“I think what Shane Black has done to reboot and reimagine this franchise has been amazing...” - hmv.com talks The Predator with Olivia Munn
As someone who featured in John McTiernan's original Predator movie in 1987, and with an impressive track record when it comes to high-octane action films, Shane Black always seemed like the ideal person to resurrect the Predator franchise and this week cinema audiences will finally get to see the merciless alien hunters on the big screen for the first time in eight years.
The Predator arrives in cinemas on Wednesday (September 12th) and stars Boyd Holbrook as a U.S. Army Ranger who witnesses the crash of an alien spacecraft while on a mission in Mexico. However, the U.S. Government is determined that his witness account never sees the light of day and Holbrook's ranger is railroaded through a psychiatric evaluation and locked up with a group of other misbehaving soldiers who call themselves The Loonies (played by Keegan Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Trevante Rhodes and Augusto Aguilera).
Scientist Casey Bracket (played by Olivia Munn), a specialist in genetics, is brought in by the government to examine the contents of the alien ship, but when the authorities lose control of the situation she is forced to team up with the Loonies to survive.
Ahead of the film's release we caught up with Olivia Munn to talk about why she nearly didn't take the role in Black's film, her love of action movies, and why coming face to face with a predator is no joke...
How did you get involved with this film to begin with?
“I was approached, my representative called me and told me I'd been given this offer of a role in this movie, and at first I had turned it down because, you know, normally in these types of movies the female lead is usually the love interest and I said 'look, I'll definitely go see the movie and be a fan, but as an actor it's not really what I'm personally interested in doing'. And they came back and said the director and the producer want to speak to you about it, so of course I went to the meeting and I expressed those concerns to the director, and he was like 'actually, no, this character is different, the female lead is a scientist and she's really important to this fight against these predators because she she brings all this knowledge, and the male lead has a wife and a kid.' So that's how it all began.”
Shane Black has worked on some fantastic action films over the years – how much did his involvement have to do with you signing on?
“Well, you know, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of my all time favourite favourite movies.”
That is a great film...
“I know, right? I mean, I don't even know if a lot of people know this but it's the movie that kind of put Robert Downey Jr. back on the map, it was just so different. I think what Shane has done to reboot and reimagine this franchise has been amazing, and he had a really great vision of how to tell this story in a new way.”
How much did you know about the original 1987 Predator movie? Were you a fan?
“I had to go back and watch it for the first time actually, and that's because of my mother. That was during a period of our lives as kids when my mom decided that we shouldn't be watching violent movies, which actually happened because we all watched Robocop and had nightmares! So I actually only watched it for the first time when I got involved with this movie, and I could immediately see why it was an instant classic and why, after all these years, it's one of these movies that keeps getting sequels made and why people keep telling the Predator story.”
What do you think it is about the Predator movies that has given them this kind of longevity?
“I think it's because, unlike other some of the other alien movies that I've grown up watching, the whole movie has this intense suspense, then there's the culmination of the reveal of the alien. He has arms and legs that look like ours, but it's this opponent that we've never had to deal with before.”
You think it's the fact that he's almost human that makes him more scary in some ways?
“Yeah, it is. Because you think you should be able to go up against this opponent, but then you realise 'ah, maybe we don't have what it takes to go up against this guy.'”
What's Shane like to work with as a director? The dialogue in his films is always so great, but we heard that he sometimes writes or re-writes dialogue on set?
“Well, yeah, I'd imagine that comes from the fact that he's an actor too. Usually when you have writer-directors they can get very precious when they're directing their own work, they want you to do it exactly. But as an actor there are so many different ways to go about it and you can say 'I know what you're trying to get, but why don't we try it this way', or 'this feels more natural to me'. So I think because he was an actor before he understands that an actor's work is more than just showing up and saying the lines that were written.”
“It was really interesting because the motel scene was actually written completely different, originally my character wakes up and talks for, like, three pages before the guys come in and say anything, she's like 'Where am I? Who is this? Give me this! I want this, I want that!' And I could see what he wanted to do, to show that she's strong and not this vulnerable girl, that she can handle herself. So I said to Shane that, for me, what I feel is more realistic is that if I woke up in a seedy motel room with a bunch of guys I don't know staring at me, I would be very cautious. Small moves. Like walking around a corner and seeing a pit bull without a leash.”
So what did you do?
“I said 'what if we just take out all my lines and give them to the guys?'. And he's like 'what?'. And I said that if we separated all the lines between them it puts the onus on them to make me comfortable, for them to say 'OK we found your badge, this is who we are, we know this about you', and try to make me feel calm. And Shane's like: 'So, you want to give away your lines? Most actors are usually begging for more lines.' But I'd rather not say a line than say a line that doesn't feel like its right for the movie. So what you see in the movie is basically what I pitched.”
That's a pretty bold move, getting him to rewrite the entire scene. How did you persuade him?
“I said to Shane that, as it was written, I felt like we were potentially robbing the audience of a really funny moment. Because up until this moment the audience has been watching this group of guys, the Loonies, and by this point the audience knows that they're a little off, but they're good guys. But they're also like 'she doesn't know that they're good guys, this is going to be interesting'. So we talked about what they would do behind the scenes, they're probably thinking that when she wakes up she's going to freak out. 'Is she going to freak out? Let's do something to make her comfortable. Let's give her a gift'. So that's why she ends up waking up with this weird shrine around her.”
And they've been taking bets on whether you'll go straight for the gun...
“Yeah, and I grew up in a military family and I was like, look, these are military guys. Rule number one is you don't leave a gun lying around for someone else to grab. But that was a part of the original scene that we wanted to keep in, so we were like 'what if they placed it there just to see [if she goes for it], because that's how weird they are.' That scene was so much fun to shoot and I think you get to understand those guys so much more by giving them the lines that I had. That was really great, not all directors are down for that, especially writer-directors.”
There are some pretty physical sequences in the film too, what was it like to shoot the scenes with the Predator? Was there are a lot of green screen stuff happening?
“Well, there is green screen because you need that for the world that we're in, but we had the spaceship built and the scale is crazy. The first time I saw the Predator, I mean these guys are like seven-foot tall stunt actors who are amazing, and they're inside these suits that have massive platforms on the bottom, plus the head on top. I don't even know what the measurements would be in terms of how big they are, and they're also controlled robotically so the faces and the mouths and everything move by themselves.”
“The first time I saw one I was walking in the studio, in the offices area. I walked around a corner just as this guy was walking around the other way, and we were in such close proximity to each that I just screamed so loud. I didn't see the guy with the control box a few feet behind him just testing the robotics out, and all I saw was this mouth opening and moving and saliva streaming out of it. I mean, I know I'm on the movie Predator, but when you don't expect it...”
A little too realistic for you?
“It's why I think this movie is so great, the vision of it. Instead of being in the jungle somewhere it's in the urban jungle, and it's like, what would you do if this predator was at your elementary school or in your own backyard? That's what it felt like when I walked around the corner, I just screamed 'OH MY F***ING GOD!' I remember just grabbing my chest, it was so visceral and so real. The only way I can describe it is like, if you've ever been scuba diving when you're in the ocean and you're like 'hey, there's a dolphin, there's a fish, there's some seaweed and F***ING A WHAT IS THAT??' It was pretty daunting.”
Without giving anything away, it seems like the door has been left open for a follow-up – has that been talked about much yet? Is it something you'd be interested in doing?
“I don't know if it's been talked about yet, but I mean when we sign up for these movies they lock us in on the contract, and personally I loved working with this cast, they were so great. And on top of that I love these types of movies and I really wanted a big fight scene. When I did X-Men: Apocalypse they were like 'it's not that big a role, it's more of an introduction to your character', and I was like 'yeah, yeah, but is there a fight scene?'”
“So when I got to set I found out that my stunt double, although very athletic and very talented, had never done any fighting in her life. I grew up doing Taekwondo, I have a black belt in it, and I think there's a difference when fighting is almost part of your DNA. You know, there's a difference between when you see Keanu Reeves doing John Wick, or somebody that has trained just for that scene. Keanu Reeves has been doing that kind of training for so long, on so many movies and at such a high level, you can tell that he really knows what he's doing, it's a part of his DNA, as opposed to an actor that has learned it just for that movie.”
So you wanted to make sure you did the X-Men fighting yourself?
“I decided that I would start training six or seven hours a day in the months leading up to the fight scene, because it's so important to me as a fan, and I knew that's what fans would want. I mean, these guys have weapons we can only dream of, how are they not tearing each other apart? That's what I want! And I remember X-Men Apocalypse coming out and being disappointed that only 25 percent of my fight scene had been left in by the director. He reached out to me and said 'I just wanted you to know, I thought it was more important to focus on X, Y and Z', and I was like 'Yeah, I get it, I saw the movie'. But as an audience member I feel like I'd be going 'this girl can create anything with anything with her mind, she uses a psionic sword, she's up against Beast, let's get into it!”
“So when I was at Comic-Con, I hadn't seen the full Predator movie yet, there's this whole crowd and I'm watching with the rest of the audience and the fans there, and we're watching this scene between the two predators where they're just ripping each other apart, and I was like: 'THIS is what I signed up for!' So based on how I interacted with the cast and the fact that this movie is brutal and violent, and you get to see these predators just going at it and tearing each other apart? Yeah, I would happily do another film.”
The Predator is in UK cinemas from Wednesday September 12th, you can pre-order your copy here in our online store...