Available on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD beginning October 3rd is the critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated movie ‘Prey,’ which is the fifth film in the main ‘Predator’ series and the seventh overall in the franchise, and was directed by Dan Trachtenberg (’10 Cloverfield Lane’).
What is the plot of ‘Prey’?
Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, ‘Prey’ is the story of a young woman, Naru (Amber Midthunder), a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to prove herself a worthy hunter. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien Predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.
Who is in the cast of ‘Prey’?
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Dan Trachtenberg about his work on ‘Prey,’ the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray, reinventing the ‘Predator’ franchise, designing the primitive Predator and his weapons, casting Amber Midthunder, his original plan for the film’s dialogue to be completely in Comanche, the movie’s surprising Emmy-nominations, and his plans for a possible sequel.
You can read the full interview below or click on the video player above to watch our interview.
Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about reinventing the ‘Predator’ franchise and taking it back to its roots with ‘Prey’?
Dan Trachtenberg: Honestly, I didn’t really come at this thinking, “I want to make a ‘Predator’ movie. I’m going to make a prequel and I’m going to do this.” I really came at it from wanting to make a period science fiction film and make a movie that could be primarily told with action, but that wasn’t just a visceral experience, and that could be a really emotional one as well. So I thought about maybe taking the engine of a sports film, of an underdog story and infusing that into this other genre. When thinking of underdogs, I started thinking about, well, what’s a protagonist that we rarely see on screen? Then I went to Native American and Comanche in particular, who have historically been so often relegated to playing the sidekick or the villain and never really the hero. Then when thinking of what that period was and what science fiction element could feel right, not like a bad mixture, but more like that peanut butter and jelly that really would go great together. The ‘Predator’ came to mind because it’s what it represents thematically and that it’s always coming hunting, searching for the alpha, seemed to make so much sense with what our protagonist story is dealing with. The period sci-fi of it all just sort of melted together.
MF: In commentary on the Blu-ray, you mention that the original plan was to have all the dialogue in the movie be in Comanche. Can you talk about that idea and when you decided to not go in that direction?
DT: Yeah, that was the initial concept. I think just as it evolved, it started to feel like that wouldn’t be possible and was certainly quite an intense undertaking as even just filming part of the movie in Comanche. As I mentioned, I think in the commentary and some of the special features, it was originally the opening sequence and then there was a transition. Because there’s a few different languages in the film already, all of that started to feel very confusing as we started to test the film. So as we moved towards English being the primary language, we luckily found a way, especially guided by Jhane Myers our producer who’s Comanche herself, and found a way to do this Comanche language dub of the film. We’ve come a long way with our ability and technology in movie dubs. It’s not like our memory of old ‘Godzilla’ films. So yeah, we got to make a movie with a version of the film that functions as a bit of language preservation in some regard, and also is the more authentic version of the movie.
MF: The Blu-ray also includes three deleted scenes including an alternate opening sequence. Can you talk about those scenes and why they were ultimately cut from the movie?
DT: So the opening sequence, it was more oriented to the dynamics of the band and less about Naru and her relationship with her brother, which we realized was the primary focus of the movie. It was very tricky also in navigating language. I really thought initially that we could pull off the thing that ‘The Hunt for Red October’ does, that a number of films do, including another John McTiernan film, ‘13th Warrior.’ It’s also worth mentioning that the original ‘Predator’ was also directed by John McTiernan. So it felt like, “Oh, we can do it,” but it just felt too heavy-handed in the language of our movie and the aesthetic of our movie to do something so aggressive. So we moved off of that. Then there’s another deleted scene with Naru and a young girl in her band that came up in the commentary that I had forgotten about until Amber had mentioned as we watched the movie together. According to the commentary, she mentions that one scene that didn’t make the final cut, that when we shot it was a moment that her character Naru really coalesced. Really what it was for me was a couple of things. One, this is a relationship between an older woman and a young girl that we don’t often see in movies like this, and there was a softness to it that we don’t often see in movies that are this aggressive, that I love aesthetically. There’s wind blowing through her hair and it was so elemental. Also, Amber’s physicality as we were still trying to figure it out as Naru, there was just something in her performance that we were able to look at and find our way through the rest of the movie after we’d shot that scene. Then there’s this awesome Previs that was meant to be a really exhilarating treetop chase sequence, and I loved that there was this very clever use of the Predator’s cut clamp weapon that Naru was turning against him. But our schedule was getting tighter and tighter, and that’s a giant sequence that I was a little bit anxious about how we could execute it effectively because so much of the movie has such a grounded aesthetic. We were building trees, we had blocked off this parking lot outside of our stage to start building trees, but the schedule was tight and I could have fought to squeeze it in, and instead I allowed it to be a bit of a negotiating chip to buy myself more time for filming other things. Then it allowed us to have a montage sequence of Nadu preparing to take down the Predator and set her traps. That made Naru in the end scene that was there in any version much more clever in that sequence and helped for some clarity issues. So ultimately I do feel confident that it was a wise decision, but I also love that it’s now available for people to see. It’s fun to see what filmmakers, we look at all the time, this animatic Previs, which now people at home can see what it looks like before we shoot the movie.
MF: Can you talk about casting Amber Midthunder, what she brought to Naru and the direction that you wanted the character to go in?
DT: All props to our casting director Renee Haynes, who had to find a lot of awesome, largely unknown actors. Amber was a little more known and when I first met her, I knew right away that she was the one, but we still put her through her paces. We had her audition and screen test performing one scene three ways in English, in Comanche, and silently, a dialogue scene without any words. She was tremendous and emotional, and so much of this movie is nonverbal so that was just such a key piece to see that she had inherently. Then there’s a physical portion of the audition, all of it, even in the physical portion, it wasn’t just, “Look at how physically capable she is.” It was like, “Oh, she’s still storytelling even when she’s just hopping over some mats and sliding under a broom.” She was great. The experience of making it, not only was it fun because she’s a good human and it easily could have been very unfun. We were in very uncomfortable places like mud and dangerous cliffs and things. A lot of opportunity to have a bad attitude and it never went there. She was amazing. Our crew was amazing. I count ourselves lucky to have had such a great experience just in the making of the movie.
MF: Since this movie is set before the original ‘Predator,’ can you talk about the specific look you wanted for the Predator character and making his weapons primitive but still advanced for the time?
DT: There was a real high wire act as we were in the development and prep phase of finding a way that we could visually tell the story that this is a creature that is prior to the ones we’ve seen before, but not letting go of the premise. The fun of the premise is here’s someone with very Earthly means up against something that is beyond, the “David versus Goliath” of that. So we found a way to blend more analog weaponry, but still with tech infused. So there’s a shield and there’s bolts, but the bolts are laser guided and the shield is deployed in a very advanced way. He’s less armored, the creature, than we’ve seen before, but still has some tech and the mask is a piece of technology, yet it is made of bones and embraces more the ethos, the sort of guiding principle of the predator, which is a trophy hunter, so it’s wearing its trophy on its head, and on its face. We definitely crossed lines over and over in prep, of is this too far forward, is this is too advanced, and on the other side, what I feared was in making it less advanced, I never wanted to make it easier. Like, “Oh, that’s why this character can take down the Predator. We made it easier for them,” and that’s not what we wanted to do. So I think in the end we struck a nice balance.
MF: Do you have ideas for more films in this series, and would they be direct sequels to ‘Prey,’ or would you continue to examine the Predators visits to Earth in different time periods?
DT: I definitely can’t speak to any specifics, but to answer your first question, yes, I have had lots of ideas about what to do. I think there’s so many awesome things and the primary focus when I was thinking of all the cool things to do and all of my collaborators thinking of what more could we do was not just to merely tell the next minute of the story that was established in this film. That this movie I think does something special, and the idea would be in going forward, if we were to ever make a sequel, that it also could be special. What else is there in ‘Predator’ fiction in any of the universe or even this genre of movie that hasn’t been done before? Those are the things that excite me the most. So those are the kinds of things we were thinking about.
MF: Finally, congratulations on the film’s Emmy nominations. Since the movie was originally intended to be a feature film, were you surprised to be nominated for an Emmy?
DT: Sure was. Definitely. Certainly you go in making a movie and you don’t think an Emmy is in your future, is part one of that. Part two of that is you make a ‘Predator’ movie filled with spine rips and head slices and you don’t think Emmy. Obviously, we put a lot of blood and sweat into trying to make the movie much more than those things, but still it is remarkably cool of the TV Academy to recognize a movie like ours.
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