Stephen Hopkins Interview

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

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

Stephen Hopkins & Danny Glover

Aaron: When you think back to your time on Predator 2 then, are there any particular scenes that stand out to you that were the most interesting, the most fun to physically shoot on the day, on the week?

I think adrenaline wise, the opening sequence was crazy because there were so many moving parts and we had a very young crew. We had guys hanging out of cars with steady cams and it was really not tightly scripted. So we sort of choreographed a big event that sort of almost really happened obviously but it wasn’t sort of like, do this shot, this shot, this shot. We sort of created a whole circus and shot it from a lot of different angles and obviously it was all storyboarded. But it was just a non-stop moving piece right from when the camera comes up off Griffith Park and to the Predator looking down. Then you’re down amongst it and then you go up into the building and you come out right on the top.

So, it’s just this great snaking piece of filmmaking which was just really fun to do and lots of different stuff. One of the most complicated secrets that I’ve ever done was the slaughterhouse sequence and the ultraviolet thing because the lighting was very difficult. The dust… we all had to wear masks and to keep the dust in the air. The Predator choreography on wires having to fight all these people. Having to shoot all these different points of view. Then weeks later running them off VHS’s in a step with Gary Busey’s people pressing the VHS machines lining them all up and it was mind bending. It was kind of stuff I loved doing when I was a kid because it would just be like how on earth do you do it.

There’s so many points of view including the Predator’s point of view. You’ve got all the different the soldiers’, marines’ point of view. you’ve got Danny’s point of view, in the video place. There’s maybe 20 different points of view all happening at once and it’s it was just cataclysmically difficult to do. We shot it in Culver City in an old warehouse and the pressure was on. We never had much time to shoot stuff so we just sort of threw ourselves into it. In those days, there were no rules really. You could just shoot around the clock which we often did.

Aaron: Would the slaughterhouse sequence, with how complicated it was, would that have been the most satisfying for you to actually see come together then in the edit?

Yeah, but it worked. It was amazing because that’s the one I storyboarded. I have so many storyboards of that to try and remember for all of us because lighting is so difficult in that situation. You can’t just shoot in order. you’ve really got to work out what works in that lighting situation. You have to rehearse it like crazy to know exactly where everyone’s going to be. It was a filmmaking trick. The subway sequence was interesting too I thought. The lack of light in that was great because we weren’t allowed to shoot in real subway trains. We shot one up in Oakland but we built a small set in L.A. and really used the lack of light to help that come alive, to the strobing effect. So you just saw things suddenly and then the big sections of black.

AJ: About that slaughterhouse sequence, a lot of people have compared with the cameras and the screens, thought that might be a nod to Aliens.

I wasn’t so much of a nod as a straightforward copy. I thought the Aliens sequence was brilliant. It was in the script but without the Aliens sequence, I don’t know if I would have been able to accomplish it so well as we had.

Aaron: So, in the past, you’ve spoke about how when you revisit Predator 2, you tend to see things that jump out of you that you would have done differently. I was curious as to if there’s any particular scenes or any particular aspects that are really noticeable to you and they do jump out about being done different and how you would have done them differently?

I always think that about everything I do. I’m my worst most vicious critic of all of these things but I think I just would have made it probably a little less over the top. So it’s a little uneven in tone and sometimes it feels really real. Then you have these crazy Jamaican guys in gold disco pants. I just always want a sense of authenticity about stuff and there’s some of it that just doesn’t feel authentic at all. Some of it really does get to you and I think there’s a strange veer in tones but there’s nothing I’m ashamed of or anything. I think it is just a child from the MTV running around blowing sh*t up at will and enjoying it with a huge amount of backup working with people who are much smarter than me and could really help me do something that I never had a chance to do before.

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

The Jamaicans.

I think maybe the closest of anything I’ve ever done something like that before was on the Highlander. I would shoot a lot of the big battle sequences, shot the death of Sean Connery and with that castle falls down around him. I had to shoot some of those things because the first unit just simply didn’t have time. So I’d end up doing these very operatic pieces and there was a bit of opera around about Predator 2. I think one of the reasons if it turned out well at all because I didn’t have time to think. You just did. Nowadays we kind of sometimes on some movies I pawed over them and maybe made them worse by thinking too much. This was more a gut instinct film and there’s not a huge amount of dialogue in it.

AJ: Some critics were initially very hard on Predator 2 during its theatrical release in 1990. But now 30 years later, it’s been fascinating to watch so many critics in today’s media embracing the film. Even as recent as last month Yahoo Movies posed the question “Is Predator 2 a misunderstood masterpiece?” I think it is. So, three decades later what is your perspective on the film now? How do you feel about all the fans that have come to embrace it.

It’s funny. Wherever I go in the world, there are cults around this movie. I was working with Monica Bellucci on a film years later with Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman and Vincent Cassell was her boyfriend. He came out and he started talking and he was quoting the movie to me because in France they have these Predator 2 nights and then everywhere I’ve been… I’ve lived in Brazil for a little while. It was like they have Predator 2 showing in parks outside because I think it’s so outrageous the film that people just wait for these big crazy moments to happen. It’s a bit like a circus the film in a way with a few great lines with massive performances from big character actors.

I didn’t read the critic stuff. I didn’t think it was… four critics really when it first came out. I’m glad people think that there’s a misunderstanding but it definitely rings a bell with people. I think it was strangely original in a way because it was more of a sort of tough western in a city in a Latino future where petrol was running out and water was running out. It’s not completely untrue. There were gangs in L.A. when we were shooting. we were protected by the Crips. There were people stabbed while we were shooting. We found dead bodies. We were fired at with people firing guns at us while we were shooting. Downtown L.A. was no joke in those days so it all added up into sort of an adrenaline thing but clever scenes like the Predator being hurt and fixing itself in the bathroom made it feel more like a thriller or a battle film.

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

City Hunter in the bathroom.

So, it was a real mixture of genres. There was some funny lines in it and people like Bill are so charming. It’s very quotable because there’s not much dialogue but there’s probably a dozen great lines in there which people can’t wait to yell when it comes up. But it makes you laugh the film too and it’s a little scary sometimes too and surprising. It has twists and turns even though it’s very similar plot wise to the original, it’s seen from a different point of view.

Aaron: The Thomas brothers often talked about how they were always spinning ideas for new Predator films but it would take another 20 years before Predator actually got to return to the big screen. So we were curious as to whether you’d been involved back then in any potential sequel development for a Predator 3? Or was it a Predator 2 and then you were done kind of thing?

I was done and I think because possibly Fox and Joel had a falling out and because Die Hard 2 and Predator 2 not becoming a worldwide smash hit and Arnold not being in it and because Joel fell out with Fox at the time. No one expected there to be another one in a hurry.

 Stephen Hopkins Interview

Alien 3 Poster

Aaron: You’ve mentioned in the past that you were offered Alien 3. Do you remember much about the state of the film at that time? Was that after Vincent Ward had left?

I think he just left. I was still shooting so whatever that was and there was just a 50-page outline by Walter Hill. It actually sounded fascinating but I was kind of exhausted. I worked flat out for a few years in a row. I thought maybe I should try and do something different and had other ideas. I kind of sort of wish I’d done it now in a fun sort of way because I didn’t hate the film, Alien 3 at all. I thought it was quite sophisticated.

The Alien films because of Ridley Scott and James Cameron have a much more sophisticated veneer. Alien changed the nature of science fiction completely how he brought that to life with improvised dialogue and brilliant stage actors. It was very slow and very quiet and it was a really different type of genre. I remember watching that film in Leicester Square on 70mm as a kid and just like hiding under the seats. It was so terrifying and Aliens 2 was similar to Predator. It was a war right. You knew what the Alien looked like. You couldn’t keep that but Cameron did his usual brilliant thematic thing with it where a mother and a daughter and all that great stuff which wasn’t in the first obviously.

So, he made it really different and made it much more fun and Predator 2 was sort of a bit like that. It was a bit more fun but I think there’s something much more literary about the Alien films as strange as that sounds. The last couple have been a bit baffling. I remember actually sat with Ridley Scott and he explained the story to me before he did Prometheus before he shot it and took an hour just to explain and at the end, I’m like “Wow, are they gonna let you make that?” Then he looked at me – of course they’ll let you make that and he did it and he has ideas behind it which I don’t think come out in the film but they’re so complicated those ideas.

It’s so complex to do with Michelangelo being an alien and all this crazy stuff. There’s something about the Alien films that really… and the creature is brilliant too isn’t it. So creepy. It’s much darker and weirder and more to do with fear itself and the people. I don’t think the Aliens have ever really had characters have they.

AJ: Well Stephen you’ve been terrific and that is actually everything from us but before we let you escape is there anything you’d like to share? Any anecdote or something you didn’t have an opportunity to say with any of the questions we’ve asked so far?

No, you guys have been so great. you’ve asked me some interesting questions. It’s not a profound thematic film but it was really fun to try and do something looking a little bit into the future. To take a genre and play with it and move it into a different direction where it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Often Europeans, we kind of like to mix up genres a lot.

If you have Doctor Who, it can be funny and sad and scary and this and that. Often with American films I’ve found over the years, I’d prefer to go one way or the other and to choose the thing but Predator 2 was a real mixture of genres and it was allowed to go that way and was very happy to do it and I’m glad there’s some sort of cult thing to it. It is a lesson to all of us is not to think too much about something once you start. Think about it beforehand, then just let your instinct and your unconscious run with the ball. As long as you’re surrounded by people you trust with good stuff. I think back of some of my movies I found them torturous and this was not one. This was really fun to do. I have great memories of it.

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