FAN Articles - London Film and Comic Convention - 6 November 2004
by Tarlan


Michael Biehn Archive - London Film and Comic Convention - 6 November 2004

I made it there! I had to get up at 03:30 to catch a train by 05:14 -- had horrendous problems on the train due to track work which meant added an extra 30 minutes getting into London. With the closest underground station out of action due to the new national football stadium being built close by, I had a 15 minute walk to the Conference Centre.

I was there more than an hour early nonetheless.... and the queue was already fairly long but I had maybe only 200 people in front of me at that point.

I met with Susie Burton... thank heavens for mobile phones as neither of us had a clue what the other looked like :-) Fortunately, I was wearing quite a bright jacket among all the darker clothed people surrounding me so I stood out a bit in that queue :-)

After getting through the door, the first thing we did was head straight to the queue for tickets to get an autograph from Michael Biehn. Because we were so near the front of the queue to get in, we got tickets 149 and 150 so we were really pleased. Then we went off to buy tickets to enter the ALIENS talk -- just in case he joined the guest panel.

OK... our numbers were 'called' and it was my turn to go up... and I was a complete gibbering wreck at first!!

You know, my biggest worry about seeing him in real life is that I could be disappointed but.. HE WAS GORGEOUS! He was lean, trim, with a ready smile... laughing at me in *nice* way as I got so tongue-tied at first :-) I had paid for two autographs and he signed them to me personally... had a wonderful moment when he repeated my name!

One of the convention stewards asked if I wanted my photo taken with him as I had my camera ready and even though I HATE having my picture taken, I was too in shock to say NO... I'm pleased the guy did take the photo as Michael leaned over the table and put one arm around me to pose for the photo! The photo came out beautifully... and I'll add a copy of that and a few of the others to the PHOENIX website -- except I've taken me out of the photo (Candid Still 83)

By then I'd managed to calm down and I handed him a small gift of a chrome pen/pencil set with a small inscription saying ' To Michael, with thanks from a few of your many fans' and told him it was a small gift from the MBfic list.

I asked him about Hawaii, and if there was any chance that it might be brought back. He seemed very positive that it was finished. I asked him if he had any other work lined up and he said it could be months before something comes up that he'd be interested in.

Michael Biehn Archive - London Film and Comic Convention - 6 November 2004

I managed to take one more photo while still standing reasonably close by while Susie was getting his autograph but it was from a little further back and the lighting in the conference centre just did not really agree with my camera once you went beyond the 'flash' range, unfortunately.

The convention had lots of stalls selling mostly Lord of the Rings, Stargate and Aliens memorabilia... and LOTS of autograph stalls. I did manage to find one or two items that I liked but there was nothing particularly unusual or hard to get on sale.

There was a 'prop shop' which had genuine props from ALIENS for sale, or just on display, including Hicks body armor ! I took a photo of that and will try to add it to the Aliens articles page as soon as I can.

With little left to do until the talk, we decided to start the queue early.. with almost 2 hours to go. So VERY pleased we did as it meant we were FIRST in the queue. Also, the table where Michael was signing autographs was fairly close so we could see him whenever the crowd around him thinned. I must admit that he was wonderful to watch <vbeg> We both noticed that he signed constantly... we only saw him take ONE break in 4 and half HOURS and throughout, he smiled, laughed, listened, allowed fans to have photos taken and shook fans' hands.

As we were first in the queue for the talk, we grabbed front row seats! Michael did join the guest panel and sat right in front of me and Susie... about 10 feet away... unfortunately, just beyond my camera's capability to take a good photo... so I put the camera away and just concentrated on the talk itself, taking notes when I could.

The actors present were:

Jenette Goldstein - Vasquez
Michael Biehn - Hicks
Mark Rolston - Drake
Ricco Ross - Frost
Colette Hiller - Ferro

I'm no secretary though... cannot write shorthand and so I couldn't make great notes :-(

Here is an outline of what was said:

Question 1 - about getting the role in ALIENS:

Michael mentioned that he was disappointed not to be selected to play Hicks at first but figured James Cameron wanted to diversify by using different actors. However, he was later offered the role after things did not work out with the other actor (James Remar, for info).

Michael Biehn Archive - London Film and Comic Convention - 6 November 2004

He was not upset to miss the marine training which, from the accounts of the other ALIENS guest actors there, was pretty grueling. He said he had a call from Gale Hurd and she asked him if his passport was valid. He said yes, and ended up on a plane to London to take over the role. He said he probably would have lost out if his passport had been out of date as they needed him immediately.

Question 2 - someone asked him about turning down the role for Unusual Suspects

He said he didn't turn down the role as he was never offered it. A script was sent to him but he didn't really understand what was going on because he did not have time to read it thoroughly so he didn't bother going for any roles. He mentioned that, on the whole, he had not turned down anything that had later turned out to be a 'classic' or 'sleeper' except for the following: Eight Men Out and a role in Internal Affairs - only because the role he wanted went to Richard Gere and he was feeling a little peeved :-)

There was a slight lull so I managed to pluck up the courage to ask a question!

Question 3 - I asked if he had known about the original proposal for ALIEN 3 to be about Hicks leading a fresh marine team against the aliens to protect Earth.

I have NO IDEA what he answered with, as I reckon I was in too much shock at actually ASKING him a question in front of hundreds of people... my brain kind of went on vacation as he answered the question by looking directly to me for the most part! Snatches of memory... there were a lot of ideas floating around and he was annoyed then,.. and is still upset NOW that his character never made it into ALIEN 3 except as a corpse.

Question 4 - How long did it take to learn the gun twirling routine in Tombstone

He said he was given the gun rig about two months before filming began so he practised constantly and had the routine down brilliantly. What he had not taken into account was doing it for real on set under the hot lights. His fingers were sweating and the gun kept slipping, which was scary as there were all these other actors seated around him and this HEAVY gun would go flinging in the air!

Question 5 - Susie asked if the cast trained extensively in the gym before and during filming.

All the guest answered. They mentioned the gym work, in particular, Jenette who had a lot of fun. Mark Rolston had everyone is stitches as he recalled how Jenette did those pull-ups for real, saying Drake looked like he was doing it but it was actually Frost giving him a boost up !

Michael laughed and said his training involved seeing how many bars and clubs he could get to in one evening :-)

Ricco replied that 'Mike is pretty much in good shape all the time' -- which I think we'd all agree with!

Somehow, the topic turned to 'money' with one of the others saying Mike got paid more but he replied with a laugh that he had to take on the Hicks role on the same terms and conditions as the original actor.. exactly.

Question 6 - During filming, which were the harshest conditions you had to work in.

Mark replied that the set for the initial confrontation with the Aliens took place at a disused nuclear reactor plant in London - and it was freezing. Worse, they had to make it look as if it was HOT and they were sweating, so the assistants kept spraying them with cold water to simulate sweat droplets.

Question 7 - someone mentioned that media reports made out James Cameron to be a difficult director to work with.

Michael replied 'Jim Cameron is not afraid to spend studio money but, what I respect is he spends but doesn't wastes.'

He mentioned that Terminator cost just 6 million to make, ALIENS cost 17 millions, despite all the special effects. He said the studios reap the benefits.

'Jim is passionate, perfectionist....' mentions Cameron's beginnings in Roger Corman's low budget studio where Cameron had to learn everyone's trade. He said Jim Cameron loses patience with people who are too lazy, that he has made 3 films with Cameron.

'I think he is fun, smart. When you have been around as long as I have you can appreciate.'

He mentioned that Cameron could seem insensitive, recalling one time when he said 'That is exactly what I *don't* want'.

Jenette agreed with Michael that Cameron was only hard on people who didn't do their jobs right. He never said an unkind thing to her and recalled an incident when he took his time to explain and reassure a young boy actor (in Titanic) why a scene had to be shot more than once when the little boy thought something was wrong because they were being asked to shoot it again.

No one had a bad word for Cameron, and Mark mentioned how hard working and focused Cameron could be.

Question 8 - concerned James Cameron writing strong female, genre breaking roles

Jenette talked about Vasquez' character, and said something about researching in the 'gay' community.

Michael smiled 'did you say Vasquez was gay?'

Jenette looked confused and then said.. 'not gay', and spelled out another word that I did not quite catch... but everyone was laughing by then.

Going back to Cameron, Michael mentioned that 'after Terminator I was beat. Finished. I was dragging, beat up, tired. I went into the office', and was told to go straight through. 'Jim was writing and didn't look up. I asked, 'what are you doing? Shouldn't you be asleep?'

Cameron replied that he was working on a treatment for ALIENS so, even though this was the last day of production on Terminator he had already started on the next project. Mark asked Michael to tell a couple of anecdotes and Michael mentioned the time when he'd done hours on set for The Abyss. He put the scene in context by saying that they all had these heavy helmets but Cameron did not have the suit too which meant it used to cut into his shoulders, so he would 'decompress' by hanging upside down on the line. Decompression time depended on how long you had been underwater so, as Cameron had been down all day, it took him far longer to decompress. When Michael walked past the tank, he saw Cameron in there, upside down holding a monitor. When Michael asked someone what Cameron was doing, the crewman said, rather than waste the time, he was checking through the dailies for that day's filming. That was how dedicated Cameron was, and is.

Question 9 - concerned his photo in Alien 3

Michael mentioned that he was filming with Donna de Laurentiis and she had gone over to England for some reason and saw a life-size mannequin of HICKS all damaged, lying on the set floor. She called Michael and he called his agent and they told David Fincher that he could not use any likeness of Michael in ALIEN 3. David Fincher even called him personally and he said, 'Dude, man, no!'

Eventually, because he knew he might want to work for 20th Century Fox again some time, he relented and let them use a 10x8 photo... and was paid almost half of what he earned on ALIENS just for the use of it.

Question 10 - did you get paid for the new model image of Hicks coming out.

Michael replied, 'I got paid nothing.'

Question 11 - was about Bill Paxton

Michael related an anecdote. They were doing an advance screening of ALIENS in New York. He and Bill were NOT supposed to be there so they were behind the screen watching the film from behind. Michael then did an amazingly good imitation of Bill Paxton exalting the film 'it's a goddamn rollercoaster ride' and that's when Michael knew the film would be a success.

He said Bill was a loose cannon and the credits name him as 'Wild Bill Paxton'. 'He's from Texas and he is fun, very talented... he's one of a kind. Fun, loud, crazy, serious, most of all a lot of fun and a good friend'.

That's about all I can recall except Michael looked a little tired by now and was wearing his coat, pulling it tight around him... which just proves how tiring the whole day must have been.. and it was only 3 p.m.

The talk ended with a round of applause and I had no time left. I had to go home but it was an amazing day, one that I will not forget in a hurry :-)

My overall impression of Michael was that he was genuinely pleased to meet everyone! He was generous, good natured, funny, smiling often, laughing often, and very relaxed... though very tired by the time I left. He was a real pleasure to meet and to listen to.

Hopefully, Susie can fill in some of the gaps or correct me where I mis-heard or misunderstood anything :-)