Stephen Hopkins Interview

Posted by Darkness on January 8, 2021 (Updated: 04-Mar-2021)

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

City Hunter and his Telescoping Spear.

AJ: One of the aspects of Predator 2 that fans love so much is just the expansive world building when it came to the Predators themselves. In particular the City Hunter Predator introduced a wonderful array of otherworldly weapons to audiences. Now the Thomas brothers previously mentioned that there were twice as many weapons developed for this film but only half of them made it into the movie. So do you recall any of the other weapons in the Predator’s arsenal that didn’t make it on screen?

Let’s see, the ones we introduced were that net that he fires out of his wrist right. Had a version of the laser thing in the first one but we made it bigger and better. Did he have the spear in the first one? No because he had that expanding, we saw where it came from, the flying disc. I remember Stan’s shop had loads of drawings of stuff. In the end, we just took out the ones we thought they could actually work in the story and we could afford to spend the time. we didn’t want to do 20 things moderately. we wanted to do half a dozen things well.

Other ideas I think were mostly half assed ideas. There was something that they thought should he fly or something. Should he have some sort of backpack. We did stuff with his different visions that he had. we put that kind of stuff in and that was kind of complicated. He was such an upgrade anyway and we wanted to make sure that he didn’t… if he could pull literally anything out of his arse, we thought… then you want him to feel like he’s got all the right stuff on. He couldn’t like shoot a bullet out of his finger or something like that.

I saw him as a stripped-down warrior where he would drop into anywhere with what he’s wearing. That was a part of his challenge right. He’d fight. He’d be like a hunter. He’d go into the woods with what he had on and he would take on… I’m a big skier and skied in Taos one year and had this great instructor who would take me off piste. He had most of his fingers missing but he was a great archer. He had his fingers bitten off by a bear but he would take people into the woods. He would only take people in if they would hunt for moose or elk which are gigantic but only with bows and narrows.

No guns and once they went in, they would have to strip the animal down, skin it and carry everything out. That’s what I always kind of saw how the Predator was. That was his challenge to himself was to be able to travel light and we didn’t want him to… that great first aid kit he has for his arms, his hands cut off. That was awesome I thought and that was mostly fluorescent gel from a Halloween shop. All this kind of stuff with a smaller stunt person so we could make all those things happen and we made the bathroom a small set to make him look huge and to have all those tricks where it looked like… he was a bit like a commando and a marine and everything was compact to his body or eight foot of him.

AJ: But the nature of the Predator and how he was presented in your film is a big reason why there’s so many of us that are fans. It was really that film that we could tell that the Predator wasn’t a psychopathic monster. We see these aliens in movies that just want to eat human flesh or just kill for the sake of killing but we never saw a creature before that actually spared its prey. When Danny Glover sits there and defeats the Predator he gets rewarded for it and it was fascinating for like so many people including myself back in 1990 to see that. So it felt like a slasher film yet it felt like something more and your film really conveyed that.

Well, I think it comes back to the analogy of the hunter again. I think that’s what Jim and John wanted it to feel like. If there was no honor system then, like you just said, he’s just a psychopath going around. There’s something quite human about it. You can understand it. I’m not a hunter but there are a lot of environmental people who started off as hunters because they wanted to go in the wild and feel the wild. Be challenged by it and to face off against a creed, not shoot a lion through bars like all this trophy shit or to go and shoot a deer from a thousand yards away with a weapon, but who wants to understand nature I think and understand themselves.

I think this hunter mentality was what you’re talking about and I think often in the other Predator films I’ve seen, there wasn’t a chance to explore that. He was such a big character in this. It would have been difficult I think after this film to have taken it much further unless he had a girlfriend or something. This is the film that showed his code of honor I think more than the first film had time to. The films afterwards were mostly the Predator with aliens so it was more sort of battle films rather than about the creature itself. Then of course at the end like you say we had the Lakers dressed up as the other Predators coming out and creating quite a quite a moment which was an amazing time on set, I have to say.

AJ: Well in that ship with those Lost Predators, the late great Larry Paul who I think died earlier this year explained that the Lost Predator ship set was designed to appear organic and biomechanical in nature. While fans have been able to learn details about much of the ship’s design, there has been little mention regarding the ship’s anti-chamber ceiling that appears like a large reptilian eye. Do you recall any thoughts of that curious ceiling design or anything else about the ship that might not be common knowledge?

Well, we started with what the Predator looked like and he had a kind of scaly skin. There was a reptilian quality to him and we come with lots of different ideas, most of which were too expensive, we came down and down and down into something once again because he was traveling. It was a small craft. He dropped in. He hunted and he left. It wasn’t supposed to be like a city landing. It’s something that you had to hide in the forest or in the city. It was more of a less than an eye, it was more like a giant snail shell if you look at it because all the pieces were kind of overlapping so it was like an organic matter.

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

Predator Ship

It was this the spaceship was made of something that was living and it was a real challenge to light. Peter did a great job. We kind of backlit the fiberglass panels. We had 1980s rock videos dry ice on the floor because we couldn’t build all of it. We couldn’t afford to and it felt bigger than it actually was. It wasn’t that big a set but I think it was more trying to make it feel organic and alien. Unlike the great Ridley Scott and James Cameron where they took science fiction and they made it feel like you’re in the bowels of a submarine or in a battleship where they brought science fiction right down to earth, we thought just do something different. Make something really different looking but something that felt as organic as the creature as itself, I think.

You never saw obviously how he flew the ship or anything like that. It was much more like a cocoon, like a shell to protect him from the elements. That he just moved from one space into another. You probably see more of what’s in the ship in the sequence where he’s cleaning the head which was quite horrific too. That feeling of that and then of course Stan and I sort of snuck an alien skull in there too as a joke partly. We thought we’d get in trouble but there’s a bit of it left in the final cut, I think.

Aaron: A thing in sci-fi now is that creatures utilize other creatures as space travel. Star Trek did it. Lex did it. Farscape did it. That kind of thing. Do you think there was could have been anything in terms of the Lost Tribe ship being a living entity perhaps? Was that ever in the mind rather than a nuts-and-bolts kind of ship?

No, we just thought it would be made out of biomechanical materials. So it wasn’t made out of metal necessarily and it was almost ceramic. It was almost like as I said if you went to nature for it as if it was the shell of a tortoise or the armadillo. Then there’s a belief that that will be the case in the future that some of these devices will be grown as opposed to forged, I think. We just wanted to make it feel lightweight and not too enormous and not like a city of creatures like Close Encounters or something. It’s not like a city landing. It’s a one-man pod, more like armor I think in a way.

AJ: Now have to ask this question because the fans have been asking us for years and they continually love to discuss it. We need to know where is Peter Keyes’ torso and what we mean is when the Predator throws his smart disc and deals the death blow to Gary Busey’s character, we see the bottom half of his body fall but his amputated upper torso and his head is nowhere to be found. Now there is a pillar in that shot that it possibly could have fallen behind but most consider it a blooper or gaff.

The MPAA thing. They had us take it out because when you saw this, the torso with all the entrails flying through the air. That was one of our sacrifices. I mean it was a real body that they all fell together and when he went down there later on, we cut around it. There was what was left of it but it was one of the deals we made so his body’s there. It’s the MPAA that have it. I mean if we’d let that shot stay a little bit longer, you’d have seen the legs fall and the torso come down but we’d just cut around all like six frames out of here, ten frames out of there.

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

The Predator Trophy Cabinet

Aaron: So, you just so touched on the alien skull thing and back then before AvP entered the theatrical series, that was a huge part of the excitement of Predator 2. It’s such a small moment but it meant so much to a lot of people. It’s one of those things that’s become a bit of a curiosity and there’s been a lot of different stories about it. In an interview with Starburst, I think you met in 1991, you said it was your idea?

I brought it up to Stan and he was a very mischievous guy but Fox really wanted us to cut it out. I don’t know what it was. While I was making Predator 2, I was offered Alien 3 by Fox and I just didn’t want to do Nightmare on Elm Street 5, Predator 2 and Alien 3. I should have maybe done it but I knew Fox owned all the rights for these things. I think there was something going on because I thought it was really fun. It’s in much more in the original cut, we did but it wasn’t the MPAA, Fox thought it was distracting whereas I didn’t see why… I thought it supported the myth if you’re going to go up against the most dangerous creatures in the universe, there’s one of them right there. Maybe I don’t know if they thought “Oh the alien would have killed the Predator” or this or that but I mean it’s in for a brief moment right. I fought to try and get it in because I just thought it was literally for that, as a fan, I would have loved to seen that.

Aaron: Is that something you thought about since you basically started Predator 2 then because I think I sent you that storyboard that you’ve done with the skull on there. So that must have been in your mind for a little bit of time while you were working?

Yeah, I was in Stan’s shop and you could just spend days there if you wanted to. He had such great sh*t all over the shop and he had these amazing skulls and I went “Oh my god, we’ve got to get this in.” Yeah when I was storyboarding, I put it in. It wasn’t in the script to start with but it was in Stan’s shop I think hanging over us in our conference rooms. Well, that’s got to go in.

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