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Part 1, The Making of Predators

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox is an in-depth look at the making of the Predators, the Robert Rodriguez-produced reboot of the Predator franchise.
Robert Rodriguez presents a bold new chapter in the Predator universe, PREDATORS, shot on location under Rodriguez's creative auspices at the filmmaker's Austin-based Troublemaker Studios, directed by Nimrod Antal. The film stars Oscar®-winner Adrien Brody ("The Pianist") as Royce, a mercenary who reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors who come to realize they've been brought together on an alien planet... as prey. With the exception of a disgraced physician, they are all cold-blooded killers - mercenaries, Yakuza, convicts, death squad members - human "predators" that are now being systemically hunted and eliminated by a new breed of alien Predators.

In addition to Brody, PREDATORS stars award-winning actor and filmmaker Laurence Fishburne ("The Matrix" movies), Topher Grace ("Spider-Man 3"), Alice Braga ("I Am Legend") and Walton Goggins ("The Shield"). Also taking on key roles are Rodriguez stalwart Danny Trejo, who recently completed a starring role in Rodriguez's upcoming "Machete," plus UFC champion Oleg Taktarov ("National Treasure"), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), and Louis Ozawa Changchien ("Fair Game").


In 1987, "Predator" introduced one of the most enduring and popular characters in sci-fi film history - an invisibility-cloaked extra-terrestrial warrior who wreaked havoc in the jungle. Audiences embraced the film's rich mythology and a sequel followed a few years later. Looking to refresh the "Predator" world in 1994, Twentieth Century Fox invited Robert Rodriguez, a maverick young filmmaker fresh from his stunning directorial debut "El Mariachi," to write a script revolving around the beloved and feared Predator character.

"I was originally hired only as a writer," Rodriguez explains. "They were looking for a fresh approach to the material, so I jumped at the chance. I was a big fan of 'Predator.' When I first came to Hollywood, I met Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger, so I thought a new 'Predator' film would be a fun project to take on.

"What I really loved about the original movie was that it was a hybrid film; it started off as a traditional commando-type Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, where you fall in love with the characters and follow them on this journey. Then it starts turning into a science fiction, alien-type picture. I love doing those kind of mash-ups myself... movies like 'From Dusk Till Dawn.' I love mixing of genres.

"[For the new screenplay], I knew I wanted to write something set off-world. I loved the atmosphere of the jungle in the original, so by setting my story on another planet I could get back to a similar environment and still make it feel new. It would also show why the Predator was attracted to Earth's jungle [as depicted in the original film], because their hunting planet had similar terrain."

"The script that Robert wrote in 1994 had the location, quite a bit of the plot [what became PREDATORS], and the seed ideas of who the characters are," comments PREDATORS producer Elizabeth Avellán. "Robert just never thought anything more of it. They paid him for it and it was a fun writing exercise. Due to our slate of projects, there wasn't really a moment at which Robert could have [directed] it. At the same time, I think deep in his heart, he wanted to see those characters that he had put down on paper, up on screen."

"They gave me free rein in writing that film," Rodriguez interjects. "I just came up with any cool idea that I would ever want to see in a Predator movie and shoved it all into one script. I knew I didn't have to direct it, so I didn't consider budget restraints or logistics of any kind. I was going to leave it up to them to figure out. Then of course, years later it comes back to haunt me. With PREDATORS, I had to go figure out how to make it," he adds with a laugh.

Rodriguez's un-produced work would eventually become the foundation for this new 2010 film. In the meantime, he went on to direct a host of other projects that established him as one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation. In addition, he and producing partner Elizabeth Avellán founded the world-renowned Troublemaker Studios in 1997 in Austin, Texas. At the same time, a film buff named Nimrod Antal attended the Hungarian Film Academy, later becoming a sought-after director.

In 2009, Twentieth Century Fox executives came to Austin to meet with Rodriguez and Avellán about a new "Predator" movie. "All of a sudden, Robert gets a phone call [from the studio] saying, 'We just found this script that you wrote and we think it's great and it needs some work, but do you want to make this movie?'" remembers Avellán.

"When the project came back to me, it was exciting to see that even after several other 'Predator' films there was still a lot of fresh ground to be covered," comments Rodriguez. "The idea with PREDATORS was to not make it feel like it is the fifth or sixth movie in a series, but the first. This isn't a reboot or re-imagining. Chronologically, you could see this right after the first 'Predator' film and have a clear through-line of story. The Predators are such enduring characters that you could go off and create whole other worlds based on them. I knew I wanted to go back to a character-based movie. And it was very important to me that each character felt like he or she could be a star of his or her own film. And if you saw our picture without having seen the others, that would work, too.

Due to Rodriguez's packed schedule as a multi-hyphenate filmmaker and studio co-chief, directing the proposed project wasn't feasible in the timeline the Fox executives had in mind. Instead, he took the project on as a producer with the idea to work with new writers to update the script and hire a director who would make the film with Rodriguez's established group of creative collaborators. "I was working on something else and I wasn't able to direct PREDATORS, but I said I would love to produce the film here at Troublemaker," says Rodriguez. "We have a particular way of doing things at our studio, where we could put a lot on the screen for the money and make a big, terrific movie at a price. My entire crew loves the original 'Predator' and they were champing at the bit to work on PREDATORS. When we began shooting the new film, the most incredible movie-fan moment for me was walking out of my office onto our Austin back lot and running into Predator creatures," laughs Rodriguez. "It was just the most awesome thing."

"The decision to bring in a director and just have us produce also had to do with us wanting to open up Troublemaker Studios and grow what we've been up to here," adds Avellán.

"I really enjoyed the experience of producing," admits Rodriguez. "I wouldn't have done it earlier in my career. I was so hands-on, directing, operating the camera, and scoring my movies. But, my crew is so seasoned and I found such a terrific director in Nimrod and writers in Alex Litvak & Michael Finch. Now that I think about it, PREDATOR wasn't my own baby. It wasn't something I had created - like the 'Spy Kids' series; it was something that pre-existed. So I was able to make the movie as a true fan.

"There are several projects that I have written or partially written that I don't know if I'll have time to direct any time soon, so this was an experiment to see if producing might be a viable solution," Rodriguez continues. "My creative team could mount the production and I could still be overseeing it as a producer and a studio chief. So, I still get to be quite involved, in writing, editing, and visual effects, but without having the weight of the movie the director has to carry around. I could go and do other projects as well."

Rodriguez considered many top filmmakers to take the reins of PREDATORS, eventually giving the nod to Nimrod Antal, whose debut feature "Kontroll" had impressed Rodriguez. "What I loved about Nimrod's work on 'Kontroll' was his resourcefulness. Having come off 'El Mariachi,' I responded right away to what Nimrod did on his limited budget on 'Kontroll.' From the very first shot of 'Kontroll,' you can tell, okay, here's a filmmaker. Nimrod's got great story sensibilities, and he knows how to work with actors. When I first met him, I could tell he'd be great wrangling a crew and talent together. Plus, he has a vision. As a producer, you want somebody that you can empower, so you're not having to micromanage.

Antal was a huge fan of the original "Predator." "'Predator' for me, is my childhood," he explains. "I was a true movie - and 'Predator' -- geek. I remember seeing 'Predator' opening night at the Avco Theatre in Westwood, California with a bunch of classmates and it was quite an experience for me." Twenty-something years later, Antal happened to be dining with some of the same childhood friends with whom he had attended that showing, when he found out he got the job to direct PREDATORS.

Rodriguez and Antal found themselves to be kindred spirits. "It's been great working with Nimrod," says Rodriguez. "We have similar tastes and backgrounds. When we'd be presented with different creature designs or concept art, he'd always pick the same one that I had mentally just chosen. We got along great that way and had very similar sensibilities. Yet, sometimes I'd walk into the set and he's approached a scene completely differently from how I would do it, but in a great way.

"Nimrod has a great attention to detail," adds Rodriguez. "I find myself watching him direct thinking 'Hmm, maybe I'll borrow some of his methods.' That's part of why you want to work with other people... to learn from them. I always consider myself as a student and I knew I would learn more from him than he would probably learn from me. He had a very strong vision of what he wanted to pull off and he was doing it on a day-by-day basis."

The filmmakers wanted PREDATORS to be a new science fiction-action-thriller that captures the magic of "Predator." "I was attracted to the idea of bringing in characters from different parts of the world, who are dropped on this planet and have to use their skills to stay alive," comments Rodriguez. "That would give us a very international cast of anti-heroes. I wanted the title to have a double meaning, where you believe the people in this movie have so much tension amongst them that they would easily kill each other off before they ever met one of the creatures. So, we wanted to have those uneasy alliances within the group. They are all predators."

"The big thing that makes this one different than other 'Predator' films is they're on an alien planet and they're not comfortable because they don't know the rules of the place, comments Avellán. They are predators on Earth and now they are being preyed upon. The humans are unsettled, because they have no idea what just happened to them and they're people that are used to being very secure in their skin. They don't know each other, it's not like they're a team. These eight characters are all Alphas. And all of a sudden, they have to relinquish some of that Alpha-ness to be able to at least survive, because what they begin to encounter is creepier and creepier. It's a very suspenseful tale. It's the story of sacrifice and survival instinct in you. It's fantasy, but it also has great human emotion."

To flesh out this concept, Rodriguez brought aboard screenwriters Alex Litvak & Michael Finch, who, based on a previous script they had written, had the right take about bringing together these archetypal characters - human killers and predators in their own right - to go up against the alien Predators. "Nimrod and I, and Alex and Michael wanted to go back to the basics - stripping the story down and making it very taught," says Rodriguez. "Years ago [when hired to pen a new "Predator" screenplay], they had let me write pretty much whatever I wanted, but it would have been too expensive. When Nimrod came on board, he was attracted to the story's suspense of the hunt. We talked a lot about that. I wanted an economy of budget and of story - something that would cut straight to the emotions."

"When Nimrod came on board, he had a very specific vision of the movie he wanted to make. He wanted this to be a hunt movie, above all else," comments screenwriter Michael Finch. "He was very, very strong on that. To his credit, he sat for many days with us discussing not only the character, but specific beats. So he had a great deal of input and was very passionate about his desire to make this a contained, fun movie.

"The audience has seen the original 'Predator' movie and they know how the Predators work and think our job was to take that expectation, embrace it and maybe turn it just a little bit on its head by changing the nature of the hunt and changing the nature of why these folks were being hunted," says Finch. "But there were certain conventions we had to stick to: Predators come at you; they are invisible; they can hit you at any time. But we also created new kinds of Predators that will take the audience by surprise, such as dogs, falcons, and different weapons systems."

"The leaner, meaner version emerged under Nimrod's guidance," adds screenwriter Alex Litvak. "Nimrod wanted to focus more on the individual Predators and do a much more contained and visually-stylized movie."

The human "predators" spend much of the first act of the movie not knowing where they are or why they're there... until they realize they're the prey. "This is something that we worked on a lot with Nimrod -- making sure that this realization lands emotionally and lands with a plot twist," explains Litvak. "You have to do it emotionally - the humans' shock, devastation and hopelessness. We also spent a great deal of time working on what I would call the chain of discovery, the building up toward it, so that it feels like you are trying to solve a mystery."

As the mystery and terror unfold, the members of the thrown-together team of killers begin to discover their better selves. "The monsters in PREDATORS are not necessarily who you think they are," says Antal. "The film is essentially about a group of people that you wouldn't want to spend time with, and who are monsters of their own worlds. They're disoriented, confused and paranoid, and they're thrown into a situation that they don't have control over, which is frightening for them. The human 'monsters' face off with one another, only to learn that there's a bigger [alien] monster in the jungle waiting for them. Their journey brings out their humanity."
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