I just spent a week working in a bloody bit of business that eventually will be unleashed upon the world as a film called The Last Heist, ripped from the ether’s misty entrails under the careful guidance of director Mike Mendez.
I signed on for two reasons: First, the completely diabolical character to be inhabited, Bernard, seemed like an interesting ride to take, and second, they offered it to me.
There were very few moments of this experience that didn’t require me to be in contact with fake blood. It’s not easy to shoot or clean up after. For the actors, it can be difficult to live in for hours at a time.
It’s an intense film, with insanity breaking out left and right. But there is also a lot of humor, and you don’t have to look all that hard to find it.
The crew who worked on the film were blood-splatter pros. Suddenly our sets would look like an episode of Dexter, as rolls of plastic sheeting appeared to contain the results of our cinematic carnage. The camera operator would disappear behind a billowy cloud of plastic, like a man trapped in a semi-transparent marshmallow. To see all of this get set up as a matter of course was, for me, hilarious. But for them, it’s just another day at the office.
The other actors in the film, all very cool, hard-working and happy for the opportunity, made for some interesting lunchtime conversations. These are people who have died many deaths. At one point, a round-robin storytelling session started in which indescribably awful ways to die were detailed. Drill bits, saws, arrows, animals, zombies — so many ways to go. One woman had been killed so many times, she had lost track.
To hear them compare notes reminded me of a time when I was listening to some adult-entertainment actresses talking about their recent endeavors at the workplace. The casualness of shop talk has always struck me as humorous, especially when the job description is off the beaten path.
As we were working away in the environs of our no-time-to-waste budget, the laughs kept coming. In one scene, the actress Bernard was about to kill had to fly into a wall, but (and this is where the artistry comes in) not too hard, because the wall might break. In this same scene, a replica weapon flew out of my hand and beaned our camera operator right in the head. Sorry, Jan!
This can happen in any film, but when everything is moving at such high speed, if you can’t laugh, you’re in for a long day.
As you might expect, not all the characters in the film are pleased with Bernard’s antisocial behavior. This one-man plague needs to be straightened out, and not by peaceful negotiation.
There is nothing I look forward to in film work less than a fight scene. They never seem to end. The most hated phrase in the English language becomes, “We’re going again, picture’s up!” I have been in so many and rarely get through without injury. Even with a great stunt coordinator and several practice runs at half-speed, accidents often happen, and when you lack coordination as I do, it can be a very painful experience.
The Last Heist was no exception. During rehearsal for one epic, mutual beating between me and another actor, I jammed my left thumb, and we still had hours of shooting to do. My right index finger got jammed as well. A shin got whacked, a great-looking bruise pattern emerged from a rifle being shoved into my chest for several takes, and I banged my head after escaping a bad situation. I am a poster boy for over-the-counter pain relief.
Spending days covered in movie blood has had only had one upside that I am aware of, and it happened on this film. We were working in an industrial area in Glendale and I was taking the long walk to the men’s room, in a suit and tie, covered head to toe in blood.
I passed a man driving a forklift. He looked at me and deadpanned, “Rough day?”
Mr. Mendez, our extremely fun director, for whom there is rarely enough blood, actually had an instance where there was too much. It was a kill scene in which three people off-camera, armed with syringes, splattered me with the red stuff as I did my evil work. Sure, it was way too much, but I bet it looked really cool and I hope it makes the final cut.
In the warm California sun, the blood dries quickly and becomes sticky; almost any particulate matter will immediately adhere to you. I was, at times, a murderous candy apple dipped in dirt and debris. A fly actually got stuck in my hair and buzzed in frustration.
At picture wrap, I wanted nothing more than to get in my car to battle the highway homeward. I didn’t wait for the makeup department to remove the blood. After tearing the clothes off my body and losing a few layers of skin, I gave my face a few vigorous wipes with wet paper towels. When they turned an impressive shade of red, I hit the road.
I had no idea how completely crazy I looked to the other drivers I was stuck in traffic with. But some of their long looks confirmed what I saw in the rearview mirror.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
We wrapped out of The Last Heist about 24 hours ago. I will leave soon to go to the wrap party to essentially thank everyone for covering me with blood, beating me up, letting me kill them and helping me have such a great time doing it.
Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, Henry Rollins @henryrollins and like us on Facebook at LAWeeklyMusic.
Henry Rollins' 20 Favorite Punk Albums
Henry Rollins: Why I'm Not an Atheist
Henry Rollins: Blow Up Your Taste in Music