Hello My Movie Geeks.
We all know and love the design of the Predator. It had Mandibles, its iconic dreadlocks, and not to mention its signature shoulder canon. It’s clear that the look and design of the Predator is still to this day one of the best in movie history. The look of the Predator made the film, and if done wrong, could have potentially broken it.
Even with a strong premise of 80’s action heroes fighting, or at least being picked off by an out of this world Hunter, it would always come down to the look of the creature. Especially as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was signed on after the success of the classic Commando, would be the main protagonist, the Hunter would need to be a formidable foe.
Why am I calling it a Hunter? That’s because it was the original name of the movie, or at least at the script stage.
Written by Jim and John Thomas (Chuckle – No, I’m not above laughing at the name John Thomas) it was originally titled Hunter, and came off the back of a Hollywood joke of who Rocky Balboa would fight after defeating Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
The answer was an alien!
Luckily for us, Rocky was busy and we got the Austrian Oak instead. Yes, I was a Schwarzenegger fan more than Stallone.
But again, the last time a villain took on Arnie, it was an expendable army and an Australian, who needed to let off some steam, and Dan Hedaya!
Bigger, Faster, Stronger!
The Hunter needed to be bigger than Arnie, faster than Arnie, and even more bulletproof than Arnie. So they got Jean-Claude Van Damme!!!
If I’m honest with myself, I don’t know much about Van Damme except he was in Street Fighter and now starring in Coors Light ads. But Hunter would have been his second largest US film role.
Despite playing the villain, could have provided him with a springboard to the top. After all he would be playing against Schwarzenegger, who was another European ‘actor’ who had made it big in the US.
The idea for the Hunter/Predator was to have an agile, ninja-like warrior who could travel quickly through the trees in the Jungles of Central America. Van Damme would have been made for this, if only for the costume and design of the Hunter!
It was supposed to have long backwards bent legs like a reptile. It had a small insect-like head with large bulbous yellow eyes.
Schwarzenegger wrote in his autobiography Total Recall:
“It looked like a guy in a lizard suit with the head of a duck”
And looking at these pictures, he’s not wrong. It looks like an alien from the last days of Sylvester McCoy’s run as Doctor Who!
Designing The Predator
The design of the alien was given to Boss Film Creature Shop, part of the Boss Film Studios. They had worked on films like Ghostbusters, Fright Night, Die Hard and Tales from the Crypt Demon Knight! (KJ, I got it in an article!).
They also said, according to Steve Johnson the makeup effects supervisor at the time, that:
“It was virtually physically impossible to do. I told them it wouldn’t work”
But they made a suit using casts of Van Damme, based on the designs but the finished product was a cumbersome, heavy, hot and ugly costume that looked like a costume.
Unfortunately for Van Damme, he couldn’t move in the suit, he fainted and he began complaining about it. Sources from the time, including Schwarzenegger and Johnson, say that he was a relentless complainer who didn’t understand the concept of the red suit.
The red suit was made as a contrast for the green Jungle backdrop, which would make it easier for the Hunter/Predator to be keyed out in post-production.
But this is where things get fuzzy, as differences in accounts come in.
Recently (2017) John McTiernan the director of Predator gave an interview to Moviefone and after being asked:
“You famously ordered a redesign of the monster during shooting. But is it true that Jean-Claud Van Damme was in the original version of the film”
To which McTiernan answers
“Yes. We never shot anything with him. It was a complete screw up with his agent, trying to hustle him into a job and didn’t know what the movie was. It’s silly. It was really silly.”
Despite this, there is test footage shot, and there are stills of Van Damme with the main cast on set.
The relentless complainer wasn’t happy, the designers at Boss weren’t happy, McTiernan and Schwarzenegger weren’t happy. When the footage was sent back to the studio, the Studio weren’t happy and the production was halted.
Luckily Producer Lawrence Gordon, who helped other producers like Joel Silver, Amy Pascal and James L Brookes their start, was able to secure funds. Those funds went to securing Stan Winston. The genius mind behind Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs, The T-800 from 1984’s The Terminator and later Stephen Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence.
Whilst sketching monster ideas on a flight to Japan, Winston was seated next to his The Terminator collaborator James Cameron. Cameron had said to him that he had always wanted to see a creature with mandibles. This obviously hit home as it became one of the Predator’s most Iconic features.
Unfortunately for Van Damme, he and Predator parted ways allowing Kevin Peter Hall to take up the mandibles of the titular Predator.
The rest is pretty much the definition of an 80’s action movie with a Sci-Fi twist. It’s also the starting point to a franchise that has a number of movies and comics still in production today.
Including a massive Comic book, Video Game and movie franchise collaboration with the highly successful Alien Franchise.
The Predator, directed by Shane Black will hit cinemas on the 13th September in Europe and the 14th September in the US.
Now, tell me if you’ve heard this one!
“The other day, I went up to my girlfriend…”