Shane Black was only twenty-five when he arrived in Mexico in the summer of 1986 to act in the first Predator film. Black was given the dubious honor of playing Rick Hawkins, a Special Forces soldier who ends up becoming the first victim in the Predator film series.
More than thirty years later, Black looks back fondly on the making of Predator, a film that Black considers to be one of the greatest genre films ever made. “I think Predator is the ultimate genre film,” says Black. “It was a zeitgeist film. It combined the alien film craze, which was born out of James Cameron’s Aliens, and the Rambo war movie craze. It had mystery and tension, and it was pure pulp entertainment.”
It seems like yesterday when Black took Hollywood by storm with his screenplays for the action films The Last Boy Scout and Lethal Weapon. Now fifty-six years old, Black is at a loss to explain where the time has gone. “I feel old,” says Black. “I didn’t see the time pass. What the hell happened? I remember being a student in UCLA, and then there was Lethal Weapon, and The Monster Squad, and Predator. I really miss those days.”
This wave of nostalgia is precisely what inspired Black to want to return to the Predator film series, as a filmmaker, after more than thirty years. “I wanted to go back in time with this film,” Black, explaining the origins of The Predator screenplay, which Black co-wrote with longtime friend Fred Dekker. “With The Predator, I approached the film as if it was being made back in the 1980s. I wanted to make a 1980s war film and then add in the FX shots later.”
After five Predator films (including the spin-offs Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem), does the Predator film series still have the ability to generate mystery and suspense? Black believes that there are still many interesting questions to answer within the series. “The second film happened, and the other films happened, and now, in 2020, Earth has taken notice that all of these things have happened,” says Black of the film’s premise. “The intelligence community has created a division that’s devoted to responding to predator incursions.”
With The Predator, Black also wanted to further explore the origins of the predator species and the question of why the predators have been visiting Earth. “The predators have been visiting Earth for a long time, possibly since ancient times, and I wanted to explain why,” says Black. “The predators are obviously hunters, warriors, but they also have amazing technology, so the predator planet must be populated by scientists and warriors. We don’t have the ability to build interstellar spaceships, so the predator planet must contain some kind of think tank. From Earth’s perspective, there are technological opportunities.”
Black says that the predators in the film are also motivated by revenge. “There’s a rogue faction within the predator race, and some of them are angry because of what happened in the previous films,” says Black. “They’re angry because, time and time again, the predator warriors have been bested by humanity’s best champions, starting with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in Predator. They want to punch back.”