Ridley Scott Interview For ‘Prometheus’
Ridley Scott, director of ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’, returns to the genre he helped define. With ‘Prometheus,’ he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race. ‘Prometheus’ features a first-rate cast in Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Rafe Spall, Logan Marshall-Green, and Guy Pearce. ‘Prometheus’ is released in cinemas June 1st in the UK and June 8th in the US. Look out for a more in-depth interview with Ridley Scott closer to the release date of ‘Prometheus.’
Why use the myth of Prometheus to revisit this universe you created?
Ridley Scott: The myth of Prometheus, Prometheus was a demi-god who challenged the gods. He received a gift of fire, which we consider in the film to be our first technology….if you think about that, fire IS technology. It’s how we use it after that. And then Prometheus was punished by the gods. So it’s a metaphor that unfolds in the movie, you’ll understand when you see it. I don’t want to give too much away.
The idea for ‘Prometheus’ is rooted in ‘Alien,’ with the question of, “Who and what is that ‘Space Jockey’ in the big seat?” Yet I understand while that was the starting point, ‘Prometheus’ developed into something else….
Ridley Scott: Yeah. The DNA attached to the original ‘Alien’ occurs in about the last eight minutes of this movie, of ‘Prometheus.’ But it started off because I did one ‘Alien’ movie, then three followed. I watched the three get made and I’m very competitive so give or take….did I love them? They were OK. I’ll say it how it is, believe me (laughs). I think what got eventually used up was the Alien, the seventh member of the cast in the first one, who was pretty formidable. The cast I had was absolutely wonderful, but without that guy in the rubber suit, the film wouldn’t have had its terror threat. Which is what I think we really got, super-charged terror in that first film. Also, partly because the actors were wonderful and were doing that – because if an actor is not showing fear or terror, the audience aren’t going to feel that either. I landed luckily on a man called H.R. Giger, who was actually at a peak in that time in terms of his designs. The studio at that moment didn’t want to go with Giger because they felt it was a bit too obscene, I said, “Obscene is good, it’s certainly intimidating.” So eventually we ended up with that. Now, on watching the three films that followed, no one asked one big very simple question, and I was amazed at that, because it was an evolution where you could certainly go into the next story by saying, “Who was the guy in the seat? Who was this popular character that got this name ‘Space Jockey’?” I dunno where that name came from (laughs), but it did. This big skeleton lying in this giant seat. Who’s that? Why was he there? I had always figured that….. what I call it, “The Battle Wagon”, this giant boomerang spaceship, it didn’t crash, it parked. Why did it park there? No one brought up those questions.
So I went back to Fox, recently, about three years ago, and said, “I think I’ve got a notion to re-charge this genre, recharge this franchise into something else.” They agreed and I began with the writer Jon Spaihts, then later Damon Lindelof. It became a….it’s interesting because when your writing, as you know, it’s entirely organic. When I’m working with writers, literally sitting at a table for days, sometimes weeks, where there’s always an answer to your problem – depending on how much you want to beat your head against the wall (laughs). One morning, one minute, one hour, your suddenly gonna get, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that.” It was an organic process, which gradually shifted miles away from the origin of ‘Alien,’ and evolved into what this film is now, ‘Prometheus.’ There’s a connection, that was the fuse, but now this is different. It leads us somewhere else.
What is your process of casting in your movies? You’ve put together a great cast for this film.
Ridley Scott: Frequently, I’d already have done my homework, so I kind of know who I want already. And that doesn’t undermine my casting directors, at all, because I know what I want. I need a very good casting director to persuade and negotiate and all that stuff. But, I look for people like Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, because they’re free-thinking, free-moving artists who think on their feet. Because filming isn’t like theatre, most film is actually like the antithesis of theatre, theatre you can sit and rehearse for three and a half months….I don’t know what you do for three and a half months, I would actually shoot myself (laughs). I love to rehearse around a table, with the people that I now feel very comfortable with. Because when I cast people, frequently I don’t even talk about the part, I just chat so that I can get to know the person. When the person is able to open up, then I feel like, “OK, they’re relaxed, lets now talk about the part.” So I obliquely get them talking about themselves, then once they’re being themselves, I look at how they’re gonna think and add to the part. Because you can always get a good read, but frequently that’s as good as it ever gets. So often you can be disappointed. When you cast people like the people in ‘Prometheus,’ they go home and they go do their homework. They will come in with ideas and say, “I thought of this, what do you think?” That’s what I’m looking for. My job is to be constantly surprised by what they do, so I’m grabbing the moments, which wasn’t even discussed sometimes. I think that’s what makes movies interesting.
What was it about Michael Fassbender that interested you in him playing David? When I spoke to him he said you had a discussion with him about the role a while back.
Ridley Scott: I think Michael Fassbender is….for a while now he’s joined the ranks of one of the best three or four male actors in the world. If I can get Michael to do anything, I’ll take it. So he was my first thought, my first idea, my first choice. I went to him and much to my surprise after a very brief conversation he said, “I’ll do it.” Michael Fassbender is a master of everything really, also I think he’s a very good mime artist. I figured within this character of David, there’s a lot of humour in David….your allowed to smile in this movie, even laugh in this movie. I think even in the very first ‘Alien’ there was a little bit of humour between Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Koto. In this film I think there’s even more humour, and if you watch the film at the very beginning, very carefully, what Michael Fassbender does with the part of David is kind of wonderful actually. Because he’s walking around all by himself for about the first four or five minutes, and we think, “Who’s this person?” You might think he’s a housekeeper, a butler, what is he? We made no secret that he’s a robot, android, or replicant, because there’s no point in hiding that anymore, it’s such a part of the genre. I didn’t want to make it that special, but I wanted to make it more special the fact that conversely, because he was that, and was accepted as that, the crew around him would accept that. One member of the crew doesn’t accept that because he’s uncomfortable having a replication of a human being around him. So there’s constant little jabs and digs at who he is and sort of, “Who does he think he is?” As this person who has been created. It’s humorous and then it gets dangerous.
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