The actor, musician, and activist speaks on heroes, super powers, his new movie, and more!
A famed musician, author, journalist, public speaker and activist best known for fronting the influential punk band Black Flag, Henry Rollins has done it all. We recently got the opportunity to speak with him during a press tour for his new film “The Last Heist.” He talks about the process behind his character, what makes a hero, and much more!
Marvel.com: I’ll get right to it. Your character in this film was amazing. What drew you to this role?
Henry Rollins: Oh, they offered it to me. I like to work and it’s not like Hollywood or baby Hollywood, ya know—the indie world, is beating down my door. It’s not like I’m getting deluged with offers and so the script came in and I looked at it and it is what it is. It’s genre-specific. I looked at the part and I said, “well, there might be an interesting way to play this.” Therein lay the challenge. And so I met Mike Mendez, the director, who is really, really cool. And I said, “Look, here’s my idea.” ‘Cause he said “Whadda ya got?” and I said, “Here’s my idea.” And I rolled out basically what you saw. I said, “He’s real quiet. He’s really polite. And he smiles.” And he went, “Wow! That’s really cool.” [It was] kind of along the lines of what Mike had planned and he said “Well, let’s try it and see how it goes. If we don’t like it, we’ll just change it.” And so we started working on it and doing the film and he went “That’s gonna be the guy.” I had this odd experience of working on the film and you’ve see it—there’s all these people and all this gear and all this drama and I didn’t see any of it. I’m alone in rooms for the most part and the few people I encounter, usually I kill them and I win and I leave. And it was just an interesting time of industrial spaces we shot in, a few brief fight scenes, the demise of people. Meanwhile, on other days I worked, there are 20 actors, cars, and cop cars and all this other stuff. There’s just kind of a wave that went over my head. It was just a really interesting experience.
Marvel.com: Was it fun to play almost a sociopath in a kind of a way?
Henry Rollins: Yeah, sure. Because I don’t really think that would describe me but one of the fun things about acting is that you can imagine this person, architect it and then go execute it and really hit the wall with it. And I think for a character like that you also need a director who can be very elastic and afford you your artistic freedom and not screw up his film. Mike works very quickly and makes decision very quickly and I think he makes very good ones. We had a lot of fun doing that. The scene in the film…you saw like one of three different ways I would approach it. Different phrasing, different actions, going “Okay I like that second one, lets get another take of that just so we have it.” So we played with a lot of options—not all the time—but in a few scenes, there was no dialogue, I was making stuff up. And he would go, “Alright try that again but less laughing” because sometimes I’d get real hysterical and fascinated by blood. And he’d go “Okay, that’s the one. Moving on.” And it was such an interesting time. Mike is really cool. I’d do anything with that guy again. He was a lot of fun.
Marvel.com: I was kind of fascinated too by your character wearing the glasses. I wanted to see how much the glasses and some of the other props got you more into that role.
Henry Rollins: The glasses [were] his idea. As was the way the guy was dressed, ya know, very stylized, very precious about everything. The gloves, the knife—everything is very not ham-fisted, it’s almost in a way kind of [expletive]. He’s delicate when he takes the eyes out. Everything is very clean. That was all Mike. I thought the glasses kept me disciplined. He’s wearing glasses and there’s a certain restraint in my mind that was implicit with someone wearing glasses and it was the coat and the clothing that determined a lot of the action which made it fun to see what a capable fighter he is when he’s with the SWAT guy in that basement.
Marvel.com: When you were doing Rollins Band, you covered “Ghost Rider,” a Suicide song. I was wondering, were you a fan of Ghost Rider or just the song or what?
Henry Rollins: I was raised on the first Suicide album and the singer Alan Vega is a very longtime pal of mine and so it was basically just a tribute to Alan and Marty [Rev], the two guys in Suicide. I’m not very familiar with the actual comic book character outside of I know that he’s very angry. I bought that record when I was like 18 and I still have it.
Marvel.com: What do you consider a hero?
Henry Rollins: Someone who almost instinctively is helpful to others and is truly uninterested in thanks or a bow. If you’ve ever met EMT people or a lot of firefighters, people like that. They really are…it is just their job, like Coast Guard types, where they do save lives and the thank you is kind of an annoyance where they’d rather just get back on the truck and go haul assing off into the distance. It would never occur to them that it’s anything but their job. I think the heroic ones are the ones that never really see it as such. You’d never be able to convince them that they are heroes. They would just be embarrassed.
Marvel.com: If you had a super power, what would it and why?
Henry Rollins: I think flight would be really fun. Because in dreams I’ve done that sometimes. I’ve been able to just jump and land like 30 feet later. That would be pretty marvelous.
Marvel.com: Can you mention the films that are coming out and then you’re going to Europe and anything else you’d like to promote besides the film?
Henry Rollin: Okay well, I’ve got speaking dates from June in Johannesburg until the end of the year and then the tour resumes on December 27 right after Christmas in Canada. Three films to promote: “The Last Heist,” “He Never Died,” and “Gutterdammerung.” I’ve been to Europe twice this year. I have three or four more trips to go. I just got back from London the day before yesterday and I’ll be leaving again on Tuesday back to Germany to do more work. I’ve got my radio show once a week in America. My radio show once a month in England. My weekly “LA Weekly” article. My monthly “Rolling Stone Australia” article and I just finished four shows for the month of June for BBC Radio 6 subbing for Jarvis Cocker. And I’m writing two books and editing three. I’m doing all that in economy seats in the fetal position trying to get it all done and not puke from nervousness. So that’s what’s going to happen from now until Christmas if I don’t get hit by the proverbial streetcar.
Follow Henry on Twitter here and catch “The Last Heist” in theaters and on VOD and iTunes Friday.