Normally, I kick off interviews by asking my subjects for a brief bio, but Jake Busey needs no introduction. After some choice roles in Contact and The Frighteners, he broke out in a big way with Starship Troopers in 1997 and has been working nonstop ever since. Still, 2018 and 2019 are shaping up to be red-letter years for the actor.
In addition to Shane Black’s The Predator, which finally invades US theaters nationwide this weekend, Busey has prominent parts in the upcoming seasons of Stranger Things and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Dread Central was lucky enough to catch up with Busey for an exclusive sit down, where we discussed his past successes and future prospects. Check it out below, followed by the synopsis and trailer for The Predator, arriving Friday, September 14th, at the bottom of the article.
Dread Central: Back in November 2016, we heard rumors of a Starship Troopers reboot brewing at Columbia with Paul Verhoeven directing from a script penned by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon. Do you know anything about it?
Jake Busey: I heard a little bit about something brewing as well. I saw Casper [Van Dien] and [screenwriter] Edward Neumeier at the 20-Year reunion last summer. I believe they’ve already done it and it turned into an animated thing like Johnny Rico Goes to Mars or something.
DC: I remember that. Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars came out in 2017, but I didn’t realize that was the reboot they were talking about. That’s pretty disappointing, actually. So, there aren’t any plans for a live-action reboot?
JB: I don’t know. I certainly haven’t been invited. Although I did tell them that if they’re planning on doing that to let me know, that I’d love to come back and be Ace Levy, the old general or something.
DC: I think we all want to know what Ace has been up to. That guy was such a kooky character!
JB: When the movie first came out, we really hoped it would become a powerhouse franchise. But all the sequels were kind of like low budget, independent film… experiments with the theme of Starship Troopers. Nothing like the original which had a $125 million budget and Paul Verhoeven directing it. For me, I still feel like there’s only been one real Starship Troopers film, because not only was the narrative changed, but the characters who survived the first film didn’t return, with the exception of Casper.
DC: Do you feel like Starship Troopers didn’t take off like it should have because people didn’t get it? I mean, I feel like viewers over the age of 21 could see that it was blistering political satire, but even today I think a lot of fans just don’t get what the director was doing.
JB: That was a big thing. I’ll be the first one to admit that it took Paul telling me during the film, “This is communism vs fascism.” His earliest years were during World War II in the Netherlands, and the Nazis had bombs going off all around him. He was just a scared kid at the time and it made a big impact on him. So, the film had these undertones where you had to know world history in order to put it all together. If you were just a young person looking to see a fun movie like Transformers or something, you missed the irony. There’s a bigger message being conveyed and Paul is really a genius. But your absolutely right, for a lot of people, it just went over their heads. I read a review article just last year by a movie critic who finally got it after 20 years. It was a great article and went in depth about all the political undertones in the film.
I think the biggest thing that really hurt the film was that the studio really wanted a teen-friendly movie, something that would have 14-year-old boys flocking to the theaters. But you’ve got the director who made RoboCop and Total Recall and very violent films, so we had a ton of gore and blood in Starship Troopers too. Because we were dealing with giant bugs and everything was tongue-in-cheek, though, it didn’t seem that violent to those of us working on the film. It was almost comedic in that sense.
When the film came out, I was working on Enemy of the State in Baltimore. I was with my girlfriend at the time (who’s now my wife), she and I saw that Starship Troopers was playing nearby and we were excited to see it. But the sad part was, right on the glass in front of the theater they had these fliers taped up all over, maybe 20 or 30 fliers all along the length of the building, saying: “ID Required to see Starship Troopers”.
DC: What a bummer.
JB: So, nobody could sneak in and the box office numbers were bad. There was a whole line of toys but they were only on the shelves at Toys ‘r Us for a week. I really wish I had bought a bunch of them; I only ever picked up, like, $100 worth. They’d probably be worth something today!
DC: Maybe when people see you in The Predator and read this article, it’ll start some Starship Troopers reboot buzz again. I mean, I’d just love to see Rico and Ace back together again, ripping ship up with Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and Sgt. Zim (Clancy Brown) and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris)—and I know I’m not the only one!
JB: That would be amazing. A lot of us have gone on to do other projects, like Neil, and to come back to the world of Starship Troopers after all this time, 20-22 years, would be awesome.
JB: One of the big issues is that the studio now isn’t run by the same people who were in charge when we made Starship Troopers. It’s a new, younger group of individuals who might not get the gist of what it was all about and what a cult hit it’s become. They just look at what the opening week box office numbers were. I think Starship Troopers made $70 million its opening weekend, but they spent $125 million, so they regarded it as a loss. They need get their heads out of their bean-counter butts and look at the tenure of the film and how it’s stood the test of time. It’s always on cable somewhere!
DC: It really is one of those movies you can watch ten times and enjoy just as much the eleventh time.
JB: People tell me all that time that whenever it’s on, they just have to watch it.
DC: I think it’s the closest thing to a “feel good” horror movie ever made.
JB: [Laughs] I suppose it is.
DC: I think our readers would probably revolt if I didn’t ask you a few questions about a little film called The Predator. What can you tell us in terms of whether we’ll be seeing a reboot or a sequel?
JB: The film definitely carries the spirit and tone of the first two movies. Shane Black told me this movie isn’t so much a reboot as it is a return to the original narrative, something lateral to the Alien vs Predator movies and Predators [released in 2010]. So, Shane considers the first two movies to be the original narrative, but he didn’t talk about the one with Adrien Brody [Predators]. I don’t know if he considers it Predator 3 or Predator 4, honestly. And The Predator doesn’t hit you over the head with a specific time or date or place.
But I think it’ll reach a broader audience than the original film. This one will be more accessible to women and kids. One of the leads driving the movie is Olivia Munn and she has a huge fanbase. Back in the day, Schwarzenegger holding a fifty-caliber machine gun in the middle of the jungle wasn’t exactly something most women wanted to see. This will be a far better date movie.
DC: And, or course, you’re playing the son of Peter Keyes from Predator 2, who was played by your real-life father [Gary Busey].
JB: Yeah, I’m playing Sean Keyes, which really makes a point for The Predator being part of the original narrative. I was very fortunate that Shane asked me to participate. It’s the first part I got where it was 100% nepotism! I was delighted when he asked me to be involved. I thought it was a great idea and it was really fortunate timing. I only hope I did a good enough job!
DC: How will Season 3 compare to the first two seasons of Stranger Things?
JB: It’s going to be fantastic! It’s going to be edge-of-your-seat entertainment that fans will want to binge-watch in a single sitting. I think the first season was a bit of an introduction to that world and the people of Hawkins. In the second season, we got to see these characters get completely immersed in this “Upside Down” world where they faced really daunting odds. I think Season 3 is more like a nonstop roller coaster and it’s going to be big. That’s why it’s not coming out until 2019 because it’s going to be the best season yet.
DC: On IMDB it looks like you’ve got some great projects in pre-production. Is there anything you’re especially excited to plug?
JB: I’m just really excited to be part of Stranger Things Season 3 and The Predator. I’m also really looking forward to playing Tony Caine again in the next season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which started filming in July. Marvel is so secretive you never know what’s going to happen to your character-or when or how! So, it’s almost like a birthday present when they call and say, “Okay, we need you next week”. All of these projects are dreams come true.
DC: It sounds like you’re having a career renaissance.
JB: I’m trying, man. I’ve been knocking on doors for a long time now!
DC: Anyone who’s followed your work knows that you’ve been making films and TV since you started, but it’s great to see you getting these bigger, high profile parts. Congratulations!
JB: Thank you for that. I appreciate it!
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.
Are you a fan of Jake Busey? Would you love to see an actual Starship Troopers sequel or reboot? Are you excited to check out The Predator this Friday? Sound off in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!