Starring Vivica A. Fox as the President of the New United States of America and following a group of military veterans on a deadly mission in space, Crossbreed is coming to On Demand on February 5th from Uncork'd Entertainment. To celebrate the sci-fi action movie that pays tribute to Aliens and ’80s Cannon films, we caught up with director/co-writer Brandon Slagle for our latest Q&A feature, and we've also been provided with an exclusive clip to share with Daily Dead readers!
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, and congratulations on your new movie, Crossbreed! How and when did you and co-writer Robert Thompson come up with the idea for this film?
Brandon Slagle: Thank you very much! The general DNA for Crossbreed has been around for a few years. There was a script called Nebulus I’d written for a Syfy Channel pitch around 2011 that was conceptually similar, except it took place on an alien world. A group of mercenaries much like the ones in Crossbreed crash-landed on an alien world after a world war encounter with the indigenous inhabitants of the planet. Mayhem ensues.
A character named “Crowe,” mourning the death of his family (much like Stink Fisher’s “Ryker” character in Crossbreed) ends up becoming the unofficial leader in their quest for survival. The script didn’t get greenlit for whatever reason, but I held onto the basic idea of it, so when our investors indicated they wanted to do something in the science fiction realm, I dug up the idea and Robert wrote a new take on it.
His first draft of it ended up being almost 80% of what the final film became. He did a couple of more passes, then I did a final shooting draft that tailored some of the roles to the actors (such as Vivica A. Fox and Daniel Baldwin, etc).
Where did filming take place, and what was your shooting schedule for Crossbreed?
Brandon Slagle: We shot one day in Los Angeles, then the rest in Buffalo, New York, and Niagara Falls, though mostly Buffalo. There’s a historic shipyard near downtown Buffalo that’s been converted into a World War II museum, which is where about 60% of the movie takes place. With some clever lighting and production design courtesy of Director of Photography Johnny Kearns and Production Designer Miranda Miraposa, the hallways of the ships were able to provide a great “used future” look and feel of the space stations we spend most of our time on.
Beyond that, we shot at a Vascular Research Facility in downtown Buffalo, a former mill called “Silo City” that’s just outside of downtown, and a handful of other locations throughout Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
I believe the final shooting schedule was only about 14 or 15 days which, while this sounds frightening, has become the standard template for the schedules of MOST direct-to-video style action movies these days. In the past they’d shoot for a solid month to six weeks—now we get 1/5 the budget and half the schedule. This is really because the sales models of many sales agents and distributors have changed with the demise of video stores and the advent of video on demand. Smaller movies had to get cheaper to make a profit.
You worked with a great cast on this movie, including Vivica A. Fox as the President of the New United States of America. Did you and Thompson write that role with Fox in mind, and what was it like to collaborate with Fox to tell this story?
Brandon Slagle: At first we offered the role to a number of different people, from Emilio Estevez to Denise Richards. None of them felt like the “right” choice, however.
We thought of Vivica because she shared the same agent with our Superproducer Devanny Pinn. Something about it just felt like a lightning bolt, like it had to happen. She has a charisma and warmth that really comes through on camera, as well as a fantastic presence. It had to happen and thankfully, it did. These traits also translate to her off camera as well—she proved to be a fantastic collaborator and a very genuine human being.
Do you have any favorite movies, TV series, or books that inspired you while making Crossbreed? It definitely seems like Crossbreed has an Aliens vibe with its military characters in a sci-fi setting.
Brandon Slagle: It’s a huge mix of 1980s Cannon Films—I keep saying this would totally be a Chuck Norris movie if it was made in the 1980s. I’ve been lucky to have met and been told “war stories” from numerous people who worked with Cannon back in their heyday, so I’d like to think Crossbreed embodies a similar flavor.
Of course there’s also obvious nods to Predator, I Come in Peace, RoboCop, the underrated Split Second, Aliens—lots of callbacks and name references. For instance, people are picking up that the President’s last name is derived from Lance Henriksen. Her first name “Ellen” is a nod to Ellen Ripley (I’ve not seen that one pointed out yet). Weathers is from Carl Weathers, Miller is from Frank Miller, Murphy is from Alex Murphy (aka RoboCop), etc., etc.
My personal favorite, though, is the serious discussion about Timecop. I’d like to think that Timecop really does become so revered by 2060.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or funny moment that stands out?
Brandon Slagle: So much of it is a blur! When you do these films where there’s never enough money or time, but you still want to pack it with production value and scale, everything becomes sort of a memory of a dream after the fact.
One thing I DO remember clearly, though, aside from some of Daniel’s should-be-a-movie-of-their-own show business tales, would be the “cocoon” scene where the alien molts into a “Mach 2” version of itself. Todd from MastersFX provided us with some GREAT pieces we built into this scene, which became many of the crew’s favorite scenes to work on and shoot. It was a rare day when we’d be lucky enough to finish early, so we really just got to take a few moments to sit back and be creative and really geek out over what we were doing. You HAVE to give producer/actress Devanny Pinn and actor/stuntman Michael McIntyre (who played the larger version of the alien) credit for the fantastic physical performances they gave to really knock this sequence out of the park.
What do you hope viewers take away from Crossbreed?
Brandon Slagle: I really just want people to get rowdy and have a great time with it. I’m not going to act like it’s trying to be anything more than it is. Like I said, it’s like an ’80s Chuck Norris movie in space, and of course it’s loaded with nostalgia. Of course not everyone will love everything, but if people have a good time with it, then we’ve done our job.
In addition to writing and directing, you have a lot of experience as an actor. Does that experience in front of the camera help you behind it as well?
Brandon Slagle: Most definitely! So, I “quit” acting in 2014 after doing a final spot in my friend William Kaufman’s Daylight’s End. I’d just lost the taste for it and felt I could be more effective behind the camera. My performances, in hindsight, were drastically erratic in their quality, most likely because I was always so concerned with what was going on behind the camera.
Anyway, even though I lost my passion for that end of it, I’d like to think my best takeaway from it, after working on small direct-to-video horror all the way to movies like Argo, was how to approach and work with a wide variety of actors, from those newer in the business to veterans like Jon Voight and James Caan.
It really all comes down to this, though: no matter how “famous” an actor is, remember they’re all only human. If you approach someone like a human being, you’ll connect with them and figure out what makes them tick, and ultimately get the best you can out of them.
With Crossbreed coming to On Demand on February 5th from Uncork’d Entertainment, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers follow your work online?
Brandon Slagle: While Crossbreed was in post, we shot a period piece/thriller called The Dawn with Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls), Stacey Dash (Clueless), and Teilor Grubbs (Hawaii 5-0) playing totally against type alongside Devanny Pinn, Ryan Kiser, Heather Wynters (American Horror Story), David Goryl (There’s Something About Mary), and more. We just completed it, so you should be hearing more of that soon. It’s definitely the same vibe as something like the Lou Diamond Phillips-starrer The First Power, and pretty stylish.
In a few weeks I start on the Mahal Brothers-produced Attack of the Unknown, which is much in the same vein as Crossbreed, sort of Assault on Precinct 13 meets Aliens. This one stars Richard Grieco, Tara Reid, Robert LaSardo, Doug Tait from the new Hellboy, Jolene Andersen, and more.
Beyond that, there’s always things in the early stages, a few scripts I’m attached to, but these things can sometimes drastically change, so I don’t want to say more yet.
Thanks for your time, Brandon!
Brandon Slagle: Thank you very much! And also thank you for being so supportive over the years. That means quite a bit to my team and I.