An exclusive poster for ‘He Never Died’
He is still best known for fronting the hardcore punk band Black Flag in the '80s. But at 54, Henry Rollins’s days of thrashing onstage are well behind him. “For me [music] ended up being a finite experience where I was done, and really done, with no regrets,” he told Yahoo Movies during a recent interview. It’s no exaggeration to describe Rollins as a Renaissance man: He hosts a weekly radio show in Los Angeles; he enjoyed a lengthy stint performing spoken word; he writes a column in the alternative newspaper L.A. Weekly; and he’s also an actor. “When I have to learn, when I have to sweat it out, that’s when I get the best out of myself,” he said of his multidisciplinary ethic. “I lunge at anything that’s unfamiliar.”
Acting is not entirely unfamiliar to Rollins — who has stitched together a lengthy filmography of bit parts in larger movies — including Michael Mann’s Heat, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and Bad Boys II. There was a time in the '90s when he seemed poised to fully shift from music to acting, though, Rollins revealed, there were setbacks. Among them: A mortifying audition for a role in the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis. “There was [director] Michael Bay. Everyone’s staring at you. I was feeling the pressure of the moment,” he said, admitting he bombed the line reading.
Rollins has also had a healthy number of leading roles in smaller indies, many of which have been horror films. “It seems to be the genre that likes me,” he explained. His forthcoming film, He Never Died, is a perfect example. In it, Rollins plays Jack, a centuries-old man in present day who is drawn into an escalating fight by local thugs. His biggest advantage in battle: He can’t be killed. The role, devised by newcomer filmmaker Jason Krawczyk, was written with Rollins in mind. “Imagine if you had centuries to refine everything you do — every physical thing, every act, every kick,” Rollins posed of his mysterious antihero, Jack, who keeps his words and actions direct and highly economical. “You would maybe throw out every single word in your vocabulary that doesn’t get you exactly what you need. Every single thing you’d be doing would be the straightest possible line between two points. That’s Jack’s experience… It’s scary efficient.”
An established star in music, radio, and the publishing world, Rollins remains willing, almost gleefully so, to take his lumps in the acting world in between winning roles like his undead Jack. And like his character in He Never Died, Rollins says he’s able to revive himself after an audition gone awry. “I go for all kinds of things all the time, where I walk out and go, 'Man, I just aced that.’ And I don’t even get the call-back, I wasn’t even close,” he shared. “I don’t have any big ego with it… I go for it as hard as I can and my regular experience is not getting it.” So why does he keep going for it? “I like being off balance in a way, having to struggle and earn traction,” he said. “It makes me feel ageless… That’s what makes life really fun.”
He Never Died enters select theaters Dec. 18.