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An Interview with Michael Harrelson, Character Actor

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2011

Films starring Michael Harrelson on (re)Search my Trash


Quick Links

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First up, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?


I am first and foremost a character actor, a chameleon-like creature who changes to blend into his environment, reflecting all that surrounds him. I've been acting since 1968, it is my art , my craft, and my life. Unlike many actors, I try to NOT brand myself, playing a wide variety of characters who bear no resemblence to each other, whereas John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are always the same character, I try to never be the same.


Let me (rather randomly) pick a handful of films from your filmography, and maybe you could talk about them, your roles in them and your on-set experiences for a bit:



Sickle is one of my favorites, I play Boris, the Russian gangster. The title of the film directed and written by Robert Conway is based on the character Kane Hodder (Jason of Friday the 13th fame) plays, Sherriff Slade Sickle, who along with his wife and son keep the town crime-free by cannabalizing offenders - like Tiffany Shepis [Tiffany Shepis interview - click here] renownd scream queen, Taryn Maximillian Dafoe and Rina Riffel It was a great set to work on! This is Robert's second film, and he is just an amazingly talented man, who is writing another horror film in LA. I honestly think he could be the Tarantino of horror, he writes great dialogue and creates rich characters.


The 49th Line?


In The 49th Line, I play a redneck sherriff who runs his small town with his psycho brothers who brutally kill off any strangers. The 49th Line refers to the name of a gold mine that struck gold on the 49th attempt.

The 49th Line was written and directed by Drew O'Kane, it was his first film and filmed on location in Silverton, Colorado, using all his own money. We lived in an old miners' boarding house, and we, the cast, were brought in from Phoenix. After 30 days we became, as often happens, a Tribe or family, bonding every night by a huge bonfire, and filming every day with little rest in between. Making the film was like a never ending party, resulting in friendships that continue on to this day - Kimber Leigh, Klor Rowland, Danae Mckillop, Jose Rosete - are people I love and admire and have done several films with since, Kimber, Jose and I did Blocked together, Kimber, Klor and I did several shorts as well as Bloody Mother Trucker together, Jose and I did Angels, Devils and Men, Running on Empty Dreams, Sickle, and Blocked, also with Tiffany Shepis, and Kimber and I did Yesterday's Tommorow, Angels, Devils and Men, Asylum, All In, and we are filming Vrooom with Klor this fall.


Cathedral Canyon?


Loved doing Cathedral Canyon, about mormon polygamy in modern day Phoenix. I play Mr Valesquez, a dirty money go-between. Again with Jose Rosete, Kimber Leigh and the usual suspects, written by Paul Davis, produced by Diana Davis, directed by Lorenzo Lamas, DP was Paul Hudson.




Ahhhhh, more a Labor of Love, Classic Film Noir, Starring Tiffany Shepis, Jose Rosete, Mario Guzman Kimber Leigh, intersting twists of plot. And Directed By James Arnett.

Tiffany is Amazing in this, she has all the 1940s glamour of a Linda Darnell, just Amazing, and it's not the typical scream queen role, she is quite the Femme Fatale of that bygone era. Leeann Dearing does a great job too, she is also the new Go Daddy Girl, and is remenicent of a young Lana Turner.




Absolutely one of my favorite roles, Grandpa Smith, and the best review I've ever gotten:

"Now, this is a really good movie to see what your imagination hopes the characters will do next.
James Ray is ...
Incredible, mean & lean and willing to have you hate him in the next scene too.

Kathleen Benner ... Was perfect and truly STOLE the last minutes of film and deserved a standing ovation at the Redbox kiosk as rented.

Michael Harrelson ... Reminded me so much of The Duke in John Wayne and The Cowboys, I just cant give away why.

This was a total package of freakin' good movie making! Think they all three are some that can act better than most!

Don't get me wrong it also had its share of haters, but on a personal level, it's some of my best work my pals James Ray, Kathleen Benner and Greg Joseph really turned in incredible performances little known fact Kathleen was expecting at the time and was such a trouper letting us toss her all over the place, she really is an excellent stunt woman. Jon Bonnell directed it Webb, Peckersgill was DP, and my friend Catherine Everheart is the dead naked girl, aka Penelope Jones, young Valora was played by Ashley Francis, best kid actor I know, watch for her in the future huge talent in a little girl.




... was a short and a web series, won a Rocky Mountain Emmy, Kevin Hermann wrote and played the lead, my character Mr Saver is based on the smoking man in X Files, and this really was an homage to Chris Columbo. The series has great SFX, Joel Cranson directed, Webb Pickersgill DP. Fun Set to work on. 


Genital Genocide?


David C. Hayes [David C.Hayes interview - click here] is amazing in this, it's about a condemed serial killer being put to death. I play the Warden. Great supporting cast, Debbie Oversbey, Bartley Oversbey, Liana Hubbard ,Christine Rose in her debut, I made her do it, lol, Rob Douglas, Rick Dyer. Lots of gore, lots of fun.


Room 602?


Another fun project with Jon Bonnell and Infinite Spectrum. I play Harry Dunn, an inept wiseguy/hitman, Aaron Ginn-Forsberg plays my partner Jimmy. Shot at the Hotel San Carlos in the Ingrid Bergman Suite, it's a short from the feature length script Jon Bonnell wrote that I hope gets made into a feature one day, very funny film, Brian Ronalds from the Ronalds Brothers production team plays our hapless victim.


Yesterday's Tomorrow, on which you also had quite a few behind-the-camera duties, right?


Yup, lol. I often refer to this as the worst film ever made, and I was co-producer. It's hard to explain, because the script is good, the actors Claudia Vargas, Seth Gandrud, Andy Rose, Jimmy Flowers and Gil Andrews are great, the DP Vincent Pascoe was great - but it just is awful, something got lost somewhere, it started going wrong when the original director had to go to rehab, it was his vision, his story and his baby, IK think if he had made it it would have been a good film.

In hindsight we should have waited til he got out, still it was fun.


You have also been in veteran director Lindsay Shonteff's Angels, Devils and Men. You just have to talk about that movie and the good Mr Shonteff for a bit!


Very surreal film! Loved working with Lyndsay on his last film. I play Flash the Angel From Hell. It was an Honor Working with him, he was the most no nonsense organized director I've ever worked with. Anthony Myles was the DP, Jimmy Flowers was the Gay Angel, and Jose Rosete was the soul we fought over.

A couple of interesting side notes: First lol I was fired from this film and replaced by a female Flash, but I hold no grudge, Lynsday died two weeks after the wrap in London, England,and much to the dismay of his wife, his other wife from America showed up at the funeral, and the film was tied up in court for a few years When it was settled I got a call asking if I would let them use the footage I'd shot. I agreed it was the least I could do, so Flash became the crossdressing angel from hell as I morph from male to female throughout the film. God rest his Soul, I admire, respect and treasure the Genius that was Lyndsay Shonteff


Any other films of yours you'd like to talk about?


Oh i just did a quirky little film called The Big Something, a mystery/comedy directed by Travis Mills, starring Mina Mirkhah.


One can't help but notice that many of your films are of the horror or science fiction variety. A coincidence, or are these genres dear to you?


I love the both genres as i grew up on B Movie Double Features, of course I love all film, but horror and sci-fi hold that place I first discovered as a kid, that opens the imagination.


Before you acted in movies, you did a lot of commercials and voicework, right?


I still do, they pay the bills. I love working, period! It's my life, my passion.


What made you take the step into the movie world?


Actually, I saw an ad for crew and my son wanted to direct and my advice was to crew up, get first-hand experience - so I called to set him up with an appointment, Drew O'Kane liked my voice and invited me to audition, I got the role and my son got on the crew, and off we went to film in Colorado.

 I'm very proud of my son, Conan Harrelson, and hope to work for him someday


Can you still remember your first on-camera experience?


Not really, lol, I was stoned and nervous and have completely blocked it out.


As far as I know (and I might be wrong), you didn't get into acting until relatively late in life. How come, and what did you do before that? And did you receive any formal education on the subject?


What a checkered past I have. Well I've been a Stevedore, Merchant Seaman, or Able-bodied Seaman, Real Estate Broker, Bouncer, Barker, Strike Breaker/Goon, TV-host on cable, Used Car Salesman, Fortune Teller, Hypnotist.


Your approach to acting?


Basically there are two styles and I use them both, internal and external. Examples would be Marlon Brando used internal, Laurence Olivier used external - meaning Brando started inside himself and worked outwards, Olivier started by dressing the character and working inward. Both work, to me it depends on the role, if the character is very emotionally taught I work internally, if he's very boisterous and outgoing I use external, but in all cases the key to me is "the walk" - once I've got the guy's walk I've got him.


Roles you'd like to play (no matter how impossible)?


Oddly enough, Hitler! How complex must that character be? And my ongoing project for an old black bluesman, who I call JazzBeaux Dupree - this character is a combonation of Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Fred Sanford {Redd Foxx}, and my real life mentor Jim Green, who gave me my first harmonica. Just need someone to write the script, Salpie Tatka, my favorite make up artist says she can transform this old blued blonde guy into the perfect Black Bluesman, we shall see, it's certainly a challange


Actors (or indeed actresses) who inspire you?


So many... Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ben Johnson, Michael Parks, Billy Connely would top the list - Tim Scott, great Character actor, played Pea Eye in Lonesome Dove, and was in many films like Electric Horseman.


Your favourite movies?


Feeling lucky ?
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Find Michael Harrelson
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Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

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(Must be over 18 to go there !)

x-rated  find Michael Harrelson at

LOL! Of course I love all of mine. But my list of GREAT movies would be Subject Zero, Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast, again Sir Ben, Assassination Tango and Tender Mercies, and The Apostle, Robert Duvall, all the John Ford Westerns and a short film I did, Alfred, which is going to Sundance.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


LOL, none, I love all movies, even BAD ones, I'm a huge Ed Wood- [Ed Wood bio - click here] and Fred Olen Ray-fan, face it, I'm an addict, and lol an enabler too.


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Well, I'm hopefully doing Bikers vs Zombies for Robert Conway, with Kane Hodder and hopefully Lance Henricksen, Vroooom 123, and I'm working on producing a TV-pilot Celebrity Ghost Hunts, with my favorite psychic/medium Carrie Shubert, Mike Lynch, and hopefully Kane Hodder, Dawna Lee Heising, Claudia Guzman,and several celebrities I can't name yet, but they are huge!


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!!! See You In The Movies...


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD