Filmmaker John McTiernan Celebrates 35 Years of Predator

One of the greatest action movies of all time, 1987’s Predator, has turned 35 years old. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead, Predator follows an elite paramilitary unit on a rescue mission in Central America as an extraterrestrial creature hunts them. John McTiernan directed the film from an original screenplay by Jim and John Thomas.

Predator was released to mixed reviews initially, but over time it has become regarded as a quintessential action movie and holds a special place in pop culture. Predator spawned a successful franchise of video games, novels, comic books, toys, and cross-overs with the Alien franchise. And it all began as a teenager’s action fantasy, as per director John McTiernan.

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McTiernan, who is best known for making arguably the greatest action film of all time, Die Hard, will be honored at the London Action Festival this week. Predator will also screen at the festival, and McTiernan sat down with Radio Times ahead of his big day to talk about some behind-the-scenes secrets of the 1987 classic.

“You had a 14-year-old boy making it—me!” McTiernan said of the film’s over-the-top nature. “It was clear that was where the heart of the movie should be.” The director further revealed that Predator ditched accuracy and feasibility for entertainment value, like Jesse Ventura’s outrageously huge gun.

“We went to the armorer and they showed us all these guns and I started, like a 14-year-old, mixing and matching. We made up several guns, like Old Painless – that’s supposed to be mounted on a helicopter, it was never supposed to be carried by a man”

In another instance of his adolescent mindset, McTiernan recalled the two-minute shooting scene in which all the characters empty their clip at the Predator, barely grazing it. Predator was McTiernan’s second feature film, and he wasn’t used to the studio’s politics, so when one executive pushed him to include more “gun pornography,” the director had the perfect answer.

“There was a studio executive who kept giving me s**t that I wasn’t doing enough shots of the barrels of guns – he wanted gun pornography, it was terrible. Finally I got mad and I said, ‘Alright, I will give you a gun scene that ends all gun scenes. I will give you so much gun pornography that you just don’t need anymore.’”

Predator Was Ahead of Its Time

Predator embodies the ’80s with its insane, testosterone-fueled action and machismo, but it’s so much more than that. The film maintains an atmosphere of dread throughout its runtime, something the sequels have failed to replicate except for 2010’s Predators. Predator also features a unique score by Alan Silvestri and groundbreaking practical effects devised by Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator, The Thing). That’s one of the reasons why Predator still stands out today, and McTiernan couldn’t agree more.

“As soon as the audience knows that it’s a computer-generated effect, you’re in storybook land. It’s not a movie anymore. It’s no longer real to them. The audience drops out. So while I’ve always used some computer effects, I tried to hide them.”

While Predator has aged incredibly well, other films in the series have failed to live up to its standards, with 2018’s The Predator almost running the franchise into the ground. But that’s about to change with Hulu’s upcoming prequel, Prey, set nearly 300 years before the original.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Boys), Prey is receiving overwhelmingly positive early reviews, with Amber Midthunder earning universal acclaim. Hopefully, the audiences will be on the same page as well.

Prey premieres on Hulu on August 5, 2022.