TIFF 2018 Exclusive: Keegan-Michael Key & Thomas Jane Talk The PredatorPosted by Wilson Morales
September 13, 2018
Coming out this week form 20th Century Fox is The Predator, which stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, and Yvonne Strahovski.
Based on the characters created by Jim Thomas & John Thomas, the film directed by Shane Black from a script written by Fred Dekker & Shane Black. The film will hit theaters on September 14, 2018.
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
While promoting the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its World Premiere, Blackfilm.com sat down and spoke exclusively with Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key regarding their experiences working on the film.
This is totally zany from the previous Predator films we’ve seen before. So what was the attraction to saying yes when you read the script?
Thomas Jane: Shane Black. Getting to work with Shane Black and Fred Decker, and trusting that trust. We know going in what the tone is going to be. We know there’s going to be humor, we know there’s going to be heart. What was surprising was that we all got to contribute a lot of improv to the situation.
Keegan-Michael Key: Yeah. It was really quite- I mean, I think the impetus for me doing it was first of all, just allowing me to do something different that I don’t get to do in my career as much, but while anchoring it still in things that I have a facility for.
So doing comedy and also being able to shoot a gun and do action. But very much the same thing that Thomas said is that there’s an aesthetic that Shane Black has with his films that I wanted to be a part of, and so, yeah.
Can you talk about the roles that you’re playing. What’s the appealing aspect of your characters?
Keegan-Michael Key: Well, I think for us, the big thing is that these characters, I believe, are a little more human than the characters in previous movies. It’s like, okay, it’s by the numbers, you’ve got soldiers. By the numbers, you have a heroine in distress. By numbers, you have a bunch of unwitting people who live in a suburb. But for us, our soldiers, this group of soldiers that we belong to, this ensemble, this unit, are these broken, shattered men who are the effect of previous wars. And it’s a movie in a way, is a little bit of a treatise on-
Thomas Jane: Damage.
Keegan-Michael Key: … on damage. The damage that’s done to the people that sacrificed themselves for us, so that we can- I think there’s a line in the movie that goes, “My dad kills people so you can be a mailman,” but that doesn’t mean that he’s not affected emotionally by what he’s done in his life, or that our characters aren’t affected. And so we got to play some layered stuff. I was very happy that I got to be in a movie where I get to crack jokes, and also weep. And then also shoot guns and do flips into the mud. You know what I mean?
Thomas, you’re no stranger to obviously having these guns and action films, but this is somewhat a new fan base of yours, seeing you in this comedic role.
Thomas Jane: Yeah, so it was new for me. I mean, the way Keegan’s coming into a new kind of place in this movie, I feel I was coming into a new place too with bringing some humor, and flexing some improv skills, which thank God we had Keegan around. I mean, he really was the light that we all gathered around and gave us permission to try stuff, and that we normally would maybe be too timid to try. It was a combination of Shane’s giving us the permission to do that, and having some real pros around that can help shape stuff so it doesn’t turn into a giant and mushy mess. For me it was great fun, and it’s something that I hope I get to do more of.
So with obviously Keegan around to help you out, were you able to unleash your funny bones?
Thomas Jane: Exactly. You said it, you just said it. Yeah, Keegan around, I was able to unleash the funny bone. I like that.
For you, obviously, we all know what the comedic aspects you bring to the table, but when you’re doing this action film, this is a whole different take for you from what we’ve seen before. How was it for you?
Keegan-Michael Key: It’s interesting. To me it’s just a lovely, fun opportunity. It’s just exercise in acting. I’m a dramatically trained actor, I’m a formally trained actor, I’m a Shakespearean actor, which doesn’t mean you necessarily have guns. But I think almost as much as the shooting, I was looking forward to the training. I really enjoyed the military training, and us learning the finer aspects of how to use a weapon, and making sure that the brass is ejecting the gun the right way. How do you clear a room-
Thomas Jane: Oh, Keegan was into it, man.
Keegan-Michael Key: … I love it. Covering people. I really enjoyed it, because it’s just another skill that you get to put in the toolbox.
Thomas Jane: Yeah, right?
Keegan-Michael Key: Because I want to be as varied an actor as I can.
Thomas Jane: Yeah, and we get to train with the best. I mean that’s one of the greatest things about being an actor, is when you have to learn new skills, they bring in top quality guys to teach you how to do it. So there’s always something to beat.
This is an ensemble piece, and then when this project is over, do you guys connect afterwards? Or is it just like, “Oh, I worked with him a couple of months ago, a year ago, on this project.” Are you friends afterwards?
Keegan-Michael Key: It depends on the project. I think in this particular case, I have fostered some friendships. Because there had been some other events that have taken place recently. Like I was married recently, we invited-
Thomas Jane: I was really bummed I couldn’t make it.
Keegan-Michael Key: Yeah, he couldn’t. He was working, and he couldn’t come.
Thomas Jane: The fact that he invited me meant a lot to me.
Did you really see all of The Predator films?
Keegan-Michael Key: I did see all of them. In fact, I watched all of them over again as I started the movie, started filming the movie. I used the excuse that I was doing research. When all I really wanted to do was watch the movies again. Yeah, yeah. I watched them all again. I’ve seen the original Predator, it feels like you’ve seen it seven times. I’ve probably seen it two or three times, but I’ve probably seen- I’m the kind of guy that if I’m watching cable one night and I’m channel surfing, as if people still do that, I’m channel surfing. If I see Alien Versus Predator, I’ll watch that all the way through. I’m fascinated by the world, by the world of-
Thomas Jane: Myth of-
Keegan-Michael Key: And the mythos of these creatures.
When you’re working with different directors, you take something that hopefully maybe you’re learning, that he’s bringing something new that you haven’t experienced with other directors. What did you pick up from Shane you can take onto your next project?
Keegan-Michael Key: I think a little bit of confidence I had. I mean, the thing that Thomas is talking about actually comes as a surprise to me, a pleasant surprise to me. But I felt that Shane allowed the collaborative process to exist and take place. And because of that I learned from him that he wants to be creative. So I’m going to assume that directors want to be creative. They don’t necessarily want to be technical all the time.
Thomas Jane: Creative input. A collaborator. You know, instead of just like a hired hand for a guy to say the lines, because we need humans in there to say lines, you’re actually a co-collaborator on the process and creating a lot of what goes into the film.
Keegan-Michael Key: And I feel good. I feel good that we’re given a certain amount of autonomy. That you’re allowed to say- I think maybe on the next movie, I wouldn’t be afraid to say, “Can I ask a question or make a suggestion?” If they say no, they say no, but I think sometimes the asking is the doing. You’ve at least shown, you’ve given notice, that I want to help solve the problems of this piece. I want to do it. I can’t elevate this piece.
So now that you’re in his comedy world, or dramady. Does that help you out for different work? Obviously, when you’re looking at projects, hopefully a producing team can say, “Hey, look at The Predator. Look what he can do here.”
Thomas Jane: Hey, I hope so. I hope Keegan gets to do more action stuff, and I get to do a little bit more dramadie stuff.
Keegan-Michael Key: Well, I would definitely suggest Thomas- I would tell anybody, I would be confident telling anybody if you wanted something that’s new and different in a comedic run, please take a look at Thomas Jane. Because he lands wonderful laughs in this movie. Great solid laughs, and because he does what I think a great- I’m not what you would call necessarily a comedian. That’s the short, short-hand version people use.
Thomas Jane: Right, I agree. Yeah, that’s right.
Keegan-Michael Key: I’m an actor who does comedy, and the thing is, an actor who does comedy is very different than- it’s not bad or good, it’s just different. An actor who does comedy is different than a standup comedian who in a movie.
Thomas Jane: Who’s acting, right.
Keegan-Michael Key: Who’s acting. And I think that we see that number, and I think that Shane made a real concerted effort to hire actors in his movie that could do comedy and have it come across as very organic to the moment that they’re in. To the context in that moment, I should say.
So when you were shooting your scenes, which scene did you get the most kick out of?
Keegan-Michael Key: I still think that hotel scene.
Thomas Jane: The hotel scene was definitely fun to shoot.
Keegan-Michael Key: So much fun to shoot.
How many takes?
Thomas Jane: A lot of improv, a lot of takes, a lot of trying different stuff. Like Keegan was saying earlier, you can cut that scene six different ways using different takes that we all did. You can have six different versions that are just as funny of that scene.
Keegan-Michael Key: And I think we probably did, I’d say we probably did around, I’m pulling this out of the air, about 24 takes. Because I think we did six takes in each set up. Because what will happen, is we would improvise and this is Key and Peele, we did this all the time. You’d improvise in a take, then the script supervisor has to write down all the good little gems we improvise, and then when you turn the cameras around, you got to repeat them all. And then what happens is in the second setup, you come up with two more new jokes, so then you’ve got to add those to the third setup.
When you’re telling people the Predator is coming out, what’s the sell to it? If you’re not a fan of, or you’ve never seen the other Predators? Because Millennials don’t see a lot of these old movies.
Keegan-Michael Key: No they don’t, they don’t, you’re right. I would say that-
Thomas Jane: I think it’s a good ride for women. I think it’s a surprisingly enjoyable action movie that women would enjoy. So dates. Dates, where you’re going to have a great time on this movie.
Take your date.
Thomas Jane: Yeah, whereas usually the woman’s just being dragged along, because she knows that the guy wants to go see the Predator movie. This is why she’s going to walk out and say, “Goddamn, that was fun and I had a good time.”
Keegan-Michael Key: And also I think people should really pay attention to the fact that it’s funny, and their friends- if their friends tell them that are funny, they should take them at their word and go see the movie. They really should. Because the one thing, the new aspect for this Predator movie, is the humor. And that there’s more of it weaved through this piece than had been in the previous ones. If you like scary movies, or you’re kind of like, “Eh,” about scary movies, go see it for the humor, because the scary stuff is clever.