THE PREDATOR Teasers visits the Vancouver set of Shane Black’s Predator sequel and finds a franchise undergoing a monstrous upgrade…
Old snaggletooth is back for a reboot.
It’s mid-April 2017, and inside a Vancouver soundstage the Predator is on the prowl. Not the Predator, we’ll come to him later. But a Predator. And he’s not really prowling either. He’s actually quite lovely. “It feels ridiculous!” says Brian Prince, the man in the suit (minus a mandibled head) “I’m sweating and I can’t breathe through my nose. But I’ll be walking through set, and people will look up and freak out. And you think, ‘OK, cool!’”
Practical Predator suits were a priority for Shane Black, the wünderkind screenwriter turned blockbuster director behind Iron Man 3, and now the sequel to a film he himself was in more than 30 years ago – Black played bespectacled soldier Hawkins in Predator, the first of Arnie’s squad to
be bumped off. “Even though some of the iconography’s been lost, there’s something very special still about the Predator,” says Black, chatting to Teasers over lunch. “When I saw it in the room, I thought, ‘Oh, fuck, this is up to me now. I better make sure I bring my game here.’”
Given everything Teasers sees on set, it’s safe to say Black brought it. Filming under the code name ‘Ollie’ (after one of Black’s beloved dogs), it’s day 44 of the 65-day shoot. Following the wettest March on record, which wreaked havoc on the shooting schedule, filming has now moved inside, where Teasers walks past a cross-section of forest, half expecting to see the faint shimmer of a camouflaged hunter, before stumbling across the motherlode: the interior of a Predator vessel.
Taking a full five months to design and build, the Predator ship set looks a little like a tricked-out half-pipe,
the metallic blue interior lined by large alcoves, one containing an escape pod, another a map. In front of a large door on the far side sits a pair of Predator-sized steps lined with familiar red lettering, which the film’s youngest cast member – Room’s Jacob Tremblay – struggles to ascend between takes.
Tremblay isn’t alone though, he’s surrounded by the film’s human cast. Gone are the baby-oiled muscle men and Los Angeles detectives of previous Predator films. After their own close encounter at the start of the film, a group of seven veterans dubbed the ‘Loonies’ find themselves caught up in a galactic civil war.
“There’s an extraordinary amount of chemistry that we all have,” nods Boyd Holbrook. The Logan star plays Quinn McKenna, leader of this motley crew, and estranged father to Tremblay’s autistic Rory. “I’m not just saying that. I’ve done this enough to know what’s shit and what’s good. I think Shane’s reinvented something.”
Under McKenna’s command are Baxley (Thomas Jane), Nettles (newcomer Augusto Aguilera), Williams (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes) and Coyle (Keegan-Michael
Key). A self-confessed sci-fi nut, Key admits to enjoying all the Predator movies to date (yes, even AvP: Requiem), but explains how Black’s film stands apart. “We’re juggling a lot of balls in a very exciting way,” he says. “And the stories move forward with lots of verve and force. Whereas the first movie has this lovely, tense, slower, nihilistic energy. It’s culminating into something that’s becoming its own piece, and that’s thrilling to be a part of.”
As in the first film, an outsider soon joins the squaddies. Here it’s Olivia Munn’s Casey Bracket, an evolutionary biologist brought in to study a certain alien life form, but let’s just say it doesn’t stay on the lab table for long. As the sole woman of the group, it was important to Munn that Casey “was not the romantic love interest to anybody else”, the X-Men star explains. “That she can simply exist. I’ve enjoyed working with Shane on creating that, and making sure that we were always staying true to that.”
While Black is best known for his odd couple two-handers, from Lethal Weapon to The Nice Guys, here, with Monster Squad co-writer Fred Dekker, he’s embracing the ensemble. Also along for the ride is Sterling K. Brown as Will Traegar (a member of shady think tank Stargazer), who’s onboard the Predator vessel with Casey, Rory and the Loonies when not one, but two Predators enter the room, both wearing US army-issue combat trousers. The implication: these extraterrestrial ‘emissaries’ have been working with humanity for some time. But the Loonies draw their weapons regardless.
“So let me unpack this,” Coyle quips nervously. “We’ve got one 10ft motherfucker chasing us, so you bring us two 7ft motherfuckers? Well, that’s 40 per cent more motherfuckers!”
Hold the phone, was that a 10ft motherfucker? That’s right, it seems that your garden variety Predators aren’t all that humanity needs to worry about any more. “You see, there’s a Predator hunting not just humans, but other Predators,” Black smiles of his film’s hulking ‘upgrade’ Predator. “There’s a group of rogue Predators on Predator world. They’re not happy that they send their champions to Earth, and they never come home. This has ruffled feathers over the years to the point where there’s a group of Predators who aren’t above punching back by incorporating characteristics from other species they’ve hunted to breed an ultimate assassin.”
But the big question is: can Black top the iconic original? “The idea of that pure piece of pop art? You can never beat it,” Black readily concedes. “But it’s of that time. We were trying to make a film, ultimately, that if John McTiernan were to watch it, he would say, ‘Hey, kid, you did OK.’” JF
ETA | 12 SEPTEMBER / THE PREDATOR OPENS NEXT MONTH.
‘THERE’S A PREDATOR HUNTING OTHER PREDATORS, NOT JUST HUMANS’ SHANE BLACK
oN the prowl one of the Predators stalks through a primary school.
toP Brass Black’s film introduces a super-sized, genetically modified Predator (top right).
taKe a looK olivia munn (right) is a biologist who gets more than she bargains for with this specimen.
shoot ’em uP (above) Logan’s Boyd holbrook plays group leader Quinn mcKenna.