Veteran character actor Lance Henriksen co-stars with Tom Berenger and Danny Trejo in Mark Gould’s 2018 western.
Editor's Note: Throughout March and April, we’re celebrating Great Westerns of the 21st century — noteworthy movies and TV series with special appeal to C&I readers that have premiered since 2001. Check the Entertainment tab Monday through Friday to see a different recommendation by C&I senior writer Joe Leydon. And be on the lookout for our upcoming May/June 2020 print edition, which prominently features the legendary star who looms large in two of this century’s very best westerns.
When we first meet Taylon Flynn in Gone Are the Days, the independently produced western available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and other platforms, he appears pretty close to the end of his days. Once a feared outlaw with a penchant for robbing banks and raising hell, Flynn now is an aged and sickly ruin who lives alone on a dilapidated ranch with nothing for company but memories. And pretty bad memories at that.
He is roused from his decrepitude only when an unexpected visitor inspires his return to the scene of a long-ago crime. His journey leads him to close encounters with the estranged daughter (Meg Steedle) he abandoned years ago, the brutally corrupt boss (Steve Railsback) of a dying mining town, an enigmatic stranger (Danny Trejo) who offers dubious advice — and a grizzled lawman (Tom Berenger) who may or may not enable Flynn to get one last shot at redemption.
Lance Henriksen, the veteran and versatile character actor who’s perfectly cast as Taylon Flynn, has a lengthy resume studded with credits that run the gamut from The Right Stuff (1983), Aliens (1986) and Appaloosa (2008) to TV’s Millennium, The Blacklist and Into the Badlands. And he ranks Gone Are the Days among the highlights of his career. Henriksen called us shortly before the film's 2018 release, and here are some highlights from our conversation.
Cowboys & Indians: You have a great role in Gone are the Days. But that role comes with some great challenges. Like, for the first 15 or so minutes of the movie, it’s just you, all alone in your shack as you more or less wait for the Grim Reaper.
Lance Henriksen: [Laughs] Yeah, that was the challenge, to get to the core of that character. Because there was no dialogue, there was nothing except his condition in life at that moment. You know, the best part of this movie is that once you start watching it, it pulls you right to the very end of the film. And it all starts with those opening scenes. Sure, there’s not a bunch of dialogue. But that’s great. Because it’s a movie. It’s not television, where you have to spend the hour blabbering because otherwise there’s nothing that would get done. It’s not a visual medium as much as film.
C&I: What was your reaction when you first read the script, and saw what would be demanded of you?
Henriksen: You know, there’s something about being in that sort of situation, that kind of a job, where you just say, “Look, the day I start this, I’m totally devoted to it. There’s no way I’m gonna let out, or let down, during that whole movie.” And I didn’t. The director, Mark Gould, he’s a young up-and-comer, a real talent. And he and I bonded right away. We challenged each other constantly every day of that shoot. It was wonderful. Really, it’s what every actor dreams of. You know, you take it on and you really go at it. That’s where I was at. I mean, I loved making that film. It wasn’t easy but it was exciting as hell.
C&I: How did you prepare for the film?
Henriksen: I spent a lot of my time before we even started filming hanging with these guys. I mean, I went to every location before we started shooting. I met them all there, and we would look at the locations. And then I picked my horse — and I picked the saddest, old horse I could find. The saddle was a piece of crap. And the saddle blanket was coming apart. We did all of that before we started shooting. So Mark got the sense that I was devoted to this film, and I got the sense that he was willing to work as hard as anybody’s ever worked. And that's what we did, that's how it happened.
C&I: Are you a fan of westerns?
Henriksen: I love Westerns. They’re morality plays. Especially ones like this one.
C&I: Aside from doing all those scenes with little or no dialogue, what was the most difficult part of playing Taylon Flynn?
Henriksen: Well, you know, once I was in it, I wasn't watching myself. I was just living it. But I remember Mark hiding my gun all the time. If you notice, I only shoot the gun a few times during a bank robbery. And Mark kept hiding it. I’d ask, “Where’s my gun?” And that was like almost a cue for us to have enough resistance from each other, so that we were free to do what we needed to do. You know what I mean? I was pissed off because I couldn't find my gun, and he had all the [assistant directors] hiding my gun. I had an old Schofield, and that was a particularly clumsy gun. But I needed it, I wanted to have it all the time — and they kept hiding it.
C&I: Your director must have figured, “Hey, what the hell, whatever works.”
Henriksen: [Laughs] I know. He played that game with me and it kept me on edge. I kept going, “Hey, enough of this, I want my gun now.” But they’d never give it to me. I had to find it.
C&I: Well, all your hard work paid off.
Henriksen: I’m so glad to hear you say that, because I think so, too. I’ve watched it now about four times — and that's a lot for me. I normally only see a movie I’ve done once or twice and that's it. I really am proud of this movie. I'm proud of what everybody did. I've done about 250 movies. And three years of the Millennium TV series — I was carrying that one. I love what I do. I'm telling you, I’m a very happy actor and I’m never bored. Never. But I have to tell you — this movie was something special.
UP NEXT: COWBOYS & ALIENS