The crowd at San Diego Comic-Con was assembled to watch footage from Shane Black’s new take on The Predator, but Sterling K. Brown had something else he wanted us to see.
“Thomas, would you do everybody a favor?” said Brown, staring down the dais at his Predator costar Thomas Jane. “Would you show them your feet real quick?”
Jane was hesitant.
“Just put your feet on the table,” said Brown, who then turned to the audience. “Thomas doesn’t wear shoes,” explained the This Is Us star, producing perhaps the most significant crowd murmur of the hour-long action-movie panel.
“As a black man who has fought really hard to get good tennis shoes and have coverage on his feet … this is a white man who’s like, ‘Fuck it,’” said Brown, who noted that Jane has been living a shoeless life for years now, a habit that persisted even on the very cold set of their film. “The guy walked everywhere in Vancouver in the middle of winter with nothing on his feet. I’m like, ‘God, no! Evolutionally, you should be cold right now!’ I found that fascinating, Thomas and his naked feet. This is just something I’ve always wanted to address.”
“I like to touch things with my feet,” Jane said meekly.
The Predator films are not known for their jokes … at least, not any intentional ones. Black, however, has an irreverent streak that shows in his films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, and he has brought a sense of humor to this new Predator installment that persisted all the way to Hall H today. The new footage shown at Comic-Con had more funny business then alien-fighting, and Black stacked his cast with actors who know their way around a punchline both onscreen and off, like Keegan-Michael Key and Olivia Munn.
“I don’t understand how we got anything done, because we were having fun all the time,” said Key, who plays one of a group of ex-soldiers who try to fight off a Predator assault on suburbia. During the shoot, Key would invite his co-stars to watch blaxploitation flicks, YouTube videos, and campy cult classics like The Room in his trailer, then conspire to sneak their favorite lines and moments into The Predator. One particular line from Dolemite — “Bitch, are you for real?” — was Key’s pet cause. “I tried six times to get it in,” said Key. “I saw the alien for the first time: ‘Bitch, are you for real?’”
“That’s why Keegan’s not in the movie that much,” said Jane.
Black did his best to actually discuss what the film is about, but it was a mostly fruitless cause, derailed by his joke-slinging cast. Touting an even bigger Predator that appears in this installment, Black said, “They might not be above a little bit of ‘roiding, so to speak.”
“Like hemorrhoids?” said Jane.
Black decided to run with it, imagining a different way for the Predators to go about a plan of earthly domination. “If they could develop a pill that would give humans hemorrhoids, they would just come through and we would be … well, embarrassed, really.”
Mostly, the cast just fielded questions about who might want to romance a Predator — “I know they have furries, but do they have spikies?” Black pondered — and spent nearly half the panel debating which pop culture characters could defeat the Predator in a fight. Ripley, yes. John Wick, no. And how about Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War? Black, who helmed his own Marvel movie with Iron Man 3, had a bone to pick about the purple baddie and his inconsistent powers.
“Does this bother anybody else?” he asked. “At one moment, there’s a train coming at him and he can turn it into a flock of birds, and the next moment, it’s like, ‘Spider-Man? Oh my God, he’s got webbing!’” As per usual, Black was just joking … well, mostly. “I love the movie,” he said. “It’s just, the kid had to do something.”