Director Ridley Scott on his vision for 'Prometheus'
"In space, no one can hear you scream." With those words -- one of the great
film marketing lines -- the crew of the deep-space mining ship Nostromo began a
journey that led them into a direct, face-to-jaws confrontation with a deadly
form of life that existed solely to kill and reproduce. The year was 1979 and
the movie was "Alien," which quickly became one of the great science
fiction/horror classics of its time. The film also catapulted director Ridley
Scott -- making only his second feature -- into a career that would last to this
Scott redefined sci-fi again in 1982 with his visionary "Blade Runner," but while he went on to direct
landmark films like "Thelma and Louise," "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down," he never returned to science
fiction, until now. The "Alien" franchise, meanwhile, had produced one more
authentic masterpiece in James Cameron's "Aliens," but a series of diminished sequels after
that. With the studio (20th Century Fox) commissioning screenwriter Jon Spaihts
to craft an "Alien" prequel, Scott saw a way to return to the world of that film
yet do something different. The project gradually evolved into Scott's 20th
feature film, "Prometheus."
Asked if he feels particularly comfortable working in the sci-fi genre, to
which he contributed two of its all-time masterpieces, Scott tells Parallel
Universe on the phone from London, "Well, I liked both (those) experiences --
even though the one on 'Blade Runner' was a bit stormy, I was very happy with
the end result. Even if it didn't play, I didn't care at that point because I
just thought it had really worked for me. And I also enjoyed the process. Then I
thought, in today's world with all these digital capabilities it's going to be
even better and I can do much more. That's why I visited (FOX studio head) Tom
Rothman about three years ago saying, 'You know what, if we go back to
examine an idea about who the big guy was, you can reopen this whole genre
into another universe, into something which is really just a stand-alone
Haunted by the image of the "big guy" -- the giant alien corpse informally
known as the "space jockey" that the Nostromo's crew finds rotting on its
derelict starship -- Scott wanted to return to the "Alien" universe and find out
more about that enigmatic figure. In a typical Hollywood twist, the "space
jockey" almost didn't make it into "Alien" in the first place. "That cockpit
room was drawn but almost didn't make it into the film, because the movie was
kind of dead at the studio, and we were trying to cut the budget down," recalls
the director. "The studio didn't really want (the "space jockey"), which is
ironic, but I said, 'Well, I really think it's necessary.' So I made the case
and won the case, and if I hadn't won the case, we wouldn't have had this new
"Prometheus" follows the crew of the title starship as it sails toward the
moon of a planet orbiting a distant star in the year 2093. Anthropologists Shaw
(Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have found
clues from seven different ancient Earth civilizations that all seem to point to
this location, leading them to believe they've been invited to voyage into space
to possibly meet the beings who created humankind. What they find, however, is
not at all what anyone expected, although "Alien" fans will recognize some
"Just look at the universe at night and you think, are we alone in all that?
I just don't buy that," says Scott about the source of the existential questions
that form the backbone of the movie. "And so what is it up there? Are there
other life-forms? Are there other humanoids? Are there different creatures that
we can't even comprehend the shape and size of? That also begs the question: How
can we be the most intelligent? I don't think so ... then when you say, 'Where
does the buck stop?,' you have to ask if it's not all just biological
coincidence or is there a grand design. You have to pose that question."
To pose that question and others, Scott took Spaihts' script and turned to
"Lost" co-creator Damon
Lindelof, who fashioned a new story, with new themes, that moved further
sideways from "Alien" while retaining the links already in place. But while
Scott doesn't consider himself a writer, he does feel his skill set lends itself
to this kind of material.
"I think I'm blessed with a visual eye," he says. "And if you have an eye,
then it means you've got a visual mind, basically. It's the way I see things
that I think help me enormously as a filmmaker. You then have to connect that
visual eye to the imagination and away you go." Scott says he often uses
storyboards -- which he still draws himself on his films -- to help bring the
story to life for him. I think any writer will find that essentially you have to
really work by yourself and you kind of enclose yourself and you go inwards. And
by going inwards you start to ... emerge with some interesting notions."
Among those "interesting notions" are queries about the nature of humankind
and creation: Where do we come from? Would our creators seem like gods to us?
Are they gods, or are they demons? Not every question is answered in
"Prometheus," especially in the movie's more horror-driven second half, but
there are plenty of potential avenues to explore if a sequel ever comes to pass.
"I'd definitely like to do a sequel," says Scott, who has never done one
before and who also has another potential follow-up -- "Blade Runner 2" -- in
development. "Science is eventually bringing us closer to the actual real
question: Is there a God? It's an interesting question to me and a challenge to
think where in the hell is that going to be and how is that going to be."
Geeking Out On...J.J. Abrams Directing 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars'
J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' is set to open this week, then begins the task of directing a new 'Star Wars' film for 2015. Check out this episode where Kurt argues why he's the man for the job and how it's enough already about the lens flares. Also, a few other "double dippers" in the dueling franchises as well as a few others.