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The Story: The son of a senator and the first man on Mars, Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) returns home a hero, a champion and a carrier of the deadliest DNA in the universe. Something is taking over his body, a strain of alien DNA that has been to earth before.

Now, the only chance for the human race is the woman who tried to destroy it (Natasha Henstridge). Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) has recreated the alien species from a frozen lab embryo that is identical to the original Species' Sil in every respect except that her alien traits are dormant. Eve is half human. However, when another of her kind contacts her, she is challenged emotionally.

Her loyalty is to man, but her instinct is to mate.





Frank Mancuso, Jr.'s recent credits include Hoodlum, Fled, and the forthcoming Ronin.

He began his career in the early 1980s, taking over the successful Friday the 13th franchise, producing Parts III and VI, while serving as executive producer of Parts V and VII, as well as the syndicated series of the same name.

Among his additional credits are such diverse films as Internal Affairs, He Said, She Said; Permanent Record, Cool World, Body Parts and Back to the Beach.

The following interview with Mancuso was conducted on the Baltimore set of Species II.


Q: How big a challenge is it trying to capture the magic again?


A: The hardest part is to try and make sure that you create something that feels valid; feels different enough that it doesn't feel like you're making the same movie again. When I did the Friday the 13th movies it was like making the same film over and over again until people stopped coming. When you take on something like this, because it's obviously a much bigger endeavor, the only reason I felt comfortable jumping into this was because I felt the story was so completely different. We started from a whole different place and the context of the movie is just so completely different, so I felt comfortable doing it.



Q: When you look at the summer of '97, sequel after sequel tanked.


A: There was this moment when people felt that just with a title you could buy a certain level of gross. Again, I really approached this movie with the attitude that if I was going to do it, I wanted to treat it like a franchise and not a sequel. The difference is that oftentimes sequels are the same movie over and over again, whereas a franchise is where you extract an idea, a concept, a couple of characters and move them in a completely different direction. I think what we've done in the sequel to Species is really go ahead and start it off in space and it's a whole completely different series of ideas. How the continuing characters sort of get linked into the movie is, I think, really intriguing and interesting. From an audience's point of view I think it will be a completely different experience.

The whole idea was what happens if John F. Kennedy, Jr., or any celebrated American, had this latent strand of something running through him that he had nothing to do with. It's almost a Wolfman kind of premise where here's a guy minding his own business one day who gets bitten by something, the wound heals, he thinks he's okay but 28 days later there's a full moon and he wakes up with this dead body next to him. He's like, "What the hell happened last night? Who put this dead body here? I had nothing to do with it." He has no control or reference to what's going on.



Q: Movies like these are often criticized for their sex and violence. Do you think the Species films brings those issues to whole new levels?


A: It's tricky, because what it's really about is reproduction but in order to get there you have to have sex. What this movie is really about is this biological imperative to procreate so that more can come. There is a lot of that in it, but it's less the moral issue of sex. In the Friday the 13th movies they said it was the moral issue of sex -- if you have it, you die. This is more like if you give birth, you die. It's slightly different, but maybe I'm the only one who sees it that way. This really is about procreation; about bringing these monsters into the world, and how it tears apart the women who do it.



Q: The choice of your director for this film is much more different than one would expect. Why Peter Medak and what do you think he's bringing to the film?


A: Why him is because he has never made this kind of movie before. Roger Donaldson when he did the original Species had never made a movie like this before. What's important to me when I decide who I want to work with is, "Okay, has this guy made films that you appreciate? Has this guy demonstrated sensibilities that are consistent with the sensibilities that are going to make this movie work? Does he have a passion or clear vision for the movie?" Peter Medak was a solid yes in every one of those cases. I love The Changeling, Romeo is Bleeding and The Krays. I thought some of those were really great movies. He certainly had a sense of sensuality and sexuality, which is part of what made the first movie work. As far as the effects, it's not something he had worked on a bunch, but I don't really worry about that stuff because I know it backwards and forwards, so I can help anybody through it. I wasn't worried about his understanding of how to make an animatronic creature work because that's not his job. His job is to shoot the animatronic creature and we've got to make it work. I think that he's a great choice because he's a really talented filmmaker. He's got a great sense of style and a great sense of sensuality, which is important for this kind of movie.

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Q: If it works again, I assume you'll come up with a way to continue the story.


A: I like the idea of taking this whole notion of combining DNA with different people and different circumstances and seeing what happens. If that becomes the franchisable element of the movie, I think you could come up with so many different scenarios that are uniquely different, that it might be fun to do. In other words, everyone thought this movie was going to start with some rat biting somebody, coming off of the first movie, and that person gets infected. I really didn't want to do that. We came up with a completely different context. This movie has a lot more emotional weight than the first movie did, because this guy's aware of what he's doing. Sil was never aware of what she was doing in the first movie. Tigers kill people. If you go ahead and stick your hand in front of a tiger's mouth, you're going to get bit. You can't blame a tiger for that, it's what a tiger does. This is a whole different circumstance. For me, I don't know what the next movie would be, but I feel comfortable enough that given the right amount of time and space, we could come up with something that's equally interesting and takes it in a whole different direction again. If we can't, we won't do another one.



Q: Would you say the character of Eve is different from Sil?


A: She's different enough because, again, she's been with Laura for a long time. Laura has tried to make this a lot more humane series of experiments, she's tried to interact with her in a social way. The alien aspect of her personality has been dialed way down so she really seems more human. At some point in the movie, though, they decide that that all has to change and that's when things get crazy.



Q: I keep hearing rumors of a Species TV series.


A: MGM TV has told me they'd like to do a series, but for me it really depends on how this movie turns out. At that point you have to ask yourself is, "Can movies and a television series on the same subject matter co-exist?" If I came up with a great Species III, then I think I would prefer to do that. I wouldn't want the television series to be such a reductive idea off of the movies. The thing about television is that any idiot can come up with 15 episodes of something, but if it's going to be a successful television series, can you come up with 75 or 100 episodes? When we did the Friday the 13th television series, I really felt we could have done as many of those things as we wanted; that there was a broad enough net for that series that it would always be different. I'm not sure that would be the case with this.



Q: My impression is that it would be The Fugitive; the hunt for Sil.


A: Right. I was asked to produce the War of the Worlds TV show and about six shows in I realized that it was a closed-end show. It's called War of the Worlds. Either you're going to have this war or you're not. It's okay for a movie, but a TV series, for the way my head works, is that it's got to have a far bigger playing field. The thing about the Friday show for me is that you could just make a completely different story every week and the concept just never got in your way. Whereas something like War of the Worlds, they were so bloody limited that by the time episode fifteen came around, you were duplicating some of the ideas that you started with at the beginning of the year. I'm afraid that with Species, unless I came up with a completely different concept that I haven't thought of yet, that it would be too limiting.





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Natasha Henstridge made her film debut as the alien Sil in Species, for which she won an MTV Movie Award. She returns in Species II as the far more human Eve, a genetically-engineered replica of Sil.

Henstridge's second studio film, Columbia Pictures' Maximum Risk, opened at number one at the US box office in September 1996. She starred opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in this thriller by Hong Kong action director Ringo Lam. Henstridge is now in New York shooting the lead role in the romantic comedy It Had to Be You.

She has also starred in the following films, all to be released this year: Dog Park, which tells the story of two newly separated couples and their dogs; Standoff, which chronicles an FBI operation against a compound of religious fanatics; and Bela Donna, which tells a tragic love story set in 1939 on the great white beaches of northern Brazil.

The following interview was conducted with the model turned actress on the Species II set while she was celebrating her 23rd birthday.

Q: First of all, do you see a difference between playing Eve and Sil?


A: There is a difference. I think Sil was far more naive and far more cruel. Eve is more human and has more of a human relationship with people and isn't as wide-eyed and soulless. She's also a good guy in this one, sort of. It's interesting, because she's kind of at odds with her alien side and her human side, and what she's learning from Dr. Baker. She grew up in that environment and is far more human and has much more human contact than Sil did. Sil was just kind of pushed out there and didn't quite know where she was going.



Q: I found that to be a frightening quality about her.


A: It was, and Eve is also unpredictable. When the hormones start acting up, she basically loses control, so in that way I think they're also similar. By the way, Eve stands for the Extraterrestrial vulnerability experiment, so they're experimenting with her being vulnerable and putting those hormones in place.



Q: Species was your first role. Having gotten a couple of more films under your belt and although Eve is different from Sil, for you as an actress what has the experience of this movie been like?


A: I just feel a whole lot more comfortable in front of the camera this time around. I've had a few films in between, so I've had more experience. While we were making Species, everything was so new to me, how everything worked, right down to blocking the scenes and all those sorts of things. This time around I'm much more confident with that and much more comfortable with the filmmaking process itself.



Q: I would imagine that each film that you do is a new stepping stone for you as an actress and just in terms of being in front of the camera.


A: Yes, definitely. They're all relatively different.



Q: Having worked with Roger Donaldson on the first film, and Peter Medak on the second, what are the differences between them as directors?


A: That's a tough question. I don't want to detract from either one of them. Peter is very, very visual and hands on. Even though working with Roger was my first movie and personally we got along very well, and I think he's a terrific director, I guess there was less hand's on conversation between Roger and I. He was also directing a movie for the first time as well and I guess he sort of left it a little bit more up to me; he was very confident in me. Whereas Peter is a very visual person and involved in each little detail, right down to the way my eyes move. He's very specific. In that way they're different. Roger was like, "You just go ahead and do your thing and if I don't like it I'll let you know." Peter is like, "I want this, I want that, I want this," which is great for me because I like a little guidance. I guess Roger didn't want to spoil whatever innocence I was bringing to the film.



Q: Peter hits me as someone who's very good with actors.


A: He is very good with actors. He doesn't stop until he gets what he wants, and that's really the thing he and Roger have in common. They shoot take after take until they get what they want.



Q: In doing the sequel, is there anything about your performance in the first film that you felt you wanted to correct or do differently?


A: I watched the first Species only once and can barely remember it, so in some ways I'm going into this like it's a new page. It's a clean slate. I'm definitely trying to remember some of the things about the last character and some of the innocence, and the feedback I got from people who liked the first one. I do try and stay somewhat conscious of that. But with Eve being something of a different character, I wanted to try and bring something different to her, more of a human element.



Q: Horror movies have often been taken to task for their focus on sex and violence, yet the Species films brings it to a whole new level because the sex is the violence.


A: Personally, I'm not a huge fan of very sexual and violent movies. They're not something that I personally would go see, but I think in a way Species also brings a little bit of humor to it. It does keep you on the edge of your seat, but there are humorous aspects to it that I think deters from the goings on.



Q: When I read the script, my feeling was that they were looking for any excuse to get you naked.


A: We have brought that down quite a bit in the scenes. I'm actually clothed for most of the movie, I have to say.



Q: Your fans will be disappointed.


A: [laughs] Don't worry, fans, I'm naked sometimes. The truth is I definitely have my clothes on far more in the second movie than I did in the first.



Q: Is that something you're comfortable with?


A: I have a lot of insecurities about my body, as much as any woman does, but while making a movie I try as much as I can to put that aside and be real kind to the lighting people and ask them to be real kind to me. I've got to just put my body and my trust in their hands and have to focus on what I'm doing.



Q: Are you a fan of the horror/science-fiction genre.


A: Not at all.



Q: So what draws you to it?


A: Of course there's money involved, but Species has sort of become a cult film in some sort of weird way, and I thought it would just be a lot of fun to come back and do it again. And I'm drawn to the character. I think she's more interesting than the film itself in some ways. I like the powerful aspects of a woman that are explored. Not that I'm a feminist or a femme-Nazi, but I think it's a lot of fun. I have a very strong character and for me it's fun to play both sides of my personality, the naive, innocent side and then becoming very shocking and being very strong at the same time. With a face that looks somewhat innocent and then to do very powerful things is interesting and a lot of fun.



Q: In a way, didn't Species sort of foreshadow the wave of powerful women on film?


A: I noticed that myself. I see so many movies now where women are just breaking out. And on TV with Xena and La Femme Nikita. I thought it was just me, but I'm glad you've noticed it too. It's fun for women to be the action hero.



Q: Have any of your other roles given you a similar opportunity?


A: I did a film that was not a very good film called Adrenaline. I had a pretty strong character in that. Again, that was sort of the naive character turning into a stronger one. The other roles haven't been like that.



Q: Is there a danger in being in a successful franchise that that's the type of role you'll continually be offered?


A: You just have to step out, take way less money and do something with friends or people that you know or do a really good audition to prove yourself. You have to work a little harder because people do tend to see you in one particular way.



Q: Anything in particular you're looking for in terms of the future?


A: I'm thinking a little bit about getting into producing. Of course one day I'm thinking about producing and the next I want to quit it all and become a missionary and move to Brazil or something. It varies day to day with me; I'm definitely an up and down kind of person.



Q: You started as a model. Was that a tough segue over to acting?


A: I was used to being in front of the camera, I was used to meeting different people and becoming somebody else when I went to modeling jobs, which is very much what I have to do in this job. In that way they're similar. In a lot of ways they're very different. Taking on a different character and not worrying about your face and all of those things when you're modeling, and actually having people listen to what you have to say, letting you be part of the creative team instead of feeling like everybody else is the creative team in modeling and you're just sort of standing there doing whatever they say, is the biggest difference. And it's a nice one.