The Predator sees writer/director Shane Black returning to a world he first experienced back in 1987 as an actor. In this new film, he’s expanding and exploring the story of the alien hunters and the human beings that must face the threat.
With the government attempting to cover up the extent of Predator incursions on Earth, a rag-tag group of military veterans must figure out what is going on and how to save the world – or at least themselves – as the battle spreads from the depths of outer space to once-safe suburbia.
Black, a veteran filmmaker, has carved a career out of movies that blend action, violence, and machismo in a new way with comedy and style. The writer of such memorable movies as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, he’s also made films including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3.
In preparation for The Predator, he talks about coming back to the alien creatures, his cast and making sure the threat was real.
What brought you back into the world of The Predator?
There were a number of things that were appealing. One was a chance to work with a co-writer, Fred Dekker, with whom I have a 30-year or more relationship. We’ve worked together before and it just seemed like a chance to go be college kids again – to revisit material that we both cut our teeth on, that we were excited about when we were younger, to play in the sandbox again. At the time, it felt like a bit of a lark. Of course, two and a half years later, it’s become quite a bit more than that. You think you’re digging a garden and then you have to bring out the steam shovel. But that was the fun of it, too. We’ve been grinding away and trying to make the best possible film for two years now. And I think that I’ll be glad when we get it done, but only because I think what we’ll have at the end of that process will be worthwhile.
Was there something particular that you wanted to say about the Predator universe or about this sort of film?
There was the draw of dealing with it not strictly as a fantasy movie but grounding it in that UFO experience film. There’s been an incursion. There’s been a visit, and gradually over the years as Predators have continued to hunt on Earth, we’ve noticed that now there’s a faction on Earth that understands what’s happening and is investigating these Predators. At the same time, I wanted to take the traditional tough guy unit of multi-muscled commandos and play with that a little bit. This sort of leaner, meaner group. The Dirty Dozen of it as opposed to the perfect SEAL Team Six version. Guys who are compromised or a little damaged and have to prove themselves. They represent the least likely bunch you’d expect to take on a threat from outer space that even the Army can’t stop. It’s a chance to do some good character work too and to assemble a cast that’s not so monosyllabic but can really light up a scene. We’ve got a wonderful group of actors, character actors. They’re just tremendous.
They seem like a really different, eclectic group, while also kind of keeping within your style of chatty guys that still get the job done.
They’re sloppy. They’re not graceful or gracious by any means, but there is this slapdash kind of come-together, the have-your-back feeling among them that allows for them to come through under ridiculous circumstances. It’s a funny movie. It’s a heroic movie. And hopefully, it’s a frightening movie as well because we wanted the R-rating. We wanted to be able to take people you care about and place them in the meat grinder. Really not sugarcoat the extent to which this Predator is a violent, deadly force of nature on Earth. Meaning it’s a rough journey for them. It’s the kind of movie I think that with this cast represents a throwback to ’80s filmmaking. I wanted to write a love letter to the original, with this rough, loose-limb raw boned male cast. Almost like a Western. Like a Wild Bunch. But that also I think has enough suspense, new-fangled technology and effects to render it viable in the current age. And I’m hoping that it will split the difference between loving the original and massaging that history, inventing its own mythology going forward so that it continues it and reinvigorates it for another generation.
Does it exist in the same universe as at least Predator and maybe Predator II?
Yes, it does. In fact, there are direct references in the film and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Schaefer. To the fact that there have even been rumors of abductions. We’re very much in the ballpark of saying, “yes, this is all mythology. This has been happening.” The difference is it’s 2018 and it’s come to a head to the extent that it’s no longer so isolated a phenomena that people are ignoring it or it’s going under the radar. It’s, in fact, becoming increasingly evident to the powers in charge that there’s another race that visits Earth.
Was there a challenge for you in exploring the mythology a little bit more without lessening the impact of these creatures?
Yes, I think so. I think there’s a little blowback to being too much the same and not exploring anything new or different. But similarly, there’s something to be said against forging ahead and revealing too much. I don’t think that moviegoers want to go into the Predator World and see Predators getting on Predator subways or having meals with their extra-tall Predator wives, or whatever. I just don’t know that that’s in the cards. But we had to do something: we had to make it modern. I think what we’ve done is just sort of try to get a different feel but and try to expand upon and slightly magnify the impact that the Predators have on Earth. Instead of just limiting it to a small cast in a minor setting, we’ve allowed it to sprawl a little more.
How was the shoot for you?
It was a lovely shoot because of the cast mostly. I am blessed and lucky at my point in my life and certainly at this point in my career that they’re even offering me this sort of material. But beyond that, it’s just been a lovely shoot with this great group of people. They’re very innovative and collaborative and so I’m able to play. And I’m as happy with the stuff that doesn’t involve the Predators in the movie as I am with the scenes in which the Predators are wreaking havoc and tearing into people.
Did you watch anything before you started on this for inspiration? Or did you show anything to the cast and crew as sort of like an idea for the one you were looking to set?
For the guys and their relationship, I went back to sort of my favorite macho movies. On the war front, movies like Kelly’s Heroes. And also North Dallas Forty. Just the really kind of rough, hearty sports films too – Slap Shot. Because I wanted that loose, real collegial rhythm among the guys. And then I also showed them The Andromeda Strain, things like that, because Olivia Munn plays a scientist in the movie. We wanted to get that flavor in there too. But yeah, things that aren’t necessarily science fiction films, but are films about a group of teammates.
Is there something you are proud of bringing to the screen for this film?
There are two things. One is the interactions among the characters who go after the Predator this time. And the other is the frightening quality, the brutality, and the ninja-like stealth of the new Predator. I looked at Logan as an example. You’d seen Wolverine’s claws in the PG versions of the X-Men and you think, ‘I guess he’s killing people with those,’ right? And then for Logan they just let it rip. They show that of course, they’re claws, and of course, he puts them through people’s heads. And similarly, in The Predator, we just went for it. If he’s going to knock someone’s head off, I want to see it. So that’s the approach we took: if you’re going to go up against him, let’s scare the hell out of our main characters by making him as formidable and brutal an opponent as possible.