Henry Rollins: Cracked Actor

[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]

Part three of a three-part travelogue.

The shows in Washington, D.C., Michigan and Ohio are done. Now on to Belgium to work for three days in a film and then return to Los Angeles.

Oct. 19, Washington, Dulles Airport: 1428 hrs. Got here hours ago and won’t be boarding for three more. I will land in Brussels, Belgium, tomorrow morning, Monday, and start work on Tuesday. I was only supposed to work on Wednesday and Thursday, but the schedule changed. “Would Henry mind if we added an extra day?” That they pitched it as a question was so polite!

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Welcome to the world of low-budget film. Whatever it takes to get it done — that’s what you do. I used to get mad at this kind of thing, but at this point, I understand. There will be no extra pay, just more work. On a small budget production, there is not a great deal of insulation between you and the production itself. Their challenges become yours.

Landing at this airport is one of my favorite rituals because it usually means that I am going into Washington, about 25 miles from here. The next few days will be challenging. As sick as so many days of low sleep and high obligation can make me feel, I will take it over being “home,” or otherwise comfortable. At least out here I feel alive, and at least until Friday, I am employed.

Oct. 20, Antwerp, Belgium: 2241 hrs. Arrived around 0715 hrs. Breakfast at the hotel and a failed attempt to adjust to a different time zone. I traded nausea for sleep and knocked myself out for two hours. The hotel isn’t close to much civilization, so I have been working in the room and taking breaks watching the Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution documentary, which I view every several months. Thus inspired, I am listening to Klaus Schulze’s Cyborg album.

Oct. 21, Antwerp, Belgium: 2215 hrs. Was on set for about six hours. I was in shots but had no lines. On breaks, I went into the room I will shoot in tomorrow and rehearsed my lines, as men built things around me. I enjoy taking all this stuff seriously.

  Oct. 22, Antwerp Belgium: 2203 hrs. Being one of the writers on this project, I found myself acting with dialogue that I created. When I wrote the lines for this character, I never thought that I would actually be the guy. Luckily, while I was doing the scenes, which were all intense and very physical, I was completely in the moment. It was only between takes, that I felt in two minds, at once.

I have come to enjoy acting. For me, the only way to do it right is to be in a state of hyperbelief and hopefully create a reality that is more real than real. This is what attracts me to the craft. Running the lines in the room yesterday was a big help. In this production, we don’t do any blocking or rehearsal. I don’t like working this way at all.

Oct. 23, Antwerp Belgium: 2233 hrs. A couple of hour ago, I was standing on the set, preparing to be a very small part of a very wide shot, when a production assistant told me I was done. I got back in my own clothes and out of there as soon as I could. I always do this. As soon as I wrap out, it’s as if a spell has been broken. I wonder what the hell I am doing there in the first place, nonactor that I am. If I am not 100 percent in, I feel completely out of place.

I am grateful to have had the chance to work but am glad it’s done. I am not used to operating the way this particular production does. For someone as tightly wound as I am, things were way too casual. The set was happy! A bunch of young, good-looking, overwhelmingly cheerful people! And then there was me — bolt upright, grimly serious, calling everyone sir and ma’am. I got asked if I was OK a lot. I am up and out of here in a few hours.

Oct. 24, London, Heathrow Airport: 1040 hrs. I was one of the last people on board. To get from the last flight to this one entails an exhilarating power walk, up and down escalators, through security, as I glance up at screens that inform me that my flight is closing.

The production team on the film is not great at moving its human assets. Flight connections way too close. I sweated through my shirt getting here but have the next 11 hours to dry off and contemplate the fact that I need to start looking for a job on Monday. Packed back here in economy.

Burbank, Calif.: 1948 hrs. Make that Blurbank. I crossed the finish line a few hours ago.

Emerging from LAX, I was frustrated by the heat. After doing some chores around the house, I broke out and landed here at Starbucks. I have been on the ground only a few hours and wish I was leaving again. I can’t put down Southern California — it’s great. But sitting here now, I feel like I am failing.

When I return from days out in the world, there is a momentary feeling of elation that I get whatever it is done, that I dared to take on the work and delivered on the promise. This feeling soon gives way to depression-tinged fatigue, which creeps up like mist.
It’s a Friday night. I will work through the weekend and at some point, start plotting my next escape.

I am in a place in my life now where my mind drags my body along. I live for the plan, the execution and the experience. Afterward, I deal with the consequences, which often determine what happens next. Roam.


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