INT: Paul Anderson
Our ALIEN VS PREDATOR set visit continues (read Part 1 here) with an interview with the man who has the pressure of all alien and predator fans across our planet placed squarely upon his shoulders. His previous work includes SHOPPING, MORTAL KOMBAT, EVENT HORIZON, SOLDIER and RESIDENT EVIL. This film will be his 6th overall and his third based on a video game. It would be an understatement to say there has been much debate over writer/director Paul Anderson being chosen to take on this film, already ten years in the making, but only time will tell if he was the right choice. He does have a few things going for him though: A) The man is a die-hard video game freak. B) Heís definitely done his homework. C) The cast & crew adore him and praise him to bits. D) The manís honey is Milla Jovovich. Either way - he wins! Enough talk, judge for yourself, the director of AVP, Paul AndersonÖ
How does it feel to be taking on such a storied
Humongous pressure. In one way, itís absolutely a dream come true. I saw ALIEN when I was a kid at school. Every day I canít fucking believe Iím on set with an alien, you know every time I see Tom Woodruff in the suit, Iím like: ďWow, itís an alien, excellent!Ē Iím a huge fan of PREDATOR as well, I had the idea for the movie literally nine years ago, so the idea of being able to make a movie that youíve been thinking about for such a long period of time is really a dream come true. At the same time, trying to follow in the footsteps of some of the best filmmakers in the world is incredibly intimidating and keeps me awake many nights.
There were a lot of scripts for this film that were
set in space, but yours was set on earth. Why did you make that
I didnít, at least not as a response to the other scripts. Fox have been developing scripts for this movie literally for a decade ever since the first AVP comic book was done and I think the first script was kind of based on that comic book and that was in space and I think Alien was always considered the bigger franchise, so I guess like the natural thing was to set AVP in the world of the Alien; the world of those movies rather than the world of the Predators. I always liked the idea of it being on earth.
I guess I got so fired up, like most people, when I saw the teaser trailers for ALIEN 3, it said: This winter Ė even though they missed the release date and ended up releasing the following summer- ďThis winter, youíll discover that on earth everyone can hear you screamĒ, and like me and all my friends went: ďFuck yeah!Ē You know the aliens on earth and that, cause with ALIENS you kind of suspected that was what was going to happen, so you thought that the alien was in the cat and it was going to get to earth. ALIENS was a brilliant movie, but you still wanted to see the alien come to earth and then that teaser for ALIEN 3 kind of suggested that was what was going to happen and I think people wanted to see the idea of an alien on earth. I mean, I have for such a long time.
What was the genesis of the screenplay?
When I saw PREDATOR 2, one of the things that really struck me was the design of the interior of the predator spaceship. It was very Frank Lloyd Wright, it was very Aztec, because Wright was very influenced by Aztec culture and those designs. So that really made me think that if predators have been visiting earth clearly for a long time, and if their spaceship looks like something on earth, they havenít been influenced by us, weíve been influenced by them which started me thinking what effects predators as an alien species have had upon the earth.
Particularly the Aztec feel of the interior of that
spaceship linked with what the Ron Cobb designs they never used for
the pyramid in Alien. I thought that was a very interesting kind of
interface there. Thatís where the basic idea of the script came
from. And then, having read the AVP comic book as well ten years
ago, thatís where the idea of a very strong female lead came from;
which is also in keeping with the Alien films. One of the other
people it was a real pleasure to work with on this movie was Phil
Norwood who is actually the artist on that first comic book. It was
Have you read them all?
I have them all. Iíve read all the graphic novels. I havenít waded through all of the books yet. Iíve read PREDATOR: COLD WAR, but none of the others. But I look at the covers regularly. (laughter) Theyíre really trashy and entertaining.
What was the genesis of having the alien skull in the predator ship at the end of Predator 2?
Iím not sure whose decision it was to do that, but it was pretty inspired-- probably the only inspired thing about PREDATOR 2 was that scene. I donít think thatís a controversial thing to say, I mean everyoneís deeply disappointed with that movie.
You definitely add a mythology to both franchises,
are we going to see an origin in this film of where exactly the
aliens come from or the predators?
I wouldnít fuckiní dream of that, no, I mean
thatís 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 kind of contradict or go against anything in the alien
franchise; and weíve been very careful about that-- although
itís set present day on earth so itís like 150 years before
Sigourney Weaverís in space. It really makes sense when you see
this movie and you see those movies you go: ďOh, well I understand
why she was completely Ė and most people were ignorant of the
existence of aliens but the Weyland corporation did have awareness
In that respect, there is a mythology to it and there is a lot of mythology in the movie, but itís more related to earth history rather than the history of aliens and predators. Iím not trying to explain away their genesis or anything like that. In fact, what weíre doing is very much inspired by something Ron Cobb did for the very first Alien movie. I donít know if any of you have the original Alien book which was done ages ago, but it had some original artwork from Alien for the pyramid that was never built.
The idea was that when they were returning from the derelict, they werenít going to find the eggs in the derelict, they would see a building, which was a pyramid and theyíd go inside and that actually had the eggs inside them, so it kind of suggested the eggs were actually on the planet already. Ron Cobb did some really cool designs which were hieroglyphics showing the kind of eggs and that was very much an inspiration for this movie. Thatís 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 quite made it into Ridley Scottís movie.
Could you talk about casting Lance Henriksen in the role of
The role was written for him because I wanted some casting continuity with the Alien franchise even though that franchise is set a hundred years after our movie. The only person that it could be was Lance, because he, of course, was an android in the other movies. I also knew that I wanted to use the Weyland Yutani corporation in some respect. I mean, itís not Weyland Yutani Ė itís Weyland. Do you know where Weyland-Yutani comes from by the way? I just found this out Ė Weyland & Yutani were Ridley Scottís neighbors in London and he hated both of them and so he named the corporation after them. Charles Bishop Weyland is like Bill Gates, but his area of expertise is robotics, heís made his money in high tech industries and heís like the father of modern robotics so that when the Bishop android is created in a 150 years time, itís created with the face of the creator, the maker. Itís kind of like Microsoft building an android in a hundred years time that has the face of Bill Gates.
Yeah, but the idea with Weyland was also that his
character is a man who is dying and like a lot of rich men who are
facing the end, they realize that money and power arenít enough,
what they want to do is leave something behind them. So itís his
longing for immortality that precipitates a lot of the events in
this film, but also explains why his corporation would build
something with his face in a 150 years time.
Youíre a big video game fan, you enjoy them a lot. How
does that form your directing, or does it?
I donít know. Iím definitely of a generation thatís very influenced by video games. I just play a lot of them. I think maybe the way I shoot things is slightly influenced by the way video games are cut and shot. I do a lot of point of view shots because in most first person shooters, you get in there and you feel like youíre in there and if you look at the AVP video games, thatís what they tend to be and you get a little more immersed that way.
Is there a game tie-in with this film as well?
Not specifically, no. Theyíre doing a Predator video
game thatís going to come out probably Christmas of next year, but
itís not related to this film.
Are there a lot of battles between the aliens and the
predators in this film?
Yes! Yes, there are.
Itís not from minute 1 to a minute 120 because I think that would be a disappointment in itself as well. Iím 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 movie work so well is the fact that the filmmakers deliberately held back the creatures for as long as possible. Whether intentionally or not, thatís what they did and I think thatís why those movies work so well. I mean you donít see a predator until 58 minutes into the first movie, you get a hint with predator vision, but you actually donít see one until almost an hour into the film.
The same with ALIEN. You donít see the face-hugger come out of the egg until 45 minutes into the film. In the directorís cut of ALIENS, you donít have that big battle with the aliens until an hour and ten minutes into the film. Those movies benefited from the fact that they just made the audience wait a little bit. I mean certainly when I saw Aliens for the first time I was terrified from minute one Ďtil when the aliens turned up and I think I was more scared because the aliens werenít in the movie, I was expecting them to pop at any moment.
InPREDATOR 2, the predatorís in the movie from the opening
credits onwards, ALIEN 3 you see the alien, again, in the opening
credits. ALIEN RESURRECTION, you see the alien queen precisely ten
minutes into the film and I think you just get to see the creatures
too much. Certainly, what I felt on Resurrection is that it kind of
demystified the alien and they had lots of shots where you just
looked at it and after a while if you do that to any creature, you
stop being scared of it. There is tons of alien-on-predator action
in this move, I mean tons and tons of it-- but itís not two hours
of them slugging it out, I donít think that would be entertaining.
It sounds like youíve actually timed the other movies to
see when certain things happen.
Yes, if I brought my homework I could tell you exactly when. I mean, I donít really need to because Iíve seen the movies so many times, but just for fun, I went through them and I did time when the creatures appeared. The other thing it does is - I mean both Alien & Aliens give you time to establish character, so when the people start dying you actually care about them, Alien3 and Resurrection did that less so, youíve got less time to know the characters, you like the characters less and you cared about them less when they died. I wanted to try and give this movie and the actors enough time to establish character so that when they start dying; and of course-- they have to start dying-- you care about them a little bit more.
In the monster shop, they were telling us all about the new technologies theyíve introduced, the articulation of the aliens, etc... Are you satisfied with this new direction theyíve taken filmmakers and what it represents now for films of this sort?
The _______ is probably the most. I mean, it is the most sophisticated animatronic ever put on screen. Itís got double the points of articulation of the T-Rex that was built for JURASSIC PARK, so in terms of what it can perform and do, itís a massive step forward. This is much more sophisticated, itís really state of the art, itís as good as you can get and hopefully that will mean that we will use it more and rely more on the real thing rather than on CG. I think the more we can do that, the better the movie will be.
Weíve heard that youíre very dead set against having
too much CGI. Was that a conscious decision from the very beginning?
Absolutely. I think Cameron and Scottís movies are masterpieces and I think 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 beejesus out of you, is you believe that monster and you believe that monster because fortunately for Ridley, he turned up on the set and he looked at his monster and it was a guy in a rubbish rubber suit and he thought: ďOh fuck, I canít show that.Ē So, he had to hide it in the shadows, he had to show very little of it and as a result...he allowed the audienceís imagination to work and that movie is still terrifying.
The same with Cameron, he constructed a war movie, quite brilliantly, where you just didnít see the enemy. I mean, it was like Vietnam in space, they would just suddenly pop up and they attacked and they were gone. That made it really scary. Thatís definitely been our approach on this movie. Yes, thereís tons of creatures in it and lots of fighting, but weíve tried to model the way we shoot that on Alien and Aliens and also on the first Predator, where definitely "less is more" and the less of a reliance on CG images Ė the better.
People are just smart. Even with the best CG, audiences kind
of know that itís fake and we want them to be really scared and
really buy the fact that these two creatures are going head to head
and we thought the best way to do that was to do it for real. And by
we, I mean Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff and John Bruno whoís a genius
at visual effects, heís 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.
Johnís had a big influence on this film, Iíve never seen one of
his movies that has bad visual effects in it and the reason why I
was so keen to work with him on AVP was because of the influence he
will have on the CG we use looking fantastic and also just not being
seen. Thatís the idea...to make these creatures real. Unlike
Resurrection where you could see when there were CG creatures and
when they werenít.
We all sat down and we 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. Heíd rather do it for real or what weíre doing a lot of in this movie is images that are 80 or 90% real. You know, a real alien and a real predator, but because of the fight theyíre engaged in, you just canít puppeteer the alien tail, so youíd have a CG alien tail kind of whipping through the shot. Which is a lot better than Cameron could ever do, because he didnít have that ability, but Iíd be damned if you know itís a CG tail because the majority of the image will be real, and weíre just talking about 10 or 20% CG enhancement.
The first Alien was really horror oriented and the
subsequent ones were more in the action/adventure area. What are you
trying to do with this one?
Itís really a combination and itís not because of
ALIEN, itís because of PREDATOR, which is more action-oriented.
This movie has a slow build, which is more akin to ALIEN, but then
the last 45 minutes is a pretty relentless action ride which has
much more to do with ALIENS or PREDATOR.
Could you talk a little about the predator hero and
whether or not the humans relate more to it in the movie?
Heís more humanoid. Iím a big fan of an old Lee
Marvin/Toshiro Mifune movie called HELL IN THE PACIFIC. Itís the
second world war, two fighter pilots end up on the same island and
they hate each other. Theyíre enemies, but ultimately they have to
cooperate against a greater evil to survive. Thatís 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.
It wonít be Enemy Mine.
Fuck, no! (laughter) There will be no predator babies. Predators may give birth to things, but it wonít be crying babies...no. Also, in many ways, the predators are kind of cool characters that you can sympathize with because they clearly have a code of honor, theyíre kind of like samurai-- it may not be the way you and I would behave, but they live by their own value system and I think thatís something you can appreciate. Theyíre very noble characters. In that way, itís easier to get into them than the aliens.
What made you do the online featurette (explaining the concept of the film) and teaser trailer?
I was excited to do it so I did.
I guess after thinking about it for 9-10 years, I wanted to
talk about it a little bit. Also, we had such a huge amount of
reference material that it kind of just seemed like a good ideaó I
was just overexcited, I just couldnít contain myself any longer.
And Fox are quite happy from me not containing myself. (laughs)
There are hints that there may be an alien/predator hybrid in
the film. Can you comment on that?
Maybe. Well, yes, I mean I already said that anyway,
yeah predators do give birth, but not in the ENEMY MINE sense.
Whatíll the rating be on this?
Weíre not making any specific rated movie. Weíre
making the movie that weíre making and itíll get the rating that
it gets. There is so much unpleasantness in this movie. I mean,
itís pretty gruesome, itís got all the traditional stuff, the
face-huggers and the eggs. Just looking in the eggs when they open
and normally youíd just see the face-hugger come out and a bit of
tripe in the egg, but the ADI (Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.) guys have
done such a fantastic job that when the eggs open up, you see tons
of movement in the eggs and the placenta and these tails writhing
and itís just ďblech".†
Whatís the running time youíre shooting for?
I donít know. The script is like 110 pages, I mean,
itís not going to be ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, but itís not
going to be 90 minutes either.
You can make one half and release it as two...
Well yes, Iím terribly inspired by that having seen
Volume 1 (Kill Bill).
Do you have any thoughts on where this franchise is going to
Yes, we talk about it every day. Everyone is terribly interested.
Will it be kept on earth do you think or ---
I canít give that away, because then Fox wouldnít
need to employ me. They could just hire somebody else. (laughter)
Interviews with Lance Henriksen & cast...
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