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Ryan Phillippe Discusses Prey and Creating ‘Something That Lasts’

From ’90s classics to Oscar-winning ensemble films, veteran actor Ryan Phillippe has played a wide variety of roles over the years and dabbled in basically every genre of cinema and television there is. Looking at his timeline of projects in decades past, you’d be surprised to see that he doesn’t exactly look like he’s aged at all. Power to him! We recently spoke with Phillippe as his latest indie thriller Prey hits the masses this week. It’s a rather simple premise but remains hard-hitting thanks to a number of gritty, tense sequences involving certain wild felines in Africa.

Ryan Phillippe plays a doctor trying to fly back home after he and his wife’s well-being and community are threatened by local terrorists of sorts. Emile Hirsch (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) plays the wildcard pilot trying to get him and his wife (Mena Suvari) out of there. When the flight doesn’t go as planned, the group is stranded in the desert, which also happens to be a lion reserve…

Working with Wild Animals: ‘You Can’t Train Felines’


With a straightforward premise like that of Prey, it’s no surprise knowing this is an independent film at heart — but that’s not to say it has its fair share of scares as we watch Phillippe’s character survive the desert and its threatening inhabitants. “It’s a challenge making a small film under a short window of time,” said Phillippe in thinking about the production of Prey. “You probably wouldn’t believe it, but it was around three weeks… We shot some of the exteriors about 45 minutes north of Los Angeles. And there were elements shot in Africa, and then they were comped together.”

Phillippe continued:

“It’s amazing how that area north of LA that’s sort of like the desert, and even when I was doing the TV series
, and we would shoot some Iraq flashbacks, Afghanistan flashbacks, it’s unbelievable how similar it looks to those regions… Those aspects of movie magic are still not lost on me, even after my decades of being in this industry. The ingenuity and the creativity that makes something like that possible, it’s always good. It’s always interesting.”

In Prey, Phillippe’s character comes face-to-face with several ferocious lions that want nothing more than to rip him to shreds. We were curious what it’s like putting yourself in that sort of helpless-human mindset. “You do have to kind of visualize something that isn’t there and then process the emotion that would go along with that. And that was very much a part of this,” Phillippe told us.

“They did [film] and use real lions, but they weren’t allowed anywhere near us. So they were matched in later on, as you can imagine. Yeah, lions aren’t the most trainable. And I remember when they were shooting the lions’ portions, and one of the producers was getting upset or something and saying, ‘Well, why can’t you make the lion do this?’ And [director] Mukunda is like, ‘You know, they’re kind of like cats. If you ever tried to get a cat to do something, you can’t train felines. That extends to the large versions of them. You get what you get.'”

Ryan Phillippe Works with Emile Hirsch for the First Time

It’s interesting to note that Prey is one of three films Phillippe has now done with filmmaker Mukunda Michael Dewil. “He’s a really soulful, spiritual guy with a fascinating personal history. He was at one point a monk in India for seven years, I think,” said Phillippe. “I do a lot of investigation into the metaphysical, the theological, ontological, eschatological. And so he and I have these great conversations about those subjects. And he’s become a friend of mine outside of our working relationship.”

Along for the ride is another American household name who’s also dabbled in a variety of Hollywood projects: Emile Hirsch, who millennials might know best from throwbacks like The Girl Next Door and Into the Wild. “We had only known each other socially,” said Phillippe in thinking about Hirsch. “But I was always such a fan of his… I loved him in the skateboarding [Lords of] Dogtown movie. And so I was really excited. And also, we have a lot of friends in common.” He added:

So he was somebody that I always looked forward to potentially working with one day, and he and I just hit it off so well. We’d like to find other stuff to do. In fact… He’s just written a script, and he sent it to me to take a look at. Really great guy, really committed to the work, great sense of humor. He was just a pleasure to work with.

Prey: 25 Years Since Cruel Intentions

Looking back on Phillippe’s career, it’s wild to think that his hit film Cruel Intentions with Sarah Michelle Gellar is now 25 years old. He even joked about it on X recently. “I’m well aware of the age that I am,” he told us. “My kids keep me young, but there are these times where these anniversaries come up, and you’re just like, ‘Oh my god! I’ve just been around so long.’ But at the same time, the fact that people still appreciate something like Cruel Intentions or I Know What You Did Last Summer…” He continued:

“When I started out as a young actor, my hopes and dreams, in a lot of ways, were tied to having something that lasts, having something that makes that much of an impression. And to be more specific, being in a seminal teen movie was something, in the early part of my career, that mattered to me, the John Hughes movies when I was growing up. And
Cruel Intentions
still holds up. If you watch it today, it’s a sharp, funny. It doesn’t feel dated.”

And now, Hollywood is taking yet another stab at a Cruel Intentions TV series, with Phillippe confirming that the upcoming one is a third attempt. We had to ask if he has any tips for the cast and crew:

My only advice is, I think when you watch
Cruel Intentions
, you can see how much fun we were having in making it. And so I think that would be my advice to them, is to not take it so seriously and try to have a good time because that does show up on-screen.

Phillippe also commented on how a number of films he’s done have turned into TV series, beyond Cruel Intentions. “Crash was a series, Downton Abbey was Gosford ParkI Know What You Did Last Summer had a run on Amazon as a series… It’s an odd footnote to my strange career.”

Looking ahead, Phillippe is shooting a series for Amazon in Toronto called Motorheads, followed by a movie — and its sequel — for Paramount that he’s producing in addition to starring in. “It’s a really cool action piece, which is sort of a return to territory like Shooter, where I’m playing ex-military and I’ve got to kind of fight my way out of a situation with my daughter character,” he told us. “We also just finished this film with Kate Beckinsale, and I’ve got high hopes for that. It’s a psychological thriller. I feel like I did some pretty good work in it.”

In the meantime, from Vertical, Prey hit theaters and on demand March 15th, 2024. You can buy or rent it from YouTube below:

Watch Prey

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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