Science fiction movie monsters don't get much meaner or nastier than the ugly aliens in director Shane Black's The Predator, the fourth installment in the popular Predator franchise.
When a deadly assassin named Quinn, played Boyd Holbrook, stumbles across an extraterrestrial spaceship during a mission, the government attempts to cover it up by shutting him up. However, Quinn soon finds himself alongside a rag-tag group of military veterans, dubbed the Loonies, out to save their butts and the world from the next evolution of predator species.
Holbrook's most notable credits include Narcos, The Host, Gone Girl, Morgan and Logan. The Predator marks his first feature film as leading man. Recently at the Toronto International Film Festival, Holbrook spoke to SYFY WIRE about recapturing the action, suspense and horror of the original 80s classic in The Predator.
The Predator franchise is beloved by many moviegoers. Was it also on your radar growing up?
It was on my radar growing up, for sure. Things in your memory are so much stronger than if a film holds up. It was big shoes to step into. I like a challenge. We didn't just remake something. We tried to reinvent something. I think it takes some balls to do that.
After three previous Predator movies, not to mention two Alien vs Predator spin-offs, what impressed you about Shane's take on the material?
I wouldn't have done this with another director. Absolutely not. It makes logical sense. He was in the original. Shane was hired because he was writing some of that original. Now, he has three decades of writing some of the biggest films in cinema history. It all comes full circle to be put into this movie. That's why I signed up and that's why I believe in it.
How collaborative of a process was it working with Shane?
It was absolutely collaborative. I will give you a ballpark vision of what happened. The Loonies and myself all went to set the first day with Shane. We sat on set for a couple of hours, just spit-balling what the scene might be and who we are, just getting to know each other and who our characters are. So, Shane took all that and condensed it down into a two-and-a-half-page scene. Over lunch, he wrote the scene. It took him about an hour to write it. Then, over the next six hours, we ended up shooting that. That's how we kind of rolled the entire time. It was full-on, jumping out of a plane and really throwing caution to the wind. I think you have to do that to make some of the stuff we are doing in this movie.
What did you want to infuse into your character, Quinn McKenna?
As life progresses, as cinema progresses, as story progresses, we couldn't just shoot this film in the jungle, in one location. People would go, "We've already seen that." Now, we are going deeper than just a cosmetic layer of characters where the Native American character has a bandana or the cowboy chews tobacco. We go a little bit deeper with, "What is it like to be a soldier? What does that lifestyle entail?" It means you are a contract soldier. It means you are estranged from your family. It means you are tough as nails and super-masculine, but you may not be equipped to deal with your special-needs child.
That's where we are at in a contemporary storytelling version. That creates the arc of Quinn and how he becomes a father, and not just a leader to this unit, but taking the reins of his own life. That's the conflict, approaching the stuff that is more vulnerable. We have Casey [Olivia Munn], who is not just the love interest in this movie, at all. We need her as much as she needs us.
At the festival premiere, the audience really responded to the witty banter. Can you talk about nailing that because that kind of dialogue can go the wrong way very quickly?
Yeah, it is a super-touch-and-go element. It takes two to tango. Being an actor, it's a team sport. A lot of stuff ends up on the cutting-room floor. It takes a lot of actors' trust in their director and trusting other people they are working with. You have to be free flow to kind of figure this thing out and make something original. You've have to take gigantic risks, especially at this scale. The classic original version is one of peoples' most-beloved films. Just like plays, they are recast, they are redone, but they have a core theme or core skeleton, being the predator, which is what everyone loves to see.
What was your initial impression witnessing this new hybrid predator step on to the set?
We did 75/25 practical/CG. The first time they did a camera test on it, on this 7-foot-tall actor in the million-dollar suit, it was with four guys in the corner operating his mouth and the other makeup crew making him slimy and scary. It was a 100 people from the entire crew going up to this thing like it was a sculpture in a museum, looking at it in all its perfection. It was like seeing a sculpture or a painting. It was fascinating.
The movie's pace becomes relentless. How did Shane put you through the wringer?
To be an actor at this scale, you are more of an endurance athlete. It's 14-hour days for six months, working at 5PM. to 5AM for months on end. Everyone has their breaking point. The amount of focus you need to do this, it sharpens you every job. To be able to try stuff and still be able to play with that amount of exhaustion, it's what makes the job worth it. When you are really working with talented people and amazing material, it's perfect. It's the best.
You have sequences which looked like they hurt to do….
Multiple times, I needed chiropractors to come in. It's hard to get up. It's hard to walk. There are stuntmen, but falling 10 times on 10 takes over 60 days, it all adds up. It's tough on the body. It's wear and tear.
This role required special training with the Canadian Forces. In what ways did that prepare you?
Before I even got to Predator, Shane and I had a meeting, confirming we were going to go down this road on this film. I met a really special friend of mine now, who was in the Navy SEALs. He was a stunt guy on Logan. Once I got the job, I called Kenny [Bartram] and said, "I am going to be playing someone like yourself. If you don't mind, I want you to kick my ass and put me through a Navy SEAL boot camp."
Man, did I ever regret that. But, you must do that. I'm an actor and I do that on every role. You can't go all the way and become a SEAL because it's a lifelong career. But, to have some sort of shared experience rather than coming on set and faking it until you make it, that's a different ballgame. That was my biggest preparation. We did a lot of shooting and training when we got there a couple of weeks before production began. I was already two months into training with Kenny.
The Predator leaves things open-ended. It hints there is more to come. Are you hoping to continue Quinn's journey in a sequel?
Absolutely. It's the same thing as doing something like Narcos. If people love this as much as I love this… It's this iconic franchise that seems to never die. To be able to work with Shane again, I would jump at the opportunity.
This is the Golden Age of remakes, reboots and re-imaginings. Which other property deserves the golden treatment?
I would have loved to have been in Blade Runner. That would have been fun. That wasn't in the cards. I don't know. Indiana Jones was so cool and smart. I would love to find something like The Bourne Identity. Being in a Star Wars film would be very cool. But, I'm working on something called The Thirst, which is about the scarcity of water in the future. I plan on making two or three of those.
We don't have a production date to start. We are just getting the script tight. World building is so important. I would rather spend double the amount of time getting it right. Then you can create a tentpole. This is my baby and I'm not rushing it at all.