Shock: Just to ask it real quick, so what are the proper names for the Predators? There’s the normal Predator and thenâ€¦?
Nicotero: We refer to him as the classic. We recreated him. I mean, Shannon [Shea] worked at Stan Winston Studios on the original movie and I worked on set, at re-shoots. So we were actually there and have pictures of Kevin Peter Hall being suited up, all that stuff. Then the three super Predators â€“ there’s the Falconer, there’s the dog handler and there’s Black. So those are our three designations for our super Predators.
Shock: One of them was called the berserker or something?
Nicotero: Well, we sort of swapped super Predator and berserker out because I think in the script at one point they were calling them berserkers and then super Predators. But there’s basically three. It’s sort of the most dangerous game. The idea is that the best of the best of the human killers and the human elite are being tracked by the best of the best of the Predators. So it’s kind of like they’re matching wits which is kind of the idea of what we’re doing. So it’s pretty cool, very fun actually.
Shock: What’s the difference between the super Predators and the classic Predators?
Nicotero: The classic Predator â€“ there’s a different design for the face of course and the bodies. With the classic Predator the armor is blockier and we matched a lot of the stuff that they had done in the original movie. The actor that’s playing that Derek Mears who’s about 6’3″. He’s done a lot of suit work. We’ve worked with him quite a bit. With the super Predators we’re using actors that are 6’8″, so they’re a lot taller. I mean, as you can see, he’s a lot leaner. Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod, when we first started the project they used a really great analogy. He said, “The classic Predator is a cassette tape and the new Predators are the iPod version.” So that triggered a lot of visual things in my head in terms of making them taller, making them sleek, keeping the armor really close to the body so that they’re not bulky because we wanted to get the idea that they’re fast and that they’re elegant and then that they’re efficient. Even in terms like, the dreadlocks and stuff. Like, the dreadlocks on the classic Predator come out and give him that Rasta look, but we swept all the dreadlocks back. We made the face a lot longer. So we wanted everything about him to look more elegant. It’s like a black widow. We wanted it to just be really deadly looking.
Shock: So the opposite of the WWF wrestlers?
Nicotero: Yes, exactly, the exact opposite of Mickey Rourke. We shot the entire movie of “Sin City” right on this stage.
Shock: Do you reference “Predator 2” or the “Aliens v. Predator” movies at all?
Nicotero: No, not at all. We really went back to the â€“ you know, there’s something so iconic about the original “Predator” and it was exciting because when we first started working on the film, Shannon and I pulled out all of our photos and there was just great pictures, but it’s also interesting because when you get into what’s really great about this particular project is, is that these are characters. It’s not just a special effect. It’s not like, you know, you bring a puppet and you make it work, these are characters. So we were involved in developing the look and the attitude of all of the characters. We designed all the super Predator bodies and the faces and all the pieces. And then, we worked with Troublemaker Digital and they helped design a lot of the armor. Then we had to take everything and sculpt it and mold it. We had about 12 weeks to build everything which is astounding. I had 62 people working at KNB in Los Angeles and because it’s such a great franchise and because we were sorta going back to the original film in terms of tone and spirit. When you watch the last “AVP” movie it’s kind of like a slasher, it’s like a “Freddie v. Jason” movie, they just took out Freddie and Jason and put in Alien and Predator in. So it’s really going back to the spirit of what the film was originally intended to be. So everybody was really enthusiastic. Every time we had a fitting all 62 people would stop what they were doing and come over and go, “Oh,” they wanted to look at what the Predator looked like. It was really the first time that we had seen this classic Predator look since the first movie because the designs have changed and everyone put their fingerprints on it here and there. So to kinda go back to the beginning was really exciting for everybody. It was one of those situations where you can’t just take a mold off the shelf and go, “Okay, here’s a Predator hand and we’re going to make every single piece â€“ all the dreadlocks and all the jewelry.” Every single piece had to be manufactured and sculpted, molded, designed and manufactured. Of course, we need multiple suits â€˜cause we have stunt suits and then we have hero suits and then we have suits that get blown up. So each character had multiple incarnations. Carey Jones who’s wearing that suit there, he’s a suit performer and he also works at KNB. He’s one of our makeup effects guys. He’s been on location. He worked with the shop for years. So he had the perfect body physique, he’s really athletic and he’s perfect for the suit. I mean, I’ll have him walk over and you can look at the suit a little more closely.
Shock: Did you touch on any other films at all even just from a continuity perspective and just looking at them over and make sure you aren’t going against things that have been established from those movies at all?
Nicotero: No because those movies kinda went off into a big different tangent. You know what I mean â€“ Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff are really good friends of mine and I own one of the “AVP” books. They put a making of book out of all their design stuff. But as soon as we got this job I purposely didn’t want to look at the stuff that they had done because I didn’t want to subconsciously recreate things that had been created in other movies. I mean, any time you talk about a franchise that’s being rebooted or reinvigorated â€“ it’s like, I use “Casino Royale” as a perfect example because you look at all the James Bond movies and you’re like, â€œOh man, those are really fun for the time.” Then you watch “Casino Royale” and you see Daniel Craig and you’re like, “Wow.” It’s like watching “From Russia with Love” or “Thunderball” for the first time. So I think that that’s what people are going to experience when they watch this movie. It’s still got a little bit of the flavor of the Predator franchise â€˜cause there’s a Predator in it, but it’s really sort of injecting it with a big syringe full of adrenaline and having Nimrod and Robert’s enthusiasm. Nimrod would come to the shop and I was so excited. I never met a guy who was so enthusiastic about wanting to see stuff. We made the first shoulder cannon for the classic Predator and he was like, “Can I have one of those when we’re done?” Dude, of course you could have one. He would just like, walk through and he’s one of the first directors that goes up to every single person on my crew at the end of the day and shakes their hand and says, “Thank you,” every single person. You know, I got 10 people here and you figure there’s 80 other people and he really makes a point of making sure that he is appreciative of the effort that we put into it. I mean, it makes it really worthwhile when he comes up and acknowledges â€˜cause building all this stuff in such a short time period and agonizing over it. Then you get here and then the schedule gets crazy and you’re shooting days one day and the then the next minute you’re shooting nights and the next day you’re shooting days again and you don’t know where you are half the time and it’s like, “Which Predator are we using? Is he cloaked or de-cloaked? Does he have his mask off?” All those little questions that when you see the movie all put together it’ll be like, “I can’t believe I worried about that â€˜cause look,” but that’s the way it works.
Shock: We saw a production design that you did of the alien stick figure. Did that end up in the movie? Is that an alien type creature, or is that something else?
Nicotero: There’s a great sequence where our heroes realize that they’re being hunted. What it was was our heroes are being tracked of course and their goal is to find out what’s tracking them and what’s hunting them. So they set a booby trap and they are able to successfully vanquish one of these creatures and they think it’s a Predator. Then, they realize that it has the same altimeter that they’re wearing, this little piece of alien machinery that was put on them. So all of a sudden they went, “Wait a minute, this thing isn’t even one of the Predators. This isn’t hunting us. This is being hunted just like we are.” So it’s this kind of weird little red herring sequence.
Shock: Did you design that to be an alien like “Aliens?”
Nicotero: Yes â€“ well, no, not really. It’s interesting because we wanted it to have a completely different flavor than the Predators because you have to be able to look at it and visually know that it looks different. There was a couple of pieces of artwork that we had generated. I mean, we wanted it to be kinda boney looking and we did these weird kind of shoulders. I never even thought about that until you said that â€“ but we did these kinda weird shoulder bone sections in the faces. It’s kind of Japanese inspired. It has that kind of flavor of some Japanese sculpture. We wanted it to be tall and really thin and we elongated the arms. We just wanted to throw the proportions in the body off.
Shock: It’s a completely different creature?
Nicotero: It’s a completely different creature. I mean, the fact that it has a shoulder thing, I hadn’t even thought about until you said that. And Carey Jones actually who is wearing that suit, he played that creature too. So we shot a lot of that stuff down in Hawaii, but it was exciting. My first dinner with Robert Rodriguez about a year ago, he said, “Hey man, so we’re going to do â€˜Predators’ and we’ve got about 15 creatures we have to do.” And I went, “Uh, okay.” He’s like, “How much money you think that will cost?” I was like, “I don’t know.” It was just one of those like, we’re eating pizza talking about the movie and they called in July. Ironically I was in Germany on “Inglorious Basterds” and did “The Book of Eli” and then was on “Piranha.” Somebody sent me a link to an Ain’t It Cool news article and Robert said, “Yeah, we just got a greenlight on â€˜Predators’ and KNB is doing all the work and Nicotero’s been in the trenches with me since â€˜From Dust Till Dawn.'” I called him and I said, “Hey, so I guess we’re starting?” He went, “Oh yeah.” He like sort of forgot to tell me that we were starting. So we kinda started panicking a little bit and trying to figure out what to do between myself and Shannon who basically runs KNB with myself and Howard Berger. We just sorta sat down and I had a 40 page list of every single step that we had to go through. Fox wanted to see everything and understand. But it’s tricky because then you get into, “Okay, you sculpt the head, but then the mandibles are separate and the hands are separate, the feet are separate and the body’s separate and all the armor.” We had such a short time period that we had to sort of sculpt everything separately and then we’d bring in the guys for fittings and put it all on and hope that everything went on the way it was supposed to go on and it looked the way it was supposed to look. Between that and Nimrod’s enthusiasm those were the two most rewarding moments as like I said earlier, every single person at KNB stopped what they were doing and walked over and wanted to see what it looked like. The stars were lined up for us on this one because everything went together and the mechanical department, Jeff Edwards and David Wogh built all the articulated faces and all the kind of stuff. So we had a whole fabrication and costume department. We had a whole sculpting department.
Shock: Speaking of articulating faces, are all the Predators purely practical? Was there any CG with them at all?
Nicotero: No CG Predators. When they cloak and de-cloak there will probably be â€“ like, when they’re cloaked and they’re running and jumping and leaping those will be digital because you’re only seeing kinda the outline of them. But we did a couple shots with the classic Predator and Mr. Black running at each other from the beginning of this sort of super confrontation where they finally meet and fight. I asked the stunt guy, I said, “Have you even done this with human beings?” He went, “No.” He said, “You do it with guys in suits.” The level of veracity that they fought with was amazing. After each take you’d be like, running around like, “You guys all right? Everybody okay there?” I mean they’re wearing all those suits and they can’t breathe and they can’t see very well. I don’t know if you went to the hunting camp set, but there’s logs and it’s muddy. There’s no way you can move around there very easily and these guys did a great job.
Shock: There are certain elements associated with the Predators in all of the films. So is that something that you guys are doing, like with the glowing blood?
Nicotero: Yeah, we went with the glowing green [blood], you know, that’s kind of a classic sort of a Predator. It’s interesting too because there’s a lot of mythological stuff that’s associated with the Predators, even when you look at the classic Predator, like even the netting that he has, a lot of fans refer to that as what is part of this cloaking device and all this stuff. When we first come upon the classic Predator he’s been vanquished by our super Predator, so he’s been stripped of all of his armor. So there’s this really great reveal where he’s sort of been tied up and all of his armor has been taken off and it’s kind of thrown around the ground. So we have these great iconic moments where he starts putting his armor back on. But it’s not like “Rambo,” like super close ups of everything. But you still really get the feeling that Nimrod really loves that iconic look of everything because there was a lot of discussion about, “Okay, so when we have the mask, when the classic Predator finally puts the mask back on that’s a great iconic image.” We need to recreate those specific moments for the fans because Nimrod talks about, “Oh, I remember being a kid and going to the Avco Theater in Westwood and seeing â€˜Predator.'” I think one of the funniest moments was when we were shooting one of the fights between the Predators and they have these big blades and the blades lock at one point. The idea is that one of Predators breaks one of the blades and gets a stronghold over the other Predator and Nimrod yells cut and runs out and runs onto the ground and picks up the tip of the broken blade and he kind of sticks it in his pocket. I thought it was just a really funny thing to do. I went over to him and he said, “Dude, look, there’s mud on it and it’s all scratched up. This was used in an actual Predator versus Predator fight.” I said, “Well, I would’ve given it to you.” He’s like, “No, no, no.” It’s like he wants to put it in a little shadow box and frame it. In the next take we did it again and the tip broke off again ting, right where it was supposed to. As soon as they yelled cut I’m just watching him and he walks down. He went and picked up the other tip. He was so excited about it. I mean, it’s funny. I’ve worked with a lot of directors in the 25 years that I’ve been doing this and generally when you hear a director yelling on set everybody scatters the other direction, but Nimrod has so much excitement and enthusiasm and he just yells at the end of the take and he’ll be like, “That’s pancakes baby. I love it.” He just starts yelling all this crazy stuff because he’s so enthusiastic about it. So in your head you start thinking, “Okay, so pancakes is good. Pancakes with bananas is really good.” So now you start waiting on set for, “Okay, am I going to get pancakes on this.” You start thinking about that kinda stuff and it was really funny â€˜cause there was one time where I looked over at the monitor and he kinda shook his head and, “Okay, everybody that’s a wrap.” One of my guys came over and said, “We didn’t get pancakes today.” We’re like, “Uh oh, no, you’re right. We didn’t get pancakes.” We went over to Nimrod and he’s like, “No, no, no, I’m just thinking about something else. It was great.” But it’s just this kind of goofy theme that follows because of course when we were in Hawaii one morning we all went to breakfast and all the guys on my crew all got pancakes and we’re like, “This is really weird. Why are we getting pancakes?” Then we realized because Nimrod says it every single day on set that you start thinking about it.
Shock: You mentioned before the three various types of Predators. Are those specific Predator characters? Or, are there multiples of each type of Predator?
Nicotero: No, they’re all in the sort of super Predator family, but they’re all specific characters. Each one has a different personality based on what his function in the film is.
Shock: So there’s not like, three or four Falconers? The Falconer is one character.
Nicotero: Correct, correct.
Shock: So how many overall Predators are there?
Nicotero: There’s four in the movie. There’s our three super Predators and then our classic Predator and then we have our alien dogs and a couple other alien bits and pieces. There is this whole alien landscape that they’re creating on the planet as well. So I’m sure when I see the movie there’ll be some weird thing slithering through that I’m like, “Hey, I don’t remember that,” you know, â€˜cause as the movie progresses and they start putting it together and spicing it up and adding a little salt here and a little pepper here, there’ll be a little bit of that kinda stuff. So it’s the exciting part of it, when you have a movie like this that really evolves, it’s like when we did the “Transformer” movies we built a bunch of smaller robot pieces and then you’re on set and you’re watching them blow everything up and then you see the movie and you’re like, “Wow, there’s that big giant spaceship crashes there and turns into the Transformer.” It’s stuff that you don’t really see because our involvement is so heavy during preproduction and shooting and then once we wrap we go away and then the visual effects guys take over and then they add all those little bits and pieces. They come up with ideas watching the cut in the editing room and go, “Wow, it would be really cool if we did this thing here where the blade pops out.” So then you see the movie and you go, “Wow, that’s a really neat idea. I wish we would have thought of that.”
Shock: So is classic Predator on the run from the super Predators as well?
Shock: We were told it was a hunting planet, so I guess they’re sort of bringing [game] in. So he wasn’t brought in?
Nicotero: Well, I don’t know if we ever really know if he was brought in or if he was one of the hunters that maybe they just kinda went â€“ you know, or just said, “Ah, you’re not good enough as a hunter.” I don’t know. We never actually talked about that.
Shock: He’s not aligned with the super Predators.
Shock: I’m just curious, when exactly did you come on the project, was it July, August, September?
Nicotero: It was the end of July.
Shock: I’m just curious of the exact time frame that you had from the moment you came on to when you needed all the stuff to be done.
Nicotero: We came on at the end of July and the first thing that we did was we had to get casts of all the guys playing the suits. So that was the first week and a half was life casting all the actors, and then we started building the classic Predator because we knew what that was going to look like, but we were still designing the super Predators. And then, I think we shipped stuff to Hawaii in the beginning of October, right? When did we start shooting?
Studio Representative: We started shooting on October, like, I think the end of September.
Nicotero: Yeah, we had to ship stuff to Hawaii at the end of September â€“ so, July, August, September. The Predators, we had about a two or three week window in there because we didn’t have a lotta Predator stuff shipping to Hawaii, just a little bit. But, we started the end of July, so it was pretty insane. My relationship with Robert has been such that we’ve always had pretty â€“ Robert, the way he shoots movies, his prep is less and less and he has so much of the movie shot in his head that when we did “Sin City” I think we designed the Marv makeups and we had four different concepts. Within a week we had picked it and sculpted it and had Mickey up to the shop when we were testing, the same with the Yellow Bastard and all that stuff. We really don’t have a lot of time. I mean Robert just kinda moves on the fly quickly and we’ve adapted. I mean, that’s why we’ve work with Robert consistently in the last 14 years because as he’s grown as a director and as a visual filmmaker, I feel that KNB has grown as well. So we’ve kind of grown up in the ranks together.
Shock: Can you talk about the Predator dogs and what you referenced for the design?
Nicotero: The design, the one thing that Nimrod started talking about was he had all these pictures of these hyenas from Africa that were like, this big. They were just tall and powerful, really muscular. Chris Olivia who is one of the designers here â€“ Troublemaker had done a concept where he incorporated all these horns so that the Predator dogs had these really unique horns that line up on the side of the head and then go backwards from the shoulders. So we kind of referenced that hyena aspect of it and then Chris really did like, kind of the sketch that everybody responded to. Then we took it and just sculpted it, full sized, three dimensionally. I think that would probably be a Troublemaker visual effects question more than us â€˜cause he really designed that character. We just kind of finessed it a little bit as we went forward.
Shock: He is a little tall.
We were then introduced to Carey Jones who was in full Predator costume. Even standing there taking photos, he was sweating in the costume.
Carey Jones: It really feels like you’re working out with kind of plastic bags because this suit’s rubber so anytime you’re holding a pose it’s like a force against you. So I’m tired as you can see on my face, the sweat. But all in all it’s fine.
Shock: So how difficult is it to fight it if you can’t see?
Jones: I mean, the suits move really well and basically when I was throwing some of that stuff I just basically tried not to think about it and that’s the main thing. You just kinda have to not think about that you’re in a suit. It’s a part of your body. You just try to blow through it all.
Shock: How many inches does this thing add to your actual height?
Jones: Well, I’m 6’7″ so it’s about three and a half inches in the bottom of the shoe which makes it a little bit more.
Shock: How long does it take to get into?
Jones: Now it’s pretty fast. I mean, to do this it took probably like 20 or so minutes, 20, 30 minutes, but obviously it just gets faster and faster as you put it on and off.
Shock: On Halloween, do you want to go out to a Starbucks and get coffee?
Nicotero: We haven’t done that yet actually.
Jones: Actually, this Halloween I was wearing a different suit in Hawaii, so I did get to dress up. Yeah, he was playing the other alien that we already talked about. But all in all it’s great when you have guys like the crew. I mean, it makes it a lot easier and it makes it easier to do your job when you know that if anything happens you have guys that’ll be right there to help you out which makes it a lot better. I mean, a lotta times we did a few shots where I had to tackle the [other] Predator. I got hurt on one shot, but again, it was like they were right in there real fast. They kinda get you outta the suit and make sure all is okay. So it makes it a lot easier. You have a really good support team.
Shock: How do you get hurt? What happened to you when you got hurt?
Jones: Well, I had to jump through kind of a tree and then run full speed and tackle him. Basically, the impact, the mask hit me in the face and it cut me around the eyes and nose.
Nicotero: So they were moving so fast that the first take we did, when they collided, both the masks flew off that they hit so hard â€˜cause they were just running. Carey said the funniest thing, it was because the last take which was the one I started talking about earlier where they just collided. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. When you watch the playback, Carey had to run, jump over a log and then land in a puddle and then keep running at full speed. At the last minute he was running and he lowers his head like a football player and just collided. We watched the playback and I went, â€œOh my God, that was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life.” He said, “I just didn’t want to do it again.” (Laughs) I mean, he was like, exhausted. If you look at all this foam latex, this is a foam latex body even this stuff, all this armor, this is all soft. It is painted to look hard. There’s hard parts here and the backpack is hard, but all this stuff, this is all made to look like it’s hard armor.
Jones: When I landed, the first person to me was Greg of course and I didn’t really know what had happened. I kinda felt like something was wrong. I was trying to look at his face and see his reactions. I mean, the first person on the scene, you need their reaction that kinda makes you feel like, “Okay, how bad is it?” I looked at his face and he wasn’t so shocked, so I thought, “Oh, okay, it’s not so bad.”
Nicotero: I was trying to play it cool, yeah.
Jones: But then someone took a picture and they showed it to me and it’s like, my whole face was just covered in blood.
Nicotero: He had a little cut here and a little cut there. So when I walked up you pull the mask up. We had Velcro on here and that’s how the masks attached. Then we put a little piece of wire because they were colliding so hard, so we walked up and I took the mask off and I looked and he had blood like, coming outta here and here and I just said, “Okay, that doesn’t look good.” So I didn’t want to get him nervous and I didn’t know what really the issue was. So then we took him out and we took the head off and we cleaned up the little bits of blood and stuff. Then it was just like he had a little cut here. We were, of course, wanted to just make sure that he was okay and that there wasn’t anything seriously wrong. But the fact that stunt guys get banged up and they get bruised, that was sort of Carey’s indoctrination to full-fledged being a stunt guy.
Jones: But it was great. It was very exciting. I mean, after it was all done I kinda wanted to get up and get back in there, but they wouldn’t let me.
Nicotero: But ten seconds later he’s like, “Okay, I’ll go, I’ll go.”
Jones: But it was exciting. I mean, it’s going to look fantastic. Even that day I was kinda bummed out, but like Greg said, “Go look at some of the tapes and it’ll make you feel better.” So I went back and I hadn’t seen any of it yet, so I stood behind Nimrod and looked at it and he was excited. I was like, “Okay, it makes me feel like, â€˜All right let’s go, come on.'” It turned out really good, so it just made it all worth it.
Shock: Which super Predator is this?
Nicotero: The dog tracker, the dog handlers.
Shock: Do you have a mask without the helmet, the articulated face and everything?
Jones: The only one that has that is Mr. Black, so he’s the only one that actually reveals his face. All the other ones, they don’t, you just see them with the masks on.
Nicotero: Yeah, if you really think about it in the original movie, first of all, you don’t even see him that much. He’s cloaked for 65 percent of the movie and then when he reveals himself he’s got the helmet on and it’s only in that last sort of hand to hand combat with Arnold that you really reveal the face. So that was one of the first questions that we had when we started talking about it was, “When do we reveal the face and what’s that great moment?” There was some discussion about revealing the face of each of them. I thought, “Well, then it’s too early in the movie.” So we picked a really good, specific moment for the reveal of the new face.
Shock: Mr. Black, is that like the lead Predator?
Nicotero: He’s the leader of the group, but each one of them has different functions that they perform. I think an analogy that I use with Tony and when we were talking before was the whole idea is that it’s kind of cat and mouse. It’s like a Tom and Jerry sort of thing where the cat’s sort of batting the mouse around and batting the mouse around and then the Predators sort of think that they have this attitude that they’re the superior hunters and they’re just doing it just for fun. It’s like, “Yeah, we’re going to hunt these people down.” So the idea that the tables get turned a little bit and actually the interaction between the humans and the Predators, they’re actually better hunters than the Predators gave them credit for, so and kinda the tables turn a little bit. It’s like the cat sorta batting the mouse around and batting the mouse around and then the mouse takes the mask off and he’s the cat too. It’s that kind of like, weird thing that we were talking about. (Looking at Jones’ mask) There’s a little bit of blood on that, is that your blood?
Jones: No, that’s from last night.
Nicotero: Oh, that’s somebody else’s blood.
Jones: That’s from last night.
The online press then loaded on the bus again and headed to the far end of the studio property. There was the stage where the actors were shooting that day. As we pulled up and unloaded, we got “the eye” from the crew. You usually get one of several looks from the crew on any set visit. They are “Who the heck are you?”, “You better not delay any filming while you’re here, jerks”, and “Why are you people eating our food?!?” We got all those looks. So while we stood there eating their donuts, you’d see random cast members wander by in costume. As the afternoon progressed, our Fox handlers would pull random cast members aside and we’d interview them in the parking lot outside the stage.
We eventually went into the stage itself and it was filled with a smoky haze. Stand-ins sat around in full costume playing video games while they waited. We then got our first look at some of the filming. They were shooting a scene where the humans, led by Adrien Brody, were crawling through a small dark tunnel inside of the alien mining machine. It looked like a scene more out of “Aliens” than “Predator”. We were told that in the scene they were heading to the hideout of Laurence Fishburne’s character. We briefly spoke to Director Nimrod Antal, then headed back to the offices.
Source: Scott Chitwood