Aaron: What else do you have from your time on Predators?
I have a Classic Predator skull that was in the mud as they were approaching hunting camp and I was gifted something beautiful at the end of the shoot by Nicotero and we went out to dinner. We had a wonderful dinner and at the end of the dinner, we’re walking out and saying our goodbyes and he said “I’ve got something for you in the trunk. Let me just give it to you real quick.”
He opened up the trunk and in it were the three masks. The three Predator masks and I don’t believe they were the screen-used masks. I think Robert has those in his office but I was given the backup masks that was sitting on the truck and one of the masks on the floor. Those were the screen ready masks, ready to go so I still have those three masks that I’m very proud of.
That’s something we got and then I also had to go and I had to purchase… now I want to be correct because one of the companies was super awesome. NECA was super awesome. There’s a gentleman. Randy Falk is a rock star because Randy Falk somehow reached out to me and he knew that I loved all geek stuff and NECA was kind enough to hook me up with the first series of our film’s figures which was super cool of NECA and Randy Falk so a big shout out to Randy Falk, you’re a rock star.
I had to go and buy the Hot Toys Predators but I was more than happy to do that. I was super psyched to see [the NECA figures] in the store and then Randy was kind enough to hook me up with a set of my own so I still have those boxed away and one day my kids will have them.
Aaron: You mentioned earlier about the world-building elements of Predators and one of the lore expanding and the world building things I love from Predators was the inclusion of the River Ghost. Back when the film came out, I did a bit of a piece on the River Ghost and spoke to some of the designers and the performers and the impression I got was that he was originally supposed to have a larger presence in earlier drafts of the film. I never knew if this was holdover from Robert Rodriguez’s draft or whether this was Alex and Mike’s early draft of the film but was that was that true? Did the River Ghost have a larger presence in earlier iterations of the script?
For some reason for me nothing’s coming to mind. In the original Rodriguez draft, I know that there were a lot of aliens present. There was a lot of different creatures that were moving about. When we got to our draft, I believe the River Ghost was only that one scene – just to kind of understand that other creatures are being thrown down into here. Finding the cage and the skin was also the same intention. By the time we got to our draft if I recall correctly the River Ghost was only that that one scene specifically but I’m not 100% sure. I may be wrong.
Aaron: Do you think there’s space in a Predator film for other alien prey? Do you think that would work?
I don’t think that it’s something that should be focused on. I think that the Predators themselves and their universe… it’s much like Boba Fett. I think the less we know the better, the more intriguing. I think that with monsters in general I think we have to be pretty cautious with how much we’re showing and how much we’re revealing whether it be physically with life or whether it be with story. I think that we should always be cautious. It is a balance and I don’t think you want to saturate a specific franchise with other beasts and creatures.
The Predator films have always been really about them hunting us and us being humans. I’m not sure we’ll be able to connect as much with a three-legged mutant monster from space being chased by a Predator so I would always be cautious about saturating the universe too much. I think that the main focus always should be the Predator but going back to just how much you reveal a monster and I think that a lot of strengths of Ridley Scott’s original Alien film was how much the creature was kept in the shadows and how little we knew about it.
I think that made it all the more scarier and as we’ve progressed as filmmakers and storytellers, there’s been a like almost pulling the shoots off. Just let’s show him everything. I’ve always had issue to be quite frank with behind the scenes and I always felt that part of the magic is not knowing. Part of the magic is not seeing everything and I think that goes for the Predator universe as well. I think that we should be cautious as to how much we show things.
I know that one of my big concerns early on in the shoot was when we were doing the Tracker’s dogs arriving and the way in our production schedule was set up, in the way the story was written. That was a daytime sequence and my first thought was like good god, I’m gonna be showing these things in the bright Sun and that’s always something that I feel filmmakers need to… again going back to rules of certain franchises and how you have to adhere to certain things when a universe has been established, I think monsters and presentation of monsters isn’t always handled as elegantly or as well as it should or could have.
Aaron: I think it’s probably also a problem that you have with sequels because where you’ve already seen it in the first film. Do you need to hold on to it as much in the next film and not bother holding back at all? How do you balance that for franchises?
Yeah and I remember one of our big conversations early on was the original film and I used to remember the exact time but the original film – the Predator isn’t showing up until 60 minutes into the film or something. I don’t think you really get a clear look at him for quite a bit and even if my timelines off I do know that for a big portion of that film, you don’t see him and it was awesome. It was great as far as tension building and as far as suspense goes. Not knowing, not understanding what’s coming after you.
I think this was something that added to the cacophony of emotions that the characters were going through and we knew we didn’t have that luxury. We knew we didn’t have the luxury of holding back because people are coming to see them. There’s a big monster franchise that’s out right now. I don’t want to throw shade at any other film but it’s a monster movie and about 80 minutes of the film is just dialogues. I’m thinking to myself “People come here to see the monsters and I think we should show them the monsters” so I may be contradicting myself now.
It is a balance I guess and I don’t think you always give viewers what they expect. I think you have to kind of kind of go against that but often you see franchises nowadays that have set certain tones and set certain atmosphere that is thrown out the window and disregard it and then that becomes something else for me personally. It’s not part of that film universe anymore. It’s as if it’s a parody of that universe now.
Aaron: Speaking about creatures then. During the camp sequence when we’re first introduced to the Berserker Predators, there’s a lingering shot of a skull on fire and it looks an awful lot like an alien skull from the Alien films. I was wondering if that was intentional or if that was just me seeing what I wanted to see?
That was not an Alien skull though one of my favorite moments as a fan was the end of Predator 2 seeing the skulls there in the trophy room but no, I have to disappoint. That was not an Alien skull.
Aaron: There’s a piece of trivia where it was claimed the Berserker’s jaw bone on his mask was also an Alien skull but I could never find where that came from. Is that urban myth as well?
No that was something that I was pushing for actually was augmenting the masks with bones and other things that they would have gathered along the hunt. I was specifically talking about a jaw bone early on but then they put the Tracker… KNB created those incredible tusks on the Tracker and my experience with KNB was also something phenomenal because they are such fans first and foremost and then you interject the talent that they have and the whole process became just a blast. But no, it is some sort of alien bone.
Adam: Predators seems to have been put together so fast. Did the short production time make the film more challenging to work compared to other films you had done?
I think the only concern that I had was the weight of responsibility that I felt towards fans and I wanted to make sure that I was not doing them a disservice. That was very important to me. I think that sometimes it can lead to the and my aunt has a saying that over intellectualization is the death killing and as a filmmaker you’re always saying “God if I had a little more money or a little more time” and then if you’re given four more months, you’re still going to say at the end of the day that I would had a little more money.
What is that wonderful thing that a filmmaker never finishes a film, he or she just stops making it and I thought that was awesome. So I think that to answer your question I storyboard everything I do so I always feel a need to have more than enough time to like do all my boards and for me that’s a wonderful communication tool towards the actors or towards my camera department or just for the entire crew. It’s a wonderful communication device to have storyboards so I do recall though that I was boarding some sequences a few days before or the night before because it was a hyper-aggressive production schedule.
That said rod Robert Rodriguez and his team made certain I was surrounded with a really great crew. I was able to bring my director of photography that I had worked with on my first feature but it was pretty much the crew that Robert had been working with and it was a blessing. A filmmaker is only as good as the people that he or she is surrounded by so to be given an opportunity to work with top folks. Folks that are masters of what they do it, made my job way easier and elevated the film. So yes, it was frustrating that we were given such a little bit of time and it was frustrating knowing that “Oh we could do so much more” but at the end of the day I was surrounded by such phenomenal folks and I was so happy to go to shoot every day. You’re playing with a Predator. It really doesn’t get better.
Aaron: So this this one’s a bit of a two-part question here. Which scenes in Predators specifically was most fun for you to film the experience of filming it on set and on the reverse of that which of the scenes in the film was the most fun to actually see all come together in the edit?
Well some of the bigger acting beats are visceral and they give you a great kind of like “Wow okay, we pulled it off, that worked well” but I think that having Adrian slam into ground using a controlled descent of course but it looked violent nonetheless. The first shot of the day was Adrian getting slammed into the ground and there’s one specific shot. It’s the shot that takes us into the Predator title card. It’s the shot that takes us into that. We were on the floor looking up and he just comes down. When Adrian stood up and I saw that he was okay, that was a pretty cool moment.
I loved that opening and I thought that it was super fun and it’s jarring and confusing and I think it was a great way to start things off with a bang but to answer your question for me the shoots are often… and I try to be very jovial with the crew and I try to definitely bring energies up and try to give everybody love that’s working long twelve hour days but what I found for me I’m always stressed. Always stressed out and you have so much to achieve in any given day. Fortunately, you don’t have much time to kind of ponder or wonder what mistakes you’re making. You usually aren’t given that luxury so it’s always tough for me. It’s hard to answer what’s your favorite scene when you’re shooting because I’m literally so stressed out usually.
Adam: Like with Aliens the title implies a larger number of Predators and we got four different Predators with three being part of their own clan. Three was also the number of Predators that were featured in the hunting group in Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator. Was this an intentional reference?
No. So the original Rodriguez draft had many Predators and I think we realized early on first of all the viewers are gonna need to understand what the end game is. How many are they up against and I thought that it was important for the viewer to understand how many enemies there are here that they’ve been dealt. I’m also understanding and knowing that a complete crack unit was taken out by one, it became important to the story that if you have a squadron you have a whole troop of Predators, it’s not going to end well for whoever is standing on the other side of that.
So we wanted to right away limit the numbers and kind of bring it in and that’s where the hunting techniques and all that started to play a more important role. As we started to kind of bring them to lessen their numbers, we could focus more on them as well and give them their own attributes that made them more interesting. But no to answer your question, the number itself. Three is a magical number in general but it was not intended.