Friday, 20 January 2012

Interview with Michael Biehn on The Divide


My most exciting film moment of 2011 was getting to meet and interview Michael Biehn during the Toronto After Dark Film Festival after the screening of the post-apocalyptic thriller The Divide. I was very excited but also extremely nervous and I wanted to maintain professional, which I did but what a challenge when getting to meet someone who is in 3 of my top favourite films of all time (The Terminator, The Abyss and Aliens). I think I did pretty well, although if you listen to the interview on the podcast you'll hear my slip into giggles a little bit. Ah, well - I'm only human! It was a honour to meet him and it was great to get the opportunity to chat about The Divide, plus his upcoming film The Victim and also discuss the challenge of bringing the level of intensity in the characters he plays.

Shannon: What drew you to the project?

Michael Biehn: Well, I get a call from Xavier and they sent me the script. The script was okay it wasn’t great, and I told Xavier that the script needed some work and he said he thought it needed work too.

Shannon: Right.

Michael Biehn: And he asked me to come down to the office and talk to him about it. I went down to the office and talked about the character of Mickey and how I wanted to change the character. He was all ears. He listened to me and said he had a writer that was going to be working with us, and we would be re-writing and changing the script all along. He described to me the way in which we do the project; he wanted to work as an ensemble group of people who were improv-ing different scenes and improv-ing writing scenes. There were scenes he wanted to write and put in, and making up back stories and so on and so forth. It sounded very interesting so I definitely got involved because of that.

Sarah Gopaul: A lot of your career has focused on horror movies, especially in the last 5 years with Planet Terror, Bereavement and this film (The Divide). I was wondering what draws you to the genre?

Michael Biehn: The only movie I consider a horror movie is Bereavement, that’s the only movie I thought of that I’ve been in that I consider a horror movie. It’s not really a genre I feel very comfortable with, I’m not a big fan of movies like Saw and I’ve never liked movies like Friday the 13th. It’s a genre actually that I don’t care for very much. It’s a genre that surprizes me why a guy like Rob Zombie, who is such a talented director, would stay in that genre. Usually a lot of times you find that directors will start off in that genre, show that they got something really good like Evil Dead, and then go on and do all sorts of other stuff. It seems to me like a beginning workshop for directors. The movie that I directed, it’s called The Victim, it’s not a horror movie. So, I’m not particularly interested in horror per se. Movies that I think that are the scariest movie that was ever made is Friedkin’s movie, The Exorcist. But it’s not really my genre, I don’t really care for it particularly. It’s odd that my career has kind of swung that way. I don’t think that this (The Divide) is a horror movie, to me it’s more of a psychological horror movie. The Victim is the one that I directed and you’ll see my sensibilities more in it. It’s got a couple of gruesome shots in it and a little bit of torture, but it’s mostly just a straight murder mystery.

Shannon: And that came after The Divide, was being part of that collaborative process, getting to write your own character, did that spin you to wanting to create your own movie?

Michael Biehn: For a long time (James) Cameron has always told me to direct and I worked with Robert Rodriguez on Grindhouse; and when I was doing Xavier’s movie I saw a guy reading Rebel Without a Crew and I was thinking maybe I should just go out there and do one, you know?

Shannon: Yeah.

Michael Biehn: And I talked to Xavier about the first movie he made, and how he made his nights look in his film and he told me he shot it day for night. I knew about a script which is The Victim, that needed a lot of work, but I re-wrote it and we shot it in 12 days.

Shannon: Wow.

Michael Biehn: I’m really happy with how it came out. We are going to release it in college theatres in late 2011/early 2012 and then it will be out on a pay-per-view in spring of 2012 and then eventually it will hit the red station (Netflix).

Sarah Gopaul: Had you actually heard of Xavier’s films before this film?

Michael Biehn: No. I didn’t know Frontière(s). He had done Frontière(s) and Hitman and I hadn’t seen them. I had heard of his name before, but I hadn’t seen his movies.

Shannon: You’ve played a lot of characters with a lot of conflict and torment in them, is it hard to continue to bring that energy?

Michael Biehn: Yeah.

Shannon: Yeah.

Michael Biehn: Yeah, I would say so. You know, I think the older you get the more you realize how difficult life can be. At least that is how it’s been for me. I used to think that when you were young, it was when you get older you’d have all answers and life would open up and start saying “Oh, this is the way it works.” Where for me, it’s been kind of the opposite. I grew up thinking I could do anything I wanted, live the way I wanted and now as I’ve gotten older my father’s died and friends have died and things happen that I can’t control. I think it kind of plays into the fact that where I am psychologically anyway, not like Mickey, but a little bit more solitary. More just with my family, less partying and road trips. Less partying.

Shannon: Well, it was a wonderful performance.

Michael Biehn: Thank you.

Shannon: I really enjoyed the film and looking forward to seeing The Victim.

Michael Biehn: Check us out online.

The Divide opens in Toronto on January 20, 2012.

You can hear the interview on The Movie Moxie Podcast along with my interview with Michael Eklund (transcript of that interview here). See also my review of The Divide and videos from The Divide Q&A and Introduction Videos from Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011 with director Xavier Gens and actors Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Eklund.

See more about Michael Biehn's upcoming feature film debut directorial debut The Victim at the films website here. He also wrote The Victim & co-stars alongside Jennifer Blanc-Biehn. Anchor Bay Entertainment recently picked up the North American rights to The Victim. Can't wait to see it!

This interview with Michael Biehn was done after the Toronto After Dark Film Festival screening of The Divide on October 25, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Theatre. Co-interviewed with Sarah Gopaul.

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(Left) Michael Biehn at the screening of The Divide at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

Michael Biehn, Sarah Gopaul & I. Photo Credit & Thanks to: Scott Chalmers

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