Director Ridley Scott and actor Michael Fassbender appeared at the recent WonderCon 2012 to discuss the upcoming film Prometheus, but who we really need to zero in on is screenwriter Damon Lindelof who shares co-writing credit on the film with Jon Spaihts. From a Collider article on their presentation, here are Lindelof’s comments:
Yeah, and I think that it would have been really difficult to do a straight-up Alien sequel or Alien prequel because you’re beholden to so many of the things that came before it. To be able to shed that stuff [made it easier]. This was Ridley’s idea. From the screenwriting standpoint, for me, it was really just all about getting a clear sense of what was the movie that he wanted to make. It’s Ridley Scott. The movie is his vision, so I did my best to channel it. We had almost no conversations about any other movies, other then this one, which might have been hubris or it might have been freeing, but it felt good, maybe just because we were drunk.
In this day and age, when you’re trying to market a movie and you say, “It’s a romance. It’s a comedy.” Neither of those are inherent in Prometheus, although there are funny scenes and romantic scenes. I think there’s a lot of action adventure elements to this movie, in terms of looking at it, in comparison to the original Alien. But, the fact that we can’t really put it in that box of, “It’s a this,” is refreshing. I think that there’s a quiet suspense to the movie. It really takes its time. If you have a master filmmaker who’s working with incredibly talented actors, you just have to say, “We’re going to be patient. We do not need to have things exploding, every 10 minutes.” It’s a little bit of an old school approach to filmmaking, in that it trusts the audience to have a little bit of patience. Just as someone who is a fan of these kinds of movies, I’ve been astonished by the patience of the fan base, in terms of how little we’re telling them about the movie. We’re doing this dance together, as filmmakers, where people want to know more about it, but we say to them, “Do you really want to know?,” and they go, “No, no, no, we don’t. We actually just want to go into the theater, not knowing if there’s a bomb under the table or not, or when it’s going to go off.” Ridley has always had a tremendous amount of faith in the audience’s intelligence. He directs and tells stories in a way that you come up to them, as opposed to them talking down to you. I feel like Prometheus is a proud member of that thing he does so well.
I remember a conversation that Ridley and I had, fairly early on, about David. There was this idea that David is mass-produced. There are 20,000 other David units out there, who look exactly like Michael Fassbender. What a wonderful world that would be, wouldn’t it? It’s the idea that we all have our iPhones, yet we put different cases on them and different apps on them. This David, once you take him out of the wrapping, would begin to customize himself. He could change his hairstyle. He could change the way that he speaks. He could have different applications, based on what this unit is designed to do. That’s where I felt like, as soon as we cast Michael, that’s the killer app, right there. It’s pretty cool.
This word “prequel” was on the table. It was the elephant in the room and had to be discussed. When I had first heard that Ridley was going to direct an Alien prequel, and then six months later my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Are you available to talk to Ridley Scott?,” and then I crashed into a telephone pole, I answered the call and Ridley was like, “Hey, man, I’m going to send you a script tonight.” And, he doesn’t know he’s Ridley Scott. So, I read this thing and we had a meeting, and he was already very clearly saying, “I want to come back to this genre. I want to do sci-fi again. I feel like this movie is just a little bit too close to Alien. I’ve done this stuff before. But, there are big ideas in it that are unique, in and of themselves. Is there a way to do that?” I said, “I think that that’s what we have to do.” If there were a sequel to this movie, it would not be Alien. Normally, that’s the definition of a prequel. It precedes the other movies. The Star Wars prequels are going to end with Darth Vader going, “Noooo!,” unfortunately. There’s an inevitability, in watching a prequel, where you’re like, “Okay, if the ending of this movie is just going to be the room that John Hurt walks into, that’s full of eggs, there’s nothing interesting in that because we know where it’s going to end. With really good stories, you don’t know where it’s going to end. So, this movie, hopefully, will contextualize the original Alien, so that when you watch it again, maybe you know a little bit more. But, you don’t fuck around with that movie. It has to stand on its own. It’s a classic. If we’re fortunate enough to do a sequel to Prometheus, it will tangentialize even further away from the original Alien. When you go to the concert that is this movie, you want the Stones to play “Satisfaction.” There is this sense of us saying, “We want you to do something new, Ridley, but just give us a little bit of space jockey. Just play it! Even in the encore.” And, I think Ridley has given us the movie that I think we all want to see.
Obviously, with Lost, it was six years of my life. Between Carlton [Cuse] and I, we were at the wheel of the car. The idea of telling a story over 121 hours of time just felt so unwieldy. I went away for a month after Lost ended, and then the first project that I committed the next year of my life to, exclusively, was Prometheus. So, the idea of saying, “Yes, it’s just going to fit within the confines of 120 pages,” was a relief. That’s the story, but you keep going over that same story again. And then, there was also the huge relief of whatever story is out there about me saying, “This is what you should do, Ridley,” it’s, in fact, the opposite. It’s Ridley. I came in and he had a very clear sense of the movie he wanted to make. We had a number of conversations, he was enormously patient with me, and then I wrote that movie. It was nice to be sitting in the passenger seat and being like, “Maybe we should just make a left up here,” as opposed to having to drive the car constantly. If you’re going to let somebody drive, I highly recommend Ridley Scott. Although, Michael [Fassbender] said he’s a bad driver. I think it’s exciting, if you might go off the road, occasionally.
O-kay… I think.
What suggestions do you have? Take ‘em to comments.