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Question: Are you feeling the pressure of taking on the revival of two big franchises?
Anderson: Humungous pressure, really. In one way it’s absolutely a dream come true. I saw Alien when I was a kid in school and still, every day, I can’t fucking believe I’m on set with an Alien, every time I see [ADI FX guy] Tom Woodruff in the suit, I’m like “Wow – it’s an Alien!” and I’m a huge fan of Predator as well. I had an idea for this movie literally nine years ago, so the idea of getting to make a movie you’ve been thinking about for such a long time is really a dream come true, and trying to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest directors in the world is incredibly intimidating…and keeps me awake many nights.
Question: Previous drafts kept the action in space, and in the future. What was the reasoning behind setting your story on present-day Earth?
Anderson: I didn’t do it as a response to the other scripts. Fox have been developing scripts for this movie for literally a decade, ever since the first AvP comic book was done and I think the first script was based on that comic, out in space. I think Alien was always considered the bigger franchise, I guess it seemed like the natural thing to set Alien vs Predator in the world of the Alien, the world of those movies rather than the world of the Predators. But I always liked the idea of it being on Earth. I guess I got fired up when I saw the teaser trailer for Alien3. I don’t know if you remember the teasers, but it said “This Winter…” – even though they missed the release date and ended up releasing the next Summer – “This Winter, you’ll discover on Earth everyone can hear you scream”. Me and all my friends were like “Fuck, yeah, the Alien’s on Earth now”. With Aliens you kind of suspected that was what was going to happen, you thought the Alien was in the cat, and it was going to get to Earth. And Aliens is a brilliant movie, but you still wanted to see the Alien come to Earth then the teaser for Alien3 suggested that was what was going to happen…
Question: Do you know who put the Alien skull in the infamous trophy cabinet in Predator 2?
Anderson: I’m not sure whose decision it was to do that. It was pretty inspired. Probably the only inspired thing about Predator 2 was that scene. I don’t think that’s a controversial thing to say, everyone’s deeply disappointed with that movie.
Question: How much will you be showing of the origins of the Aliens or Predators?
Anderson: I wouldn’t fucking dream of that. No. It’s beyond me. The movie is designed to be a sequel to the Predator movies, and a prequel to the Alien movies, so that in no way does it contradict anything in the Alien franchise. We’ve been very careful about that, although it’s set present day, on Earth, so it’s 150 years before Sigourney Weaver’s even out in space. It really makes sense when you see this movie, and you see those movies, you understand why she – and most people – were ignorant of the existence of Aliens, but the Weyland-Yutani corporation did have awareness of them. So in that respect, there’s a mythology to it and there’s a lot of mythology in the movie but it’s more related to Earth history than the history of Aliens and Predators. I’m not trying to explain away their genesis or anything like that.
The idea is very much inspired by something Ron Cobb did for the very first Alien movie. I don’t know if any of you have the original Alien book which was done ages ago, but it had some original artwork from Alien for a pyramid that was never built. The idea was that when they were returning from the derelict, they weren’t going to find the eggs in the derelict, returning they would see a building – a pyramid – and that was going to have the eggs inside. So it kind of suggested that the eggs had not been brought on the derelict, they were actually on the planet already. Ron Cobb did some really cool designs which were hieroglyphics showing the eggs, and that was very much an inspiration for this movie. That was where a lot of the ideas for the pyramid setting came from, so it was actually a strand of Alien mythology that existed already, it just never made it into Ridley Scott’s movie.
When I saw Predator 2, one of the things that really struck me was the design of the interior of the Predator ship. It was very Frank Lloyd Wright, it was very Aztec. Because Frank Lloyd Wright was very influenced by Aztec culture. That really made me think, the Predators had clearly been visiting Earth clearly for a long time, and if their spaceship looks like something on Earth, it obviously hasn’t been influenced by us, we’ve been influenced by them. Which started me thinking about what effect Predators, as an alien species, have had upon the Earth. Particularly the Aztec feel of the interior of that spaceship linked with the Ron Cobb designs for the pyramid in Alien, I thought there was a very interesting interface there.
Question: Was it important for you to cast Lance Henriksen as Weyland?
Anderson: The role was written for him, because I wanted some casting continuity with the Alien franchise, even though it’s set a hundred years after our movie. The only person that could be was Lance, because he was an android in the other movies. I also knew I wanted to use the Weyland-Yutani corporation in some respect, although it’s not Weyland-Yutani – it’s just Weyland.
Do you know where Weyland-Yutani comes from, by the way? I just found this out. Weyland and Yutani were Ridley Scott’s neighbours in London, and he hated them so he named the evil corporation after them!
So the idea is that Charles Bishop Weyland is like Bill Gates, his area of expertise is robotics, he made his money in hi-tech industry. He’s the father of modern robotics, so when the Bishop android is created in 150 years time, it’s created with the face of its creator. Kind of like Microsoft building a robot with the face of Bill Gates. His character in this movie is dying, and like a lot of rich men who are facing the end they realise that money and power aren’t enough. What they want to do is leave something behind them. It’s his longing for immortality that precipitates a lot of the events in this film, and explains why his company would build something with his face in 150 years time.
Question: What about action? Is there a healthy amount of Alien/Predator fighting?
Anderson: Yes there is! It’s not from minute 1 to minute 120, because I think that would be a disappointment in itself really. I’m a huge fan of both franchises, but I think everyone would agree there are movies that work better than others within the franchises. One of the things that makes Alien and Aliens and the first Predator work so well is the fact that the filmmakers deliberately held back the creatures for as long as possible. Whether intentionally or not, that’s what they did and that’s why those movies work so well.
You don’t see the Predator until 58 minutes into the first Predator movie. The same with Alien, you don’t see the facehugger until 45 minutes into the film. In the director’s cut of Aliens, you don’t have that big battle with the Aliens until an hour and ten minutes into the film. I think those movies benefited from the fact that they made the audiences wait a little bit. Certainly when I saw Aliens for the first time, I was terrified from minute one to when the Aliens turned up. I think I was more scared because the Aliens weren’t in the movie, I was expecting them to pop up at any moment.
In Predator 2, the Predator’s in the movie from the opening credits onwards. Alien3, you see the Alien again in the opening credits. Alien: Resurrection, you see the Alien Queen precisely ten minutes into the film. You just get to see the creatures too much. Certainly what I felt, on Resurrection, was that it demystified the Alien a little bit. You got to go “Oh…so that’s what an Alien looks like”. And they had lots of shots where you just looked at it. I think if you do that to any creature you stop being scared of it. There’s tons of Alien-on-Predator action in this movie – I mean, tons and tons of it – but it’s not two hours of them slugging it out. I don’t think that would be entertaining.
Question: Sounds like you’ve actually timed the other movies and picked them apart to see what works.
Yes! If I’d brought my homework I could tell you exactly. I don’t really need to because I’ve seen the movies so many times, but just for fun I did go through and I did time when the creatures appeared. Both Alien and Aliens give you time to establish character, so when the people start dying you actually care about them, Alien3and Resurrection did this less so. You’ve got less time to know the characters; you liked them less, you cared about them less when they died. And I wanted to give this movie, and the actors in this movie, enough time to establish characters so when they start dying – of course they have to start dying – you care about them more.
Question: Is it true you’re trying to avoid using too much CGI?
Anderson: Absolutely. I think Cameron and Scott’s movies are masterpieces and one of the reasons why Alien is so good, and you can watch it 25 years after it came out and it still scares the bejeezus out of you, is that you believe that monster. Fortunately for Ridley he turned up on set
and he looked at his monster and it was a guy in a rubbish rubber suit, and he thought “Well, fuck. I can’t show that”. He had to hide it in the shadows, he had to show very little of it, and as a result he allowed the audiences imagination to work. And that movie’s still terrifying. And the same with Cameron. He created a war movie, quite brilliantly, where you didn’t see the enemy. It was Vietnam in space. They popped up, they attacked and they were gone and that made it really scary. That’s definitely been our approach on this movie. Yes, there’s tons of creatures in it, there’s lots of fighting in it, but we’ve tried to model the way we shoot that on Alien and Aliens, and also the first Predator, where definitely less is more. The less of a reliance on CG images the better.
People are just smart. Even with the best CG, audiences know it’s fake and we want them to be really scared and really buy the fact that these two creatures are going head to head. We thought the best way to do that was to do it for real, and by ‘we’ I mean Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, John Bruno – who’s a genius of visual effects. He’s made the best movies. Terminator 2. The Abyss. True Lies. His films have genius visual effects in them, and the visual effects are good because John hates visual effects. The end of True Lies is so good because they just didn’t do any composites. It was his idea to hang a Harrier Jump Jet from a crane on top of a skyscraper, because it would look better than trying to composite one up there.
We all sat down and discussed how we were going to mount the picture and, for a man who makes his living out of doing visual effects, he never wants to do anything CG. He’d rather you do it for real. What we’re doing a lot of in this movie is images that are 80 or 90% real. A real Predator and a real Alien, but because of the fight they’re engaged in you just can’t puppeteer the Alien tail. So you have a real Predator, a real Alien and a CG Alien tail whipping through the shot, which is much better than Cameron could do because he didn’t have that ability. But I’ll be damned if you’ll know it’s a CG tail.
Question: What genre does Alien vs. Predator fit into?
Anderson: It’s really a combination. It’s not just because of Alien, it’s because of Predator. Predator is more of a straight action-horror, it’s more action-oriented. I think this movie has a slow build, which is more akin to Alien, and then certainly the last forty-five minutes is a relentless action ride which has much more to do with Aliens or a Predator film.
Question: What can you tell us about the idea of making the Predators semi-good guys?
Anderson: I’m a big fan of an old Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune movie called Hell In The Pacific. It’s Second World War, two fighter pilots end up on the same island, they hate each other, they’re enemies but ultimately have to cooperate against a greater evil to survive. And that’s pretty much the model for this movie, by the end of the film you end up with humans and Predators having to work together before they get overwhelmed by the Alien threat.
Question: But it won’t be Enemy Mine?
Anderson: Fuck, no. There will be no Predator baby. Also in many ways I think the Predators are cool characters that you can sympathise with. They clearly have a code of honor, like Samurai. It may not be the way you or I would behave, but they live by their own value system. I think that’s something you can appreciate. They’re very noble characters, so in that way it’s easier to get into them than the Aliens.
They’re hunters. If you look at hunters now, anyone who chooses to go into the woods and kill things, they do it in a much more unsophisticated way than we’re capable of right now. You can go out into the woods with napalm and kill the little animals, but you don’t. In my mind, on the Predator homeworld, when they were fresh out of the caves, or when they got to their Bronze Age, that’s when their code of honor was established and they just kept it. Even now that they’re flying around in spaceships, it’s the same.
Question: Why did you take the rather unusual step of releasing an online featurette explaining the concept behind the movie at the same time as the teaser trailer?
I was excited to do it. I guess after thinking about it for nine or ten years, I wanted to talk about it. And also we’d been planning for so long, we had such a huge amount of reference material, it just seemed like a…I was just over-excited, I think is the answer. Couldn’t contain myself any longer. And Fox were quite happy for me not to contain myself.
Question: Has videogaming played a large part in your directorial style?
Anderson: I’m definitely of a generation that’s very influenced by videogames, I just play a lot of videogames. I think maybe the way I shoot things is slightly influenced by the way videogames are cut and shot. I do a lot of point-of-view shots. You get a little more immersed that way.
Question: Will there be a game of the movie?
Anderson: Not specifically, no. They’re doing a Predator game that’s going to come out Christmas of next year, but it’s not related to this movie, although the guys came down and they’re going to incorporate some of the design aspects into the game.
Question: Any ideas on the running time yet?
Anderson: I don’t know. The script is like 110 pages. It’s not going to be Once Upon A Time In The West, but it’s not going to be 90 minutes either.
Question: And what about the rating? Are we looking at a gore-fest?
Anderson: We’re not making any specific rated movie. We’re making the movie that we’re making and it’ll get the rating that it gets. There’s so much unpleasantness in this movie. I mean, it’s pretty gruesome.
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