To a generation of teenage boys, the sci-fi action film "Predator" offered a testosterone-fueled ride that left them breathless for more. It had everything: Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped almost to bursting, a 7-foot-2 alien hunter with dreadlocks, and commandos with very big guns.
Adrien Brody, the Oscar-winning star of "The Pianist," still remembers seeing the movie when it opened in June 1987, sitting in the front row smoking a cigarette in a theater in Queens, N.Y. He could not have imagined what will happen today in theaters across the country: Brody will be the hero squaring off against a bunch of alien hunters in "Predators," the newest chapter in the saga that filmed on the Big Island last September and October.
"It’s a big coup for me, a big deal for me, and I am very protective of this material. I am a big fan of the original," he said last week during a recorded question-and-answer session with reporters.
"Predators" also stars Topher Grace, Alice Braga and Laurence Fishburne. The characters – all of them killers – find themselves transported to an alien planet where they discover they’re the game in a game preserve.
It will take a sharp eye to spot the Big Island locations. "Predators," which spent about $7.5 million on the Big Island, was filmed on mostly private property near Keaau and Waipio Valley, as well as the county’s Kole Kole Beach Park near Hilo, said John Mason, Hawaii County film commissioner. Much of the jungle landscape had never been filmed before, he said.
"While we are no strangers to film production, there are still many, many locations that have not been filmed," Mason said. "There is a great deal of untapped potential here."
The film from producer Robert Rodriguez, himself a huge fan of the original and its sequels, not only redefines the franchise but also the 37-year-old Brody.
"I’ve looked long and hard for an opportunity like this," Brody said. "It’s not something I just decided upon lately. It’s a challenge when you have established yourself as a certain type of actor or an actor who has not had an opportunity to be seen in a physical role like this."
Brody transformed himself for the part through a weightlifting regimen, a strict diet and by living alone in a bungalow on the Big Island property where they filmed, reading military manuals and field guides.
"That created a shift in how I felt," he said. "There was an increased level of testosterone. I felt more ferocious."
Actor Walton Goggins plays a serial killer whisked from death row. Fans will recognize him for his antihero roles in the television series "The Shield" and "Justified." He said that every day of filming, which was also done at Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios in Austin, Texas, was a challenge.
"The movie started off in Hawaii and it was 95 degrees and 80 to 95 percent humidity, so we were all soaking wet for most of the day," he said. "And where we were filming, I think the biggest predators that aren’t seen in this movie were the mosquitoes, which were enormous."
On a set that required them to get sweaty and grimy, the blood on their skin was sometimes their own. Brody nearly poked out an eye. Goggins scraped his knuckles on the armorlike costume worn by the towering actors playing the alien hunters.
When Brody saw the finished product, he was awe-struck. He called the experience "a gift."
"It brought me back to being a child and watching ‘Predator,’" he said. "I love this movie and that’s me in it. It was so exciting."