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Amber Midthunder On Making Indigenous Sci-Fi Action Films And Working With Chaotic Movie Dogs - Exclusive Interview

"Prey," the newest film in the long-running "Predator" franchise, immediately sets itself apart by going to the one place the franchise's canonical films never have: into the past. This outing takes place 300 years ago, following Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman who seeks out a dangerous hunting trial in order to become a recognized hunter in her tribe. She encounters an entity that she was unprepared for — a Yautja who has come from the stars to find and kill the ultimate predator. Naru must survive the deadly being and kill it at all costs to protect her tribe in the stunning action-horror project.

The movie boasts strong action sequences, terrific attention to detail, talented performances, and more. In advance of the film's premiere, Looper spoke with star Amber Midthunder about the film's efforts to accurately capture the world of the Comanche in that era, the elaborate training the cast went through, working with her canine co-star, and more.

Midthunder initially didn't know it was a Predator film

"Prey" was a great feature, and you were stellar in it. How did you get attached, and were you already a fan of the franchise?

I auditioned the conventional way. An audition came to me, and I did not know that it was a "Predator" film. I just knew that it was a movie about a young Comanche woman set in the 1700s and that she wanted to be a hunter and that Dan [Tractenberg] was attached. The first time I auditioned for it was [around] February of 2020 with Dan, and I connected with [the character] for some reason. Dan is an incredible director, so that was enough for me to feel interested. Then COVID happened and it disappeared, and then it came back a while later and I didn't know, again, what it was.

Eventually, I found out what it was and I cried anxiety tears, and then I was excited and went back and watched all the films. I was familiar with them, but more in the way of pop culture, because it really is permeated into jokes that you hear, or famous lines, or memes, or stuff like that, and you don't realize until you go back and watch it, like, "Oh my gosh, I recognize that. I know that. I've heard that before. I've seen that." That kind of stuff was really cool.

Your character was so interesting because she's breaking norms and she's kicking butt the entire time. Could you talk to me a little bit about her, the challenge she undertakes, and why she's willing to risk everything to protect her tribe?

First of all, thank you — I do think she's interesting as well! She is very determined and very stubborn in the way that she has chosen this or feels drawn to it and believes in it. The more people tell her "no," the more she wants to prove "yes," so that's something that is relatable. Also, you see her waver, you see her doubt, you see her fail and then have to readjust and strategize, and feel determined, and dust herself off and keep going. That, whether you're in a period piece or in whatever, is really interesting.

They built on the world and the characters as much as possible before shooting

One thing that is interesting is that, of the canon movies, this is the first time a "Predator" film has really gone into the past. What do you think of that?

It's a commendable idea in a lot of ways, that Dan [Trachtenberg] and 20th Century developed this idea and got behind it. As far as a "Predator" concept, it is very interesting to go back and to see his weaponry and his technology, and [to see] the design of the Predator be different than anything you've seen in any of the other movies. Then on top of that, to have an indigenous sci-fi-action movie, [it] is not something that you see often — maybe ever. That obviously opens itself up to a lot of cool opportunities.

You also seemed pretty adept with weapons. Your character certainly is, and you get a lot of time with that axe ... what training did you undergo?

We had a four-week boot camp that we did in Calgary before we started shooting. Weapons training was a huge part of it, and we worked with a stunt team, and we worked with a personal trainer and all that kind of stuff. [We also] developed a sign language that you see some of in the movie that was based off of real Comanche sign language, so [we] built on the world and the characters as much as possible before we started shooting.

I hope you continue throwing axes at random things.

I actually bought my dad, before this movie, a set of throwing axes for Father's Day, and then I got cast in this movie and I was like, "Hey, that's going to good use!"

You also get the privilege of working with a very talented canine co-star. What was that like?

That was chaotic. That dog — her name is Coco — she was so high energy, and she's not been trained as a movie dog. She literally got adopted to do this movie. They found her to be the most accurate to the region and the time period, so that was why they got her and trained her just to do this movie. Everything that you see turned out beautifully ... but I can tell you the days with her around were not like that. They were very fun, and I love her, she's so cute, but it was not ... the [fictional] dog and the dog Coco are two very different dogs.

"Prey" premieres August 5 as a Hulu Original.

This interview was edited for clarity.