Despite indicating that he had little immediate urgency to return to some of the films that originally made his name, the likes of Blade Runner and Alien were frequently referenced in those rare Ridley Scott interviews. It was almost as if the acclaimed director had some good ideas associated with the ground-breaking efforts, but was in no rush – even if he thought it were possible – to bring them back to the screen.
While James Cameron produced a worthier, faster-paced heir to Scott’s original Alien (even Cameron’s title ‘AlienS’ indicates he was always planning to expand the horror out in proportion) there were plenty of questions in the original that remained unanswered. So perhaps it WAS only a matter of time before Ridley decided the time and the technology was right to re-enter that universe… albeit not a prequel, he insists, but something of an accompanying piece.
“I watched the three subsequent ‘Aliens’ being made, which were all jolly good in some form or other. Does that sound competitive? Because I’m really competitive! So I thought the franchise was fundamentally used up. How long ago was the last ‘Alien’? 1997… so I must have thought about it for three or four years and thought in all of the films nobody had asked a very simple question which was - who is the big guy in the chair, who was fondly after ‘Alien’ called The Space Jockey. I don’t know how the hell he got that name; there was this big boned creature who seemed to be nine feet tall sitting in this chair,” Ridley explains of the figure first discovered by the Nostromo crew before they are infected by the xenomorphic creature that will change their lives – permanently. “I went in to Fox with four questions. Who are they? Why are they there? Why that cargo and where were they going or had they in fact had a forced landing? I went with two writers, John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof and we came up with the screenplay, the draft”.
“It’s interesting when you start off with an interesting idea like that and you don’t know whether it’s going to be a prequel or a sequel, it gradually adjusted itself into much larger questions and therefore now the actual connection to the original ‘Alien’ is barely in its DNA. You kind of get it in the last seven minutes or so, but the more I got into another story the less inclined I was to take on board that it was connected to the original…” he continues.
Scott admits he was aware of some of the expectations that came with the project – and the more pragmatic problems of retro-engineering some of the looks and tone originally created by Giger for the first film.
“You know one of the problems with science fiction, which is probably one of the reasons why I haven’t done one for many, many years, is the fact that everything is used up. Every type of spacesuit is used up, every type of spacecraft is vaguely familiar, the corridors are similar and the planets are similar. So what you try to do is lean more heavily on the story and on the characters, to make that really, to give you lift-off…bad pun!” hhe nods. “But then during the design process, I think we come up with a lot of fairly, to use that awful word ‘cool’…cool looking things which evolve from the drawing board with the designers saying, ‘I’ve seen that, you can’t do that, you can’t do that’. Then you suddenly start to come up with evolutions of different looks so that as a total package, the film feels quite different.
The original Alien was a benchmark movie and had an ‘18’ rating (something it still retains on DVD) . Nowadays, it’s unusual for a big tent-pole release to have such a restrictive rating – unless it’s outright horror. How does ‘Sir Ridley’ feel about the changing nature of the ratings system?
“I want certification for this film that allows me to make as large a box office as possible! And stop calling me Sir Ridley! Bloody embarrassing.!” He shakes his head. “No, I’ll tell you what…the studios wrestle constantly with these ridiculous adjustments to whether it’s PG13, PG15, you know, R, double R and it does, to a certain extent, affect the box office, which is arithmetic, which is not a cash register…it’s how they get their money back. And if studios don’t get their money back we don’t have any movies. And so it is important that films are successful and I am fully supportive of that because I’m not just a director, I’m also not stupid, I’ve been in this business long enough and, to a certain extent, I’m a businessman, I know the importance of that; so when a big film fails it’s disastrous for all of us…”
“When a big film wins it’s terrific for all of us, whether you like the film or not, it’s really cool. So the adjustment of the ratings thing are inconsistent and ridiculously inconsistent, so I can start talking about films that have got PG13 this year…” Scott hesitates, wondering whether to name names and then decides against it, but… “…which are absolutely f*cking ridiculous… it’s f*cking ludicrous. Get your house in order!”
Prometheus opens in June - distributed by Twentieth Century Fox in 3D - and Impact will have a review and more features with the cast closer to release...