Dane DiLiegro is a 6’9″ actor and starred in 2022’s Predator prequel Prey as the Feral Predator. He was originally a professional basketball player before moving to Los Angeles in 2019 to pursue an acting career. Prior to filming Prey, Dane spent months training parkour, martial arts and strengthening his neck due to having to wear an animatronic head on top of his head. Dane joined us on Episode #151 of the AvPGalaxy Podcast to talk about his experiences of being in the iconic Predator suit. You can listen below or read on for a transcription.
Aaron: So, Dane first things first, thanks for joining us today. We’re here to talk about Prey. We’re here to talk about the Feral Predator but before we dive into spine ripping and wrestling with bears, can you tell us a little bit about Dane DiLiegro outside of the Predator? Who are you and what do you do?
Dane: Yeah, I’m Dane DiLiegro. I’m from Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. I played high school basketball which went into division one collegiate NCAA basketball for four years and then I went on to play eight years of professional basketball. I played seven years in Italy. I played a year in Israel. I was with the Boston Celtics for a summer and in the Summer of 2019, I was essentially scouted to become an actor and I pursued it and I booked my first tv show two weeks later.
A Netflix show called Sweet Home and moved to Los Angeles just to try this thing out which was right before the pandemic and the pandemic came upon us. I could not go back to basketball, and I decided to continue the acting route. I cook a lot. I was an apprentice butcher when I lived in Italy. I love culinary travel. I still train like a pro athlete. I am a nerd. I love Legend of Zelda. That’s Back to the Future behind me. My TV here, I have a Gamecube, a Nintendo 64, a Super Nintendo and an Xbox One X. I even have Super Mario Paint on Super Nintendo. I have the Nintendo mouse pad and actual mouse.
Aaron: What’s your favorite film then?
Dane: Oh, it’s tough. From a nostalgic standpoint, it’s Heavyweights which is the Disney film I remember that one in fact a long time. Jurassic Park, Jaws. E.T. anything Spielberg. I actually like Back to the Future 2. I actually got this poster while it was playing in Italy. They did a one-time screening of Back to the Future 2 in Italian and I went to see it. I thought it was amazing. They gave me this Italian Back to the Future 2 poster which I love.
Adam: Do you remember the first time you ever laid eyes on our favorite extra-terrestrial hunter?
Dane: Of course. My father who’s a big athlete. We have an exercise room, a guest room in our house and in the basement, that’s where he kept his workout bike and every morning, I’d go down at 7AM in the morning to see him working out and it’s early 90’s, my dad’s a big macho man.
He’d always watch these action films, dad movies and I remember going in it first time I saw the Predator and I was like five. “Get out of here, you’re not allowed to see this” and I left and peaked my head around the corner and through the crack of the door and I’m looking at this alien hunter. “Oh my god, what is that thing. It’s disgusting” and he said, “Get out of here” and he slammed the door shut. So that was the first time I ever saw… I mean more than just the Predators, all monster movies and sci-fi movies as well.
Aaron: Which of the previous Predators including the AvPs has been your favourite creature design or performance?
Dane: It’s a pretty obvious answer. It’s the easiest one but I mean what Kevin did with the first one. It paved the way… paved not just in terms of movement, in terms of performance but just movie structure. Two-thirds of that movie is a bunch of dudes going through the jungle to a snare drum. It’s so 80’s. It’s just awesome and the late Kevin Peter Hall, what he did with that character was incredible and Stan Winston’s design and the way it all came together.
Obviously, technology has advanced since then but yeah just that the first one for me. I do like the Wolf Predator, I think. His design’s really cool. I think Ian did a great job. I think in terms of design, that would probably be next in line for me. Obviously, we’re not counting Prey. I mean you can count Prey. It’s tough. It’s like that’s my child so it’s not fair. There’s serious nepotism there but I do like Wolf. I think Wolf is pretty interesting and I think Ian did a good job with that suit.
Adam: We’d absolutely love to hear about the casting experience that actors and performers go through when it comes to these films so how did you come to be cast in Prey?
Dane: I was called by Alec Gillis to come in to do a design pitch at ADI for a project they’re working on in Canada and I said “Great”, and Alec said “I’ll buy you lunch. Come on in.” He said “Keep the lunch. Pitch me in for the project.” So, I get there and the Predator suit from the last movie was sitting out on the table and I’m like “Oh my god. This is Predator. This is crazy.” So, I put the suit on. Dan, Marty Ewing, our producer and Jeff Cutter, our D.P. came into the shop and Alec told me he wanted me to bring a balletic [inaudible] for this character and “What the hell is that?”
So, I’m thinking more of like a panther. Some type of feline. Something very in tune with his movements. I’m running around ADI in this suit. They had a big 3D printed iteration of what they thought that this Predator was going to look like it. I don’t know if you saw some of the concept art that they released. It was very close to that. The mouth on this thing was like so big that the mandibles were like out here. It was that concept art and I put it on. There’s no vision. They drilled two holes through, and I couldn’t see anything but I jumped on top of the table and I’m doing all these different things and it was like they don’t have anyone cast for this and I told them “I would kill to be your Predator. I would die to be your Predator.”
I was brought in to play the Predator and I ended up doing all the acting stunts in mo-cap. There was another guy they had used for some insert shots, and he was a backup Predator in case I got injured essentially. So yeah, I mean I essentially did all of it. I did the actor and the stunt double’s job. I didn’t really have a stunt double and then we spent a day in a grey suit in a free running academy and I did all the Predator movements jumping from trees and holding up the bear and all of that stuff.
Aaron: So that was all mo-cap suits?
Dane: That was all mo-cap. They had a huge pad and I lift it up. Pretend it’s really heavy like this and then throw it down and all of the motions you see of him jumping from tree to tree and doing it. They captured my movement and used for this character.
Aaron: Well, that’s impressive. I thought that was CG.
Dane: Well, it was CG but they had inertia monitors on me. So, my movements and the same movements that this Predator had.
Aaron: Have you worked with Alec before then for him to know you to give you the call?
Dane: No, I had met him a few years prior. I visited his shop and he had called me for a few jobs that didn’t end up working out, but we kept in touch and I have worked with a lot of his friends and there were some recommendations that were made to him. I think he was just looking for a 6’9″ guy who had suit experience for this design pitch. So, he called me.
Aaron: So, over the last nearly 20 odd years, there’s been several different performers taking on the mantle of Predator, all with varying preparation styles and characters as to what the Predator’s supposed to be on the screen. So how did you prepare for your role as Feral especially considering he’s supposed to be so different from all the others?
Dane: It was interesting. Dan kind of granted me the key to this castle. Creatively he obviously had some parameters that he had set but he told me “Don’t do what Kevin Peter Hall did.” Every Predator is an iteration essentially of what Kevin did and we really want to get away from that and he set parameters for me with words like animalistic, primal, feral, dynamic, lean, and so I’m thinking about all these different things of how this Predator moves.
He doesn’t want that standoff 1987 WWF wrestler. This big giant brute. He wants dynamic tree jumping. He is quite feline. He looks like an insect but he’s quite feline in his movements. I see the design of this character. He’s kind of got that huge back. He’s so hunched over. So that it’s kind of like beast like for me and just kind of building off of that. You start with one thing and then from one thing, you go to another. It kind of evolves over time with each shot in each and every scene that you’re shooting.
Adam: So now you mentioned you had worn a test suit at ADI. Tell us about the first time you actually donned that finished Feral suit. What was that experience like oh finished?
Dane: We did a lot of test fittings in Chatsworth leading up to this film. There’s actually some cool test footage that I think Alec has of me in an unpainted, all black foam latex suit that like he’s just trying to break the suit. Test this thing out. Me in the parking lot, swinging a stick and I’m running. We actually had did some iterations of me running on all fours in this suit. We were going to do a chase scene of me running on all fours which would have been quite interesting.
First time donning everything was we did a show-and-tell up in Calgary in the middle of the woods just before shooting the big log fight and yeah it was an interesting experience because I had to lose 25 pounds for this role to fit into this lean and dynamic suit. So, it was a tight squeeze for me because I’m usually a big giant muscular guy and I had to lose a lot of my waist for this but you put this suit on with no head. Before you put the head on, you look down and you see his 12-pack and you look at your hands and you see there’s foam latex, so my forearm is huge. My arms are huge. My hands – I have these claws.
I looked down at my feet. His calves were enormous. This guy’s leg muscles were unbelievable. “Oh my god. This is real. I’m this killing machine” and it’s very difficult to describe the energy that goes through you, and you look down and you’re in this thing and then the head comes on and it all goes pretty dark and your neck is in this position and then you’re just trying to guess where he’s looking. That was a whole other experience.
Adam: Did that cool factor for you of like “I’m the Predator”. Did that help you get through all like the difficulties of being in the suit like the heat and if there was any claustrophobia or anything?
Dane: No claustrophobia. I’m a guy in terms of difficulties. I do a lot of heat training. I try not to let the heat affect me. As a pro athlete with my background, I always learned never to show your opponent that you’re tired or weak or scared or whatever. So even on set that translates to me. So, if I’m super-hot, I typically don’t like fans in my face. It makes me look weak if people are coming over and rushing and putting fans down the back of my neck or rushing to feed me water.
I have to live in this discomfort. I have to own it. I have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable but there were definitely times, especially in the burnt glade when it was 97 Fahrenheit outside and I’d have to think about how many people would kill to be this character. I was given a tremendous opportunity to be here, and I can’t let anyone down. I refuse to let anyone down with this character. So, like just thug it out. Pain is temporary. Film is forever. Put everything I can rest in two months. I can take a break in two months. I can get a massage in two months. That did help me push through for this character during the hard moments.
Aaron: Even surviving a small fire on your shoulder?
Dane: I was really actually delighted in a very strange sense that day because that was like my creature actor bar mitzvah. That was like it’s just happened to the greats. It’s happened to Brian Steele. It’s happened to Doug Jones. It’s happened to all the guys. Everyone’s head catches on fire at some point and there’s still a couple of nicks there but yeah that was a crazy experience. I thought bees were stinging me in the back of my neck and they started shrugging and then I hear “Is he on fire?” And I’m like “Am I on fire?”
And then this skull cap is screwed to my head, so they have to unzip and unsnap everything and then get under it. Take a screwdriver and my neck is still and “What the hell just happened?” “Well, your head was on fire.” “Oh okay, all right” and then Marty our producer comes over. I was like “It’s okay. I’m good. Let’s keep going. Let’s get the shot.” But that fire was my fault. It wasn’t anything that had to do with the suit. I kept pushing the wire into my neck and yeah, it’s a funny story and I still have the wire actually somewhere that caused the fire.
Aaron: What was the battery for?
Dane: Animatronics because there’s 30 servos here all around my head so every two hours or so every hour so Dave would come and have to swap out the battery pack because that’s what drives every motor for the eyebrows, for the eyes, for the all the mandibles and we had four puppeteers for this thing. A lot of stuff going on up here and I had to kind of work with them. We had to have a Bluetooth connectivity between… I would have to cue them for certain things, or we’d have to be working together essentially with emoting this character.