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Predators – Producer Robert Rodriguez on transporting one of the great movie creatures into the 21st Century

Predators - Alice Braga, Walton Goggins and Adrien Brody
Isabelle (Alice Braga), Stans (Walton Goggins) and Royce (Adrien Brody) face a fearsome enemy © 20th Century Fox

Looking to refresh the Predator franchise in 1994, Twentieth Century Fox approached Robert Rodriguez, a maverick young filmmaker, to write a script which would bring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character of Dutch back to the big screen. Sixteen years later, Fox invited Rodriguez back to finally produce the movie with a new screenplay by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, and Nimrod Antal directing.

We spoke with Robert Rodriguez about transporting Predator into the 21st century.

Were you a fan of the original film?

[Yes], I think there was something unique about that movie. It’s something that inspired me to do mixed genre pictures later. I remember going to see it with my older brother, who is a bodybuilder and who saw every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that came out.

We went to see that one thinking it was a commando-type film. And I remember the audience’s reaction in the theatre. 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.

Why did it become such a successful franchise?

Predators - Topher Grace
Mild-mannered physician Edwin (Topher Grace) navigates the myriad dangers of the hunting ground on an alien planet © 20th Century Fox

The movie itself was very unique, but one thing I noticed when they first brought me back to this project for Predators is I went to go ask my artists in my studio last year if we should do this movie, and I walked into their offices and they all had busts, dolls and statues of predator in their office. So I knew that the character itself was just a very endearing character.

I tried to pin-point what it was, I think it might be the fact that it’s somewhat humanoid and you can identify with it, and the fact that it was a guy in a suit made it feel almost more human. 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. I think that’s what made it one of the great creatures in movie history.

Where does this film fall into the Predator movies?

Predators - Producer Robert Rodriguez
Producer Robert Rodriguez on the set © 20th Century Fox

As far as the Predator title, I didn’t reference any of the later pictures only because when I originally wrote this those didn’t exist. I was writing this always as a sequel. In fact, Predator 2 had come out but they didn’t want to go that direction, they wanted to get Arnold back. So when I wrote Predators it was to forget that even Predator 2 was made.

What Aliens was to Alien; that is what Predators is to Predator, so all you would ever have to do it is watch Predator and Predators and you have a complete (story).

When I interviewed Adrien Brody for Splice, he told me he really had to fight for this role and had to prove to you he could be an action star. How true is that?

It seems on paper like an odd choice, but it really wasn’t. We went to him originally for another part that is not even in the movie now, and he wrote back and said, ‘I don’t really want to play these kinds of parts anymore.

I want to play something like the lead.’ And I thought, ‘Really, that’s a pretty out there choice.’ He said, ‘I want to send you a picture of this prison movie I just did with Forest Whitaker. This is what I look like now.

I beefed up for the movie a little bit, but I could go further that that.’ So I check it out and I was very impressed, I showed it to Nimrod and he said, ‘Should we do it? He’s an Oscar winning actor.’ Anytime you have an Oscar winning actor wanting to be in a Predator movie, you should probably go that route.

What is it about Nimrod that makes him such a good director?

Predators - Laurence Fishburne
Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a veteran of the human-Predator wars © 20th Century Fox

Observing Nimrod and how he directs, he seems like a very soft-spoken person, but he’s actually commanding on the set and is able to get people to move and remember what they’re supposed to do. I’d walk on the set and I’d hear him (shout) ‘Shock and awe everybody.’ He’s got a booming voice and everybody, no matter what the scene was, would remember where they were supposed to be.

You needed to have a director who’s really making sure everyone at every moment is in character and is in the character of the picture, which was supposed to be hard-driving, really fast and intense and never wavering from that, and Nimrod was really able to pull that together and keep everybody focused on that.

I heard that Arnold might do a cameo in it, did that ever get anywhere?

The world changed since the last time I’d worked on this, which was ’95. In my script he was in the entire film, and now he was governor, so I knew we couldn’t get him for the lead. I didn’t even think we could get him for a cameo, (although) we did entertain the idea of where we could place him.

But as we started putting the script together it just really felt like we were making our own film and we thought let’s not even bother him with it.

We had such an erratic schedule, we never would have been able to pinpoint (a time) like you would need to for somebody in his position.

We thought, let’s just make a really great movie and if it’s received well and people want a sequel then maybe in the sequel we can ask him for a cameo.