Michael Biehn's Love Affair with Houston

Michael Biehn Love Affair with Houston

If you see actor/director Michael Biehn wearing an I ♥ Houston T-shirt at Splatterfest on Friday, he's got good reason to. Biehn acted in and made his directorial debut in the horror film The Victim. When he was in town last August for an advanced screening, it wasn't the horrendous heat he noticed so much as the wonderful fans.

"We've gotten lots of good responses, but that night in Houston was incredible," he tells Art Attack. "First, the audience gave the film a standing ovation that went on and on."

Wife and co-star Jennifer Blanc-Biehn was also at the screening, after which the pair signed autographs. "There was like a feeding frenzy, people were shoving each other out of the way and grabbing at us. We were there signing posters for two hours and people were still there.

"They finally got us out; they had to push us into some big, white SUV and rush off. It was like being the Rolling Stones or something. It was just incredible. The fans that night were more enthusiastic than any fans I've seen anywhere, anytime. Ever."

Biehn doesn't expect quite the same reaction during Friday's screening of The Victim, but he is looking forward to being in front of Houston fans again.

Biehn says it was just five weeks from the time he decided to make The Victim to the end of filming. He had originally been attached to the film with another director but after funding fell through, Biehn stepped away from the project. The story stayed with him, though.

Some time later, Biehn realized that by substituting expensive night shots with more affordable day for night filming, he could make The Victim on a much smaller budget.

"I told Jennifer that I wanted to rewrite that script and make a little Grindhouse movie. She went out and found the money." Once the money was in place, Biehn started working on the script. The final story follows two women (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and Danielle Harris) who have a nasty encounter with a couple of corrupt cops (Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood). One woman ends up dead and the other on the run. She's lucky enough to find a loner (Biehn) who lives in the woods nearby to help her.

"I rewrote it into an exploitation movie. Zombies were out because the special effects make-up would cost too much -- just about everything was out, actually, because we couldn't afford anything," he laughs. "So, I looked at Jennifer -- she's very sexy -- and I said, 'Well, would you mind taking your clothes off and doing dirty things for me on film?' She said, 'Yeah, okay.' Then I asked her, 'Well, do you have any friends that you think would take their clothes off and do dirty things?' So she said, 'We could ask Danielle (Harris).' So, there I had something to exploit."

Of course, sexy women not wearing much wasn't enough to fill out a full feature-length film. "So, I thought, 'What else can I do that doesn't cost money? Dirty cops, drugs, maybe a little bit of torture.' Then I said, 'Fuck it, let's throw in a serial killer.' Backers put up such little money, Biehn was able to demand and get complete control over the film. From casting to script to edits to distributors, he had final say on every decision. While he credits his cast and crew with providing significant contributions, he's clear, "This was not a movie made by committee."

Taking on director duties has been an exercise in stamina for Biehn. "This has been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. It's not like being an actor where you just go in and go into your trailer and say, 'Let me know when you're ready for me.' You do your job and then leave.

"I wrote it in three weeks and during those three weeks, we were in pre-production. Then I shot it in 12 days and when I finished it, I was like, 'Thank God it's over!' Then we went into post, and when we finished that, I was like, 'Thank God it's over!' Now, I'm selling it, so it's still going on."

The Victim will screen at Splatterfest Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks. Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkland will be present and signing autographs. For information, visit www.splatterfest.com.

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