We chatted with the directors of this weekend's big alien-attack movie Skyline. Find out each space invader's name, rank, size and duty — plus how their creepy blue hypnotizing light works, and what's in store for Skyline 2.
Right now it seems like we're hitting the crest for big exploding and awesome alien movies and TV shows once more. What do you think is behind that? Why do you think the public is getting into aliens again right now?
Colin Strause: It's an interesting thing. It's one of those genres, it never really came in waves, and I don't know if it's a District 9 inspired, but it did kind of kick everyone in the ass a little bit. If feels like if comes in waves. Aliens is one of our favorite movies. It was our first real movie-watching experience was watching that film. There are always gaps in between Independence Day and War of The Worlds, it's interesting. I think it's neat because there's a fantasy element to it. There's a big event element too, so you get to incorporate disaster movies, there's even an action movie element to it. So you get a little bit of everything in one. Plus with all the technology advances these days, there's something cool about something bigger, smarter, and scarier that we can't understand. No matter how smart we think we are, something else coming down and kicking our asses is interesting.
It looks like Skyline has all different kinds of aliens in the movie, not just one particular monster. Could you break down the alien ranks in Skyline and what their jobs are?
Colin Strause: Basically the first alien would be the Mother Ships, which are the biggest creatures. Those are big, giant sort of designed off of single-celled organisms. That was kind of the idea. That was one of the cool things about Skyline, which also made it extremely difficult to do, is that every single one of the aliens is unique. It's not like Independence Day where you have the one big metal ship and it's made out of the same factory. Every single one is a different unique creature with its own DNA. Then you have the Tankers which are the King Kong sized entities. They're the heavy-lifters, the clean up crew. There's a few Hydras, which are the big flying around squid creatures. Then there are much smaller, octopus creature, which we call the Drone. It which goes inside the buildings and the tighter spaces, it's the up close and personal creature. There are a couple other ones, that are part of the ending that we don't want to quite give up just yet. But those are the main ones that you see throughout the film.
Why was it important to make all of the aliens different?
Greg Strause: Some of it will be the back story that we want to get into in the next movie, there's a lot of groundwork that we laid out here. Also, having everything be organic was important during the design phase. I think we've been seeing too much metal. Everyone is using metal ships, metal bodies, or some sort of weird ceramics. We just wanted to do something that felt fresh and different. It's a scary thing because its not technology coming down and defeating us. They are literally organisms. Parasites, or however you want to describe them. Something about that felt like a scarier concept.
I'm also curious how the alien light works. We've seen it in the trailers, the aliens have a light that can grab humans. How does that work, is it something they've constructed, or is it organic to the aliens?
Greg: It's kind of connected throughout the alien DNA. [The light is also connected] Throughout the aliens, as you see the different species in the movie, the light energy is connected through them. It's similar to the deep sea fish, who have the blue lures. Col and I had this notion, that Liam O'Donnell and Josh Cordes [the screenwriters] built the story around, wouldn't it be cool if aliens were able to send these lures? They would send them down into the cities, and there would be a mesmerizing beautiful pattern of light, that would get everyone's attention. Then once you looked at it, it would hypnotize you, and you would become a mindless zombie. Once they took control of your consciousness they would lure you out of your structure and into the open. And then, because you are out in the open, you're susceptible, you're vulnerable. They can then easily harvest you and pull you into the air. We thought that was a really cool MO, that hadn't really been done that much with the alien genre. That was the first building block, it went on from there.
Colin: Also most movies alien movies, the aliens always seem to destroying everything, not necessarily for any particular reason other than to be assholes. I think one of the things that we liked about Skyline was that the first wave that they send does no damage. It's literally like all of a sudden, the Earth is a ghost town. And it's not until the clean up crews are sent down, and the humans start to fight back, when we get into the big chaos and destruction. There was something frighteningly efficient about something so instinctively simple. It's like the analogy of a "gapers' delay" on a freeway. If there's an accident, every single person will slow down and look at that accident, no matter how hard you try not to, you will glance over and slow down for a second. And having something that simple and that efficient, they just prey off of human nature. It's cooler than coming down with laser beams and blowing the shit out of us right off the bat, which we've seen a million times. We wanted to do something that was a unique biological attack.
So will this movie end on a cliffhanger?
Colin: It's a very interesting non-studio like ending to this thing. Which was probably one of the more fun aspects of doing the movie.
So is the script written for Skyline 2?
Colin: There's already a 45-page treatment that's already done. We've already got the second one all mapped out, we just need to finish the script.
Does the studio want to to make the sequel?
Colin: We're doing our own thing again. We're going to keep doing these independently, then find a great studio partner for the distribution. The whole plan is we want to keep doing our thing. There was no one else involved in the creative process up front, we got to do our own thing, and take the risks that we wanted. The next one is even more gonzo and it goes to even more really interesting places. We just want to make sure we have those freedom.
How are you handling the accusations from the Battle LA people that they don't like that you two have your own alien movie coming out [after working on special effects for Battle LA?]
Greg: The movies are very different, I think everyone will see that. I think a lot of those concerns will be put to bed rather soon. There's also a sensitive part of it to me, because Col and I already did an alien invasion movie where a platoon of US troops battle aliens in the streets of an American city. We did that movie already, for someone to make accusations that we were trying to capitalize upon their movie in some strange fashion, doesn't make a lot of sense to us. I think it's funny, there are more similarities between Battle LA and the thematic elements of Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem. I think a lot of people overlook that fact. We were doing Avatar before Battle LA came in, was that going to be a problem? Before that we did aliens for the X-Files, a movie called Invasion, Independence Day had a bunch of aliens. We've done so many alien films it's not even funny. And ironically the reason why they came to us is because of how good our [past] aliens are. It's a big manipulation effort and it's a bunch of crap.
I read that you did a lot of the movie in your garage and apartment, any truth to that?
Colin: We filmed some green screen elements in the garage. On this movie, there was only two days of green screen. We did one day of green screen for some elements of people getting sucked up into the air, and we did a one-day green screen shoot for part of the ending. Other than that, the whole movie was shot in Greg's condo, and in that building. In the garage, the valet, the rooftop. The whole thing was shot in that structure.
What's the one scene you can't wait for people to see?
Colin: Reel 5 and 6...
Greg: [Laughs] The third act, the third act. [Laughs]. It's one giant non-stop set piece. That whole third act is a lot of fun.
Skyline opens tonight at midnight.