Secrets of Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus': An Earthquake, Never-Seen Photos and Nightmarish Monster
This story first appeared in the May 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
For Ridley Scott, a revered helmer who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003, his upcoming film Prometheus would add to a significant body of work that includes Blade Runner and Thelma & Louise -- and give him his first mega-blockbuster since 2000’s Gladiator. Scott’s new movie has gone from being a prequel to Alien to a self-contained story starring Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace. It only makes passing reference to its 1979 inspiration and pays heavy tribute to author Erich von Daniken’s ideas in his 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? -- which argued that we are not alone and another sentient entity might have spawned us.
The movie has been under wraps for years: Fox would not even confirm it was related to Alien and refused to show more than a trailer to any significant number of viewers until mid-April. But on a gray April 3 in London, under relentless rain, The Hollywood Reporter executive editor, features, Stephen Galloway approached the squat Abbey Road Studios -- home of Sir Edward Elgar and The Beatles -- where the directing great has promised to unveil long portions of the film for the first time. There he met Scott, 74, redheaded with a small goatee, who scanned Galloway for signs of danger before suddenly, with disarming gentleness, pulling up a chair and pointing to a TV-sized monitor dangling from the ceiling.
Even on that tiny screen, the images are breathtaking.
Some of the other exciting details from THR’s Scott cover story:
THE 'PROMETHEUS' SHOOT COST MORE THAN $120 MILLION AND SPANNED THREE CONTINENTS
Four years in the making, with a budget of $120 million to $130 million covering 1,300 CGI shots and an 87-day shoot that took its crew from London to Iceland to Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, the picture (named for the mythological Titan who stole fire from the gods) is one of the most anticipated in years.
BORN OUT OF OLD WOUNDS
Prometheus dawned when Scott told Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Tom Rothman that he wished to revisit the territory that been under his skin since he was passed over for 1986's Aliens, the sequel that propelled James Cameron's career. "I was really pissed off, frankly," he says about the old wound.
CO-WRITER DAMON LINDELOF WAS SUMMONED TO SCOTT'S CREATIVE VAULT
In July 2010, Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof was summoned to a private meeting with Scott to discuss a top-secret project the director had been developing for the past two years. ... Lindelof was ushered by the director to a building adjacent to Scott’s sleek Los Angeles offices. “Ridley walked me up a stairwell, and there was a great big metallic vault door,” recalls Lindelof. “It was a foot thick with some kind of locking apparatus, and he opened it carefully.” Inside was a beehive of activity: “He introduced me to production designer Arthur Max and four 20-year-olds sitting at computers, designing stuff. ... I got to step behind the curtain”
HOW LINDELOF TURNED 'PREQUEL' INTO A DIRTY WORD
After two years and five drafts, Scott started to rethink the project. It was then that he contacted Lindelof, who, in a lengthy e-mail, argued against making the film a direct predecessor to Alien: “I don’t like the word ‘prequel’ because it communicates to an audience that they already know the ending.”
NEW DETAILS ON THE FILM'S CREATURE: 'EVERY WOMAN'S WORST NIGHTMARE'
It takes on at least four different forms as it grows and changes, sometimes “organically” in a way that Rapace calls “every woman’s worst nightmare.”
HOW CHARLIZE THERON ENRICHED HER ROLE
At Theron’s suggestion, Lindelof and Scott refined the actress’ role as the villainous Weyland Industries representative Meredith Vickers. “Vickers had a specific corporate agenda, which is very familiar in the Alien movies: someone representing the interests of the company,” Lindelof explains. “But Charlize said, ‘Can there be more to her?’ And then we wrote three scenes just in service of that character.”
A DANGEROUS SHOOT
In one storm sequence shot outdoors at Pinewood, Rapace got hurt: “I was hanging in a harness and thrown around. There were so many cuts and bruises, I don’t even remember them. When I finished, my knees were filled with liquid, and I had some nasty thing hanging from my elbow.” After months in the studio, the Arab Spring forced a shift from Morocco to Iceland. There, Scott filmed at the Dettifoss waterfall and near the live Hekla volcano -- where an earthquake erupted as the crew was right beside it.
A BLADE RUNNER SEQUEL IN THE WORKS ... AND PROMETHEUS 2
Scott also is developing Gertrude Bell, about the British writer, adventurer and spy who teamed with T.E. Lawrence in then-Arabia -- possibly starring Angelina Jolie -- all while considering Prometheus 2, which he hopes will come next, and developing a Blade Runner sequel, which the original’s co-screenwriter, Hampton Fancher, is penning.
"A BEAUTIFUL, COSTA RICAN FIRECRACKER"
He has a rich family life, with four grandchildren and a longtime girlfriend, actress Giannina Facio, “a beautiful Costa Rican firecracker,” as brother Tony Scott describes her.
HINTS AT WHAT DRIVES HIM
Few directors have begun their careers that late; even fewer have gone on to earn three Oscar nominations. Perhaps it’s because of this that Scott works compulsively, segueing from one project to the next, as if afraid time will run out on him. Perhaps it’s also to fight the fleeting depression he hints at: “When I find it sneaking in at the edges, I push it back. If you can control it, you must control it and not allow it in.”
Read the full THR cover story >>