The directors share their thoughts on the making of this kick-ass sequel
"Our goal was to make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with scary creatures."
If the above quote by Greg Strause about his upcoming sequel Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem doesn't get you foaming at the mouth like a raby-baby in anticipation of seeing it, then nothing else will. Greg, along with his brother Colin, are attempting to resurrect both the Alien and the Predator franchises in one fail swoop. And they are doing it with this balls out, no-gore-spared, adrenaline fueled follow-up to the original Alien vs. Predator.
This time out the action is taking place on earth. And the brothers are introducing the Predalien to the series for the first time. This is a hybrid Alien-Predator mash-up that was formed somewhere in the cosmos. It came from a wicked, face-humping tryst. Yes, folks, we have our first mulatto space mutant. This R rated stress test is sure to ignite theaters across America when it opens on Christmas day. I already know that you can't wait for it. It's starting to look like the best gift this holiday season.
Earlier this afternoon, we were invited into The Strause brothers editing suite, otherwise known as Hydrulx. There, they showed us two quick clips from the movie. Here is what we saw:
The first clip was from about a third of the way into the film. We see one of the Predators' ships release a "pod" which enters the Earth's atmosphere. It turns into a fireball and crashes into a swamp, where a Predator emerges from the water completely cloaked.
He then spots a Predator spacecraft that appears to have crash-landed. He goes in and notices that some other Predators have been killed. He looks around, trying to figure out what has happened. He then grabs as much ammunition as he can find and stores it inside of his "vest" and his side "pockets". He then plants a bomb into the spacecraft, destroying it.
The second clip starts off In a hospital. It looks like a makeshift morgue. There are lots of "bodies" on slabs. A group of humans are going from room to room, floor to floor with heavy guns. Meanwhile, a Predator is in the building. We see one of the Aliens attack it. There are a lot of too-fast-camera-movements. We can't really make out what is going on, but we know these two creatures are fighting each other.
Meanwhile, the humans are also firing on an Alien. There is a lot of fighting. A Predator pulls out a ninja-star-like object and hurls it at an Alien, but a human-woman walks into it and is essentially nailed-dead do the ceiling.
After the clips, we gathered with the two directors for an informal Q&A session. Here is our makeshift press conference with the two directors:
How much longer is the unrated version of this film going to be?
Colin Strause: Well, I can tell you that it is going to be even more intense than the theatrical version.
So, is this the seven or eight minutes that you guys had to cut out of the film to get an R rating?
Colin Strause: No, this is all new stuff that we came up with that is definitely unrated. There wasn't anything that we had to cut to get this to be an R rated theatrical. But there is some new stuff that we came up with afterwards that is very intense.
So, you've gone back and shot even more footage? Is that something that is going to lead into the next film?
Greg Strause: All of the new stuff is in the middle of the movie. There are a few more character development scenes. And a couple of creepy scenes that just didn't make it into the theatrical cut.
But there is nothing that kind of winks at a sequel to this one?
Greg Strause: I think that will be satisfied in the theatrical cut as far as a sequel is concerned.
(The two Brothers show us around their editing suite.)
Colin Strause: This is where we put together all of the CG. We have big plasma screens in the back so that we can watch stuff on a larger scale. One of the cool things that we got to do that Fox doesn't normally allow, is that we got to do all the editorial in-house as well. We got to do all of the DR. In this film here, we had all of the assistant editors. And then we got to edit in the effects facility. Usually, the special effects people are out on an island all by themselves. This way, everybody is able to mingle. We are able to get our stuff done a lot quicker.
Did it take Fox a lot of convincing to have this set up?
Colin Strause: No, they were surprisingly cool about it. We also got to cut everything in Primal Cut. So we cut everything in full HD. Which was something Fox wanted to do. But most editors want to stay on the Avid. When we were working on 300, we had a really good experience working with Primal Cut. So we wanted to try it out on this movie. It is great having everything in full HD.
Fox has recently gotten a reputation for taking films away from directors. Was this one completely under your control at all times?
Colin Strause: Well, we won a lot of our battles.
Greg Strause: There is an interesting layer of politics there. And you have to know how to navigate that. The fact that we got to cut it here was amazing. Some of the head guys would come over, and there would be discussions. They are interesting. Fox likes to test stuff out. And they will sometimes listen to our advice. They will say, "You know what? That was too much." And they will let us take something out, or put it back in.
Are you guys still working on the theatrical cut?
Colin Strause: No, that is done. It is in the can.
Greg Strause: Last week we were still doing some of the color timing on the print.
There isn't much marketing wise at this point. Are they starting to pump that up?
Colin Strause: They just started last week. One of the tricky things is that they have to wait for I Am Legend to blow over a bit. I Am Legend is huge. If we spend all of our marketing budget too soon, we are just going to get lost in the mix, there. You are going to start to see a lot of sporting tie-ins after the 14th. I Am Legend is a juggernaut.
Greg Strause: If we start spending our money too soon, it is just going to get lost in the mix.
What has the experience of taking over this franchise been like for you guys?
Greg Strause: It has been fantastic. Directing movies is the way to go. And this was a good learning experience. The eye opening experience was how much work went into making this film. It was insane. We have got sound guys that have been working on this film for a year and a half. It is quite overwhelming.
Colin Strause: But it has all been good.
Can you talk about the casting?
Colin Strause: With the casting, we got very lucky. We were happy with the cast we got in the end. We would sit in on all of the casting sessions. We tested hundreds and hundreds of people. We cast a pretty wide net out. I think we got the most convincing actors we could. We are not a big movie, so we weren't going to spend huge bank on getting big stars. This was good. It was a long process. Some of the casting went right up to the time we started shooting.
Greg Strause: The Alien and the Predator are the main stars. They are the ones that are going to be on the poster. And we had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their suits. Our idea was to get better stage actors. A name isn't going to sell this film. The Alien and The Predator are.
Does this storyline sort of get back to the originals a little bit more?
Greg Strause: We see this as fitting into the continuity of both the Alien and Predator franchises.
The first Alien vs. Predator switched up some of the continuity. Have you gone back and fixed that?
Colin Strause: Well, we redesigned the alter that Scar's body is on to make the ship a little bit more Predatorish. There are a couple of things that we had to message a little bit to make the movie more of what we wanted it to be.
This is supposed to take place right after the first AVP film, right?
Greg Strause: Yes. We reshot the Predalien birth scene. Yahoo! Movies! actually released the first five minutes of the movie today. There are a few shots missing out of it.
Is it true that you shot some of the Predator's home world?
Greg Strause: Yeah, we have an exterior of the planet. There is a big wide shot of the planet with the wolf ship flying away. And there is a big hole in the temple, where he receives the distress signal.
So, is this teasing another film that may take place on the Predator's home world?
Colin Strause: Yeah, we have told them that this is the end of this story. The next one has to have some space. The way we end this, we make it clear that the next one needs to be a space epic.
Do we get to a point in this film where it is just monsters?
Greg Strause: That is a hard sell.
Colin Strause: Our first pitch was like Dances with Wolves. There was going to be forty-five minutes where there were no spoken lines in the movie. We tried.
Greg Strause: Fox said, "That sounds great. We'll call you."
Can you talk about how you came onto this project?
Colin Strause: Yeah, it happened pretty quickly. We met all of the executives over at Fox. And we'd been doing a lot of work for them. Just a ton of stuff over the years. We pitched on Wolfenstein. Then when this came around, it was all the exact same people. We got our hands on it. We had about a week to put together a visual presentation. We had one really good meeting. And then two other meetings after that. And the gig was book.
Can you talk about the design of the Predalien?
Colin Strause: It was definitely one of the trickier ones. It was something that a lot of people had to see and approve. We had to get everyone on the same page. We had sixty or seventy concepts painted up for the Predator alone. This was all stuff that they didn't use. We looked at that, A whip was just something the concept artist happened to have. This huge bullwhip. As we were over there in the meeting, we thought, "This is about as cool as it gets! We got to put that in the movie!" We did our initial designs in Photoshop with our designer. We showed the guys from ADI what we wanted to do. They would do their paper designs and come up with something kind of close. They would then start building all of these machetes. They would first start with the head, and then they would move on to the full body.
Greg Strause: There were some major concerns. We wanted to keep her very much an Alien. It kept going back and forth on how many predator elements should come through.
Colin Strause: One of the tricky things and the biggest issue was the fact that we were going so dark with the movie. There was going to be a lot of rain and atmosphere. We need to make sure that the normal person watching would be able to tell the difference between the Predalien and the other Aliens. That was one of our biggest tricks. We knew that the hardcore fans would get it instantly. Good design also needs to include those people that don't really give a shit about the movie. They just want to go to the theater and like it. And be entertained for ninety minutes. We had to play to all of those people as well. That was one of the things we had to make sure of. We cheated the pigmentation on her. Made her a little bit more yellow. If you just see flashes of her, even the most general of audience members would be able to keep track of her. At the same time, I'm not watering down the design to make her generic.
Were there key things that you had to include in the design?
Greg Strause: For us, it was about keeping the Alien teeth. Because that is such a distinct part of the character.
Colin Strause: We also wanted her to have the Predator skull under that glass dome. We went back and put that in there. We wanted mandibles on her so that she could wrap around almost like a face hugger in a way. We wanted to make sure she could grab people's faces when she is doing the impregnation thing. In the battle sequences, she looks pretty cool. When the mandibles are closed, she looks more Predator-like. When they open up, you can see the distinct Alien teeth.
People have wanted to see Aliens on Earth for such a long time. How did you approach that?
Colin Strause: The thing that we were trying to be careful of is that we didn't want to have the Alien dancing in front of the McDonalds. We had to think about what our lactations would be. That was one of the first things we said. The power has to get knocked out. And we want it raining. Seeing an Alien in broad daylight or in plain view is just going to look stupid no matter what you do with it. The reason it worked in all of the other films is that you had a dark spaceship. You had flashing lights. You had steam. You had all of these great elements to cover them up. If you don't do that, they are going to look like guys in suits. The first thing we had to insure was the atmosphere. The second thing we wanted to do was make sure we had just the right locations. The first big fight scene happens in an underground sewer network. The next battle takes place in a power plant. There is the rooftop battle. And the national guard battle in the street. In the rain. We picked locations that were earthbound, and yet still reminiscent of the other films. The power plant is still going to look like something out of Alien. We have a lot of warning beacons and steam. Even though it is earth, we didn't want it to look cheesy or anything. We have some very gritty environments.
In the future films, do you think they will get closer to the timeline of the other chapters in these two franchises?
Greg Strause: Yeah, we've been talking very loosely with the writer about what the next one is going to be. We'll wait and see how this one does. We will figure out what the deal is. It will definitely be in space.
Taking the fanboys out of the picture, what did you try to do for general audiences?
Colin Strause: We tried to make a good scary film. We tried to treat it not as a versus movie. People think that those are kind of cheesy. We tried to keep it as real as we could with some of the creatures. We wanted to make a good, scary, dark movie. Our goal was to make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with scary creatures. That is the tone of it.
How do you think this is going to do coming out at Christmas time?
Greg Strause: These movies do great when they come out around that time. People always ask about that. That is a huge movie going week. Everyday is almost like a Friday or a Saturday.
What was the most complicated effects shot to do in the film.
Greg Strause: I am trying to give you an answer without it being a total spoiler. One of the hardest scenes to shoot has still not completely been spoiled yet. It gets too easy to spoil everything. You do an interview, and you give away one little hint, and all of a sudden there is nothing left to find out in the theaters. We try to dampen ourselves on that aspect.
Colin Strause: We had a lot of effects shots.
Greg Strause: There was some pretty intense stuff. Plowing over a bunch of trees, and a big fire, Stuff like that. That stuff was pretty hard. We had to make every tree three-dimensional. So when the ship hits the trees, they have to bend. They had to twist and break as that ship goes over it.
Colin Strause: The trophy room was pretty involved.
Now, where does the Requiem part of it come from?
Greg Strause: That was our attempt to make it more adult.
Colin Strause: We actually can't go on record as saying where that came from. It was really meant to make it more adult. The last one was a little bit more of a normal SciFi. This one is a lot meaner.
How is the working partnership between you two?
Colin Strause: It is great. It is like playing devil's advocate. When you are a director alone on a film, you might not want to ask other people's opinions because they will think you are weak. Here, I am able to turn to my brother and confide in him when I'm not sure something is working right. I can ask if this idea is stupid. And he can go, "Yeah, it is a fucking stupid idea." Or, vice versa. If we have a difference in opinion, we will battle out the idea before we actually get to set. We will look at both sides of an issue, pick the way we think it should go, and stick up for that direction.
You guys used a lot of the actual sound effects that were in the original films. Can you talk about that?
Colin Strause: Yeah, that was really important. In the last movie, we didn't feel that the Predator's vision sounded as cool. All the heartbeats, and all of that stuff. So we pulled all of the original sound effects. Like when all of the Aliens get killed. Those squeals you here in the first Alien? They call that the Peacock Elephant. It was a weird one-off recording, where they were recording in a zoo. And a baby elephant squealed at the exact same time as a baby peacock. That is the exact noise. They use that sound effect over and over again. We did the same. There are original sounds from the Mother Spaceship in the original. The computer. We used that. We just wanted to make the film feel authentic.
Greg Strause: Some of the recordings were starting to show their age, so we laid new recordings on top. But a lot of the fundamental layers were there. The foundation of the sounds in the movie are from the original films.
Colin Strause: We didn't do anything that sounded analogue or antique. We did run the risk of that.
You also have a lot of the same musical score.
Colin Strause: We wanted the score to be a blend of the two franchises. We wanted to keep it familiar. We wanted the bongos in all the keys scenes with all of the Predators. We have that. We also took some music from Alien 3. We wanted to make it have that little bit of nostalgia. We wanted to make it feel familiar. We wanted that old feeling.
Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem opens Christmas Day, December 25th, 2007.