease his emphysema, is still mourning the death of his wife and carping at his well-meaning son and daughter-in-law when a terrifying wildfire hits.

“He’s gone over a cliff, really,” Henriksen said of George’s state of mind even before the crisis.

“He’s living in isolation in a trailer out back. He’s not in the house anymore because children are arriving,” he added. “It’s the evolution of any family. The attachment and detachment. You don’t plan on somebody getting pissed at you for no reason.”

George is closest in the family to Clay, and it is through their discussions that viewers learn what a loving, happy marriage the older man enjoyed in the years before his wife’s death.

“It’s so subtle when the affection happens,” Henriksen said about the relationship between grandfather and grandson.

While the movie shows Dave, Sarah and Clay doing everything they can to stay alive, George doesn’t seem to have the same fight in him.

“You’re resilient to things that are either argumentative or dangerous or whatever it is, and you feel it start to decline,” Henriksen said.

“I don’t have it now, but I’ve had it in situations where I’ve climbed a mountain or went on a camping trip and didn’t realize what I was getting into,” he added. “If your car breaks down, are you prepared? Life is that way. We’re not meant to live forever.”

That said, Henriksen has no plans to retire.

“I might take up either shark fishing or surfing because I love the ocean,” Henriksen joked.

“Every movie I do becomes a whole new experience. I don’t want to play the same guy over and over. I invest in some area that really intrigues me about [each] story. That’s my nature.”

For his performance in the 1988 cult classic horror movie, Pumpkinhead, Henriksen looked to his real-life grandmother, who he said lived year-round in a teepee, despite freezing temperatures in northern Norway.

“She was a feisty, bright, beautiful woman,” Henriksen said.

“When I was doing Pumpkinhead, I used her as a story when she got very old,” he added. “You realize how much [the character] loves his son. We had very little time to make sure that’s understood.

“The whole thing is about revenge and self-destruction. I thought I would throw that in to show you my source is always something personal.”

Not all of what Henriksen regards as great ideas have made it onto the screen, however.

“When I did Close Encounters, I remember walking up to our director and saying, ‘Look, I want to grab one of these little beings and I’ll run into a port-a-potty and I’ll hold him while the mother ship leaves,'” Henriksen recalled.

“He looked at me like I had just poisoned his coffee,” the actor said of Steven Spielberg, who helmed the 1977 alien classic.

“He said, ‘Lance, that’s another movie.’ I walked away. My feelings weren’t hurt. But I was getting into the function — back that early in my career — that I would tell anybody anything I was thinking. I’m not afraid of people. I like people.”

Henriksen’s other credits include Dog Day Afternoon, The Terminator, Tarzan, Millennium, The Blacklist and Rabbit Hole.



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