Alec Gillis Interview

Posted by Darkness on June 13, 2019 (Updated: 02-Aug-2019)

 Alec Gillis Interview

Wolf Predator

Adam: That kind of segues into our next question. Studio ADI worked on three different Predator films now and like you were saying they’ve had different visions from the directors like Anderson wanted something more imposing and heavily armored; the Strause brothers wanted something more akin to the originals and Shane Black wanted something more focused on movement. So which of your different takes on the creature has been the most interesting to work on and realize would you say?

Well I think that the Wolf Predator afforded us a little bit more of our own design freedom than the other two did. Meaning that the directors were like “Make him cool. We loved the original” so we were able to kind of like kick around ideas and come up with this idea that he is a veteran. That he’s like the equivalent of like a 45-year-old guy. He’s like Tom Berenger in Platoon. He’s scarred up. He’s got a bunch of gadgets and the whip for instance was our idea. That it’s a very it’s a very tactile kind of like badass weapon that imagine if it was so serrated you could like cut an Alien and a half but so there was a lot more fun to be had on that one and the Wolf Predator was unmasked so briefly that we were emboldened enough to not feel like we had to use the performers eyes so we gave him mechanical eyes which allowed us to change his facial proportions.

Specifically, his forehead is more sloped back. We wanted him to look a little bit more like a Predatory cat. When you use the performers eyes you always have before head right up above it and out in front of the eyes so you can’t really create that back swept look of a Predatory cat quite as well but the upside of using the performers’ eyes is they have good vision and when there’s a lot of stunts you need good vision so we were able to play a little bit more of the facial proportions on the Wolf

Adam: So, Scar and Fugitive were contact lenses and Wolf had mechanical eyes?

Yes

Adam: Yeah, I always liked how you got to see a little more Wolf’s face in the Unrated cut of AvPR when he kind of swaps his mask with the other Predator and watches the playback. It was just good to see more of those effects in there

There’s another interesting design thing that people do design very cool Predators. Like there’s lots of artwork out on social media and some really great fun paintings and illustrations of Predators but I don’t believe any of them are actually trying to make it work over the eye spacing and eye size of a human being and that is makes a world of difference when you’re designing a Predator like the two emissaries. One of the emissaries was played by Kyle Strauts and Kyle has a smaller head that Bryan and Kyle’s eyes are closer together than Bryan’s so as a result you can’t just conveniently put a Bryan Prince head on Kyle Strauts. It doesn’t quite work so you have to design everything around it so the Predator head that was designed specifically for Kyle to wear was a smaller head than Brian Prince’s head but that’s okay because that’s just the variations among human beings I assume are similar to the variations of my Predators

Aaron: Is that an issue you’ve ran into then with them like various stunt performers or whatever and I know like Ian Feuer came and did standing in bits for Requiem when Ian Whyte couldn’t and I think you reused the Ian Whyte suit for him so is that an issue that you run into.

In that case not so much because once again the Wolf Predator had mechanical eyes for the stunt head had its own eyes attached and you would look through drilled out pupils. It’s still not the greatest of vision but eyes facing was not an issue of that but body suit is definitely affected. Ian Feuer is about 6’7”. Ian Whyte is 7’1” or 7’2” so there is a difference in the way a body suit fits a six-inch difference the way that fits but if a guy is lean it works better than if he was like shorter and stockier and that was the issue, we had on AvP. We had bulky Predators. Their armor was bulky to begin with and they were built around Ian Whyte and we did not have the budget to create costumes for each and every stunt character who played a Predator. We were assured by production that they would find us seven footers in Prague but they really couldn’t so we were putting those same costumes on six foot five guys, six foot four guys, six foot three guys and at that point they look like little butterball turkeys because like a forearm gauntlet and a piece of bicep armor all of a sudden are colliding because there’s no arm length in there.

 Alec Gillis Interview

Ian Whyte as Wolf Predator

In an ideal world you would have all seven-foot guys. In Los Angeles you go to community colleges and there’s basketball players that range from 6’8” to 6’11”. Then you’re in a pretty good place but myself personally I’ve always felt that you start hitting someone who’s 6’5” in a Predator suit it’s just not that impressive. You really need a 6’9” to 7’2” person in there and Brian are both around 6’9” to 6’10” so those are good heights and they’re both slim guys and that’s another important thing. You’ve got to have a slender person to work. They’re athletic of course but they’re not boxy bodybuilder types where we’re just adding rubber on top of somebody who’s already shaped like an upright Volkswagen. There’s nothing that you can do there.

Aaron: The Predator featured some connections to the AvP films in the way of the shuriken, Lex’s spear and what looked kinda like a Scar-style mask. This caused some discussion as to if they were deliberate references to the AvP films. I understand that you guys didn’t handle the weapon design but I kind of just always suspected that they were just props that ADI had easy access to because you made those and they were included because of that availability. I was wondering if you knew anything about the story behind those?

Well I don’t know other than that we were contacted by the props department to get some of that stuff because Shane specifically wanted those items in the film. I assume if he wanted to ignore that they existed and not make a connection to the previous film then he would have redesigned it. Created something unique but I believe that one of the interests of this film is to start up bringing the lore together and as I mentioned that the Predator franchise hasn’t necessarily been… like into the Marvel Universe we’ve all become used to like interconnected characters and events and all because they were all plotted out in the 60s 70s 80s what-have-you in volume after volume of comic books.

So there is actual precedents and you can actually chart these things in a more kind of cohesive way. The Predator stuff is evolving as each film is made and I think Cameron did a great job as a hired gun director to come in and say I can expand on this basic idea and the universe is started to be created and then of course when it went back to Ridley he had his own ideas of how these things should be explained and what that universe is. In the case of the Alien movies that kind of feel like we’ve got like competing views of what the franchise is or what the back stories are. Things are evolving. Like they are not plotted in the way that the Marvel Universe is so I think fans attempt to bring more order and logic to the Alien and Predator worlds than it actually does exist and it doesn’t mean that the defense shouldn’t do that. I’m just saying but a lot of that kind of speculation is the fans are maybe in a way ahead of the studios.

Adam: Yeah, it’s an interesting time for the franchise’s with especially with the looming Disney acquisition of Fox. A lot of people are wondering what that’s gonna mean for the different franchises?

well I hope that the Disney presence allows them to open up the universes of these films a little bit. I mean Blomkamp’s Alien 5 right; I don’t have any insider information on that but I love in the old comic books the what if… like Superman what if stories. Or a graphic novel comes out and it’s just an offshoot right. It doesn’t mean that like all this obsession with canon and all that, I think starts tripping people up. If we would relax a little bit and say what’s a cool Alien universe story. Okay on a planet something happens or is this part of the main story or same with The Predator stories. I’d love to see a Predator movie that has no humans or very few humans and I don’t even need to see their homeworld. I’m kind of leaned towards not seeing the Predators’ homeworld.

Adam: Yeah as far as canon goes like I couldn’t agree with you more Alec. I think it’s good to respect it but you don’t have to be constrained by it. It depends on the franchise. Some franchises rely on it more heavily than others but in terms of Alien and Predator you just see so much variation. Like there’s a comic coming out that is a what-if story which is William Gibson’s unused Alien 3 screenplay and we’re really excited for that one. I’ve been saying this for a while like I would like to see the movies take on more of an approach where you have different arcs and different alternate continuities like a lot of fans were miffed about what was going to happen with Neill Blomkamp’s film going to replace Alien 3 but I was always like “No, I loved Alien 3 but I would like to see an alternate take to that.” That’s not a mark against Alien 3.

I think it’s a little bit of a concrete and pedestrian way to look at things that if anything changes too much someone has raped my childhood. You know what Stephen King said at the best when he was being interviewed. I saw this interview years ago and he was sitting at his desk in front of a shelf of books and someone said “How do you feel about Hollywood ruining so many of your stories?” And he said “They didn’t ruin them” and he gestured behind him – there they all are. They’re still there. Alien 3 will still be there if you prefer it over Blomkamp’s Alien 5. It’s kind of like colorizing movies so you colorize a movie – big deal – there’s still a black-and-white version. I want to go back though to 1940s movies and put in tons of swear words just because that’s a form of color isn’t it?

 Alec Gillis Interview

Alec Gillis & Tom Woodruff

Aaron: This is something that we tend to see crop up on the forums a lot when we talk about the later Predator designs and it’s the resting position of the mandibles. In the first two films they close in an almost X-shape and the AvPs – they like have a parallel kind of open look rather than closed and we often see people wonder why? Was that a creative decision or was that a technical thing with the animatronics?

No, it’s always creative. I guess I would ask the question why do they have to close the way they did in the first two movies? In any more than the Alien needs a dome or doesn’t need a dome and if you think of it that way then a director can say “Oh I think this guy’s got different teeth”. Paul Anderson certainly did that with asking us to add teeth to the Predator in an attempt to make him more anthropomorphic and therefore more relatable to the Sanaa Lathan character. So those kinds of conversations always happen. We take into account what the director is looking for. We also will be there as representatives of the fans but you have to remember that’s a very difficult job to do because the fans don’t agree.

This is something that we’ve learned over the years that there are some people who don’t like… they don’t want their childhoods messed with and there are some people who accuse you… I saw that as a comment like with the Fugitive Predator, somebody said “Boring! It looks like the one from the first film. Come on ADI, you’re getting lazy.” Well alright or we diligently worked to create a resonance to that one right so I don’t know what to tell fans who say I like this. I didn’t like that. Why was it this way? Why was it? There’s tons of discussion that goes on in all these things. That’s probably a very unsatisfying answer. When we get a chance to do another one, I will bring up that question when a director. Let’s talk about the position of the mandibles. There’s no discussion sir, take this picture from 1987 and this picture from 1992, those are your choices!

I’m glad that people are engaged and I teased a little bit there because we all carry into the job or into the viewing or whatever the experience of it. We all carry our biases and our preferences and there have been times that I have gotten a note from an executive to change a sculpture or something and I just think “You have no idea what makes this cool and at the end of the day if I want 100% control over the character that I’m building, I need to build my own character. Not be hired by someone to build a character for their franchise. We’re all passionate about something and expressing there’s nothing wrong with expressing it.

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