Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein stopped by the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 6, 2010, to introduce a screening of “Near Dark.” It was a vampire-western horror hybrid made back in 1987 by Kathryn Bigelow, and it was being shown as a double feature with her Oscar winning triumph, “The Hurt Locker.” It was not a sold out showing that night, but that ended up making this particular evening more intimate for those who showed up. Bill Paxton looked especially happy to be there as he later was astonished that there was actually a print of this movie still in existence.
When Bill and Jenette made this movie, they were just coming off of “Aliens” with James Cameron. Bill played Hudson, the soldier who thought he was so bad ass, and who later turned into one of the single most annoying cowards in cinema history. Jenette played Private Jenette Vasquez, one of the most bad ass soldiers you could ever hope to see in a movie, and who (unlike Hudson) remained just as fierce when things got worse. Kathryn Bigelow, who would later marry and divorce Cameron, called him to ask if it was okay to use some of his “Aliens” actors for “Near Dark.” Clearly he said yes, so Bill and Jenette, along with fellow actor Lance Henriksen, got cast in Bigelow’s movie.
Bill later went on to say that in one scene from “Near Dark,” the man who ends up sticking his hand out the car and giving him the finger was in fact James Cameron himself.
Having gone through what Bill described as the “baptism of fire” with James Cameron on “Aliens,” he, Jenette and Lance formed a strong family unit as a result which made the making of “Near Dark” feel like a homecoming. When someone asked what the difference was in directing styles between Cameron and Bigelow, Bill put it quite bluntly:
“No one else is like Cameron.”
As for Bigelow, Bill described her as the prettiest director he has ever worked with. Truth be told, she still looks very hot when she accepted her Oscar for Best Director. According to Bill, she absolutely loves actors and encouraged them to come up with stuff for their characters throughout the shoot. Jenette went on to talk about how the actors did an improvisation on how they would block out the sun while they were riding in one of their stolen cars in broad daylight. They ended up coming up with the idea of putting aluminum foil on the windows which blocked out the rays that would have immediately seared their fragile skin and reflected them away so they could live on to do what they did best, suck blood out of clueless human beings. The way Bill saw it, most of “Near Dark” was improvised, and it was great to work with a director who was so excited to work with actors.
In regards to Lance Henriksen, Bill described him as “a guy you could never really read.” Back then, Lance had these “intense” finger nails which he had to cut off as Bill described it, and Bill even went on to describe one time when he and Lance were driving down the highway and ended up getting pulled over by the police. As the police officer was getting out of his patrol car, Bill said that Lance looked at him and said:
“Should we take this guy out?”
Actually, that led to Bill telling a story that Lance just loves to tell about “Near Dark.” During the times they were shooting at night, Bill who was decked up in his gory vampire makeup as though half his face was chopped off, kept going up to people driving through town, telling them he had just been in a horrible car accident. I imagine both he and Lance lost track of how many strangers they scared away, but this little prank always ended with Lance saying:
“If you think he looks bad, you should see the other guy!”
Suffice to say, they didn’t do that, and Lance remains one of the more appreciated actors in films today. Even if he does a lot of Grade Z movies, many of which go straight to DVD, he is typically the best thing in them.
Bill said that he saw “Near Dark” as being a “Bonnie & Clyde vampire movie,” and that is a perfect description if you ask me. Tangerine Dream did the score to the movie which you can find online at an obscenely high price thanks to the fact that it has been out of print now for years and years. Aside from their score, the movie is filled with other memorable musical selections. There was that great cover of “Fever” performed by The Cramps which was used in the pivotal bar scene where everything gets turned into a bloodbath. But Bill said his favorite piece of music used was “Naughty, Naughty” by John Parr. It is one of those 80’s songs that forever sticks out in my head after first hearing it way back, and Paxton said that it really sets the scene for when the vampires end up depriving a saloon in the middle of nowhere of its customers and employees. Apparently, Kathryn Bigelow ended up paying for the rights to that song out of her own pocket.
One audience member asked Bill and Jenette if they had any Tim Thomerson stories to tell us. Thomerson played Caleb’s father in “Near Dark,” but he is best known for playing Jack Deth in “Trancers” and its numerous sequels. Both Bill and Jenette said they had many great stories about Thomerson to tell us, and they made it sound like it would take up an entire evening. But they basically summed him up as a “great guy to hang out with,” that he did so many great impersonations; his best being of John Wayne forcing himself on Walter Brennan.
In regards to character, Paxton said that he saw Severen as a Billy the Kid kind of vampire, wild and reckless in how he conducted business. Bill said that “Near Dark” owes a great debt to Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles which included “Interview With A Vampire” and “Queen Of The Damned” among others. To get into character, Bill said he read Rice’s books throughout the shoot.
Jenette said that she saw her character of Diamondback as someone out of the Depression era or “The Postman Always Rings Twice” be it the original or the eroticized remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. Someone who got by and survived any which way she could. Jenette was perfectly cast in the role as very few actresses back then were allowed to play tough female characters that couldn’t need a man to defend them any less.
Another audience member told Bill that he was a big fan of “Frailty” which was his directorial debut from a few years back, and wanted to know if he was planning to direct again. Looking back on “Frailty,” Bill said he had a great experience making it and would love to direct again if he can ever get out of “this damn show” he’s in (you may have heard of it – “Big Love” on HBO). Currently, he is looking over a few projects that he is interested in helming, and he hopes to work behind the camera again really soon.
It was great to see Bill and Jenette come out and speak with the fans, and Bill especially looked tickled to death to be there. Surprisingly, a large portion of the audience had never actually seen “Near Dark” before, so neither of them wanted to keep the audience waiting too long to see it on the big screen. “Near Dark” may not have been a big hit when it was first released, but it has more than earned its cult following, especially in light of Kathryn Bigelow’s recent Oscar win, something which was a long time coming.
Actually, my favorite moment of the evening happened as Bill and Jenette were walking out of the theater, and I guess another audience member brought up the subject of another HBO show to which Bill replied:
“F**k ‘True Blood!’ We were doing this (vampire stuff) 20 years ago!”
That left us in utter hysterics.