While a lot of people think Robert Rodriguez must have directed Predators as the movie was filmed at Troublemaker Studios in Austin and he’s all over the promo spots, it’s actually Nimrod Antal (Armored, Vacancy, Kontroll) in the big chair. And after getting to speak with him on set last December and taking a look at a ton of production artwork, this is a good thing.
As I said in my set report, the thing that really impressed me was the framing of the shots and the overall look of the film. As Antal told the visiting group of online reporters, it’s because of his DP Gyula Pados and his use of the Genesis camera. Perhaps if Rodriguez was behind the camera, he would have made other choices.
Anyway, while Antal was extremely busy framing shots and trying to make a movie, he took some time to talk to us about making Predators, why he sometimes says pancakes after a great shot, what might be on the DVD/Blu-ray, how he’s using practical effects and not as much CGI, and so much more. It’s a great interview that you can either read or listen to after the jump:
Since some of you might not have seen the Predators trailer, I suggest watching it before the interview.
Like I always do…you can either listen to the interview as an audio file by clicking here for part one and here for part two, or you can read the transcript below. Predators gets released July 9, 2010.
Question: What are we watching?
Nimrod Antal: This is a sequence within the film, they’ve discovered a character who has managed to survive amongst the monsters and he has invited them into the cave, which is a derelict alien artifact that’s been left behind and he’s made it his home essentially. So, that is the scene you guys are seeing right now.
We heard you are a very enthusiastic director on set with pancakes and blueberries.
Antal: Yeah, you guys are catching me at the tail end of the shoot so I am a little exhausted right now, I am, but yes, I try to, it’s been a very tough shoot, we had a lot of things to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, but I try to keep the crew and the cast excited and I try to keep their spirits up as much as I can.
Can you talk about getting Laurence Fishburne for the film, is that something you were going after for a while or was it just luck?
Antal: I had the honor of working with him on a film that I did about a year ago and he was a true partner, beyond the fact that he’s a superb actor, he’s just a lovely guy to be with and that really helped me a lot when you feel the love so he’s been a blessing to me and his talent speaks for itself so I was lucky to have him, I hope that answered your question sir.
You have many very talented actors working on this film, including an Academy Award winning actor and that caliber, can you talk about putting the cast together.
Antal: Well, Robert Rodriguez, my producer, played a huge role in that and as we started pre-production we looked at names that were coming up and there were the typical sorts that you would expect in a film like this and we tried to go against the grain. We thought casting a physically “Schwarzenegger-esque” character would have done the original film a disservice and would have done this film a disservice because we are not trying to remake or copy the original film which I feel we are trying to further that world and the story further, so the casting of Adrian and Alice, I told everybody early on that I can make anybody look tough. What I can’t do is teach them how to act so it was great to have very talented actors from the get-go and it makes my job much easier.
Can you talk about some of the action sequences and how much pre-vis you did, we know that it was very much, “ok, we’re making the movie.”
Antal: Since I started making films, I’ve always story boarded so I am generally very precise about that kind of stuff. Jeff? Can you come here for a second sir? We also did pre-vis as well, this is Jeff Dashnaw my stunt coordinator who helped me a lot with some of the more complicated and dynamic action scenes. We sat down and went through what options there were and what ideas we had and I would come with what I was hoping and he would come with reality and say, “well, we can’t do it this way, but what about this way?” Generally his ideas were better than mine so.
(Robert Rodriguez comes within earshot of the group)
Can you talk a little bit about working for Robert Rodriguez and what kind of a task master he is when he is on set, we hear he can be a little difficult when someone else is directing and he’s not behind the controls, is there any truth to that?
Antal: No, I am here because Robert gave me a chance and he believed in my enough to give me this opportunity, so, without him I wouldn’t be here. With that said, he’s helped me a lot, when I ever had a concern with the scene or any questions I would turn to him and he’s been a very big help for me but he’s also be very gracious and let me do thing as well so that meant a lot. He’s trusted me enough to let me dance so to speak, so, I was lucky.
We heard this film is very much influenced by the first Predator film, we heard some of the actors are influenced also by some of the actors from the first film, could you talk a little bit about that.
Antal: There are nods, either through dialogue or through shots but we made a point to do it a subtle enough fashion that new viewers to the series can appreciate it as a completely original thing but for those that do know the old school film will have a smile on their face, so, but at the same time we’ve only done nods, we haven’t tried to recreate or redo anything.
Any challenges you can talk about?
Antal: Well, we have a very intense schedule and that’s one of the biggest challenges at the moment but we’ve had a spectacular time making this film and I’m not just saying that right now to give you guys the PC answer, I really has been a very great, great experience for me and that cast has been lovely, so, it’s been a blessing for me.
Robert is known for putting out very extensive DVDs, what are you guys doing already, or are you doing anything already or planning?
Antal: I’m just making the movie and when we get to all that I’ll help them in any way I can.
You guys are shooting on the Genesis camera, there are a lot of options out there right now, what made you decide on the Genesis?
Antal: Well, I think as far as picture quality, Genesis was strongest for us and I’d also like to mention that Gyula Pados, my DP, I had an opportunity to work with him on my first film and he is hands down the best DP you can find, he’s just an incredible talent and the Genesis looks like 35, it’s beautifully lit, it’s very powerful, as you guys can probably see in this image and this is pretty dumbed down quality right there, but he’s just really superb. So between conversations with him and Robert, that’s how we landed on the Genesis.
Where did the decision come from to abandon the other three Predator movies in the franchise or to not reference them at all?
Antal: It’s more so the last two films, of course, the first film is the one we were working off of but it was more so the AVP films we’ve dismissed.
Not Predator 2?
Antal: Well, Predator 2 was closer to the original film than what the AVP films later became so I was more the AVP films that we were dismissing and it was an aesthetic, it was based on the designs, they kept on getting bigger and bigger and longer and longer swords and blades and the weapons became slightly cartoonish by the end there so we wanted to just bring it back and I think science fiction, the best science fiction is grounded science fiction, it’s science fiction you can believe and you buy into and so far as design and everything else that’s what kept us grounded as well.
Out of curiosity, was the character of Noland sort of a redo or originally intended as the Dutch role that fans have looked for for a long time? Or was he always conceived as a separate character?
Antal: He was always conceived as a separate character.
Is there any chance Dutch might appear in the film?
Antal: No comment.
When will be see the teaser trailer?
Antal: I believe the top of next year, they will probably be throwing some stuff forward but Robert would probably have a better answer for that.
Everyone was surprised by the choice of Adrian [Brody]…
Antal: Ask him to take his shirt off he’ll blow you guys away! (laughter)
(cont.)…what was it like with him when you were talking to him about the project?
Antal: He was very passionate about the project and he is very fond of the original film and I think a lot of people on this film have been that for quite a while. I stood in line at the AVCO theater on Wilshire opening night when I was 14 with my friends and I had the poster on my wall so, we were geeks, I have the action figures.
You’ve got a number of character who are various forms of killers, is it difficult then as a director to balance that to get the audience to feel a connection to them, to want them to survive?
Antal: Yeah, if you meet Stans, Stans is this San Quentin convict and every time he opens his mouth he’s so endearing and the humor that they bring, I think we’ve been able to find different qualities in each character that helps us achieve that very thing and much like in real life you have great qualities in bad people sometimes and we’ve tried to concentrate on those qualities and find those moments that we can help the viewers connect with them.
Do you have an editor chosen?
Antal: Dan Zimmerman
Did he cut the last AVP movie?
Antal: He did.
We’ve heard there are a lot of practical effects and not as much on CGI, can you talk about doing so much practical and what CGI are you going to be using in this film.
Antal: Well, the Wookie always looks better than Jar Jar so that was kind of our mindset and the original film played in the jungle and we went to the jungle and we have guys, oh, KNB also did an outstanding job, when you guys see the suits of the monsters, it’s pretty mind blowing, it’s really mind blowing. I actually freaked out when I first saw our Berserker so, props to KNB and Greg Nicotero has been a really wonderful support from day one.
So what CGI are you having to use?
Antal: I don’t know if I am at liberty to get into the actual specifics, there’s minimal CG and 99% of it will just be enhancement of practical’s, so, for instance one thing I know I can talk about, a blade extension, you know, where we aren’t actually have the blade fly out as a live prop, things like that would be accentuated with CG.
Antal: And certain scenes within the dog sequence. There was a great puppet that came and we used that for a lot of the close-ups and tight shots.
I just wanted to follow up on something you said, if you are getting rid of the other Alien Predator films, it’s an interesting choice to choose the editor of one of those last films, was there a reason for that or just the bulk of his work?
Antal: He’s a talented kid and you work with what you are given so I am not concerned about that.
Do you have any thoughts about a sequel, or where you’ll take the franchise from here?
Antal: I want to just finish this off strong and hopefully the fans will love it and we’ll figure the rest out afterwards.
What are you plans for music?
Antal: Right now as we are cutting the film we are using the original Predator music, so we are trying to stay as close to tone and atmosphere as we can to that film. We don’t have a composer set up yet but so far as an approach and a direction we’d like to stay true to that.
Any Easter eggs?
Antal: Maybe on the DVD.
When the two predators were fighting each other we heard there was a broken blade, we heard that you grabbed the broken blade on different occasions. I am curious what the museum, what the collection will look like.
Antal: I am too, Tommy Tomlinson props, who worked on the original film is already sick of me going, “Uh, what’s gonna happen with that?” Fortunately, no one saw the blade, or at least I thought nobody saw the blade break off, so, I have that in my closet right now. But, I even kept the mud on it.
One of the cool things about the original film is that people refer to it as a sci-fi film but it’s really a survival film with an alien towards the end, how much or how little are you playing up the sci-fi element versus the character survival elements?
Antal: I think in any monster movie, the more you can hide the monster and the more you can keep him back from the story the better and we planned to do something similar to that so far as the predators go themselves, so, it is a science fiction film but staying true to the first film it was about the build and the suspension and the anticipation of what was to come and we’ve relied on that.
How gory is the film going to be? Similar to the first film or beyond?
Antal: It’s going to be as tough as the first film and there’s going to be one or two death sequences that are going to be pretty, yeah, you guys will be disturbed.
Coming off of Armored, were you excited to do sort of an out of this world, as opposed to..
Antal: Very much so, this was kind of my dream actually. To be finally given a chance to be building universes as opposed to working within a set, realistic world.
So you are saying hard R?
Antal: Hard R.
Are you staying away from the Arnold one-liners?
Antal: As much as we can.
For more Predators coverage: