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Set Visit: Alien vs Predator

12.18.2003

It’s on! The "versus" craze has officially begun. FREDDY VS JASON kicked things off famously this summer and its success will most likely mean a barrage of “Vs” action extravaganzas headed towards your local Cineplex in the years to come. Not that I’m complaining, you see, eventually the well will run dry and then they’ll be bound to consider the BIEL VS PORTMAN script I’ve been slaving over for the past six years. But enough about my hopes and dreams, Paul Anderson has a few of his own and as co-writer and director of this hugely anticipated movie, he’s trying to make sure that every detail of AVP goes according to Hoyle. We here at JoBlo.com were invited to visit the shooting of this film for a couple of days earlier this month in the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic.

I’ll start by introducing the plot and cast members and then feature highlights from interviews from both the production designer & the creature effects team. That's followed by a short description of two of the scenes we saw filmed, a quick summary of my thoughts on the entire project and interviews with the cast and director Paul Anderson (over the next few days). We saw tons of stuff on our two-day visit to the sets and what I’ve tried to do is provide you all with a brief, yet thorough, idea of what the film is shaping up to be like so far. If you haven't seen the film's teaser trailer yet, or Anderson's behind the scenes featurette, head on over to the OFFICIAL SITE now!

THE PLOT

A group of scientists are brought together and led to the Antarctic on an archeological expedition financed by billionaire robotics industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland. They soon discover the ancient ruins of a pyramid brimming with astonishing hieroglyphics of creatures strongly resembling the title characters. The acid blood really hits the fan when these poor suckers are soon found in the middle of a vicious battle between your friendly neighborhood aliens and five teenage predators that have made the trip down to earth to perform a coming-of-age ritual. Which makes this film’s official tagline very appropriate: "Whoever wins...we lose"

THE CAST

The bulk of the cast is diverse and international including two Scots, a Frenchwoman, a Swede, three Brits, an Italian, two Americans… and a partridge in a pear tree. A lot of the actors will however don different accents for the film. The only casting connection to the previous ALIEN films is Henriksen, who portrayed the robot “Bishop” in ALIENS and ALIEN 3. His character however is entirely different in this film.

  • Lance Henriksen (Near Dark, Aliens, Alien 3) – Charles Bishop Weyland - Leader

  • Colin Salmon (The World Is Not Enough, Resident Evil, Die Another Day) - Max Stafford - Charles’ right-hand man

  • Raoul Bova (Avenging Angelo, Under The Tuscan Sun) - Sebastian Wells - Archeologist

  • Sanaa Lathan (Blade, The Best Man, Out Of Time) - Alexa Woods - Explorer, Environmental Technician

  • Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch, Black Hawk Down) - Graham Miller - Chemical Engineer

  • Tommy Flanagan (Braveheart, Face/Off, Gladiator)  - Verheiden - Security Team Member

  • Agathe De La Boulaye (Jefferson In Paris, Michel Vaillant) - Adele Rousseau - Security Team Member

  • Joseph Rye (Ouija, Mean Machine) - Connors - Security Team Member

  • Carsten Norgaard (Soldier, Gods And Generals) - Quinn - Drill Team Leader

  • Sam Troughton (Sylvia) - Thomas – Archeologist

INTERVIEWS WITH THE CREW

Our initial introduction to this world of sci-fi/horror was a meeting in the offices of the production designer Richard Bridgland. Picture a room draped in sketches of sets varying from dark under-pyramidal catacombs to intricate and re-imagined alien ships to desolate Antarctic landscapes. Well, anyway, you’ll have to picture them because snapshots of any kind were strictly verboten! on set or anywhere else in the AVP environment. I got some cool pictures of some Czech “ladies” if y’all are interested though.

Richard had previously designed the sets for THE ACID HOUSE, SWING, GANGSTER NO. 1, RESIDENT EVIL (Anderson’s previous project) and most recently, WICKER PARK. The precedent for claustrophobic sets and the creepy, unsettling environments set by the previous Alien and Predator films is a lot to live up to. Half the appeal of those films was the feeling of genuine fear and authenticity their sets emanated. Here are some of the main points Richard brought up during our interview…

  • Many different locales & time periods - (Whaling station -1904 & present day - in the Arctic circle, mountaintops, archeological digs, naval ships, predator ship & helicopter travel, ice grotto, pyramidal catacombs beneath the ice, various chambers within the pyramids – Entrance Chamber, Chamber of the Gods, Sacrificial Chamber, Hieroglyphics Chamber, Staircase Chamber, Fight Chamber, The Bone Chamber, etc.)

  • Scenes inside the Predator mother ship - The inside will have a mixture of styles & designs ranging from medieval to gothic to the “predator” look.
  • Creating their own world - Richard said they made it a point to try and create their own alien/predator “look” rather than just copying the other films down to the tee. They were, of course, inspired a little by some things seen in the comics & movies but for the most part, AVP will have an identity of its own. He added, if anything, the spirit of the first ALIEN was the biggest influence and shades of that will definitely be apparent.

It was then the perfect time to mosey on down to one of the sets Richard designed for the film. As explained in the plotline portion, this film will have a majority of it occurring in the deep, dark depths of ancient pyramidal corridors & chambers. We were brought to the Fight Chamber, the location of the first meeting between both killers. I definitely got some THE MUMMY and STARGATE vibes from this place. The ceilings and walls surrounding it had ancient hieroglyphic markings and writings on them, many involving of course, the two title characters.

Large menacing statues of the predators are seen kneeling before a large staircase, spears in hand, at the far end of the chamber. When we arrived, a predator was being “wired up” for an action sequence that was to be shot later that day. A cast figure of one of the actors (in the position of his ultimate demise) was lying nearby. From some of the other death sequence moments I experienced later that day, it’s safe to say the fate many of the humans will face in AVP will be extremely creative and bloody as hell.

Next, we were escorted to the workshop of Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis of ADI (Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.). Some of Tom & Alec’s extensive “creature” filmography includes work on PUMPKINHEAD, LEVIATHAN, WOLF, TREMORS, MORTAL KOMBAT, ALIEN 3, ALIEN: RESURRECTION and STARSHIP TROOPERS. Tom was also the dude who played the lead alien in the last two installments. They had both also worked under Stan Winston for ALIENS.

The workshop had everything you’d expect in it: bins full of face-huggers, alien casts, a couple of dozen of their eggs, predator spears and the mother of all cool weapons – the shuriken-influenced (Japanese throwing stars) blades that the predators will use to chuck at their prey and consequently cut them up with. They also had the one and only _____ ____ that we were told not to mention. It was too cool, it had ____ and a ___ - ____ and of course a new addition to it, which was a ___ tied onto a ___. It was f*cking great! The other great thing I was also told to keep hush about. Hmm, just try to picture the best scene from ALIEN (I’m probably walking a really thin line here).

Anywho, here are the highlights from our talks with the duo…

  • More practical effects, less CGI! There will, of course, be some CG imagery used, but there will be more miniature & practical effects used in AVP (we visited the miniature workshop later that day and I was blown away at some of the work being done for some key “destruction” scenes that’ll take place. The precise work that’s gone into re-creating the vast desolate landscape of the Arctic and its rustic architecture was terribly impressive – at this point I started getting some serious THE THING vibes…and that’s a good thing)
  • No radical changes in the designs of both creatures - They’ve remained true to the original designs of both the alien & the predator. They’ve only made slight changes to them, bringing them into the millennia, in a sense, by making them a little more wicked & powerful. The articulation and sculpture of the predator hero in AVP will be much more subtle and he’ll have a wider range of movements so as to be able to convey emotions. This is key because he will apparently emerge as one of the main focal points in the film. The term leading man was used. J Longer tendrils on the S.O.B. too! The actor playing the predator is 7’1 outside of the costume – he’s  huge!
  • Advanced weaponry - More elegant touch to the weapons. The predator will have an ornamental dagger; which will be used in the film (to skin some alien hide), his throwing discs have had a make-over and there have been slight alterations to his shoulder-mounted gun.
  • One more time - Tom Woodruff’s experience in playing the alien creature in the past two alien films and agreeing to once more jump into the alien suit for AVP played a large part in helping AGI win the bid for working on this movie.

WATCHING THE SCENES

During our two-day stay we were privy to seeing them shoot a couple of scenes from the film. They’ve built all the inner chambers of the pyramid in a large studio. Again, I’ll have to describe them as best I can since taking pictures was strictly forbidden. Or did I mention that already? The first scene gave us an opportunity to see a nice kill by the main predator himself. Picture him atop the upper walls of the Fight Chamber whipping one of his ceremonial spears at one of the security team members (no big secret here, you knew some of these guys were gonna die). I was most impressed by the sheer size of the predator MOFO. He’s truly a magnificent figure to watch. So, anyway, the poor guy takes it in the chest as a last few desperate shots are fired at the predator…in vain. The whole shot will probably take 5-10 seconds of screen time. Still, it was pretty nifty to see the legendary killer “in action”.

The second scene wasn’t nearly as exciting as it just focused on all of the security team members and the other stragglers, entering the main corridor of the pyramidal underground, flashlights and guns in tow. The jig is up and they’re expecting some killers to be hunting them. The one thing I got from this scene is a nice sense of gory anticipation – the smell of blood is in the air and you can tell some humans are going to get massacred shortly. Fun times!

EPILOGUE

My two days consisted of visiting the massive sets, learning about the numerous plot points, interviewing the men involved in creating the infamous creatures, seeing both killing machines up close & personal, taking 0 pictures (what, me bitter?), chatting it up with the international cast, seeing a couple of scenes being shot, dodging some Czech gangsters (long story) and hearing from the leader of this motley crew, Paul Anderson.

After listening to him discuss what his vision and hopes are for this epic joining of two great franchises, I couldn’t help but get into it as well. I got the genuine impression that the big boys over at Fox are incredibly excited, proud and downright giddy over what they’ve got going on with this flick. I’d even go as far as to say they called us over to "show off". Hey, whatever...good on them, all I know is that I ate some great Czech food, romanced some Czech ladies (that could have happened, no?), hung out with the slick Garth from Dark Horizons as well as some other cool onliners, and met filmmakers running amok a movie over which they’re all incredibly passionate.

Say what you will about Paul Anderson and the decision to give him the reigns on AVP, but the man’s passion is damn contagious and his excitement for this project was conveyed by almost every person to whom we spoke on our little visit. From what I saw, they’ve got a good thing going so far and if they continue on this pace and that magic translates to the big screens next summer, there is no reason to think that this won’t be another one of those great franchises just waiting to be born. I guess we’ll all find out on August 6th, 2004.

And I’m not just saying that so Fox takes a look at my HEWITT Vs. SPEARS treatment either…

COMING SOON!!!
Interviews with cast & director Paul Anderson

Source: Fox

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