I attended a footage-reveal event for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus last month, and in my first writeup about it, I promised to share a few of the juiciest tidbits from the Q&A. And here they are. No spoilers for the film! Just interesting stuff the talent had to say.
Michael Fassbender on developing David the android:
I copied other things. I watched ‘Blade Runner.’ Ridley had suggested ‘The Servant.’ So I watched ‘The Servant’ with Dirk Bogarde and then there was ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’. And then Greg Louganis the diver popped into my head, I don’t know why. Just the way he sort of moved. As a child, watching the Olympics or whatever, I was, ‘Wow, who’s that guy?’ It was such a weird walk it made me laugh, but it also felt very efficient, centred, like yoga with economy of movement. So I thought that would be interesting to take something on board.
I don’t really know exactly what’s going on with David, to be honest! He’s the one android amongst humans, and the humans don’t really like having a robot around that looks like them, who can figure everything out quicker than them and is physically stronger than them. There’s something a little bit off-putting about that. Is that the future? It’s like the idea of engineering people for example. He’s asking his own questions. He’s curious like the gods in old Greek mythology being jealous of human beings for their mortality and for what that must be like to experience. Also, he has been programmed like a human being, so will his programming start to form its own personality outside of the system that was programmed? Or the idea of human beings – are we all programmed anyway as well? Is someone creating us? Are we programmed to go into a certain job, to make a certain decision at 32 that will lead to something that happens at 35. Is everything pre-programmed for us in life? That’s kind of interesting as well. Or do we have free choice, in fact? So we just sort of played around with all those things. I just tried to keep it ambiguous. It was something that Ridley said to me at the beginning: When we’re watching him, it’s like, ‘Is he taking the piss?’
Ridley Scott on designing the film:
Before we were even green lit, I persuaded Fox to spend some smart money, in that the film was completely planned with five designers who are digital designers who can design like industrial designers. From the suits to the kitchen on the ship, to the corridors, to everything you can possibly think of. Arthur Max and these five guys sat in my office in LA, while we were writing and re-writing, for about four and a half months, and by the time I had finished I had a book which was this big and that thick of glossies that were like photographs; they’re not drawings they’re exactly what you get on the screen. So I planned the film before we then mustered and put together a huge team, because once that huge team goes together, that’s where your money runs away. And time and time again I’d get asked, ‘Are you sure? I would like to just adjust this’ and I’d say, ‘Nope, there it is’. ‘What about the light?’ ‘There it is!’ And so that became my benchmark. So it worked out economically first, as opposed to trying to work it out on the floor when you’ve got a unit of three hundred and fifty people. So designing to me is very important.
I like that: it seems like this is storyboards taken to an extreme — a good extreme.
Scott on science fiction:
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! 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.
Of course, if screenwriters focused more on the idea side of science fiction, and came up with some actual new stuff, this might not be a problem. SF is limited only by the human imagination, but filmic SF has been much more limited than that.
Scott on ratings:
I want certification for this film that allows me to make as large a box office as possible! 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, which are absolutely fucking ridiculous!
Scott’s not wrong, but I think Hollywood has gone too far over to the “it’s a business!” angle. It’s all about not merely making a profit but making the absolutely mostest maximum profit possible. A slighly smaller profit — but, you know, still a profit — isn’t acceptable.
Scott on 3D:
Well, I’ll footnote by saying it’s not science, it’s not brain surgery. It’s actually pretty straightforward. So anyone who says, ‘Oh, you’ve got to add sixteen weeks’ means they don’t know what the bloody hell they’re doing! ‘There’s a lot to it’. No, it’s dead simple, straightforward.