Shock Video: Sir Ridley Scott & Damon Lindelof Talk Prometheus
by Edward Douglas
June 06, 2012
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We're just days away from the North American theatrical release of Ridley Scott's Prometheus, and it's time to get to the two creative masters behind the movie, Sir Ridley himself and co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof.
You may have already read our interview with the film's other screenwriter Jon Spaihts and learned how Prometheus came about, but now we talk to the men who have helped turn what started out as a prequel to Sir Ridley's 1979 sci-fi horror classic and turned it into one of the most ambitious movies of the year.
First up, our far-too-short video interview with Sir Ridley where we spoke to him about returning to science fiction after three decades (even hinting at the fact they're still trying to develop Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War"), whether or not he feels people should try to figure out where and how Prometheus connects to Alien. He also talked about how making the new movie was easier due to the 30 years of filmmaking technology development and how audiences and studios view genre films differently now than they did back in the late '70s, as he references John Carpenter's mostly-forgotten Dark Star. We also spoke briefly about his plans to return to the world of Blade Runner, his 1982 follow-up to Alien, which he's convinced will happen this time.
We have a few more tidbits from Sir Ridley about the movie below, but first, we have an equally brief interview with Damon Lindelof, one of the masterminds behind the TV show "Lost" and part of the group of creators who helped revive Star Trek back in 2008. Sadly, we didn't have time to talk to him about next year's anticipated Star Trek sequel, but we did talk with him about how he was contacted by Ridley Scott to be a part of the project, the secrecy surrounding the project and whether or not people should leave the movie trying to figure out the connections to Alien, as well as how much of a connection any sequels to Prometheus may have with Alien.
And as promised, here are a few quotes from Sir Ridley taken from a roundtable interview done a few days earlier in the week:
Why he decided to return to the word of 'Alien':
"The very simple question was 'Who the hell was in that ship, who is sitting in that seat and where was he going?' No one asked this They're all bright guys… Jim and David and the French guy, and I thought 'Wow, duh.' And I thought about it for a while and I was busy, so I didn't really do anything about it and then when they finally put it to bed in 'Alien vs. Predator,' I thought 'You know what? This is a good idea here.' The more I talked about it, I thought 'Goddamn….' I was going to call it 'Alien – Paradise,' because I thought that had a spooky connotation to the idea, because it concocts our notion and idea of paradise and "what is that?" And paradise to us suggests religion and religion says "God" and then God, who created us, and that's certainly… you've got a scientist who believes in God and there's lots of scientists who believe flatly in God and even though they may be in quantum physics, they say "I get to a wall and some times wonder "who the hell thought of this one?" and I can't get through the wall. When I get through the wall more is revealed and I still see another wall, so who is making this sh*t up?"
How filmmaking technology has evolved:
"Since the thirty years since 'Alien,' it was all live action shooting, even the models had dolly grips pushing the big model and I could see them walking. There were lots of smoke and wind machines and that was it. There were no digital tracks and all of that sh*t and then the star fields where a guy with a toothbrush on a black background and you would get a universe. I said, "Wow, it's beautiful. Can you give me a red one?" He said "Yeah," takes that toothbrush and goes "bam." Then I photograph it and… The beginning of 'Alien' was flat art work, I just panned across it. I just panned across it and Jerry's music put the rest to right.
His fascination with A.I. and robots:
"I think it evolved out of the box in 'Blade Runner' because Roy Batty, he wasn't an engine. If I cut him open, there wasn't metal, he was grown and the growth pattern came out of the idea of a replicant came from a student who was at Carmel who was reading her dad's script who was actually helping on 'Blade Runner' and said 'You shouldn't call them robots, you should call them replicants. I deal with replicants and replications every day," but he's grown and then within twenty years you get the first bill not passed in the Senate where they applied for replication of animals, sheep and goats and cattle and animals and they turned it down, but if you can do that, then you can do human beings. If you go deeper into it and say 'Yeah, but if you are going to grow a human being, does he start that big and I've got to see him through everything?'
"Ash in 'Alien' had nothing to do with Roy Batty, because Roy Batty is more humanoid, whereas Ash was more metal and Ash's logic was on every space ship, 'If I have a space ship worth God knows how much money and I've got to have a company man onboard and that company man is going to be a goddamn secret, and he is going to be a perfect looking robot.' So that was the Ash thing. Now I'm doing this and I thought it was an interesting acknowledgement, the marvelous idea of Ash, which I think is a pretty good idea. It was a one-off for that to be a surprise that 'Ash is a god damn robot' and we gave all the clues early by having stiff joints and doing his thing. I just wanted to have the same idea that the corporation would have a robot onboard every ship, so that when you are asleep in hyper-sleep for three or four years going at 250,000 knots an hour, you will have a guy wandering around like a housekeeper. He's a housekeeper and he's got full access to everything. He can look at all of the films. He can go into the library… he can do whatever he wants, and that's David."
The decision not to rely on CG:
"We had the right budget, but I didn't have all the money in the world and I kind of wanted to do it on budget, that's what I do, and also I kind of like to build sets if I can. If you can build sets and you know exactly how much you need, it's much cheaper then saying, 'I don't know what I'm going to do in this scene, but I just want a load of green screen out there and we will try and put something there later.' That's f*cking expensive. That's how these films go millions of dollars over budget, because they've got no target."
The secrecy behind the movie and the film's viral advertising:
"It was just increased security. Everyone's got a script with their name printed right across the middle of it, so if that goes out I know it comes from you and you're in trouble. That was it and because I'm still very much into advertising, I've always wanted to evolve this kind of viral advertising, which would be ads talking about everything but the film. The film isn't mentioned, so you've got Peter Weiland saying 'Hi, I'm Peter Weiland and I'm the God you know and I own the world' and I have the Weiland Corporation where he mentions Prometheus, but you don't know what the hell it is and then David later says 'Hello. I'm David. I work for Weiland Corporation,' then at the end he puts his fingerprint on and he's got a 'W' in his fingerprint. Then we have one thing with Noomi applying for a job to Peter Weiland and that's the best form of advertising, because people are going 'What's that?' As soon as you've got 'What's that?' you've just done the job."
On the announced sequels to "Prometheus":
SPOILERS FOR THE END OF "PROMETHEUS"!!!
"I've opened the doors and I know where it's going. I know that to keep him alive is essential and to keep her alive is essential and to go where they came from, not where I came from, is essential. That's a pretty open door and then rather than going to that, I don't see landing in a place that looks like paradise, that's not how it's going to be. There is a plan, yeah."
On other upcoming projects, particularly the long-delayed "Tripoli":
"I'm on all of them, and they are all happening now. 'Monopoly's' first pass is written. 'Blade Runner' is in process now. I don't know what to do with 'Brave New World,' it's tough. I think 'Brave New World' in a funny kind of way was good in 1938, because it had a very interesting and revolutionary idea. It came shortly before or after George Orwell, roughly the same time. When you re-analyze it, maybe it should stay as a book. I don't know. "Tripoli' is great, but it didn't happen because of a personal thing. I felt somebody wasn't well, so I couldn't do it and I stopped, but 'Tripoli' about Thomas Jefferson and guy called William Eaton. William Eaton was a despot who was actually… He worked on the edge of the political arena in three states. The United States then was three states and Thomas Jefferson spent his entire treasury or 11,000,000 dollars with is approximately a third of the price of half the people I know in Hollywood's home, he bought from St. Louis to the coast, from Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon needed to cash to go to Moscow. Big mistake. And then William Eaton goes out to the coast, where there's a pasha of Tripoli who's a mother-f*cking despot and gangster who was actually kidnapping and taking American frigates and crews. America only had three war ships, but there were a lot of commercial vehicles in that area. He was taking crews and putting them as slaves and taking them above deck and keeping them for ransom. So William Eaton said "Enough of this sh*t." He went out there personally and started to create his one personal war against the pasha and the pasha was the pretender. His brother was a Muslim--they were all Muslim--but the brother had fled to Egypt and Eaton went to Egypt and personally talked him into coming back. It's a good story."