The Predator Scene That Inspired Prey Wasn't Even In The Original Movie

Among the many memorable moments in "Predator" is the titular alien hunter's showdown with the Native American tracker Billy Sole (Sonny Landham). By this point, director John McTiernan's 1987 movie has seamlessly evolved from another Reagan-era exercise in machismo and jingoism to a sweat-soaked slasher, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as "Dutch" emerging as the Final Girl. In an effort to give the rest of his team time to escape, Billy stays behind to confront the Predator atop a fallen tree trunk hanging over a deep ravine. He even removes his protective vest and slashes his chest with his knife for good measure.

This ... does not end well for Billy, his piercing scream ringing in the air as he's slain off-screen. Yet, it would take 35 years for another "Predator" film to realize the true potential of this scene — a Native American character going head-to-head with a vicious creature from another world, itself an apt metaphor for a colonizer invading their homeland. This is itself the set-up for "Prey," a movie that takes place in the Comanche Nation in the early 18th century, pitting a warrior named Naru (Amber Midthunder) against the first Predator to make its way to Earth.

In an interview with Empire Magazine, "Prey" director Dan Trachtenberg recalled that his parents decided he was too young to see "Predator" when it first came out (and rightly so, he added). Still, he was awed by the way his friends described Billy's last stand, only later learning that it's not actually shown in the film.

'I always wanted to see that movie'

Less is often more when it comes to monster movies, be it how little screen time the shark gets in "Jaws" or the way "Predator" leaves viewers to wonder how, exactly, Billy's death at the hands (er, claws?) of the Predator played out. One need look no further than Dan Trachtenberg for the proof. His imagined version of this scene would ultimately pave the way to "Prey," as he relayed to Empire:

"'Predator' came out when I was in third grade. I was not allowed to see it, and rightfully so! But I was in the van on the way to a karate tournament with a bunch of sixth graders. And they described the entire movie to me, including a beat where Billy, the Native American scout (Sonny Landham), carved into his own chest and fought the predator on a waterfall. And then I saw the movie, and that scene is not really in it! But that always captured my imagination. I always wanted to see that movie, you know. And that is also a part of the genesis of ['Prey']."

After wowing the masses with his feature film directing debut on 2016's "10 Cloverfield Lane," Trachtenberg stealthily began development on "Prey" under the code name "Skulls." He would succeed in keeping a lid on the project's connection to the "Predator" movies for the next four years, even after Disney finalized its purchase of 20th Century Fox's media assets in 2019. Sadly, though, the charade couldn't last forever, and the truth about "Prey" was leaked online in November 2020.

A western without any cowboys

The news about "Prey" emerged two years after the release of Shane Black's "The Predator," a loose sequel to the previous three films in the series that underwent heavy re-tooling in post-production on its way to disappointing both critically and financially. This is part of why longtime "Predator" producer John Davis has been keen to emphasize the idea of "Prey" being a return to "what made the original 'Predator' movie work" in past interviews.

Speaking to Empire, Dan Trachtenberg similarly described "Prey" as a genre mash-up in the same vein as "Predator." But where John McTiernan's movie crosses a 1980s shoot-em-up with a sci-fi horror flick, Trachtenberg sees his film as a sci-fi thriller-meets-period western that centers its Native American characters:

"That was my initial pitch to Fox [before it was purchased by Disney], the notion of how cool it would be to make a movie that focuses on a Native American story, to make a Western that has no cowboys in it. That's a movie which really does not exist. It shockingly doesn't. And I just I wanted to make a movie that would be told primarily visually and through action."

Trachtenberg's words echo what he told us in a recent interview, in which he cited "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Gravity" as the kind of visual-driven survival thrillers he sought to emulate while filming "Prey." At the same time, the movie will break new ground by being available to watch in both English and the Comanche language (something producer Jhane Myers said has "never been done" for his tribe before). Suffice it to say, we've come a ways from Billy's off-screen demise 35 years ago.

"Prey" will be available for streaming on Hulu starting August 5, 2022.