Preview: Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal Talk Predators
Back in 2007, I wrote a very angry review of Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, which ended with this depressing statement: "The fact that Fox opted for this franchise instead of the Ridley Scott/James Cameron Alien 5 collaboration or Robert Rodriguez’s epic Predator 3 script will forever be one of Hollywood’s biggest blunders. Now that they’ve effectively ruined both franchises, the next move will probably be to go back and remake the first films in each series, permanently screwing the fans out of any good future installments."
Thankfully, that never happened. Instead Fox finally listened to the frustrated cry of the fans and not only do we have a Ridley Scott Alien project on the way, but Rodriguez’s long lost Predator sequel too! It’s nice to see these monsters put back into the hands of real filmmakers, and the overall media reaction to Predators was extremely positive.
Speaking at the Fox press conference, director Nimrod Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez were very forthcoming about their insane geek love of the original film: “I remember going to see it with my older brother," said Rodriguez, “and we saw every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that came out and we went to see that one thinking it was a Commando type film. I remember the audience reaction to the film in the theater, they were kind of confused when it turned sci-fi and horror and Arnold didn’t really win at the end, the Predator blows himself up and flies off looking like he’s going to a loony bin in a helicopter. And they were a little like “Wow, what was that movie?” And it just caught on and kept growing in popularity. The movie itself was very unique.”
Antal also has fond memories of seeing the original: “Fourteen years old. Avco on Wilshire. Guido Martini, John McMann, Sean Ender, and Chris Alright and I. And I walked out going “Whoa!” And actually the day my agent called and said ‘Robert Rodriguez just decided that you’re gonna be directing this movie’ I was reunited with those guys after 15 years at a restaurant with them the moment I found out. And that’s a true story."
On the popularity and enduring legacy of Predator, Rodriguez offered his own thoughts: “I think it might be the fact that it’s somewhat humanoid and you can identify with it,” he continues, “And the fact that it’s a guy in a suit made it feel almost more human and people like bad guys and people like to consider themselves the anti-hero so I think that’s what that represented. And I think one of the reasons why we didn’t go CG with the Predator at all was to keep that identification with the audience and I think that’s what made it one of the great movie monsters and great creatures and enduring creatures in movie history."
One of the highlights of Predators was easily Adrien Brody, who seemed like an odd choice for a tough-as-nails merc type, but quickly made believers of us all. “I was very receptive to, and Nimrod was as well, to the idea of that because it seems on paper like an odd choice,” said Rodriguez, “We went to him originally for another part that is actually not even in the movie now but was in an early version of the script. I got it sent to him an early script and he wrote back and said I don’t really wanna play these kinds of parts anymore I wanna play something like the lead. And I thought “’Really?!! That’s a pretty out there choice!”
Antal agrees: “And his passion was also refreshing. To see someone of his caliber really want something as bad as he did. What I can’t stand is when you have these comfortable actors who have some success and they’re just “I don’t know, I don’t know” and this guy came in saying “I want this. Please give this to me, I’ll fight for it. I’ll prove you guys wrong if you have any doubt.” That was bitchin’.”
And even though Predators shows no sign of the Governator, Rodriguez confirmed that it was always a possibility: “Early on, since I had worked with Arnold on the original script back in the day and I had spoken with him about it…The world had changed since the last time I worked on this which was ’95. In my script he was the entire film and now he was Governor so I was like “I know we can’t get him for the lead and I don’t even think we can get him for a cameo.” We did entertain the idea of where could we place him but as we started putting the script together it really felt like we were making our own film and we thought lets not even bother with him showing up and doing something in it. We had such an erratic schedule, we never would have been able to pinpoint like you would need to with somebody in his position. So it was gonna be sort of a non-starter, so we thought let’s just make a really great movie and if it’s received well and people want a sequel maybe in the sequel we can maybe ask him for a cameo.”
Rodriguez also discussed how this version differed from his original draft 15 years ago: “When I first wrote it it was just a writing assignment and you figure as a writer since I’m not directing it, I’m not producing it, I should just give them as many ideas as possible and then they can figure out what they want to do. A lot of it was impossible because it was only ’95, CG wasn’t that prevalent, a lot of it would’ve been impossible to do. But I figured, give them a lot of imagination and creativity to work with and they can choose what ever, what fifth of that would actually work because it was just humongous and ridiculously big. And again I didn’t feel like I had to worry about it until they brought it back to me and said, “we love this script! Will you go make it?” And I was like “I don’t know how we can make it like that, even with today’s technology we had to cut out a tremendous amount of it and that’s what I loved about Nimrod’s approach. He knew how to come in and say “I like this part” and he made that the movie and he made it about the chase and about the hunt and kept it very intense. We took out Arnold, we kept the idea of the planet, the crucified Predator, the hierarchy of the different clans, some of the other alien creatures that are being hunted. But other than that it was a new story and Nimrod worked really close with the writers to come up with this.”
“That was in Robert’s original draft, that crucified Predator,” said Antal, “And that was the one thing I remember reading in the script and immediately latching on to because we’ve built up this character so much and we’re gonna build up this film and all the sudden you’re expecting the Predator to explode out of this…laser cannons flaring and spines being torn out and the first time you see him he’s defeated and we almost completely demystify the character off the bat and humanize him a little. And that was all in the original draft and it was something that I loved off the bat.”
The final change was to Alice Braga’s sniper character, who originally gave an M. Night Shyamalan level twist to the film: “At one point [Antal] came up to me…and went, ‘What if we made her an alien at the end?!’”
“I still thank that’s a good idea!” replied Antal, “I still think she should’ve been an alien!”
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