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Henry Rollins Eats Up His Vampiric Role In He Never Died

Rollins and Jack are practically polar opposites, except maybe for a certain unassuming intensity. Yet when he read the script from director Jason Krawczyk, Rollins thought it would fit. And he wasn’t the only one.
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In real life, Henry Rollins has always been an outgoing guy who loves the spotlight, whether as the frontman for Black Flag or Rollins Band, or more recently in a series of big-screen roles and stand-up appearances.

In his latest film, He Never Died, his character, Jack, is a social outcast whose daily routine includes breakfast at a nondescript diner followed by bingo, with the occasional break to snack on human limbs to feed his vampire tendencies.

In other words, Rollins and Jack are practically polar opposites, except maybe for a certain unassuming intensity. Yet when he read the script from director Jason Krawczyk, Rollins thought it would fit. And he wasn’t the only one.

“I was sort of imagining myself in it. Then Jason confessed that he wrote it with me in mind,” Rollins said by phone from New York. “Some vampiristic, horrible sociopathic monster that eats people, and he was thinking of me.”

In the low-budget thriller, Jack is a quiet loner in Manhattan who has become bored with humanity after surviving for thousands of years among mortals. Depressed and antisocial, his violent instincts are awakened when the daughter of a waitress (Kate Greenhouse) is kidnapped, forcing Jack to confront some past demons during his vigilante quest for justice.

“He’s the culmination of centuries and centuries of having really bad human relationships. You talk about cynical; this guy wrote the book. He’s seen every war and survived every plague. He’s seen every injustice,” Rollins said. “Imagine the worst day of your life where you’re done with people, and imagine 2,000 years of that. He lost his love for humanity centuries ago. When he dispatches people, he’s very efficient at it.”

The film allowed Rollins plenty of creative leeway to develop the character. Fortunately, he had several months between the time he accepted the part and start of production to perfect his straight-faced, understated delivery.

“That took a lot of work. There was a discipline,” Rollins said. “I saw all the comedy potential. Jack is so dry, that he creates comedy just by how bored he is.”

It’s a rare lead role for Rollins, 55, who typically auditions for smaller parts in movies and television shows as part of a whirlwind schedule that fits his working-class mentality.

“I’m not interested in sitting around,” Rollins said. “When I’m off the road, I’m basically looking for employment, so I go for voice-over auditions, whatever the agents can throw at me until the next talking tour starts. I’m up for anything that’s not sitting around and watching the grass grow.”

His next “talking tour” will feature Rollins in his latest one-man show, which combines stand-up comedy with career anecdotes and anything else that’s on his mind. He’s scheduled to leave the country on Dec. 31 and visit about 25 countries and various domestic venues over the next several months.

Rollins loves performing, but diversifying his experiences helps to keep the creative juices flowing — whether it’s singing Christmas carols with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” or reading scripts for his potential next movie role.

“It’s not that I’m trying to be Mr. Eclectic. I’m a guy from nowhere, from the minimum-wage working world — a ham with no stage fright. It’s how I’m wired,” Rollins said. “I was allowed to be very successful in music, and that led to everything else. My mindset is that I come from $3.75 an hour. I got into music because I was a maniac and they handed me a microphone. I’m an actor as much as I was ever a singer in a band. But I don’t think I’m anything, which allows me to try everything.”

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