Nimród Antal is best known in the community for directing the third Predator film Predators in 2010. Prior to Predators, Antal directed Kontroll, Vacancy and Armored.
We sat down and had a chat with Nimród Antal for Episode #90 of the AvPGalaxy Podcast in June 2019, where we spoke to him about how he got into filmmaking in the first place and his experiences in filming Predators. You can listen to the interview below or read on for a transcription of the interview.
Aaron: First off, thank you for taking the time to come and chat to us. Before we do start geeking out specifically about Predator, I was hoping you could just give us a little bit of personal background on yourself outside of the Predator series. What inspired you to become a filmmaker and become in a position where you were taking on such an iconic series?
Thank you for having me and hello to all the Predator fans out there and my journey started as a fan of cinema in general. I was just a kid who grew up that loved film and if I was having a good day, I’d go see a movie. If I was having a bad day, I’d go see a movie. I was born in Los Angeles, California to some Hungarian immigrant parents. I was raised here on the west coast of the United States and ended up studying cinematography initially at the University of Film and Drama in Budapest.
My parents were Hungarian and I’d spent some time there as a kid and had the opportunity to attend a cinematography program there and then in my first year I wanted to transfer to the directing program and the school wasn’t very fond of the idea. They thought I was too young. I kept on banging at the door and then ultimately, I think they just let me in and I ended up finishing the film course there and I spent a few years doing commercials. I had a few opportunities to direct commercials coming out of film school and it was a wonderful way just to learn beyond the set and learn how to instruct actors and come up with compositions.
It was just a great experience for me and I spent a few years doing that. I then started to write my first feature film around that time and it was a film that ended up getting invited to… it was a film called Kontroll that was invited to some film festivals and we got a lot of love and it was something that was surprising to me. The intention of the film was just to make a gritty little thriller in the Budapest metro system and it ended up taking me further than I would have ever imagined and I got an opportunity.I was approached by some folks at one of the festivals and they asked if I was interested in making American films.
I told them of course I was and it had led to some opportunities there. I made a few films for Sony starting out and one was a horror film called Vacancy and another was a thriller kind of like a bank armored car heist film called Armored. It was actually because of Armored that Robert Rodriguez had seen the film and when they were making Predators, they were looking for some filmmakers. I wasn’t even on a list at the time. My agent had asked if it was something that I was interested in doing.
If I could digress for just a moment. As a 14-year-old kid, I had a Predator poster on my wall growing up. I was a huge fan of the original film and when I say huge fan, I mean I was I was a true movie geek. Growing up, I’d ditch school to go see the Back to the Future trilogy release with my friends. We were a bunch of just film loving kids and the first Predator film had this enormous role in my life just growing up. It was something that I loved and when my agent had asked it was something that had interested me at all, I flipped out because that was something that I loved so dearly and then I had the opportunity to meet Robert and some things took off from there.
Aaron: So, talking about that the poster on the wall and the sort of phases of your life when it comes to Predator, this film, this creature is one of those enduring pop culture icons and it’s a huge part of the science fiction landscape. We have a tradition on the show of asking our guests to tell us about the first time they actually saw the film? So, I’m gonna guess it was specifically Predator 1 you saw first and do you remember that first experience with our favourite skull-collecting extraterrestrial hunter?
I not only remember the day, I remember the movie theatre. It was the Avco theater on Wilshire Boulevard here in Los Angeles which is now a different chain. But I remember the friends that I had seen it with and if you guys want a goose bump moment, that was really magical. The day that I received the phone call that they’re going to give me the film, I was sitting with a group of my classmates from childhood that I had seen the original film with. It was a beautiful beat. Like you said the character is now part of this iconic motley crew of monsters that are forever now.
If we talk about the vampire or the werewolf or Frankenstein or the creature from the Black Lagoon and the Predator. They’re all there now. It’s incredible and having understood what an important role it played in my life I immediately was aware of just how important it was for everyone else so to be given the opportunity to play with the monster and when we saw it for the first day on the set. It’s funny because often in interviews with filmmakers you hear them feigning enthusiasm and for me it was sincere and it was deep and it was something that I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to partake in.
Adam: For a lot of the fandom, the specific Predator designs, like how they individualize the Predator characters, are a huge part of the appeal. Do you have a personal favorite take on the Predator character?
I think given that I grew up with the original film and I was at the perfect age for a kid to see that film and I think that all the stars aligned for me. I’ll of course I would have to always say the original will always be my favorite and whether we’re talking about the AvP films or just the Predator, the original will always be king.
Adam: So, your Classic Predator character, the one that’s strung up on the totem in the film, design-wise is very similar to the Predator from the original. Was that you wanting to do that homage to that film in your own?
Certainly and I thought that it was fascinating. We tried to pay as much homage as we could throughout the film and I think that some of our critics saw it a different way and for us it was truly just trying to pay respect to the films that had come before us and to the original most importantly.
Adam: We were also curious about how deep you got into the expanded Predator lore, especially since Predator share similarities with one of the more notable comics – Bad Blood. Had you read any of the comics or novels prior to pre-production on this?
As a kid growing up I was in the comic shop when Dark Horse just first came out and it was more of an anthology series initially and I believe that the original Aliens vs. Predator comic was introduced in a Dark Horse Presents collection. I read the original books growing up and then I remember as a kid, I, of course, I read the AvP books. They were awesome. So to answer your question yes I was very much a part of at least the comics at that point and then as I got a little bit older and started working, I didn’t keep up with them as much as I would have liked to. But clearly when I had the opportunity to go back, I dove in head first. I did read the books back in the day and I was a fan of them as well.
Adam: You said that Robert Rodriguez had reached out to you after Armored so we were curious just how those initial conversations went when he had talked to you about this gig? Did he ever plan to direct the film himself or was he always looking for someone else to direct it?
I don’t know if Robert chose his producorial role over the directing role. I don’t know what his reasoning was behind that. I do remember our initial conversations. I do remember meeting him and coming away from the meeting completely distraught and under the impression I completely messed up. I think what had appealed about Armored was that we had we had seven or eight performers in any given scene in a singular moment and I was able to work with multiple actors on the floor all at once. I think that was something that was initially appealing to him knowing our story and knowing where we wanted to go with it.
Then of course as we spoke and he saw my enthusiasm for the Predator universe and the love I had for it, I think that also helps my fight but regarding as to why he didn’t choose to direct the film, I don’t know. You’d have to you’d have to ask him but I’m really grateful to Robert. He took a chance and gave me an opportunity that changed my life and was a big deal and especially in hindsight with a few years passed, I’m more aware of just what a wonderful gift I was given so I’m super grateful for all that.
Adam: The debates about Predators is around the differences between the Berserker Predators and the Classic Predators. Originally the Berserkers were genetically modified in the earlier draft and Alex Litvak talked about them being different tribes. But really the only line in the film that alludes to that is Noland’s character refers to them as like the difference between a dog and a wolf. As far as you’re concerned how did the Berserkers and Classics differ? Do they look so different because they were tinkering with their genes or are they like a subspecies kind of like homosapiens and Neanderthals? Are they like a different ethnicity?
Yeah I always just saw them as one species, just different tribes and whether those tribes were incorporating genetic modifications or substances. I always saw them as a different tribe and there’s multiple tribes. There’s not only these two. In my mind there were far more. One of the most appealing things for me about the Predator character is the hunt itself so as we had a previous draft that came up with some ideas.
I believe that maybe Robert also had some ideas in the original draft that kind of touched upon hunting culture so I really lead into that as much as I could. Hence the flushing with the dogs and the falconer and the tactics incorporated were all hunting techniques or styles that we tried to incorporate from reality into our story. So, the hunt was always something that I found to be especially fascinating about it.
Aaron: I liked the introduction of the different techniques as well because I think it went towards showing the diversity of the Predators as well as all their different facial or body appearances. I think that the difference in ideologies and techniques is just as fascinating.
Adam: It certainly was one of the most interesting things I found about Predators was this other tribe and how they operated. In some ways the same but in other ways differently to what we had seen in the previous films but yeah personally I had always noticed like prominent physical differences between the Classic Predator and the three Berserkers.
I had noticed like their feet were a little more slender and their dreadlocks were kind of more swept back and Sideshow Collectibles came out with these two skulls. They had one of Mr. Black and one of the Classic Predator and they looked different to me so personally I had always kind of interpreted them as like well maybe they’re like a subspecies. They’re just like a natural occurring like similar but different. I don’t know. I thought that the different tribe angle was honestly that one of the many factors about Predators that I just really loved was that widening of the universe and that exploration into the tensions between the different tribes.
Yeah and it’s something that we can relate to as humans. I mean since man has been man, we’ve been fighting each other for one reason or another. Usually foolish reasons but I thought that was also fascinating and something like you said the world-building aspect of it was what was really fun for me. We were blessed with an opportunity to have seen what had worked in previous films and what felt like it didn’t work as well so we had a bit of hindsight to take advantage of as well and the suit designs and KNB did an incredible job on the suits.
I still am in awe of Nicotero and what his team had done for us. They were incredible. I’m again just to geek out, just to give the fans some insight into what a geek I am. During the Berserker-Classic Predator battle and I think we were capturing the epic shots of the two blades clashing as they first slam into one another and the Classical Predator’s blade broke off. The tip of the blade about a six-inch length tip of the blade broke off and fell into the mud. It was pretty evident on the take as well.
We had to go again so while they were resetting and no one was paying attention or I thought no one was paying attention, I sneaked on to the set and I took the broken piece of Predator blade and put it in my pocket and as I’m leaving the crime scene and I think I’ve gotten away with it, I see Greg Nicotero staring at me. He’s looking at me like “What are you doing? What the hell are you doing?” This was a piece of history right here. This is a broken blade from a Predator battle man. I still have it to this day. It’s one of my few possessions that I’ve kept from some of the films that I’ve made.