Predator actor Dane DiLiegro on creature roles and ‘Prey’

Dane DiLiegro’s palms are as meaty as beefsteaks. He may maintain a whole deck of playing cards — fanned out — with out anybody seeing them.

“They’re butcher’s hands” provided Dario Cecchini, an eighth-generation butcher in Tuscany, the place DiLiegro has deboned cattle just about each summer time since 2016. And people palms cradled a basketball like a protecting father throughout the eight seasons through which DiLiegro performed skilled hoops abroad.

Currently, his palms are typically swathed in rubber gloves, typically balled into fists the scale of honeydew melons, typically enhanced with 4-inch talons that will make Barbra Streisand envious. DiLiegro has shortly turn into one in all Hollywood’s high “creature actors.” Sheathed in form-fitting, foam-and-latex get-ups, he seems on-screen within the guise of ghouls, house aliens and no matter a screenwriter can dream up. It’s an inside job for which he’s notably nicely suited.

Having already amassed credit together with “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story,” DiLiegro now has the lead — or extra precisely, the featured creature — within the seventh installment of the Predator franchise. Titled “Prey,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) and starring Amber Midthunder because the very human heroine, it begins streaming Aug. 5 on Hulu.

Just like the monster within the unique 1987 sci-fi motion horror movie, DiLiegro’s Predator is a writhing, heat-seeking extraterrestrial with superhuman energy and the power to vanish into its environment. “I shot the entire movie essentially blind, with my head in the neck of this being,” he stated. “In order for the Predator to look forward, I had to stare at my feet through two tiny neck holes. Sticks were laid on the ground so I’d know where to walk or run.”

Amber Midthunder and Dane DiLiegro because the Predator within the film “Prey.”

(David Bukach)

Throughout one scene, DiLiegro’s fiberglass-and-foam latex pate was by chance set ablaze. He turned conscious of this solely when the assistant director exclaimed, “I think Dane’s head is on fire!” DiLiegro took it in stride. “It felt like a sort of monster bar mitzvah for me,” he recalled. “A rite of passage for all creature actors.”

The 34-year-old DiLiegro isn’t the sort of actor who will be employed to play within the background of a scene: he can’t mix right into a crowd shot. He stands 6 toes 9, which makes him one of many greatest stars in Hollywood and a person who dominates each scene. Since arriving in Los Angeles two years in the past with no performing expertise, the slender, loose-limbed native of the Boston burbs has performed otherworldly grotesqueries in half a dozen films and TV exhibits.

DiLiegro follows within the thunderous footfalls of such immortals as 5-foot-11 Boris Karloff, the monster in “Frankenstein” (1935), and 5-foot-6 Haruo Nakajima, the quintessential child boomer in “Godzilla” (1954) and 11 sequels. His private horror pantheon consists of 6-foot-2 Kane Hodder — finest recognized for his portrayal of supernatural serial slasher Jason Voorhees within the “Friday the 13th” sequence. One in all DiLiegro’s most treasured childhood keepsakes is a plastic knife that Hodder autographed for him at Spooky World in Foxboro, Mass.

Skilled creature performing is likely one of the most esoteric careers in present enterprise. DiLiegro’s voice is seldom heard and his face, encased in masks or obscured with prosthetic make-up, isn’t seen. “A lot of times the people in the production department think they can just stick a stuntman in there and all will be groovy,” he stated, skeptically. “But a creature actor is very much an actor.”

Regardless of the cumbersome rubber swimsuit, he should categorical a varmint’s essence by a profound nonverbal interpretation, exuding a way of nice energy whereas broadcasting pure emotion. “You’re telling your story with your shoulders, your posture, the way you’re walking, the way you’re moving,” DiLiegro stated. “In some ways it’s more difficult than speaking.”

For an actor to create the breadth of a monster’s character — masquerading in layers of latex from the highest of his head to the tip of his sometimes webbed toes — takes hours of prep work and no rest room breaks. “You have to learn to live in discomfort,” DiLiegro stated. “You’re glued into suits that are hot and heavy and absorb your sweat. You’re sitting and standing in them for up to 12 hours. It gets itchy and numbing and restricting. If the heat and the weight and the unpleasantness doesn’t get you, the claustrophobia probably will.”

To bear the load of a 65-pound swimsuit and 40 kilos of animatronic gear, he’s received to remain skinny and sturdy. Slipping into the pores and skin of 1 house invader required him to decrease his proportion of physique fats from 18 to eight. “How did I do that? Diet, exercise, lots of hikes and bikes. Limited caloric intake. Stopped eating breakfast.”

The mild-mannered DiLiegro has agency opinions about every part from meat-cutting to the resplendence of the Boston Crimson Sox. He’s additionally one thing of a thinker, expounding endlessly on the Zen of lifecasting. “I find it to be a little therapeutic, especially when my face is covered with a silicone-and-plaster shell,” he stated. “You just sit there and you’re completely confined and it’s warm and kind of meditative. Other people might freak out: the process involves a lot of breath control.”

A man with a microphone answers questions.

Dane DiLiegro at San Diego Comedian-Con in July, selling the film “Prey.”

(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Photographs for Disney)

He took a serpentine path from Beantown to Tinseltown: the three,000-mile journey snaked by New Hampshire, Sardinia, Israel, the Italian cities of Ostuni, Trieste, Siena, Verona and Forli, and a number of other different cities too obscure to say. It turned out to be a 12-year trek.

DiLiegro was raised, if not spawned, in Newton, Mass., the youngest son of a Nike account supervisor and a marriage invitation calligrapher. “As a kid, I’d prowl around my house on all fours, like a beast,” he stated. “I was always hungry and stuffing food in my mouth as fast as possible. My mom would say, ‘You eat like a wild animal.’” These days he tends to make use of a knife and fork.

He grew up in Lexington. And grew. And grew. He received severe about basketball solely at age 15 and regardless of his peak didn’t make the varsity of his highschool staff till his junior yr. “Coming up through public schools, I never really cared much for sports,” he says. “And to be honest, I was never really that good at them.”

By the point the College of New Hampshire provided DiLiegro a hoops scholarship, he was 6 toes 7 and 235 kilos. Nicknamed Psycho D for his manic focus, he graduated as the varsity’s second all-time main rebounder. He may need been first if he hadn’t drawn a three-game suspension as a senior for utilizing a faux parking cross.

Handed over within the 2011 NBA draft, he headed to Europe to play professional ball. He signed a sequence of one-year contracts with groups in Italy (his father’s grandparents had been from Gaeta and Canosa di Puglia) and Israel (his mom is Jewish). “I was a rebounder, a defender, a screen-setter,” he stated. “I was the blue-collar guy who did the dirty work, kept his mouth shut and accepted the fact that his job was to make the stars look good. Bringing that athlete’s mentality to acting has been extremely helpful.”

When not on the court docket, he realized to talk fluent Italian and filmed an online sequence referred to as “Adventure Monday.” “I’d explore the Italian countryside, stumble upon interesting restaurants and interview the chefs,” DiLiegro stated. “The idea was to create content so that I could eventually host a culinary travel TV show.”

A 2016 installment of “Adventure Monday” centered on Antica Macelleria Cecchini, a 246-year-old butcher store within the hilltop city of Panzano in Chianti. The proprietor, Dario Cecchini, fell in love with DiLiegro’s palms and invited the baller to stick with him throughout the low season. By day, DiLiegro deboned bovines on a chopping block in Cecchini’s business institution. By night time, he waited tables in Cecchini’s steakhouse. “Butchering was kind of a tradition in my family,” DiLiegro stated. “My mother’s father, Al Moll, once owned a kosher meat market outside Boston.”

Through the summer time of 2019, whereas house in Lexington coaching for the upcoming Italian season, DiLiegro received a cellphone name from a casting agent who wished him to be a stand-in within the Ryan Reynolds comedy “Free Guy.” DiLiegro drove all the way down to the set in Boston the subsequent day.

Throughout a break within the motion, the movie’s supervising stunt coordinator, Chris O’Hara, instructed DiLiegro that he had all of the makings of a creature actor. He famous that there have been solely a handful of performers in Hollywood with DiLiegro’s construct, flexibility and athleticism, and that they received practically all of the monster elements. “Chris warned me that the work is cramped, unpleasant, you can’t go to the bathroom and you struggle to move,” DiLiegro stated, “but you’re paid the SAG rate and you get to be in movies.”

The next week DiLiegro flew to L.A. to pitch his meals present, have a look at flats and take a look at a few particular results outlets. His break got here every week later when he heard a few Netflix present referred to as “Sweet Home” that was about to be shot in Korea. He landed a gig as a stunt double for the creature actor employed to inhabit a bodybuilding mutant named Muscle Monster. When the actor dropped out, DiLiegro stepped in.

An alien with a shield.

Dane DiLiegro because the Predator within the film “Prey.”

(twentieth Century Studios)

The position led to a flip as Halo’s Grasp Chief in Xbox adverts, a walker in “The Walking Dead,” the fertility demon Ba’al within the FX anthology “American Horror Story,” Bigfoot in Blink-182 frontman Tom Delonge’s upcoming function “Monsters of California” and the forest fiend Dragio within the competitors sequence “The Quest” on Disney+.

With the Predator, he takes on arguably his most iconic creature position but. “I love being these monsters and creatures,” DiLiegro stated. “When I get into character, I truly believe that I’m no longer human and have become invincible. It’s an indescribable feeling.”

Nonetheless, DiLiegro aspires to sometime shed his second pores and skin, play a member of his personal species and transcend the world of comedian e-book geekdom. “No, I don’t long to play Hamlet,” he stated. A pause. “On the other hand, James Bond …”