Audiences may know Boyd Holbrook from his turns in Narcos and Logan, but he's taking the spotlight as the hero of The Predator in Shane Black's coming sequel. As a mercenary working in Mexico when the film begins, it's Holbrook's character Quinn McKenna who will link to the first Predator movie. And when he sees proof of alien life... his own government wants to shut him up.
We had the chance to discuss the challenges of leading a certified action movie, and how he's rising to the occasion when speaking with Holbrook on the movie's set. He explained how a deadbeat dad winds up forging an improvised military unit from soldiers society has largely forgotten. Oh, and how Shane Black's Predator may follow Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins example.
What can you tell us about Quinn? Where did you start with this character?
Where did I start with Quinn? You find him doing missionary work, basically collecting a paycheck. If you got something you need done down in Mexico, I’m the guy. He’s estranged from his wife, he’s detached from his son. I think the heart of the story is about reconnecting, being father to a son and reconnecting... and getting all these Looney Tune guys who have no direction, to give them a sense of purpose. I think ultimately that’s what Quinn finds critical.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is like a mountain in the original Predator, and then you have Danny Glover as an L.A.P.D. everyman in the second one. Where does your character fall in that spectrum?
What I was attracted to in this is that there is this… this franchise lives, as it does, like something like Macbeth or Hamlet... What attracted me to this was that it was a completely new story. If you want to compare apples and oranges, [the first Predator's] story is, you know, he’s an Austrian general or soldier, so that doesn’t really fit. With this character, I think what Shane wanted to do with the entire story is to give it a complete freshness... competitive to the demographic films that are also in this sort of genre. To give it like, a heartbeat. Going away from the sort of machismo, guns and [flexes arms] guns. That’s really what I took away from it. And I love that film! But I think we’re setting out to do something really different here.
You just came out of Logan where you played a bad guy, and now you’re jumping into a hero role. What’s more fun between those two?
I think they’re both pretty fun, you know? And obviously I don’t want to play anything twice, but also I do look to play things that are foreign. So from the last character I played, and I think this is kind of the perfect thing for me because you kind of rinse and dry, you’re so involved in it that at a certain time you just have to, 'OK, I’ve done this.' So I think they’re both fun, but this is a totally different experience. I had four or five, maybe six scenes [in Logan], and this is a totally different ballgame. I’m gonna put this film on my back and walk it to the end zone.
To me, outside of the great story that’s already been written, there’s also different challenges for me just in my own work. Which is to carry a film... play a father, to play a sort of deadbeat dad. So we want to see that deadbeat dad have that redemption, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. Going back to the original film, there was more… I think people didn’t really, really relate to that. I think people really just wanted to be as strong... the imaginary, and the illusion of that. This is something that is more rooted, and connected.
You talked about it being more relatable. Do you feel that kind of plays in to actually be scarier than some of the other ones?
You know, that’s up to… I think what we have here is kind of like a hybrid. You’ll see a true reference to that once you see the film, and what’s going on with all of the Predators. It does play a little slower, maybe like a western, which would lend itself to that thrill factor. And then it’s the western in sci-fi, so I think that would build up to the scares. But also you have what Shane Black is really known for and a master at, which is keeping a scene hinged on what’s rooted... my son, get my son back, I need to save him... and then carving out these comedic moments just off of, for example… [At this point Boyd asks the publicist if he can give examples, which he can].
Just the guys commenting, these Looneys that I’m with. Them having natural responses to what’s going on. And so then you’re having these three things, these three elements that are working: a little comic relief here and there that sort of separates and explains things, and then it tightens with the thriller, and then you have the intensity of the western, just in terms of speed.
So the Looneys have already bonded and have intimate relationships, where Quinn is coming in as an outsider. What is his dynamic with the group?
There’s something that the government wants to put a lid on that I witnessed, and I get into the VA, and I’m sort of teamed up with these guys. In my opinion, unfortunately. They’re a bunch of bozos, maybe schizophrenic, or maybe, I don’t know, PTSD – real issues. So I think I’m stuck with these guys. And what changes throughout the film is that we become a unit, a group of soldiers that we can fundamentally relate to. And I become their leader, which... they’re leaderless, sort of hopeless I think. There’s a lot of redeeming qualities that these guys are searching for.
What’s the relationship like between your character and [Trevante Rhodes's] Nebraska. It is Shane Black, so is there a bit of a buddy-comedy element?
That’s what he’s fantastic at, I think there is an element to that. And I think also, going back to [not wanting] to play the same character, maybe Shane doesn’t want to make the same film, or just have a formula. What happens is Nebraska is probably the sanest of the group. That’s why we get along. I can say as much as that.
When you’re going from Logan into a movie like this, where you have a considerably larger role to play, who do you talk to? How do you prepare more? I don’t want to call it a graduation, but...
Really, nothing’s changed for me. I’ve always worked with the same… I went to drama school, so I worked with a guy named Terry Knickerbocker. I basically prep, rehearse everything the same way. We’ll spend a couple of months trying out stuff, finding things. This is just a lot more physical training, tactical stuff. But yeah, it takes a village, I think. I have a voice coach that I check in with, you know, if my character is from certain areas, to make them specific. I worked with Terry, I’ve worked with movement people, I’ve talked to other actors. It’s a slow process, but it forms after a time.
How does Quinn come to terms with the fact that aliens exist?
What is interesting, if I may say… I don’t what I can say or can’t say, but...
We know that you've already seen something.
I’ve seen something, and maybe there is a familiarity. I wouldn’t want to say that he’s a UFO conspiracy theorist, but he’s heard of things, and seen things, and that may be a reference to the original [movie]. So that’s the reference to the original, which we are keeping in lineage.
That has to do with Quinn's time in Mexico?
Yes, absolutely... How I come to terms with the aliens is basically how a lot of people do [Laughs]. What would you do? I think there’s many different levels to it, because of the consistency as we’re traveling through this film... It's that, yes, it could be shock. It could be anything. But it’s lifetime experience that is still there. Then we have to jump into our rules as soldiers and try to combat this thing.
Have you worked yet with the guy in the Predator suit?
Was that an experience that's going to stick with you?
The talent behind creating the Predator on this one is pretty phenomenal. They’ve had 30 years to kind of up their game, and they have. We’re doing a lot of interesting takes on this. Surprising things, I think. This is definitely an experience that I will not forget.
Shane has said that he doesn’t want it to just be another Predator sequel, but an event movie. What do you make of that statement?
I’m not really... sure what 'event movie' means. That it’s just a particular one-off thing or…?
Like a 'Must-See' movie.
Well, I think the dynamic of this is going to be… when people talk about reinventing, and I think Christopher Nolan is really the only person that’s taken a franchise that people love, and given it a complete freshness. I think that’s what Shane is doing with this. Taking elements that are already pre-existing, in the past franchise, and reinventing them. For example, the Looneys. He’s designed this great group of guys who are so distinct. But if you reference back to the 1987 version, it was very kind of um… I hate to say bland, but… bland. The Native American had the bandana, Jesse [Ventura] had the tobacco, he was the cowboy. It was just like, kind of face value. And I think what’s happening on this one is so much more depth... I think people are going to be blatantly surprised. If you’re expecting anything like the old Predator, you’re gonna be wrong. And I think that would make that... 'Holy shit, they did that?!
Does Shane talk about his experience in the 1987 film?
Sure, absolutely. I think he had it on repeat for about two weeks in the production office while we were training. So you got to ask him anything you wanted to ask him. You also have someone who was so close to it, who’s then gone off for the last 30 years in his craft. I mean, his life exploded. Then taking that sort of closeness and familiarity to it and reinventing. It’s special to me.