Category Archives: Prometheus

The Prodigal Son: David 8

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“If I have a space ship worth god knows how much money and I’ve got to have a Company man onboard and that Company man is going to be a goddamn secret […] He is going to be a perfect looking robot. So that was the Ash thing […] I just wanted to have the same idea that the corporation would have a robot onboard every ship, so that when you are asleep in hyper-sleep for three or four years going at 250,000 knots an hour, you will have a guy wandering around like a housekeeper. He’s a housekeeper and he’s got full access to everything. He can look at all of the films. He can go into the library… he can do whatever he wants, and that’s David.”
~ Ridley Scott, collider, 2012.

Fondly remembered as one of Prometheus’ better parts, if not the best part, the android David inhabits a middle-ground between Ash and Bishop – he is malfeasant, but is not an antagonist; he valets the Prometheus crew, but is ultimately not beholden to them.

In Jon Spaihts’ Alien: Engineers David is first introduced aboard Weyland’s Wheel, where he acts as a concierge. “He’s cunningly built,” it reads, “but no one would mistake him for a real human being.” When Weyland is introduced, he elaborates a little more on his creation. “He’s a prototype,” he tells Watts. “Our 80 series. One of a kind for now, but if he performs, he will be legion.” This is obviously different in the film, where David appears very much human and, in the promotional materials at least, is said to be mass-produced already. Another divergence in the story is that Weyland does not board the Prometheus ship in secret, but instead sends David along as his “eyes and ears”.

There is also a very interesting exchange where David speaks with Watts and Holloway about his design specifications and capabilities:

David: My design’s not intended to convince. Simulating humanity is a complex task that diverts resources. My designers dispensed with that burden to optimize for intelligence.
Watts: Why look like a man at all? Why not be a box on wheels?
David: Being shaped like you, I can use spaces and equipment designed for you. But I’m not so limited. I hear frequencies you can’t hear. I see wavelengths of light invisible to you. I move faster. Exert greater force.

The scientists look at David in wonder.

Watts: You see yourself as a superman.
David: No.

He turns his unearthly eyes on them.

David (cont’d):
 Not a man at all.

David, overall, is very much an antagonist in Spaihts’ script. At first, he still serves the same function he does in the film: he decodes the alien hieroglyphs and quickly grasps the Engineer technology, and he still rescues Shaw after she is swept away in the storm, but by the midpoint he starts to display contempt for the human crew and, in one scene with Watts, he reveals a hidden agenda:

David: I was given two operating protocols for this mission. I was to render you every assistance – until you discovered what Vickers would call a “game-changing technology.” I was given a specific list. Then I was to go to protocol two […] Under protocol two I was to make sure that you and Holloway never spoke to anyone about this place. Various acceptable ways of making sure of that.

When he finally assaults Watts he does so with palpable malice, and when he gives chase he “runs like a demon, his legs steel pistons.” When he captures her it is in a grip akin to “iron manacles”. He then impregnates her with Alien spore. Interestingly, when the facehugger emerges, David strokes it gently – the facehugger ignores his touch and reaches for Watts.

“Subsequently, David, fascinated by these [Engineers], begins delaying the mission and going off the reservation on his own, essentially because he thinks he really belongs with the Engineers. They’re smart enough and sophisticated enough, great enough, to be his peers. He’s harboring a deep-seated contempt for his human makers.”
~ Jon Spaihts, Empire, 2012.

Watts expels the embryo in the Med-Pod, and she, Vickers and the rest of the crew attempt to stop David from re-activing the Juggernaut. He has gone rogue and has prohibited the Magellan ship from leaving the planet. The Juggernaut ship, David hopes, will resume its mission and annihilate mankind. It is revealed that he is fitted with behavioural inhibitors that will bend him to Vickers’ command, should she be able to reach him in time, but unfortunately, David harnesses the Engineer technology to override these countermeasures. “To interface with the Engineers’ computers,” he explains, “I had to learn to think in trinary code. Hardest thing I’ve ever done. And most unexpectedly…it delivered me from slavery. My behavioral limits were circumvented. I’m free.”

He awakens the last surviving Engineer and the encounter goes essentially the same way it does in Prometheus:

The Sleeper turns in astonishment. He looks down at David and answers in the same tongue. He is angry, accusing. He points at David, at the humans. Tones of accusation.

David cajoles, soothes, pleads. The Sleeper descends toward David. David spreads his arms in welcome – undeniable emotion on his face. Joy. The Sleeper lays his hands on David’s head as if blessing him. David is rapturous. The Sleeper speaks a single phrase

– – and tears David’s head off.

In the end, David’s decapitated head solicits Watts for rescue, claiming that he will need her. The script never tells us if she does set off with him, ending on a note similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing. “It was plain that David and Shaw were going to have to work together and deal with one another if they were to survive,” Spaihts told Empire. “That one shot of the ship taking off in the finished film really focuses you on a particular outcome, whereas my ending was much more open as to what was going to happen next. But it was very much about this shattered android and this scarred woman being left with no-one but each other to carry on with.”

Of course, the script underwent some drastic overhauls when Damon Lindelof was given rewriting duties on the project. In addition to removing the Aliens, eggs and facehuggers, he also remolded the role of Spaihts’ android. “I also became obsessed with David as the central character of the piece,” Lindelof told mtv.com in 2012, “and did everything I could to think of the movie through the robot’s point of view. Mostly because robots are awesome, but also because robots are awesome.”

He told The Hollywood Reporter that “I was really interested in and catalyzed by the robot, David — I felt like he was going to become the central figure of the movie. Because in the genealogical chain of things, there are these beings that may or may mot have created us, then there’s us, and then there’s the being that we created in our own image. So we’re on a mission to ask our creators why they made us, and he’s there amongst his creators, and he’s not impressed. Oddly enough, the one nonhuman human on this ship — that’s sort of a prison — exists to question why it is we’re doing this in the first place.”

“The idea that by creating a being in their image, humans can become gods. In the film, it is clearly stated that David, the android played by Michael Fassbender, ‘has no soul.’ I was interested in showing that as the film [progressed] the character is showing more and more feelings. Especially when one of the characters points out that he is not a ‘real boy’. David is upset, even angry, but he keeps his cool. In this, he is more human than the humans…”
~ Ridley Scott, leFigaro, 2012.

David’s role in Prometheus should be familiar to readers, but there is some interesting, if not contentious, background information to be gleaned from the promotional materials for the film regarding David and his android ilk. The Weyland Industries timeline, which again arguably has a tenuous connection to the actual series canon, details the creation and development of various David models beginning 2025 A.D.

The first David is ‘born’ on 7th January of that year (according to the Nostromo Crew Profiles, he shares a birthday with Ripley) and the timeline provides an interesting detail: “He is affectionately called David, a name Sir Peter Weyland had initially reserved for his own human son.” The next year Weyland patents “a chemical composition of classified properties able to almost perfectly replicate the biological features and textures of human skin.” From thereon, the development of David-type androids rolls on: David 2 is ushered into the world in 2028, and David 3 in 2035. The timeline notes: “After android regulations are lifted, the third generation David is deployed internally to test human acceptance of cybernetic individuals. Results are encouraging.” Further models appear in 2042, 2052, 2062, 2068, and model no. 8 follows sometime between 2073 and the opening of the movie.

Also for the promotion of the film, mock commercials were made to advertise the new David 8 line of android:

The Weyland Industries website offered all sorts of specifications and blurbs for the David 8 line. “David 8 is guaranteed to surprise you,” it promises. The model is “fluent in all known languages through a dialectic implant and can infer the linguistic components of entirely new languages if encountered. Communication between humans and David 8 should feel entirely fluid and natural.”

The site also proclaims that “His cadmium endoskeleton is guaranteed for the life of the product”, that he can blend “seamlessly into human environments” and instills a “strong sense of trust in 96% of users.”

Additional feature specs:

  • Multi-degree range of motion greater than human capacity
  • Micro-distributed accelerometers
  • 30x visual magnification with increased depth of field
  • Low-light auto-adapting feature (with assisted low-light focusing)
  • Non-reactive Polyurethane coating
  • 700-lb lifting capacity
  • Polymer-encased brain stem component

Then of course there is his maker’s signature, so prospective customers know he is the genuine, Weyland-approved product:

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In terms of his physical appearance, Fassbender told Time that “the inspiration we used was David Bowie and The Man Who Fell to Earth, and for films there were the replicants in Blade Runner. Greg Louganis, in terms of physicality. Lawrence of Arabia of course, and Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, and Dirk Bogarde. They were the ingredients.”

“I watched Blade Runner and I looked at the replicants. Well, I looked at Sean Young. There was something in her character, a quality there that I kind of liked for David, this longing for something or some sort of a soul at play there, a sort of vacancy also, a sort vacant element. I don’t know exactly what, I just knew there was a quality there that I liked.”
~ Michael Fassbender, collider, 2012.

When it came to dressing David they decked him in a grey Zhongshan suit, also worn by Vickers, and inspired by the spartan Communist uniform popularised by Sun Yat-sen and famously worn by Mao Zedong and also by pop culture dandies like Andy Warhol and David Bowie. David’s green fatigues also square him up with Bowie’s appearance in 1983’s internment camp drama Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

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David also exhibits peculiarities (for a supposed machine who only simulates human behaviours for their comfort) like vanity and obsession. One thing close to his heart, so to speak, is David Lean’s opus Lawrence of Arabia. “Ridley and I are both Lean fanatics,” said Lindelof. “and it seemed appropriate thematically.”

“David seems to have some fascination with that film and the character Lawrence,” Fassbender adds, “and I always attributed it to the fact that Lawrence has got a very clear vision and he’s very pure in his pursuit of it. There’s not much questioning. He’s a very decisive character, and I think David sees elements of that in Shaw as well. That’s why he finds her so fascinating. He’s also an outsider like David; he’s an Englishman, but he’s not accepted really by the English or the Arab nations, so he’s kind of somewhere in the middle.”

“He’s got a life history of his own,” Fassbender told Time in 2012. “It’s just probably not relationship-affected. A lot of the time doing the biography is interesting because you can think about what was the character’s relationship with other kids in school, with parents, all that sort of stuff, but David was a programmed entity obviously. So it’s more about how his programming has stayed intact. Are his objectives truly programmed objectives, or has he started to develop his own motivations?”

“While the rest of the crew is in suspended animation, David is enjoying himself, tinkering with the ship’s many technical wonders,” Fassbender explained in 2012. “And like a child, David enjoys watching the same movie over and over again. Additionally, David’s views on the human crew are somewhat child-like. He is jealous and arrogant because he realizes that his knowledge is all-encompassing and therefore he is superior to the humans. David wants to be acknowledged and praised for his brilliance, yet nobody gives him the time of day.”

Most of the crew do seem disinterested in David. Vickers seems to begrudgingly tolerate his presence. Despite claiming David as a son, Weyland dismisses him as nothing more than a conglomeration of inorganic pieces and personal ingenuity (Fassbender commented that “It’s all about Weyland. He is the creator, you know? So when he goes ‘The son that I never had,’ it’s not because he has affection for David, it’s that he has such affection for himself and self-affirmation that he created this.”) Similarly, the supercilious Holloway treats him as nothing more than a dandiprat or an object of amusement. “I think synthetic life is inevitable,” Marshall Logan-Green told i09 in 2012, “and along that line bigotry and racism (if you will) will be inevitable as well. Although I can’t approach a role thinking of [my character] as a racist or a bigot. Certainly now I can look back and explain his disdain for Michael in that way.”

There are interesting parallels here between David and Aliens’ Bishop. Aside from the similarity between David’s wandering the Prometheus ship and Bishop’s scripted introduction (where he roams the Sulaco as the Marines lie in hypersleep) Lance Henriksen also frequently referred to Bishop as being “child-like” and how he was often hurt by how others receive him (one version of the script details that Bishop looks “wounded” when Ripley rebuffs his kindness.) “When I did Bishop,” Henriksen explained, “I was using the fact that I was 12-years-old. I was using my 12-year-old emotional life and thought of myself as a black kid in South Africa. That if I made a mistake anything could happen. So, that’s what I was using through that whole role. There was a certain innocence about Bishop that I created that way. And of course when you’re 12 you forgive adults because you know you’re going to outlive them.”

On David’s poisoning of Holloway, Lindelof explained, “That’s his programming. In the scene preceding him doing that, he is talking to Weyland (although we don’t know it at the time) and he’s telling Weyland that this is a bust. That they haven’t found anything on this mission other than the stuff in the vials. And Weyland presumably says to him, ‘Well, what’s in the vials?’ And David would say, ‘I’m not entirely sure, we’ll have to run some experiments.’ And Weyland would say, ‘What would happen if you put it in inside a person?’ And David would say, ‘I don’t know, I’ll go find out.’ He doesn’t know that he’s poisoning Holloway, he asks Holloway, ‘What would you be willing to do to get the answers to your questions?’ Holloway says, ‘Anything and everything.’ And that basically overrides whatever ethical programming David is mandated by, [allowing him] to spike his drink.”

Logan-Green chipped in that, “My definition of a robot, or at least a self-sustained robot, is to put together information. As much information as possible and data. To build on data. The only way they’re going to grow is to build on data. You meet David collecting data instantly. I think he probably hit a wall (so to speak) with this mission. They all hit a wall, at first, with this mission. And going back to his father, Weyland, and he’s told to ‘try harder.’ I think he understands that he will have to sacrifice a human life in order to achieve that collection of data.”

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Prior to the release of the film Ridley teased that it may feature two androids. Speculating fans immediately zeroed in on Vickers, whose costuming and seemingly robotic poise singled her out from the rest of the cast. “Yes, she does look like David,” Lindelof told mtv. “Yes, this was intentional. What better way to piss off your daughter than to build the male equivalent of her?” Vickers’ scorn for David is evident throughout the movie: first, in a brief cut when Weyland describes David as being like the son he never had, and later, and far more obviously, when she slams him against the wall in frustration as David and Weyland plot without her. The Weyland-Vickers-David triangle was an interesting dynamic that is alloted so little time that it appears more as an afterthought than anything even remotely subtextual. It feels incidental rather than integral; but of course others are free to come to their own conclusions.

As for David’s future, Lindlof told Time that by Prometheus’ end he has aligned himself with Shaw. “I think they’re going where she wants to go. His fundamental programming has been scrapped. Weyland [the man who built and programmed him] is dead and so now his programming is coming from God knows where. Is he being programmed by Elizabeth, or is it his own internal curiosity now that Weyland isn’t telling him what to do any more? He’s always been interested in Elizabeth, remember that: He’s watching her dreams when she’s sleeping in much the same way that he watches Lawrence of Arabia. He’s a strange robot that has a curious crush on a human being, and when Weyland is eliminated, I think he is genuinely interested in what she’s interested in. He reaches out partly for survival, but partly out of curiosity, and I think he’s sincere that he’ll take her wherever she wants to go.”

As for Ridley’s thoughts on the sequel, “You’ll probably have to go with Shaw and David – without his head,” he told Yahoo in 2014. “Find out how he gets his head back on!”

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The Ampule Room

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PYRAMID – CORE CHAMBER
The vast central chamber of the pyramid. An immense space. Holloway walks in, his flashlight searching. Watts hurries after. The others follow, rovers tagging along.

A colossal structure stands in the center of the chamber, convoluted and strange. A mechanism. Chasms yawn in the floor all around it, their depths lost in darkness.
~ Alien: Engineers, by Jon Spaihts.

In the original script by Spaihts the ampule room did not appear. Instead the Magellan crew find the pyramid’s atmospheric processor. In his screenplay the chamber is more akin to a garden than the dark shrine that appears in the movie:

The core chamber brightens as the sun outside moves into alignment. The shaft of light perfectly centered.

A vast SIGH as if the pyramid itself is breathing.

A fat drop of water falls on Watts’s glove. She looks up in surprise. Another falls on her visor. And then it’s raining inside the pyramid. Water trickles into the chasms, inundating the mossy growths that cling to the walls.

Damon Lindelof’s Prometheus script removed the air processor and replaced the sequence with the ampule room. Notably, there is no giant head in the script (at least not in the version that leaked – there seems to be no ‘Ridleygrams’ of it either), though there is a wall of ampules, “rows and rows of them.” The room’s exposure to new air causes the ampules to ‘sweat’ as they do in the movie, but they also topple and pop open and shatter in the screenplay.

The room is described in Lindelof’s script as being “scaled for beings twice our size. It makes our heroes look like children.” The chamber also boasts “cathedral ceilings fifty feet above [them].” David shines a light on the roof, illuminating the Engineer artwork. “It’s a painting,” he says. “Not a painting,” Shaw objects, “it’s a fresco.” David wonders what the difference is. “Frescoes are in houses of worship,” she answers. Shaw’s reaction to the facility is laden with religious overtones in both scripts. Spaihts writes that “She holds her map unit as a pilgrim holds a bible: a guide in the darkness.”

“We can’t help but agree with her,” says the script, “this does feel somehow holy… like an alien Sistine Chapel.” For Holloway, the chamber evokes a very different feeling, that of “a laboratory” which houses “technology and equipment we have never seen before.”

Unfortunately, the crew’s entrance triggers the destruction of the Engineer art – “like the picture of Dorian Gray — exposure to the environment is literally dissolving it.”

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Before the film’s release it was stated that HR Giger had designed a set of frescoes for the film. Fans were understandably excited and subsequently confused when his artwork did not appear.

The exposure of the pyramid’s insect life to the mutagen is more dramatic in the script. “We see several small centipedes that came in from outside skittering away as the liquid washes over them.” These centipedes mutate into the Hammerpede creature. Worms replace the centipedes in the film.

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The monolithic head, once rumoured to be the pilot of the Juggernaut ship, seems to testify some sort of blank, terrible power. Whether it signifies a god, a particular Engineer, or the Engineer race as a whole, we don’t know. Before the film’s release the giant head was rumoured to pilot the ship, and was imagined by fans as being a living, bodiless and biomechanic intelligence – a sort of riff on the legless, sessile Space Jockey seen in Alien. In the film it instead silently looms over the ampules in a chamber described as both a vault and a chapel.

“The idea there is that it’s part of the culture of the Engineers,” said Arthur Max, not revealing too much, except to elaborate that the Engineers are “this race of interplanetary visitors who have given us upgrades –mentally and physically– over the millennium.”

The head is inscribed with glyphs on its front and sides. One idea thrown around production was to have the Engineers bearing facial tribal tattoos. The glyphs on the giant head resemble the alien language inscribed on the structure’s walls, doorways and on the deadly ampules.

Ethiopian statue of Benito Mussolini, and the Engineers' 'God-Head'. Testaments to power and worship. Mussolini was gunned down, hoisted to the girder of a garage, and his corpse pelted, shot, and spat on. As Percy Shelley wrote in his poem Ozymandias, great and terrible leaders die, and the monuments to their reign topple and crumble, left to gaze over a buried empire. The legacy of the Engineers has fared no better.

Ethiopian statue of Benito Mussolini, and the Engineers’ ‘God-Head’. Testaments to power and worship. Mussolini was gunned down, hoisted to the girder of a garage, and his corpse pelted, shot, and spat on. As Percy Shelley wrote in his poem Ozymandias, great and terrible leaders die, and the monuments to their reign topple and crumble, left to gaze over a buried empire. The legacy of the Engineers has fared no better.

The headquarters of Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, taken in Rome in 1930. The Engineer head monument is an allusion to worship and power, perhaps even fascistic power.

Billboard for the 1934 parliamentary election for Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, taken in Rome. The Engineer head monument is an allusion to worship and power, perhaps even fascistic power.

A giant head featured in John Boorman's Zardoz (1974).

A giant head featured in John Boorman’s Zardoz (1974). Zardoz, a godly being, teaches that human procreation is an evil, since it results in the propagation of man. War is good, since it cleanses the world of men. There is no direct correlation between Prometheus and Zardoz, but these common elements are intriguing enough to merit a mention.

One of the chamber’s more interesting elements is the Alien mural that lies at the far end of the vault, behind the Engineer head.

“Another set that I worked on was known as the ‘Head Room.’ This was a ceremonial room that contained hundreds of ampules beneath a giant sculpture of an Engineer’s head. Julian Caldrow did an amazing job of working out all of the details for this environment and created the set drawings. The final set was built at full scale and was incredible to walk on. I also sculpted an altar area for this set that paid homage to Giger – it is a relief sculpture hanging from the wall and has the impression of an alien form with flowing structures surrounding it. There are a lot of easter eggs in this sculpture – including several hidden Giger motifs that were not used in the original film.”
~ Steven Messing, i09.com, 2012.

Holloway notices a small altar before the Alien mural. Atop this altar is a jade crystal – in the film’s trailers the crystal does not appear. Instead, a bowl like the one the Sacrificial Engineer drinks from in the film’s opening takes its place.

The mural’s significance is not revealed in Prometheus, but Steven Messing mused that “[The Engineers are] a lot about sacrifice, so in my mind there was an Engineer [in the past] who sacrificed himself to this virus and it created this horrific creature. This being, that was gonna eradicate planets, was like a parasite that would destroy the planet and then [the Engineers] could start over and rebirth it. And they kind of worshipped it and you see this relief sculpture where it’s almost a religious sculpture.”

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Ultramorph? Xenomorph? Proto-Alien?

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The Abomination

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“The microscopic world – as strange DNA invades Fifield’s bloodstream. Virulent strands of protein attack the native DNA, transforming…”
Alien: Engineers, by Jon Spaihts.

The Fifield monster was a minor feature in Jon Spaihts’ screenplay but the rewrite by Damon Lindelof gave the mutant (also know as ‘Beluga- or Babyhead’) more to do in terms of wreaking chaos.

In the original screenplay Fifield does not take a trip back to the ship after his exposure to the Engineers’ bioweapons. He is instead later encountered by Shepherd, Watts (Shaw) and Vickers within the bowels of the Engineer facility. By this point his transformation is essentially complete: “The label stencilled on the space suit reads FIFIELD. But the face is of no human shape. A hideous hybrid of the crewman and a hard-shelled Alien, pale and horrific.”

Spaihts provides additional detail: “The  suit’s helmet is shattered. Inside the helmet, Fifield’s head is a horror: a gelatinous mass, skin reduced to putty.”

Fifield then attacks Shepherd, mortally wounding him. He next launches himself at Vickers, knocking her to the floor. “You,” he grumbles, barely able to enunciate, but the dying Shepherd manages to unload a full clip into him. Fifield dies but his acid blood also kills Vickers: “She dies horribly, caustic acid eating through space suit, flesh and bone.”

Damon Lindelof’s version of the creature does not really differ from Spaihts’. Both Fifields are mutated by the ‘black gloop’ and, after a period of hibernation/transfiguration, return to notch a few kills before ultimately being destroyed. The difference is that, as we know, Lindelof’s Fifield returns to the Prometheus ship to wreak havoc. He eliminates most of Weyland’s security apparatus before being killed himself – not much, but certainly a step-up from his previous flash-in-the-pan appearance in Jon Spaihts’ script. In the revised screenplay Fifield is killed by Shaw rather than Shepherd (the character is relegated into non-existence by Lindelof); while Fifield is attacking the security team Shaw slips by and commandeers a truck in Ripley-esque fashion. She reverses into him, crushing his skull:

FIFIELD turns his attention on them — NARROW ELONGATED HEAD that has PUNCHED THROUGH THE HELMET OF HIS TATTERED SPACESUIT
— GREY GLISTENING SKIN — HE RISES TO HIS FULL HEIGHT and —

SCREEEE! Shaw throws the BUGGY INTO REVERSE — SMASHES INTO  FIFIELD, driving him BACK INTO THE WALL OF THE AIRLOCK —
CRUSHES HIM! POPS the Rover Forwards — Then REVERSES AGAIN JUST FOR GOOD  MEASURE as she RUNS FIFIELD’S HEAD UNDER THE TIRES WITH A SICKENING SKLLLLISH!
~ Paradise, by Damon Lindelof

The film would present a different stage of Fifield’s transformation than both scripts, but this amounted to an aesthetic change rather than anything plot-altering. The production drew up a ‘creature family tree’ that detailed Fifield’s entire ‘arc’ as thus: “Ampule liquid contaminates him – Fifield mutates into Babyhead & attacks crew – Shaw crushes & kills Babyhead w/ rover.”

Early mutation concept.

Early mutation concept.

Fifield’s mutated form was known to the production crew as ‘Beluga Head’ and the basis for its design was provided by conceptual artist Carlos Huante, who also provided designs for the Deacon. Alien had left a deep impression on Huante when he viewed it as a young boy. “It affected me more directly than even Star Wars did,” he told 3Dartistonline. “The seriousness of the mood, the design of the Alien and the Space Jockey left an indescribable first impression on me. The actors were perfect, the look and mood of the film, the ship design and style of how the film was shot and the usage of effects elements; it was all new and struck right in the centre for me.”

Huante therefore did not shy away from the opportunity of working for Ridley on an Alien prequel. “If Prometheus took place some time before the first movie, I wanted to be the guy to police it and keep it looking Giger-esque,” he said, “so I was all over that!”

“I walked into the very first meeting [with Ridley] prepared with the Beluga Head,” Huante also told AVPGalaxy. This design “pre-existed the movie” and was originally an unused concept piece from Speilberg’s War of the Worlds remake.

Carlos Huantes' 'Beluga Head', originally from War of the Worlds.

Carlos Huantes’ ‘Beluga Head’, originally from War of the Worlds.

Other concepts were designed by Ivan Manzella (who also worked on the Deacon, Trilobite, and MedPod Creature). Manzella went through many different permutations of Fifield’s transformation: in some he is an amorphous blob of wrinkled flesh and twisted, sunken features – recognisably human but horrifically deformed.

In other concepts the mutant is faceless, emaciated and long-limbed like a primate – some are very reminiscent of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He also came in a variety of colours, from a ruddy brown to translucent whites and yellows.

Neville Page also provided different concepts of Huante’s ‘BabyHead’, as Ridley called it. “There was one creature that Carlos and I were kind of batting back and forth to one another,” Page says in The Furious Gods. “When I was given Carlos’ image to work with Ridley said, ‘Just give me your own take on it. Give me what you think Alien should look like’. So I, if it’s a verb, Gigered the hell out of it and brought it in proud as punch, feeling like ‘Yeah, that really feels like Giger’s aesthetic,’ and Ridley was like, ‘No, that’s not it at all.'” Scott rejected the elaborate ‘Gigered’ monsters and pointed the artist back to Huante’s original design.

“Man, we were all over the place on Fifield,” he continues. ” I think I actually spent the most time on Fifield. Ridley wanted variations of a Carlos thing that he’d did which was a ‘baby face’, and the baby face character, that was Fifield, was gonna have inverted legs and a bit of a tail – it was like a very, very quick morph from Fifield to this monster.”  This speedy transformation, along with concerns that the Baby Head was too similar to a goblin, would later lead Scott to reign back on the creature’s monstrosity and associate it closer to the human Fifield.

“The concern was, for a lot of it, Ridley’s feelings were that it looked too much like a goblin,” said Page. “And then we took it more where Fifield would be infected, still humanoid, limb length would grow, and we needed to keep some of his features, which again, that’s a real tough balance because as soon as you start to morph someone into a creature they disappear, so we talked about the tattoo and making that tattoo, whether it be on his face or body, become something that will allow us to basically see that it is still Fifield.”

Fifield by Neil Scanlan.

Fifield by Neil Scanlan. No identifying marks such as the tattoo or facial hair. The transformation is almost complete.

The resulting maquette.

The resulting maquette.

Fifield’s appearance and rampage in the Prometheus hanger was originally rendered in CGI by Weta. The concept designs by Huante et al were largely naked creatures, but the scripts and film kept the monster inside his ragged spacesuit, ostensibly to demonstrate to the audience that this creature was, or had been, Fifield (it should be clear by now that the filmmakers were worried that audiences would not associate the monster with the human precedent).

“We clothed it in a simulation of Fifield’s spacesuit,” said Weta’s Martin Hill, “torn and covered in oil.” Once the creature was taken from the page and rendered in a computer, Weta were able to create a system of movement for it. “We studied reference of cats, gorillas, even crabs,” explained Martin.

But Ridley opted to make the creature even more human-like in form and movement, showing further the relationship between Fifield as a man and Fifield as an Alien. “It became a lot more humanoid,” said Hill, “but distorted and long limbed, and it moved with gorilla-type motion – very aggressive, walking on its knuckles.”

Pre-visualisation of the mutated Fifield.

Pre-visualisation of the mutated Fifield. Tattoo, nostrils and hair added to closely resemble his human form.

Subsequent pre-vis with Alien translucent cowl added.

Subsequent pre-vis with Alien translucent cowl added. This stage of Fifield’s transformation is not entirely unrecognisable, but Scott wanted to dial it back even more.

The desire to take “the design of this embryonic creature closer to the human form” would eventually result in the production removing the CG Fifield from the movie. Instead they had Fifield actor Sean Harris perform the scene in makeup. The mutation was dialed back; when it appears the monster is easily identified as Fifield: the shock of red hair and beard is more prominent, and he is recognisably tattooed on his engorged but visibly human skull. The translucent cowl and the beginnings of the Alien cranium were removed.

“We went through numerous designs,” explained Scanlan. “What was interesting was Sean Harris is such a superb actor, we did a test on him on stage, a very simple kind of makeup, and he gave such a strong performance that the general feeling was it would have been much better to hold onto the actor’s features, hold onto all of the things that he would bring to the show. His head is becoming horridly contorted. He is losing himself to the Alien within, but still he is Fifield. He hasn’t gone that far that we’ve lost Fifield.”

The CG Fifield had an unnatural fluidity to its movements that gave it away as a digital creation. This may have been corrected if Weta were given more time to finalise the effects, but Scott was pleased with Harris’ portrayal of the mutant and he wanted to move away from something that was overtly monstrous. “Funny enough, the actor is winning,” said Scott. “The digital enhancement is excellent, but it looks like a monster, whereas the actor still looks like the actor. And what he does is pretty damn good.”

Other members of the production offered the same opinion: Harris was fully capable of performing the creature’s stunts, including working with fire; the CG was too monstrous and was hard to identify with Fifield; and the actor’s monster makeup was suitably grim anyway, so the horror didn’t feel diminished.

Neil Scanlan stated in the Art of the Film that “Everything we’ve done on the film has a real world reference, and when you do your research, it’s so sad because Fifield isn’t really that much of a fantastical creature. These things happen in real life, like Elephantiasis.” In The Furious Gods and other production material photographs of Joseph Merrick can be seen stapled to the production office walls.

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There were still changes in post-production. Fifield is no longer run over by Shaw, but is crushed by a random mercenary and finished off with a flamethrower.

“I saw all the outtakes as well,” Carlos Huante told AVPGalaxy, “and loved the performance of the ape version of Fifield, but the actual creature wasn’t Alien or Prometheus – it was an ape… It looked great though, but it wasn’t for this movie. The concept and thread of who the creatures are was all lost unfortunately. The only creature that had a bit of the vibe still left was the worm or hammerhead snake. In the end that sequence is probably the only thing that still held to the original albino concept of the creatures… All that being said I really liked the movie,  and again it was beautiful.”

In February 2011 Giger visited the production in London and briefly sketched his own take on the Fifield monster.

In February 2011 Giger visited the production in London and briefly sketched his own take on the Fifield monster.

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Ultramorphs, Xenomorphs, and Weapons of War

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In the closing moments of Prometheus Shaw and David, having struck an uneasy alliance, dart for the Engineer homeworld and leave LV-223 behind them. “There is nothing here but death,” Shaw narrates. But in the wreckage of Vickers’ escape pod the Engineer suddenly shudders to life – his chest cleaves open and a new life-form emerges: a spindly-limbed creature known as the Deacon, or, as the early script by Jon Spaihts call him, the Ultramorph.

“I wrote five different drafts of the script,” explained Spaihts, “working with Ridley very closely over about nine months. And even as we were working, we were constantly toying with the closeness of the monsters in the film to the original Xenomorph. You can see an interesting balance, even looking at the movies in the Alien franchise, between homage and evolution. In every film you’ll see that the design of the Alien shifts -the shape of the carapace, the shape of the body- and some of that is to do with new technology available to realise the monsters, but a lot of is just a director’s desire to do something new.”

“And so he was always pushing for some way in which that Alien biology could have evolved,” he continued. “We tried different paths in that way. We imagined that there might be eight different variations on the Xenomorphs – eight different kinds of Alien eggs you might stumble across, eight kinds of slightly different Xenomorph creatures that could hatch from them. And maybe even a rapid process of evolution, still ongoing, in these Alien laboratories where these Xenomorphs were developed. So Ridley and I were looking for ways to make the Xenomorphs new.”

One of the new Alien variants would be the Engineer-Alien; the creature that presumably erupted from the chest of the Space Jockey in Alien.

Alien insects: Again, just as they did on Alien, Ridley and the creative team turned to the brutal insect world for inspiration. Spaihts told Empire magazine: “Ridley is a great and ghoulish collector of horrible natural oddities, real parasites and predators from the natural world. He had a tremendous file of photography of real, ghastly creatures from around the world – they’re chilling, some of them! He would tell these tales with relish, of wasps that would drill into the backs of beetles and plant larvae, or become mind-control creatures. Terrible things happen, especially the smaller you get. As you get into the insect world or the microbial world, savage atrocities are perpetrated by one creature on another. And Ridley was thrilled with all of them. They inspired a lot of the designs and a lot of the ideas we tried.”

An Alien born from a Space Jockey is an angle already explored in the series’ expanded universe. One appeared in the comic book Aliens: Apocalypse – The Destroying Angels, and another in the Nintendo DS game Aliens: Infestation – both designs bore no similarity to one another, the Jockey-Alien being an unseen element in the films. Artists were free to render it as they wished. The hypothetical creature has also been the subject of fanart over the last few years. Spaihts’ Alien: Engineers movie would have been the first in the movie canon to depict the monster.

Concept of the Engineer-Alien.

Concept of the Engineer-Alien.

Alien: Engineers, as Spaihts’ script was called, would also expand Ridley’s notion that the Alien was a weapon of war and not a naturally occurring creature in its own right. The Alien had long been theorised to be an unnatural creation. In addition to Ridley’s ideas about the origin and purpose of the Alien, James Cameron also considered the theory that the Jockey may have been on a mission of either peace or war: “Perhaps he was a volunteer or a draftee on the hazardous mission of bio-isolating these organisms,” he said in an issue of Starlog magazine, before also postulating: “Perhaps he was a military pilot, delivering the Alien eggs as a bio-weapon in some ancient interstellar war humans know nothing of, and got infected inadvertently.”

The idea was explored in almost every one of Alien 3′s many scripts, which saw the Company’s weapons division attempting to domesticate an Alien for their own purposes. In David Twohy’s Alien III the antagonist Dr. Lone recognises their lethal potential: “Company assets are, as you know, many and far-reaching,” he says, justifying his use of Aliens as weapons, “There will always be a need for defensive weapons.” In Eric Red’s Alien III, Dr. Rand comes to the same conclusion: “This organism, on a cellular, even a molecular level, is purely and totally predatory. We have never encountered an organism that had its characteristics… or its potential.” Dr. Rand goes on to confidently declare to an audience that she has tamed the Alien for future military applications. She approaches the creature and…

“The Alien’s first set of jaws open, piledriver jaws jackhammering the back of Dr. Rand’s head, exploding it off her shoulders in a shower of meat. Her decapitated, spurting body collapses to the floor.”

… its obedience was feigned. The Aliens likewise pretend to be obedient in an issue of the early Dark Horse comics – when the moment is right, they unerringly strike, to the shock of their would-be masters. The Alien seems to be a fantastic weapon, save for one element: control. Alien Resurrection and many of the expanded universe stories explored not only the Aliens’ tenacity and single-minded will, but also their intelligence and ability to quietly strategise amongst themselves when under duress.

Lack of control is a long running theme of the series (first hinted at in the first movie: the Space Jockey is clearly shown to have fallen victim to his cargo) and even containment is an arduous task. Ash is more content to allow the Alien to run amok; analysing and admiring the creature’s lethality seems to be his kick. Though he sabotages any attempt to expel or harm the Alien, he likewise makes no move to contain or communicate with it – he may have deduced that it may not be possible to do so. In Alien 3 the Company’s intention to capture the Alien is dismissed by Ripley as being futile and self-destructive. “They can’t control it, they don’t understand it, it will kill them all.” She would know. After all, her plan to trap the Alien only briefly succeeded.

In Spaihts’ screenplay the Engineer facility on LV-426 (LV-223 after Lindelof’s rewrite) is a testament to the Alien’s unsuppressible nature. The creatures there, some time ago, managed to infect and annihilate their creators. One Engineer (called the “Sleeper”) manages to stow himself away in cryosleep, and is found eons later by the protagonists of the story, who rouse him from his rest. The Engineer attacks the humans and launches his ship, the Juggernaut, but succumbs to the Alien’s birth pangs:

“In the pilot chair, the Sleeper convulses. An ALIEN erupts from his chest. Big as a wolf even at its birth. Dark grey, armoured, lethal. More hideous than any chestburster we’ve seen. An ULTRAMORPH. It wails hideously. The Sleeper dies. The Alien slithers free.”
Alien: Engineers, by Jon Spaihts.

Janek and Shaw take advantage of the Juggernaut’s loss of control and ram their own ship into it. Both ships subsequently crash and the Ultramorph rises from the wreckage and stalks Shaw, who eventually kills it with a diamond-tipped saw.

But the Ultramorph was not the only Alien to feature in the original script. Different variations cropped up throughout the story, including an alabaster, dolphin-headed Xenomorph that is born from Holloway. The classical Giger Alien is pulled form Shaw’s body during the MedPod scene, and she quickly dispatches it once the creature reaches maturation – “I brought it in,” Shaw tells Captain Janek, hefting her gun, “I took it out.”

The Holloway Alien however is given some time to rampage through the ship, and kills many of the crew.

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“It is a humanoid demon, spindly limbs and bony back. Boneless and flexible and monstrously strong. A threshing eel’s tail. Its blunt head dolphin-like and elongated … A nightmare image, a translucent white goblin. Backlit, it shows the strange shape of a human face inside its fleshy skull. A mockery of Holloway.
And then it’s gone.”
~ Alien: Engineers, by Jon Spaihts.

This particular Alien is able to sift through vents and small spaces, and its carapace only barely masks a leering human skull – just like the original Alien from the 1979 movie. Spaihts talked to Empire about the Holloway Alien’s appearance: “We toyed with the notion that the Xenomorphs might have a soft carapace like a soft-shelled crab, and be flexible and able to squeeze through cracks; that they might be pale rather than black; that they might retain inside some gelatinous cowl some resemblance of the human being in whom they’d incubated. We played with a lot of ghoulish notions like that.”

When the script was rewritten by Damon Lindelof (as a script titled Paradise) these Alien creatures were cut and replaced by other monsters. The Ultramorph, retooled as the Deacon, was saved for the closing scenes, but it never encounters any of the film’s human characters. Where it goes after its birth is not known, its intelligence and motives can only be guessed at, and some called its inclusion an unnecessary and overly obvious tip of the hat to the Alien series, from which Prometheus had previously seemed desperate to divorce itself.

The design of the Deacon primarily fell to conceptual artist Carlos Huante, who was keen to explore Giger-esque forms and shapes. Many of his initial designs mimic early Alien concept pieces, but Ridley, as he did with other conceptual artist Neville Page, steered Huante away from mimicking Giger’s style, though Huante found the influence irrepressible. “The genesis of that character came after a conversation I had with Ridley about a design progression of the creatures to the Xenomorph of the first film,” he told AVPGalaxy. “I went home and thought about it, but kept on with the Giger-esque Ultramorphs.”

Once I realized that this film’s timeline was taking place before the Giger-esque aesthetic would come into effect, I started homing in on a design aesthetic [that] I felt would complement the beautiful Giger style that saturated the first film. I wanted everything white and embryonic. Ridley and I were right in tune with each other on this. I mean, Ridley was looking at paintings that had white ghost-like creatures, as reference for the Engineers. I loved the idea of pale white and started developing that as an overall concept for all the creatures.”
~ Carlos Huante, Prometheus: The Art of the Film, 2012.

“Then as I worked I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if these Aliens, who are born of humans and haven’t been mixed genetically with the Engineers yet, would look more human and less biomechanical?’ Of course this was for a different version of the script, but that’s where the Deacon (or Bishop, as he was originally named) came from. He later became an Ultramorph and as the script changed slightly after I left the show, it became that thing at the end.”

The original concept of the Deacon looked similar to the Holloway-Alien in that it was tall, pale, and its head headed in a point.

The original concept of the Deacon looked similar to the Holloway-Alien in that it was tall, pale, and its head ended in a point.

The Deacon became a shade of blue in other pieces...

The Deacon became a shade of blue in other pieces. Huante explained that blue tone was used to emphasise its whiteness in varying shades of darkness. Its skin also had a translucent quality…

Other pieces showed the Deacon as smaller, fowl-like and coloured a darkening blue.

In other concepts it was imagined as smaller, fowl-like and coloured a darkening blue.

As the design went through different permutations Ridley decided to move away from the ‘Ultramorph’ name for something else. At first it was referred to as ‘Bishop’, but this became ‘Deacon’ for obvious reasons. “It looks like a bishop’s mitre, the evil deacon’s pointed hat,” explained Arthur Max.

The Deacon in the film is not as magisterial as the concept art, which depicted a fully-grown Alien rising from the caracss of the Engineer. The film opts to show the Deacon as a vulnerable creature that rises but tumbles as it is born: it is connected to its host via an umbilical cord and is sustained by an egg sac for feeding upon.

“Foals are gangly and ungraceful,” explained Neil Scanlan, “but have to grow quickly. A foal or a giraffe, if they’re born in the wild, out in the open, have to get on their own feet and get ambulatory very quickly. They’re ungainly, but they develop fast, and that’s what we wanted, so that was the strategy with the Deacon.”

As for its skin tone, Scanlan said: “The quality of the Deacon’s skin is based on the placenta when a horse gives birth. Steve [Messing] managed to get it — something between horrific and beautiful with the way he rendered the quality of the surface treatment. It had a sort of iridescent quality we really wanted. So it was kind of beautiful-scary.”

But Carlos Huante was not impressed by the Deacon’s dark blue skin and design changes from picture to film. “Why it was blue?” he said to AVPGalaxy. “I don’t know… The illustration was blue so as to emphasize its whiteness in a dark blue setting, and I was following some inspirational paintings that a contemporary Russian painter did of a man’s head that Arthur [Max] had sent me from Ridley. The creatures were all supposed to be albino. They were supposed to look simple, beautiful and ghostly, like a Beluga whale in dark Arctic water.”

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“I wish I could have stayed on to supervise the follow-through with the designs,” he explained further. “My biggest disappointment is that what I did got modified, of course. Any artist would say that. But I really thought they were going to make my Deacon, but for some really strange reason they went with the one from the storyboards which was not my character and not the design.”

Huante reckoned that the production took note from the film’s storyboards rather than his concept art. “The board artist illustrated it for the purposes of storytelling for the storyboards but not as the design,” he said. “The design of the actual Deacon was abandoned … I’m shaking my head as I write this.”

When they met in London in early 2011 Ridley toured Giger around the film’s production offices, showing him the concept art of the various creatures. Giger, sitting at a desk with Scott, sketched some tentative alterations that ultimately were not integrated into the final designs.

deacongigerconcepts

THE ENGINEER lies on the ground, STILL.
Next to it, the TROGLYBYTE. Equally motionless looking very much like a DEAD OCTOPUS. And then…

THE ENGINEER’S BODY STARTS TO TWITCH.

His ABDOMEN slowly rises — SOMETHING IS MOVING — UNDULATING BENEATH HIS SKIN LIKE A MASSIVE PYTHON — PRESSING AGAINST IT. AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND — BURSTS OUT OF THE ENGINEER’S CHEST. A CRYSTALLINE PLACENTAL SAC FLOPS ONTO THE GROUND WITH A SICKENING SPLASH OF VISCOUS FLUID
— And now —
A RAZOR SHARP POINT PUNCTURES THE SACK FROM WITHIN — SOAKING  THE CARPET WITH GOOP as it TEARS OPEN and in MAGNIFICENT GLORIOUS FASHION —
AN OOZING, ASTONISHING CREATURE — A DEACON — SLITHERS TO THE GROUND LIKE A HORRIFIC TUNA. FIERCE. TERRIFYING.
And it rises to it’s full TERRIFYING HEIGHT. Takes its FIRST STEPS towards the OPENING at the end of the room.

EXT. PLANET, CRASH SITE, VICKERS’ MODULE – DAY

Stands there now — SURVEYING THE PLANET with the cold, detached air of a HUNTER.
~ Paradise, by Damon Lindelof.

The reaction to the Deacon was mixed. It hasn’t gained any of the stature of Aliens from the previous movies, though many fans are optimistic to see the creature as an adult. Its appearance in Prometheus can be compared to that of the newly-born dog Alien in the third movie – both creatures had yet to shed and mature into adults.

Some fans also humorously pointed out that the Deacon bore an unfortunate resemblance to monsters from other films, most notably the alien monster from the comedic Alien vs. Ninja:

The Deacon rod puppet from the film's climax.

The Deacon rod puppet from the film’s climax.

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Strange Shapes Interviews Ian Whyte

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Ian Whyte is a former basketball player who first appeared on film screens as the lead Predator in Alien vs. Predator. He resumed his role, albeit as a different Predator, in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Other film roles include lending his services as a stunt performer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, playing a djinn in Clash of the Titans, a fiery sword-wielding representative of Satan in Solomon Kane, various roles in Game of Thrones, and the Engineer in Prometheus.

Valaquen: It seemed like you jumped right into the deep end with your first role, playing the iconic Predator in a long awaited movie. How did the role come to your attention, and what did the audition process entail?
Ian Whyte:
The casting director called my basketball team who then called me to pass on the news. My initial reaction was, “Yeah right! Nobody wants to put me in a film!” but within five minutes I had been invited to London to audition for the part. I was asked to put on a wetsuit, a balaclava, a rough mock up of the predator head with thick black ropes for dreads and the predator mask. When fully dressed I was given the command: “Start running!” and I went around and around in circles, in the studio on what was the hottest day of the year for about an hour. I briefly met Paul Anderson the following day. A week later I was invited to Prague to meet the ADI crew who had the final say on the casting and a week after that I received a phone call from the producer offering me the part… if I wanted it of course!

V: The interesting thing about Scar, your character in Alien vs. Predator, is that he kills human characters as well as the Aliens. Can you comment on working with (and killing) actors like Lance Henriksen?
IW:
I was very honest with the cast as to my experience in front of the camera and they were very gracious and very helpful when we were shooting the scenes, none more so than Lance himself. That scene was quite literally a baptism of fire. There was an experienced stuntman on hand to do the actual burn sequence when Weyland ignites his oxygen bottle, but I did the closeups. The shot that was used in the film showed some whisps of fire on my shoulders, but in quite a few of the takes I was quite ablaze! Before I left for Prague to shoot, my wife said to me, “You can do as many of your own stunts as you like, just don’t let them set you on fire!” and that was one of the first scenes to be shot as well!

V: Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, wasn’t well received but your performance as Wolf earned you a lot of acclaim from fans. Some even compared you to original Predator performer Kevin Peter Hall. How did you approach the svelte professional Wolf in comparison to the bulkier amateur Scar?
IW:
I approached the role in much the same way with regard to my training, I just had a lot more of it! Three years passed between AVP and the sequel and I spent those years training as if the film was just around the corner. It was time well spent, because the shooting schedule crammed twice as much action into half the amount of time compared to the first one. One day the producer came into the studio and shouted, “Send Ian home! We can’t keep him here any longer!” I had just gone over 18 hours on set.

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“Just don’t let them set you on fire!”

V: You also played the Engineer in Prometheus. How did this role come to your attention?
IW:
Very quietly! Initially I was just asked to do some makeup tests for the prosthetic makeup applications that the makeup supervisor was working on, but it very quickly became an ongoing audition of sorts. Then I met Ridley one rainy Sunday afternoon in Pinewood and quite soon after I met the casting director for an official audition. Without any irony whatsoever, the scene that I auditioned was the one scene in the script that I didn’t shoot for the film: the self sacrifice scene at the waterfall!

V: Unlike the Predator or the creatures from Solomon Kane and Clash of the Titans, the Engineer’s face is a large part of the performance: he is largely unmasked, and can emote. He also gets some dialogue. Do you prefer the sort of roles where you can hide under layers, or do you prefer roles like the Engineer, where the make-up does not disguise you completely?
IW:
A mask is a luxury for an actor that is true. You can completely let go of reality when the camera doesn’t see your face, but these are fantastical roles anyway, they require a great deal of imagination and invention to make them a “reality”. I tend not to discriminate between masked roles and straight roles, the emotions are all going on underneath the mask anyway and it’s me that’s moving the costume, not the costume that’s telling me how to act.

V: The Engineer is a mysterious being. We don’t know where he came from, and we have only the thinnest understanding of his mission. When you play such a creature do you formulate a backstory and attitude in your head? Who, as far as you’re concerned, is the Engineer?
IW:
Someone on the crew, (I forget exactly who) described them absolutely perfectly as “Truck drivers of the apocalypse!” They serve a higher power/intelligence, unnamed and unknown.

V: This time you ripped Michael Fassbender’s head off, bludgeoned Guy Pierce, and hounded Noomi Rapace – can you comment on working with these actors?
IW:
The first time I saw Fassbender on set it was a  20 second masterclass in knowing your character. Quite amazing! Everyone was thoroughly charming, I only met Guy Pierce on the day that we shot the awakening scene. Whilst we were between shots, we stayed on the set chatting. When someone asked me if I would step away for costume checks an hour had passed, almost in the blink of an eye. On set we only ever saw each other in makeup, so we had an agreement to meet at the premier party, so we could see each other up close, in person!

V: Ridley has a reputation for being a perfectionist and artist. Were you given any leeway in your interpretation of the Engineer, or were you directed more closely by Scott?
IW:
I had a rudimentary framework of concepts that I knew would need to be employed; his superiority, almost regal posturing, but generally I was free to explore the character. The first time we see the Engineer rise from his hibernation sleep, I just went for it and the scene sort of grew organically. A hush fell over the set after cut was called on the first take and we all looked at each other as if we’d done something wrong. Gradually the crew went about their tasks and a friend of mine on the makeup team came over and said “Ridley’s coming over.” I thought “oh! what have I done?” I had nothing to worry about, he was very pleased.

Ian Whyte serving a higher power in Prometheus.

Ian Whyte serving a higher power in Prometheus.

V: Fans have been waiting for decades to see the Space Jockey come to life and pilot his ship. How did it feel to don that suit and helmet and sit at the controls in that very impressive set?
IW:
This was an idea in Ridley Scott’s head for 32 years. Ever since we first saw the pilot in the derelict ship in Alien, questions have been asked as to who this being is. It was an honour and a privilege to finally bring it to life.

V: You’ve also been busy with various roles on Game of Thrones. First as a White Walker, then Gregor Clegane, and also as a giant. Can you tell me about working on the series and your multiple roles?
IW:
George R R Martin has created a vast stage for actors, I would have been happy to just play one role, but to have the opportunity to play multiple parts is a joy and a privilege. They will all die of course!

V: Your role as Gregor Clegane was probably your most human to date (though the Mountain is no less of a monster). Was accepting the role a daunting prospect for you?
IW: It was very daunting not least because I am not the first person to play the part and I came under quite a lot of criticism, not for my performance, but for daring to take over the part in the first place. Oh well! Criticism is all part of the job. You have to be professional about this sort of thing and do what you think is right. It was almost a different character from series one, no action at all, just a vile presence, a cauldron of simmering rage.

V: You also shared some screentime with Charles Dance, who is also an Alien veteran, having played a prominent role in Alien 3. Can you comment on working with Dance in the show, and your scenes together?
IW: Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that he was in Alien 3 until we did a personal appearance together for a fan convention in Belgium and he was asked questions about his career. He is a gent of the highest order and a joy to work alongside. After meeting for the first time I quite forgot that he has been quite an inspiration to me throughout his career and we just got on with doing the scenes.
I found playing this character in these particular scenes quite paradoxical. This is a man who is infamous for his brutality, his inhumanity and his angry rages, but in Tywin’s office he is as if a naughty schoolboy standing in front of the headmaster… I found it a delicate balancing act.

V: You have appeared in every season of GoT to date, either as a monster, Clegane, or a giant. Without giving anything away, can we expect to see you again for series 4? As someone who’s read the books, the Mountain has some very front-and-centre scenes coming up.
IW: Wouldn’t it be great if I could give you a scoop? No! quite simply, NO! no details of series 4 shall pass from my lips! sorry!

Ian in costume as a giant from Game of Thrones.

Ian in costume as a giant from Game of Thrones.

I’d like to thank Mr. Whyte for taking the time out of a hectic schedule to answer my long winded questions. It was nothing but a joy and I look forward to seeing more of his gods and monsters!

I have to extend another thank you to Space Sweeper for crafting the article’s banner, so – thank you!

~ Valaquen.

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Gods & Monsters

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“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies
of angels? And if one did take
me to his heart: I would perish from his
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the onset of terror we’re still just able to bear,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us.
Every angel is terrifying.”
~ The First Elegy, Rainer Maria Rilke.

“They are men – and yet not men,” opens Jon Spaihts’ Alien prequel script. The scene is a primordial world, and three figures have walked out of the darkness… “Their skin is snow-white,” it continues. “Their features heavy and classical – as if Rodin’s Thinker had risen from his seat.” But it’s not Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece finally standing before us, it is HR Giger’s.

The origin of these pale giants harkens back to 1979’s Alien, which introduced us to the enigmatic and sessile Space Jockey. The  Jockey had never figured into any of the Alien sequels, save for a brief mention in one draft of Aliens that went unfilmed. After a three decade absence the creature was back, though rebranded as the ‘Engineer’, an apparent biological warmonger, seeder of worlds and god-errant who, at some point in prehistory, created mankind.

Artist Neville Page was given the task of conceptualising the look of the Engineers. “We know that the Engineers were the engineers of us,” he elaborated, “but we don’t know, and nor can I speculate, why they left and came back and how many times they came back and what the intention was of returning and why they gave us the map to find them.”

“Their civilisation is millions of years old. Once, the Engineers expressed themselves as humans do, taking pleasure in music, colour and story, but they’ve long learned to see in more dimensions than we do. Their art and ornament exist on planes imperceptible to human senses. Their constructions look dark and grim to us; but the Engineers’ eyes see far more than our own. Individual Engineers live for a hundred thousand years. Ages ago their race abandoned sex and gender, reproducing by more abstract methods. In recent millenia they have ceased to reproduce altogether.”
~ Jon Spaihts’ “Alien Master Narrative”, script notes.

“When Shaw and Holloway conceived the mission, their expectation was they would discover a benevolent species that might provide answers to some of our greatest mysteries. In other words, they were hoping to meet gods. But these beings prove to be anything but compassionate. They are a dangerous race of superbeings.”
~ Michael Ellenberg (executive producer), screenslam, 2012.

As for the look of the Engineers, they “were an exercise in classic human beauty,” he explained. “Ridley was quite specific about his references of Roman and Grecian sculpture. ‘God-like, classical, powerful, with skin like that of stone’. In some ways, it was the easiest to design as there was little to do in terms of invention. In other ways, it was very difficult as the pursuit of human beauty is quite subjective.”

The most controversial aspect of the Engineer however was his relationship to the Space Jockey, ie: the Jockey was only one component of this gargantuan being; a suit or instrument. The real creature lay within.

“The giant [in Alien] was conceived as a skeleton,” Ridley Scott admitted. “I kept staring at the skeleton … then I thought, twenty, thirty, actually twenty six years on, ‘what if this is not a skeleton, but we only see it as a skeleton because of our own indoctrination?’ and I thought, ‘what happens if it’s another form of protection, or a suit? If it’s a suit, then what’s inside the suit?'”

The Space Jockey recast as a biomechanical spacesuit. The 'trunk' is a breathing apparatus and the eye sockets are covered by lenses.

The Space Jockey recast as a biomechanical spacesuit. The ‘trunk’ is a breathing apparatus and the eye sockets are covered by lenses. The body is plated by a blue-grey coating. In the film the suits of dead Engineers have a more ossified look, like the Jockey of the original.

“It could be a degraded suit,” Scott says in Prometheus: The Art of the Film. “It’s only you saying that because you think you’re looking at bone structure and a ribcage. Why isn’t that a suit? It’s been lying there disintegrating for two or three thousand years in deep cold; that could be a suit. The suit works great as a kind of organic, very sophisticated spacesuit.”

“I think that was,” said Neville Page regarding the Space Jockey-Engineer, “and I’m guessing here quite honestly, that it was a bit of reverse engineering. I’m not sure how much Ridley knew when he was doing the first film that the elephantine face was going to be a helmet.”

Neville admitted that though they were retconning the original Space Jockey, it didn’t seem like a challenge to imagine that the ossified creature could be, essentially, a biomechanical life-support machine:

“It was a matter of shoehorning the Engineer into that device and being able to have him revealed so that he does look like the iconic Florentine sculptures that Ridley referenced in the ‘Art of’ book. Trying to have it be human yet knowing that that elephantine structure could not be a human head. It was pretty easy to just imagine that that’s some kind of specialized space helmet shell device.”

Creature conceptual artist Carlos Huante also provided designs for the Engineers, though he was not entirely satisfied with the end result: “I wasn’t entirely happy with the Engineer design” he told AVPGalaxy. “I thought it was great in theory but I thought it was going to be very difficult in application. And then after the design was settled on, we discussed the fabrication issues I foresaw. I predicted that the Engineers could end up looking fat or thick with bellies if they added too much rubber build up for the suit. Then the costume over all that rubber I thought they’re going to look fat for sure, which they did. So… There’s that.”

The Engineer was also originally planned to match the gargantuan height of the original Space Jockey. Jon Spaihts’ script takes a close look at one Engineer corpse, revealing that: “If he were standing he would be fifteen feet tall. He is roughly human in shape. Barrel-chested. Withered to the bone. There are bulky protrusions fused with his flesh: hard to say whether they are equipment or parts of his body. His head, lolling to one side, is severed from his body.” The Engineer was later shortened to make him practical to shoot on film, and for an actor to portray convincingly.

An Engineer design by Carlos Huante.

An Engineer design by Carlos Huante.

A hermaphroditic concept piece.

A hermaphroditic concept piece.

“I still was,” said Page, “where appropriate, channeling Giger’s work and Giger’s aesthetic, particularly with the Engineer’s spacesuit because it had to be that aesthetic. It was interesting because Ridley did say, ‘I don’t necessarily want to see you copy Giger’s work. That’s not what we’re doing here.'”

“I don’t like to repeat myself,” Scott offered as way of explanation. He was happy to use Giger’s aesthetic but keen to marry it to other influences. “In discussing it,” explained Page, “it was clear though that the Engineer was a Space Jockey, sitting inside of that vessel … The ironic thing is I didn’t open one Giger book. I didn’t look at his work, mainly because his work I’ve been looking at for years, since the original Alien and I’ve been a huge fan of it. So it was pretty deep in my mind and it was clear enough that I could actually replicate that aesthetic without having any of his artwork in front of me.”

Page referred to the biological suit as being “truly Giger”, but explained that the Engineers required “some kind of undersuit” which he was to design. “I started off just by doing basically underpants on the engineer with this exposed body. Then we realized he should probably not be as naked. If you were in a cryo chamber over years, you’d probably be in some kind of suit that could connect with your body tissue, protect it, monitor it, etc.”

The Engineer wearing his 'skin-suit'.

The Engineer wearing his ‘skin-suit’.

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The Engineer in his ‘flight-suit’.

For the unsuited Engineers, Ridley Scott also invoked the fallen angels of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. “If you look at the Engineers,” said Scott, “they’re tall and elegant … they are dark angels. If you look at Paradise Lost, the guys who have the best time in the story are the dark angels, not God.”

Scott frequently alludes to the idea of Paradise as having sinister connotations. If we think in the vein of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the realm of heaven is presented as being authoritarian to an extreme, and more than capable of anticipating and destroying (or degrading) its enemies. In Milton’s tale Pandæmonium is the parliament of Hell, but Paradise’s power is far more terrible. “They’re going off to Paradise,” said Scott of the film’s two survivors, who leave LV-223 for the Engineer homeworld, “but it could be the most savage, horrible place.”

The Engineers in the film, then, are an amalgamation of Classical ideas of the heroic figure; Renaissance-era ideas about Heavenly and Hellish beings, and Giger’s signature biomechanics. All in all, it’s an enticing and interesting conglomeration of influences. The trouble would be not in selecting from differing artistic sources, but in melding and achieving equilibrium between them. On the one hand, the designs could be passed off as being generic if they conform too closely to an ‘ideal’ of the human figure: beautiful but blank. Marrying this aesthetic to biomechanics also has a shortfall: they simply may not be biomechanic enough; a bastardisation rather than a natural progression or offshoot.

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There are traces of biomechanical flourishes throughout the film’s designs. The decapitated Engineer’s helmet was to be like “cracking open an oyster” according to Neil Scanlan, and was sculpted with “castings from organic textures, including cabbages, cauliflower, and lichen. When the helmet opened, Ridley wanted the interior to be velvety and soft like the lining of a stomach, as if the helmet had nurtured the internal head with life-giving material.” One of Spaihts’ early scripts describes the Space Jockey’s suit as being welded to his body, flesh and machinery as one.

After Prometheus’ release many fans were disappointed that the motivations of the Engineers were not explained in the movie. As Ian Nathan said in his review at Empire Online: “[The Engineer] turns out to be an overly-pumped bald bloke with dead-eyes who has no dialogue and punches people across the room. So basically … God is Jason Statham.” Though the Engineer in the movie’s climax prefers to enunciate with his fists rather than his mouth, there are traces of motivation to be inferred… if we look beyond the film.

Engineering: In Jon Spaihts’ script it is revealed that the Engineers return to Earth every thousand years to ‘update’ their creations. “I was analysing historical changes in human DNA,” the script reveals through the character of Watts/Shaw. “I found the same pattern. Every eleven centuries, a pulse of new information in the genome of the human race. All over the world. Evolution can’t do that. Something was changing us. Changing the DNA of our species.”

This would have clarified why humans are so genetically close to the Engineers, whilst our Earthly cousins, such as other primate species, have taken another evolutionary path. Essentially, what makes the human race so unique among Earth-life is merely a helping hand.

At some point in the film’s development it was planned that the Engineers, the creators of humanity, were gearing up to destroy us for the crime of crucifying Christ, who was a representative of the gods. “We definitely did [plan that],” Scott told movies.com, “and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an ‘our children are misbehaving down there’ scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, ‘Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.’ Guess what? They crucified him.”

It seems ridiculous to propose that a Jewish man at the time of Augustus and Tiberius was an eight-foot tall milk-white alien. Though some Biblical scholars posit that Christ, as characterised by St Paul in the earliest Christian texts, may have been an angelic or non-corporeal being, it is not a widely disseminated theory. If it’s difficult to convince some that Christ was not a man, it would be harder to convince audiences that he was an alien.

“We’re dealing with a highly hypothetical area in terms of who these beings are, what, if any invitation they issued, and who is responsible for making those cave paintings. And did something happen in between when those cave paintings were made -tens of thousands of years ago- and our arrival now, in 2093, 2,000 years after these things have perished. Did something happen in the intermediate period that we should be thinking about?”
~ Damon Lindelof, IGN, 2012

Again, Lindelof talks about something happening to sour the Engineers’ opinion of us. But with the Engineer Messiah scrapped, what was the motivation for the Engineers to destroy us? There seems to be none, but a potential answer, when considered, seems simple – the Engineers were afraid of humanity turning against them.

“The primary take away from the myth of Prometheus is that the Gods were nervous about mankind,” explained Lindelof. “They were nervous about what they would be capable of if they had fire. Fire was a big piece of technology that they would build off of.”

“Of wretched humans [Zeus] took no account,” explains the titan Prometheus in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. “[He] resolved to eliminate them and create another race.” The only being who opposed Zeus’ genocide was Prometheus, who stole the secret of fire and delivered it to humanity. In the play, Prometheus presents himself not as the creator of mankind, but certainly their protector and teacher:

Chorus: What? Men, whose life is but a day, possess already the hot radiance of fire?
Prometheus: They do; and with it they will master many crafts … At first [they were] mindless, I gave them mind and reason. In those days they had eyes, but sight was meaningless; heard sounds, but could not listen; all their length of life passed like shapes in dreams, confused and purposeless.”

Prometheus’ gift allows humanity to better understand the world: they domesticate livestock, build ships and chariots, craft medicines, categorise all the beasts in nature, and master the art of prophecy. “So,” Prometheus concludes, “here’s the whole truth in one word: all human skill and science was Prometheus’ gift.”

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In the movie the Prometheus figure is represented by Weyland. Fire is certainly represented by technological marvels such as David. Fire is our first form of technology,” Ridley told The Wall Street Journal. He also praised the simple-but-monumental central plot of Quest for Fire: “That was one of the most genius, simplistic but incredibly sophisticated notion of what [the first technological progression] was … And that got me sitting back on my ass thinking, ‘Damn! What a fundamentally massive idea'”.

In Prometheus fire is at this point in history superceded by robotics. To the Engineer, David is confirmation that mankind itself has become a creator of life, the very role for which the Engineers themselves are so vaunted. When your creations begin to construct other beings in their image, and can tailor these new life-forms to their needs, then it’s obvious that the creation has become the creator – it has become God. A key lesson in Paradise Lost is that God is, of course, unwilling to be usurped.

“Slaves! Scoff not at my will!
The mind, the spirit, the Promethean spark,
the lightning of my being is as bright,
pervading, and far-darting as your own,
and shall not yield to yours, though coop’d in clay!
Answer, or I will teach you what I am.”
~ Manfred challenges the Gods, Manfred, Lord Byron.

Lindelof explained that, “The idea that Ridley was advancing for Prometheus was, A) what if those things weren’t as alien as we thought they were? And, B) what if there is a fundamental relationship between those beings and us? And, C) what if they weren’t victims of these eggs but were directly responsible for making them? As in, it’s more of a thing where they made Pandora’s Box and something got out, rather than them being innocent, hapless victims.”

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Humanity, as far as the film’s final Engineer is concerned, is simply another monster unleashed from Pandora’s Box, and needs to be contained or eliminated.

“[We looked at Prometheus as] an archeology dig,” Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter, “where we’re basically going to turn up some artifacts and we’re going to put them on the table for everyone to look at. How these artifacts necessarily connect to each other and what the larger story behind them is going to be a matter of some discourse, and the characters in the movie will be having that discourse amongst themselves. But no one’s going to basically come out of the skies and tell them whether or not they’re right or wrong. That is very much in tune with the movie that Ridley wanted to make, which is, ‘This is what happens when mankind is silly enough to think they can go and ask God questions.’ First off, God might not necessarily be interested in answering you, but even worse than that, you might just set him off just for the act of trying.”

So, just as the characters in the film discover that ‘God’ is unwilling to explain himself, the fans of the film discover that it is also equally unwilling. It seems like a cruel joke that can amuse only its hardest of fans after the first telling, but I think that this is an unintended result, rather than a deliberate expectation. There are ways to reveal a secret to a viewer without giving the characters an epiphanic moment (Citizen Kane‘s final shot is a famous one) but Prometheus prefers to keep us pondering.

“That’s the fun of watching all the people rave lovingly and hatefully about it,” Neville Page told CraveOnline. “I don’t think you ever want people to go, ‘Yeah, it was okay’, in that gray zone. It’s like love me or hate me, but if you’re talking about me, that’s a good thing.”

“I think that Prometheus wanted to have two children. One child grows up to be Alien, the other child grows up to become this other mysterious force where we’re heading off in a different direction and contemplating why it is our creators wanted to destroy us. This is a fundamentally interesting question looked at on a theological level, but also on a sci-fi level as well.

In constructing those questions, Ridley wanted to know what the answers were as well, and we talked about those at great length, and then he determined what it was he wanted to put in the movie. I think that we had a very defined idea of why the Engineers put those paintings on cave walls, and why it is that they loaded ships full of death, as Shaw puts it at the end of the movie. So those answers are not definitively presented in Prometheus, though if you look through all the materials, I think that the evidence is all there to form a very informed opinion as to what happened, but I’m not going to tell you what my opinion is, as frustrating as it might be.”
~ Damon Lindelof, IGN, 2012

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Blade Runner/Alien

140hld1 Ever since 1982 science-fiction fans have looked at Ridley Scott’s Alien and Blade Runner and noted similarities between the two. Many concluded that the two movies at least shared connective tissue, if not universes. Though Blade Runner was not constructed to stand in canon with Alien, the two intertwine not only in terms of aesthetics and thematics, but also share visual and audio cues, as well as behind-the-scenes inspirations that reach both before and beyond either Blade Runner or Alien.

“I’m looking for another science-fiction script right now,” Ridley Scott told Fantastic Films in 1979, shortly after completing Alien. “Something that has a little bit of speculation or prediction about it, rather than just a thriller. Purely, as an art director, I find the the whole area of hardware and environment fascinating. One day I’ll do a film just about people, hardware and environment. Actually, that’s what science-fiction is all about, isn’t it?”

The project that Scott next latched himself onto wasn’t Blade Runner, but Dune, a film which, under Alejandro Jodorowsky, helped to introduce many of Alien’s creative team to one another. Dan O’Bannon was introduced to Chris Foss, HR Giger and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud during Jodorowsky’s attempt on the film, and all four moved on to craft Alien’s characters, creatures, vehicles and environments – now, in an amusing case of synchronicity, Alien’s director was tackling Dune, and he took Giger along with him.

Unfortunately for fans of Herbert’s novel, Dune collapsed again, this time after Scott pulled out due to the death of his older brother, Frank. However, Scott found that working helped him to grieve, and he took another science-fiction film under his wing; an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for now titled Dangerous Days, and later known as Blade Runner.

Though Blade Runner existed in a world quite distinct from Ridley’s 1979 effort (that is, they share no continuity) it still found itself being informed by Alien as well as that film’s creative contributors. Firstly, Scott’s vision for the film was drawn directly from a strip penned by Dan O’Bannon and inked by Moebius during their Dune days. “We had [Moebius] working a little bit on Alien, and I tried to get him involved in Blade Runner,” Ridley revealed to Film Comment magazine in 1982. “My concept of Blade Runner linked up to a comic script I’d seen him do a long time ago; it was called The Long Tomorrow, and I think Dan O’Bannon wrote it.” The Long Tomorrow would also influence some imagery in Prometheus.

The most notable and obvious onscreen relationship between Alien and Blade Runner was in the grungy aesthetic employed by Scott. In Alien the Nostromo is cramped, dirty, oily, and battered. In Blade Runner the city is an amalgamation of crumbling stone and retro-fitted tech. “We’re in a city which is in a state of over-kill, of snarled up energy,” explained Scott, “where you can no longer remove a building because it costs far more than constructing one in its place. So the whole economic process is slowed down.” This meant that the towers and apartment blocks of the film were in a state of half-collapse, half-construction; old brick and cement infused with new steel girders and soaked in neon light.

Looking over the smoke and grime of Los Angeles, Scott quipped that, “This [film] kind of followed through on Alien, because there was almost like a connective tissue between all the stuff I went through on Alien, into the environment of the Nostromo, and people who still have Earth-bound connections … this world could easily be the city that ports the crew that go out in Alien. In other words, when the Alien crew come back in, they might go into this place and go into a bar just off the street where Deckard lives. That’s how I thought about that.”

Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine Dallas sulking at Taffey’s, or Parker mending a spinner.

The most famous Alien-Blade Runner are the latter's visual homages.

The most famous of Alien and Blade Runner’s connective tissue are the latter’s visual homages. Screens from the Nostromo’s monitors appear within the spinner vehicles. Top images are from Alien, the bottom from Blade Runner.

Other Alien/Blade Runner parallels include the role of corporations in the future. Scott imagined that companies would become bigger than legitimate political institutions  and would act as de facto governments. These industrial imperialists would hold monopolies over property, robotics, space-travel, off-world colonies, the terrestrial police, paramilitary units and even, in the case of the replicants and the androids of Alien/s, the creation of life. 

In an 1984 interview, Ridley Scott said in regards to the corporate worlds of Alien and Blade Runner: “Here you see a large corporation that does something in one area buying up another corporation that specialises in an entirely different field. Obviously two separate sides of the conglomerate world -perhaps engineering and biochemistry- will eventually merge, just as I think industries will develop their own independent space programs.”

Sound effects from Alien also returned. Alien/Blade Runner editor Terry Rawlings revealed that “There’s this low, monotonous, humming noise you hear every time you’re in Deckard’s apartment. It’s there all the time, but you don’t know where it’s coming from until the end of the picture. Then Harrison discovers Sean Young sleeping under the sheets in his bed, and you realize that that sound has been coming from these two flickering TV monitors besides Deckard’s bed. Well, in that particular case, we reused a sound effect originally created for Alien. It had been done by a terrific sound editor chap named Jimmy Shields; Jimmy had initially cooked up the sound you hear in Deckard’s apartment for Alien’s Autodoc, the automated medical scanner John Hurt’s put under after the facehugger clamps onto his head. The reason we reused this audio bit for Blade Runner was because Ridley just liked the sound of it. It was so dynamic, it really stood up and hit you in the ear. Or tickled it, as the case may be.”

Blade Runner and the Alien series continued to intermingle throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Syd Mead, who had designed Blade Runner’s cityscapes, was recruited by Aliens writer/director James Cameron to design the Sulaco and its interiors. Though it can’t be seen onscreen, Dallas’ profile during the inquest sequence details his prior work and transits for one Tyrell Corporation.

Androids, Replicants, and dangerous days: Neither Alien nor Aliens explored the roles and social statuses of their respective androids, but the plight of Roy Batty and his replicant cohorts informed, in some small way, the performance of Bishop actor, Lance Henriksen.”When I got the part,” he said in 2011, “the first thing I did was look at actors who’d played characters like that, Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, Ian Holm in the first Alien. They were phenomenal.” Earlier, in 1987, Henriksen had told Starlog, “I read a couple of books [for Aliens].” One book, Mockingbird by Walter Tevis, gave Henriksen an idea of Bishop’s unseen struggle with his artificial nature that reminds one of the elegiac mood hanging about the replicants. “There’s a bit in it where the android knew how to play a piano,” Henriksen explains, “but didn’t know why. He didn’t know what music was, but he kept hearing it. It was part of his builder’s input that hadn’t been completely erased. That image stuck in my mind, and what it translated to me was that there were feelings that Bishop didn’t understand, like a joke.”

Henriksen also alluded to technophobia in the Alien-verse: “For [Bishop], the world is xenophobic. He’s an alien to anything alive. He must be as careful as, say, a black man in South Africa, where you make a mistake and you’re out.” Henriksen concluded by saying, “You’re either replaced or you’re destroyed,”  an allusion to Deckard’s “They’re either a benefit or a hazard” line.

In addition to being a theme of Blade Runner, technophobia, persecution, and Ludditism were points in William Gibson’s Alien III, and similar themes also swiveled around Prometheus’ David.

For Alien 3, David Fincher hired Blade Runner’s director of photography Jordan Cronenweth, solely based on his work on Scott’s movie. Unfortunately, Cronenweth’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease caused Fincher to release him from the film, only two weeks into shooting. Rumours abounded that Twentieth Century Fox had strong-armed Fincher into firing Jordan, but the director ploughed on with Alien 3 with Alex Thomson serving as cinematographer.

Blade Runner managed to bleed itself into other areas of Alien 3. Though Ridley had envisioned the Nostromo and Company as being one-part Japanese, his film never made this overt. Los Angeles in Blade Runner however capitalised on the idea. The streets are strewn with Asian bicycle riders, lanterns, lingo, graffiti and advertisements. Seeing this, Fincher decided to make Weyland-Yutani’s presence on Fiorina 161 reflect its Japanese heritage; as such, the company’s logos in the film are accompanied by kanji, as do soda machines and other props scattered around the film. They usually translate as “Weyland Yutani kabushiki-g/kaisha”, meaning “Weyland Yutani joint-stock corporation”. Another obvious example is the large red lettering in the prison scrapyard.

The famous 'Hades'' landscape from Blade Runner also influenced-

The famous “Hades” landscape from Blade Runner also influenced-

-this shot of Fiorina's hellish machinery.

-this shot of Fiorina’s hellish machinery. “A pretty nice Blade Runner-esque shot,” according to Richard Edlund of Boss Film.

Alien 3 matte painter Paul Lasaine added a Blade Runner homage in his painting of the Fiorina refineries, where distant towers styled after the stacks from Blade Runner‘s famous opening shot were included in the background –  which you’re unlikely to have a chance of spotting in Alien 3 due to the overlapping effects and the diminutiveness of the painted towers. Allegedly, the Tyrell Pyramid structure is also in there, somewhere.

When Ridley returned to the Alien-verse with Prometheus, he also considered featuring some allusions and outright references to Blade Runner. “There’s one idea that I’m very sad that we didn’t do,” explained Prometheus concept artist, Ben Proctor. “Ridley, one day, came in and said, ‘You know, I’m thinking what if it’s the Weyland-Tyrell Corporation? Is that cool?’ Maybe the bodyguards, you know, that come out with Weyland, maybe one of them says Batty on his uniform. And we’re like ‘Awesome! Do it, do it!’ And it didn’t end up making it but I thought that was a really cool thing that there is such a compatibility between the sort of, you know, dystopian future of Blade Runner and Alien that they may as well be the same universe. And if we’re doing a Weyland versus a Weyland-Yutani, why not have corporate mergers shifting and make some kind of a connection there. I thought that was cool.”

Batty, a proposed Weyland Corp mercenary, obviously modelled on Rutger Hauer.

Batty, a proposed Weyland Corp mercenary, obviously modelled on Rutger Hauer.

But a role as a military man wasn’t the only piece of connective tissue that was planned for Prometheus, as Ridley had toyed with the idea of casting Hauer as Peter Weyland.

Ridley’s sketch of Weyland. “Rutger or Max,” it reads. Rutger Hauer and Max von Sydow were originally considered for the role.

Ridley’s sketch of Weyland. “Rutger or Max,” it reads. Rutger Hauer and Max von Sydow were originally considered for the role.

Ultimately no nod to Blade Runner made it into the film, but an ode of sorts did make it into the home release, courtesy of Alien Anthology/Blade Runner/Prometheus DVD/BD producer Charles de Lauzirika. A memo dictated by Peter Weyland reads:

“A mentor and long-departed competitor once told me that it was time to put away childish things and abandon my ‘toys’. He encouraged me to come work for him and together we would take over the world and become the new Gods. That’s how he ran his corporation, like a God on top of a pyramid overlooking a city of angels. Of course, he chose to replicate the power of creation in an unoriginal way, by simply copying God. And look how that turned out for the poor bastard. Literally blew up in the old man’s face. I always suggested he stick with simple robotics instead of those genetic abominations he enslaved and sold off-world, although his idea to implant them with false memories was, well… ‘amusing’, is how I would put it politely.”

The easter egg attracted much attention online. However, Lauzirika told movies.com that the memo was only a gag, and not intended to be taken seriously:

‘That was me having fun and being cutesy. I wrote all that stuff. I actually said this at the press conference they had in London, which is that if it’s in the film, it’s canon. I would argue that the viral pieces that are included in the Peter Weyland Files are canon just because they originated with Ridley and Damon Lindelof. I would say those, to some degree, are canon. But anything else – especially these which are kind of like little cute, embedded text graphics on the menus – I wouldn’t take those too seriously. It’s just meant to be an in-universe framework for those viral pieces.

As a Blade Runner fan, and because there’s been so much talk before this even occurred with people on the Internet speculating that maybe Alien and Blade Runner and Prometheus could all exist in the same universe, it was just more of a wink at that. Absolutely nothing to be taken seriously. I mean, I sent it to Ridley and he had no comment. [Laughs] So, it’s just icing on top of icing. It’s not the cake. It’s a fun, little side thing that’s very superficial. And, by the way, it in no way officially establishes that it’s Blade Runner because, if a lawyer were to comb through that, there’s no reference to Tyrell or anything in Blade Runner. It’s just a very lightly intentioned joke.”
~ Charles de Lauzirika, movies.com, 2012.

One last thing: in the 1980’s rumours of a Blade Runner sequel surfaced – to be directed by James Cameron. “I have nothing to do with Blade Runner II,” Cameron told Starburst magazine in 1989. “I wouldn’t be interested and I don’t want to go around cleaning up after Ridley Scott for the rest of my life!”

Alien/Blade Runner banner created by Space Sweeper. Many thanks.

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Jon Spaihts’ Alien Prequel

Jon Spaihts was tasked by Ridley Scott to pen the prequel to 1979’s Alien.

“Twentieth Century Fox is resuscitating its Alien franchise,” announced Variety in summer 2009, revealing that “The studio has hired Jon Spaihts to write a prequel that has Ridley Scott attached to return as director. Spaihts got the job after pitching the studio and Scott Free, which will produce the film.”

The announcement came after years of Alien 5, prequel and reboot rumours. “I hope if they do something new, they will encompass the idea of where the Alien first came from,” series star Sigourney Weaver said the month before, “because I think that’s an interesting idea — to find out what happened and ‘how did it get to us?’”

Tony Scott had confirmed in May 2009 that Carl Rinsch was to be the film’s director, but Fox apparently pushed for Ridley’s direct involvement and he took the reins (you’d be hard pressed to find any mention of this switch nowadays). Whoever the director, Spaihts was, from the beginning, front and centre for the screenwriting role.

“I went to a general meeting with Scott Free,” he explained to filmmakermagazine. “They just wanted to meet me on the basis of things I’d written that they had read … Late in the meeting, they said that Ridley had been thinking for a long time about returning to the Alien universe … I talked for maybe 45 minutes and when I was done I had outlined a story, main characters, set pieces, a mythology and sort of fleshed it out in the room.”

He continues: “Something like ten days later, maybe two weeks, I was sitting in a room with Ridley Scott and the co-chairs of 20th Century Fox, and we were doing a deal. From there I was outlining and then writing the script, and I worked through five drafts of the screenplay with Ridley Scott over a number of months.”

The script went through a variety of titles, including the imaginative Alien Prequel and Untitled Alien Prequel, as well as Alien: LV-426, Alien: Genesis, Alien: Origins, and Alien: Engineers. The draft of the prequel that escaped to the internet in November 2012 bares the latter title.

Shadow 19: Spaihts’ pre-Alien: Engineers work, Shadow 19, features a modular terraforming ship called the Prometheus. The ship of his Alien story was also modular, but named the Magellan (perhaps after Ferdinand Magellan). Apparently, Lindelof and Scott were responsible for changing the ship’s name to Prometheus, so it’s likely a serendipitous coincidence. Shadow 19 also featured a planet of vicious alien creatures that assault the lead character (a Colonial Marine) throughout the story.

“The world turns below us, vast and slow,” opens his Alien prequel. It is Earth, and we are in 12,000 B.C.

“A shadow sweeps over the land. We move with the shadow. We cast the shadow.” The opening is remarkably close, if not exact, with the beginning of Prometheus. We are then subject to an aerial tour of this “raw natural world”: its deltas, forests, plains, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, seas and beaches – all running, swaying, erupting, and waving with “no trace of civilisation”. We cut to a lowland plain and are introduced to three alien figures – the Engineers.

“They are men – and yet not men,” is how the script introduces these faux-gods, and their physical forms, save for one detail, match exactly their appearance in Prometheus: “Their skin is snow-white. Their features heavy and classical – as if Rodin’s Thinker had arisen from his seat. Their smooth heads are hairless and earless. Their glittering eyes entirely black.”

The Engineers were conceptualised as the works of Michelangelo come to life – muscular, heroic, thoughtful; all silent power and grace, they carry with them all the supremacy and nobility of Imperial Rome, and all the creative powers of the Ancient Greeks. When the British writer Lord Dunsany learned of the Greek Pantheon, he felt pity “for those beautiful marble people that had become forsaken.” Of course, in the script and film, any feelings of awe, pity or kinship between the humans and Engineers is one-sided and short-lived.

Spaihts originally scripted a ritual sequence that is only half-intact in the film. In Prometheus, a lone Engineer commits ritual suicide and donates his cells to a primal world. In the script, the Engineer is accompanied by two others, who stand in ceremonial robes whilst the sacrificial Engineer is naked. One of the priestly Engineers opens a box and presents “a cake of dark, sticky material.” The sacrifice Engineer “raises the seething cake to his mouth like a sacrament”. “Black scarabs” pour out of the ‘cake’ and consume him. On a microscopic level, we are treated to the image of his cells rupturing and his DNA unravelling. The scarabs devour him completely and scatter to the winds to spread his genetic material. All the while the two attending Engineers “watch passively”.

Sacrificial Engineer ready to bring life to a primordial world. In the conceptual stages, Spaihts wrote an ‘Alien Master Narrative’ that detailed the history of the Engineers. “Their civilisation is millions of years old,” it says, which has probably been altered to billions of years old in Prometheus. It continues: “Once the Engineers expressed themselves as humans do, taking pleasure in music, colour and story, but they’ve long learned to see in more dimensions than we do. Their art and ornament exist on planes imperceptible to human senses. Their constructions look dark and grim to us; but the Engineers’ eyes see far more than our own. Individual Engineers live for a hundred thousand years. Ages ago their race abandoned sex and gender, reproducing by more abstract methods. In recent millenia they have ceased to reproduce altogether.”

The accompanying Engineers were filmed but cut from the movie. “All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space,” explained Scott when describing the actions of the Sacrifice Engineer in the movie’s beginning. “And the [resulting] plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history –which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas– he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.”

After the Engineer’s dissolution, we are then treated to something not revealed at all in Prometheus. Far off, a primitive woman stares in amazement at the Engineer ship, which floats across the earth. Then, “a black scarab lands on the back of her neck. Bites deep. Injecting its cargo of DNA into her blood.” The scarab alters her DNA in some unknown way before dissolving into dust itself. Rather than being the creators of mankind, the Engineers are instead, it seems, tampering with already-present life forms.

It was Spaihts’ idea that Alien‘s Space Jockey race -now the Engineers- would be tied into human history. “If you were to try to reach back in time for the history of the universe we glimpse in the original Alien, you are inevitably concerning yourself with the affairs of non-human beings,” he told filmmakermagazine. “Both the deadly predator that is the through-line of the Alien franchise and the enigmatic dead alien giant that is the great mystery at the beginning of Alien … are interesting entities not fully explained, but to keep an audience interested in those things it couldn’t be abstraction, it couldn’t be a purely ‘alien story’ about things we can’t relate to. It was going to have to be connected to our own story. Somehow the story of those creatures was going to have to be connected to the human story, not just our history but our fate to come.” (Personally, I disagree – humanity stumbling upon the unknown and unrelatable was the source of much of Alien’s power. Whilst Grecian-esque creator gods are a fascinating idea, I never felt that they necessarily had to be the biomechanic Space Jockey race. Fans were fascinated with the ‘abstraction’ for three decades. More than that – it awed, intrigued, and scared them. An irreversible trade-off was made here with the combination of the two races.)

After the primitive woman’s encounter with the DNA-altering scarab we fade to black – and a star field. We are now nearing the end of the 22nd century, and a machine called an Excavator rolls into our view, piloted by a Dr. Jocelyn Watts; later, we will know her in Prometheus as Elizabeth Shaw.

Dating the Alien Prequel: Holloway mentions the Magellan mission as arriving on LV-426 on “thirty-one December, year of our lord 2172” – only seven years prior to Aliens, which takes place in 2179. Certainly, Spaihts was not familiar with the series’ timeline. The year is unspoken in Alien, but is mentioned aloud in Aliens by Ripley when she quotes the date of Burke’s message to Hadley’s Hope when she is confronting him in the colony. “6/12/79,” she says. The prequel’s date was later rectified in Prometheus to take place thirty years before the original film.

The Excavator is a “sturdy vehicle equipped with robotic arms” with a glass-bubble cockpit and is reminiscent of the EVA Pods from Kubrick’s 2001. In a neat visual trick, it is revealed that Watts is not floating in the extremes of space, but in the depths of an ocean. The ‘stars’ are in fact plankton illuminated by the machine’s lights. As an introduction to the character and her work, it is more visually arresting than the introductory Scottish milieu of Prometheus (and that’s speaking as a Scot.)

Conceptual depiction of the Excavator at work. In one draft -yet to be released- Watts and Holloway are excavating on Mars (depicted here.)

Watts is described as being a thirty two year old scientist and a “precocious scholar of many disciplines” who is “accustomed to field work.” Within the sea trench she uncovers a large obelisk of apparent alien origin, and she calls on her partner -Holloway- to inspect the find.

Holloway’s character is drastically different from his appearance in Prometheus. In the film he is young, excitable and surly; a braggart and puppy dog-ish. In Spaihts’ script he is Martin Holloway -not Charlie- and is “48 [years old], [a] visionary genius and archaeologist. Dark haired and lean, with the rangy build of a frontiersman.”

Holloway and Watts go over their find – the alien obelisk is “an ephemeris – a star map” according to Watts, and weighs “hundreds of tons.” That night the two go over their prior discoveries, and realise that they may have pinpointed an alien world, somehow connected to the Earth’s ancient history. We cut to Earth’s orbit, and an orbital structure called “Weyland’s Wheel”. The Wheel is a direct nod to the spinning Space Station V in 2001 – we are even told that “the Wheel’s rotation provides gravity”.

Spinning Space Stations: “The first thing an architect notices about building in space is the pull of gravity – or rather the lack of it!” read a NASA article on the subject. It continues: “A free-falling space home up in Earth orbit can take a wider variety of basic shapes than homes on the planet below … Science fiction writers in the past (back as far as 1869!) often imagined a space station shaped like a wheel or a big donut. Like the one in the classic science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, these huge ring-shaped outposts would slowly spin to induce a gravity-like force where none exists naturally, using the centrifugal force from the wheel’s spin to cause the pull of a false gravity toward its outer rim. People could stand there and feel normal, with an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ to orient them … Other space exploration pioneers, such as NASA’s own Werner von Braun, also saw a rotating wheel as the most likely space station design … But Von Braun wasn’t the first to think of a wheel in space — the idea goes back to a 1928 book The Problem of Space Travel where Herman Potocnik laid out details of a wheel-like space station called the ‘Habitat Wheel’.”

In another direct reference to Kubrick’s sci-fi opus, Watts and Holloway approach the Wheel in a ship no bigger than a commercial jet (the ship in 2001 was a Pan-Am liner). They are the only two passengers on board and Holloway “plays with a pen, batting it from hand to hand in the zero gravity”; a restless game that evokes Heywood Floyd’s wayward, floating pen. Watts and Holloway briefly discuss Weyland’s seriousness, and she worries that their meeting with the mogul will “go like the others.” Apparently, the two have shopped their theories about before. This little tid-bit lends the two an underdog status that is lost in the film, where they appear to be blindly confident.

The two dock within the Wheel and take a zero-gravity elevator ride to meet David. In another deviation from the film, David is “cunningly built, but no one would mistake him for a real human being.” This iteration of the David model has yet to close the uncanny valley between man and machine. “Mr. Weyland’s eager to meet you,” he says.

Inside the Wheel’s exhibit hall we see Weyland’s progress in space pioneering and the inexact science of terraforming:

EXHIBIT HALL

DAVID leads past models of planets, moons and asteroids. Holographic labels and data swirl around them.

DAVID: These are all the planetary bodies on which Weyland Industries has mining claims.

The end of the hall is dominated by a huge globe of Mars. Markings indicate widespread surface activity.

DAVID: (con’t) And Mars. Weyland’s crown jewel.

HOLLOWAY: How is that going? The terraforming.

WATTS: They say you’re getting diminishing returns. It’s not working.

DAVID: It’s the greatest engineering project ever attempted. Challenges are inevitable. Mr. Weyland’s a determined man.

After this short show and tell, David leads Holloway and Shaw directly to Weyland’s office, where they meet both him and Lydia Vickers. Weyland “sits behind a mahogany desk. He’s a Warren Buffet type: a country sage, horse-sense and hard knocks. He might be seventy years old, or a hundred and seventy.” Vickers is described as being “a slim woman of 45 in a costly business suit. Shrewd and watchful. Once a great beauty, she now trades in ruthlessness.”

The two archaeologists/scientists sit, and Weyland asks for their pitch. They tell him that in their research they have observed that every 1100 years the Earth’s ancient civilisations have undergone inexplicable biological and technological leaps. “I was analysing historical changes in human DNA,” says Watts. “I found the same pattern. Every eleven centuries, a pulse of new information in the genome of the human race. All over the world. Evolution can’t do that. Something was changing us. Changing the DNA of our species.”

This piece of dialogue, in tandem with the primitive woman described in the script’s opening, clears up many of Prometheus’ mysteries concerning the extent of the Engineers’ involvement in our creation. While the final film opts for some oblique mystery by omitting these details, it instead comes off as scientifically amateurish or ignorant. Watts’ theory that something is tampering with humanity’s genetic material over the ages was touted by production manager Arthur Max in Prometheus: The Art of the Film, and its exclusion from the film feels like a misstep.

As it turns out, Weyland already knows everything Watts and Holloway are telling him, thanks to elements within his company spying on the two scientists. But Weyland’s not entirely egotistical or greedy. Despite having already obtained and confirmed the veracity of their research, he is charitable enough to offer them a contract and a claim on any archaeological finds; bar any alien technology they might uncover. Holloway signs, and Weyland informs him that David will accompany the expedition as his “eyes and ears” – as will Vickers, much to her own shock.

“LV-426 is a grey moon shrouded in clouds. Behind it looms its father planet Epsilon, a lurid gas giant banded in red and gold, half-swallowed in darkness.”
~ Alien: Engineers script.

When the Magellan (the proto-Prometheus ship) arrives in LV-426’s orbit, we meet the rest of the crew. We have Watts, Holloway, David, Vickers, Janek; Ravel, Chance, Milburn and Fifield. Additionally, we have characters that are not present in Prometheus: Glasse, Brick, Karamov, Stillwell, and Downs.

The crew search the planet’s surface and eventually find the Engineer pyramid amongst its crags and peaks.

Daylight: we’re told before the crew adventure out to the pyramid that LV-426 only has six hours of daylight left. In Alien we’re told that the planetoid has a bi-hourly rotation.

Magellan: As pointed out earlier, the film’s ship is likely named after Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Accompanying Magellan on his travels was Italian explorer and scholar Antionio Pigafetta, who wrote an account of his travels with Magellan in his Relazione del Primo Viaggio Intorno Al Mondo (Report on the First Voyage Around the World). Supposedly, Pigafetta and the Magellan crew encountered some very real giants in Patagonia, in South America. One day, Pigafetta and some men encountered “a naked man of giant stature on the shore of the port, dancing, singing, and throwing dust on his head.” This being was so large that the men only reach his waist. Pigafetta goes on to detail communication with the Patagonian giants, their god (an even larger colossus, called Setebo) and even their funeral rites. Upon publication, his book was a popular success – so much so, that Patagonia on the map became known as Regio Gigantum (region of giants) and rumours of sightings carried on until the 18th century. So Spaihts’ futuristic Magellan crew weren’t the only ones to stumble on to a society of gargantuan beings.

The descriptions of the pyramids littered around LV-426’s surface are a major problem for the script – in Alien, and more pertinently, Aliens, there is no trace of these monumental structures at all. Though the derelict ship is upended and rendered silent by volcanic activity in Aliens -and therefore easy to overlook- it stretches credulity that the colonists there could have missed a plethora of pyramidal structures that the Magellan crew find within moments. This is probably one of several reasons that the movie was relocated to LV-223.

Inside the pyramid we find that David can see the temple’s mechanisms and technology; hidden to the human eye but plain for an android and the Engineers to see. David activates the Engineer holograms and pandemonium breaks out as a panicked Jockey recording barrels down the halls. After this almost ghostly encounter, Fifield wimps out, and Milburn accompanies him. “Buddy system,” he says.

Lost in Space: There’s an excuse of sorts for why Fifield and Milburn get lost in the catacombs – they lose their mapping equipment. Milburn even attempts to contact the Magellan, but receives only static. “To Milburn and Fifield,” Janek later toasts, “the first human beings to freak out, get lost, and sleep in their suits in the ruins of an alien civilisation.”

The ampule room containing the monolithic head is absent here – instead, they find within the core chamber an atmosphere processor. A ramp leads to a lower chamber, where they find a passageway lined with Engineer space-suits. Further ahead, they stumble upon dead Engineers and the “scene of an ancient massacre”.

The suited Engineers in the film are closer in appearance to the Space Jockey of Alien. “If he were standing,” says the script, “he would be fifteen feet tall. He is roughly human in shape. Barrel-chested. Withered to the bone. There are bulky protrusions fused with his flesh: hard to say whether they are equipment or parts of his body. His head, lolling to one side, is severed from his body. His eyes seem covered by goggles; but if so then the goggles are fused with his skull. An elephantine proboscis, severed now, once connected to a protrusion on his hip. The giant lies frozen in a convulsion of agony. His jaw gaping in a silent scream.”

When Janek informs them that a massive storm is rolling in, the crew hasten to return to the Magellan. Milburn and Fifield are left behind. David relays information about the pyramid and the atmosphere processor to Vickers, and they proceed to “protocol two”, (David, in a villainous soliloquy that comes later, explains that protocol two is an executive order to “make sure you [Watts] and Holloway never spoke to anyone about this place.” He adds that “various acceptable ways of making sure of that” were provided to him in a list. Giving this some thought, I’m confused about why Weyland just didn’t feign writing Holloway and Watts off as pseudo-scientists, since he already had all of their research, and then have David and a crew of loyal specialists and soldiers travel to LV-426 anyway. Less fuss, intrigue and murder, that way.)

“Your cadaver’s interesting,” Vickers tells Watts and Holloway as they inspect a scavenged Engineer head, “but I’m more interested in the machinery in the pyramid. The core chamber. What do you think it does?”

Vickers, in this iteration of the story, wants to secure the Engineers’ atmosphere processing tech for Weyland, and she has brought along a team of mercenaries to ensure that the job is done. The Company, then, is a more malevolent force here than in Prometheus, where Vickers tags along to oversee her father, who in turn has accompanied the Prometheus ship to LV-223 to obtain immortality or godhood.

Watts and Holloway recover and autopsy the Engineer’s decaying head. Vickers however is more interested in the alien technology, rather than the corpse.

The second act of the film focuses on Fifield and Miburn’s demise, and the awakening of Vickers’ mercenaries, hidden aboard the ship. “Four hibernation pods slide out of the metal walls. From each pod, a muscular soldier rouses from sleep. They are scarred and crew-cut. Tough customers. They wake like veterans.”

Leading this military group is Captain Shepherd, “a career mercenary who has followed the highest paycheque to this strange duty.” The other soldiers are named Ray, Vigoda, and Card. These military characters, I suppose, are to be a throwback of sorts to the Colonial Marines, and provide the film with some firepower.

Awakened by the soldiers, a furious Holloway and Watts confront Vicker’s, who explains her agenda. “Mr. Weyland’s pouring trillions into Mars,” she explains. “He’s spent a fortune building ships like the Magellan to search for colony planets. But Earth-like worlds are vanishingly rare … This [Engineer pyramid] is a technology to transform worlds. He’ll never give it up. And neither will I.”

Watts and Holloway return to the pyramid (the technology therein being investigated by the crew) and Holloway is eventually set apart and infected by a proto-facehugger creature. He awakens, stumbles through the pyramid, and is recovered by David and Watts. Before they leave the temple, David turns and runs back inside, and Watts and Holloway return to their ship without him.

The next sequence sees the emergence of a chestburster, which is born as Holloway and Watts make love. The creature escapes as Stillwell barges in; meanwhile, back in the pyramid, Fifield’s corpse is undergoing some change…

“I did have facehuggers in my original draft,” Spaihts told Empire magazine. “David, as he began to get fascinated by the science of the Engineers, doesn’t deliberately contaminate Holloway with a drop of black liquid. Instead, Holloway hubristically removes his helmet in the chamber, is knocked unconscious, facehugged and wakes up not knowing what had been done to him, and stumbles back into the ship. In my draft, he returns to his cabin, is embraced by Shaw, who is delighted to see him having feared that he had died, and the two of them make love. And it’s while they’re making love that he bursts and dies. So that lovemaking sequence echoed my original lovemaking sequence where he explodes! It was messy.”

Holloway’s chestburster, which has escaped into the nether parts of the ship, grows into a pale-skinned monster that kills Kamarov, Card, and Downs before escaping again into the ship’s hold. But there are more facehuggers and impregnation abound, and all thanks to a much more villainous David.

Spaihts explained that, “David, fascinated by these creatures, begins delaying the mission and going off the reservation on his own, essentially because he thinks he really belongs with the Engineers. They’re smart enough and sophisticated enough, great enough, to be his peers. He’s harbouring a deep-seated contempt for his human makers. So at one point Shaw goes to stop him and David ties her up and deliberately exposes her to a facehugger. He caresses an egg open and out comes a facehugger. David doesn’t smell like a person -his breath isn’t moist- so he can handle the thing like a kitten. It doesn’t want him; it’s not interested. But then he exposes it to her and it goes for her like a shot. He toys with her for a bit and then lets it take her. That, in my draft, was how Shaw was implanted with the parasite that she had to remove with the medpod sequence.”

The third act is perhaps where the script begins to crumbles. Aliens erupt, come, kill, and go. Some are dispatched with disappointing ease. Watts’ evicted Alien is quickly killed by her, only minutes of screen-time after its arrival. After this encounter, Watts arms herself and finds that the Magellan is in a state of ruin thanks to Holloway’s Alien. “So there’s two of these things on my ship now,” sighs Janek. “No,” Watts answers. “I brought it in (hefts her gun) I took it out.”

Later in the third act, Watts, Vickers, Vigoda, Shepherd and Ray enter the Engineer compound to face off with David (Janek waits aboard the Magellan) and they find Ravel and Chance, who have been tied down and exposed to facehuggers by David. “Their heads thrown back in agony. Their chests torn open from within. A dead facehugger beside each body.” The war party quickly run into an immature Alien, which is killed by Weyland mercenary, Ray. The second Alien is killed by the mutant Fifield, who has until now remained dormant within the structure. When the crew encounter Fifield, he mortally wounds Shepherd and leaps on Vickers – the dying Shepherd unloads a clip into the mutant, and he dies, but not before bleeding acid over Vickers, who “dies horribly”.

Mutants like Fifield kill characters with names in Spaihts' script.

Mutants like Fifield kill characters who actually have names in Spaihts’ script.

Just prior to meeting Fifield however, the survivors meet David within the Engineer hibernation chamber, where the android reawakens the facility’s lone Engineer, who summarily suits up and tears off David’s head before rushing for the pilot chamber. The Magellan crew rush after him, but the ‘Sleeper’ Engineer ambushes them, launching ‘missiles’ from his body that “crushes Ray like an invisible fist” and “splashes Glasse against the wall like an insect”. Stillwell is likewise killed, leaving Watts as the only survivor (no trace of these three bodies when Kane, Dallas and Lambert later investigate…)

Watts makes it back to the Magellan, where Janek awaits – however, he is immediately set upon by the alabaster-skinned Holloway Alien (which everyone has seemingly forgotten about until now). “Its goblin-shark jaws juts out. Sinks its horrific teeth into Janek’s shoulder.” Janek manages to cop a few pistol rounds into the creature, to an avail – then Watts appears, rattles the Alien over the head with the butt of a rifle until it releases Janek, and she then proceeds to blow it away. “It collapses, dead.” Acid damage also seems to be minimal, or of no real concern.

In the distance, the Juggernaut is launching. Watts and Janek bring their ship into flight and prepare to ram the alien warmonger. Unfortunately for the Sleeper, he doesn’t live long enough to enable evasive manoeuvres – an Alien Ultramorph erupts from his chest,  and the Magellan rams into the Juggernaut. Both ships topple; the Magellan comes apart and falls. Janek is killed by a “lethal fragment of glass.” The ship still in free-fall, Watts escapes in a pod and surveys the debris from the ground.

Just as in the final movie, the Juggernaut rolls after the survivor, who falls under it, but, again, survives. She is awoken by her suit warning of a shortage of air, and the Ultramorph arrives on the scene. Watts finds the Magellan’s laboratory and a game of cat and mouse ensues, ending with the Ultramorph being quickly dispatched after she “impales the Alien’s skull” with a buzzsaw. Alone on the planet now with David’s decapitated (and chatty) head, “two dozen beams of light rise from the moon, visible even from space. A beacon. A signal. A beginning. Fade out. The end…”

“I left the two of them on the surface of that planetoid,” Spaihts told Empire. “It was plain that David and Shaw were going to have to work together and deal with one another if they were to survive. That one shot of the ship taking off in the finished film really focuses you on a particular outcome, whereas my ending was much more open as to what was going to happen next. But it was very much about this shattered android and this scarred woman being left with no-one but each other to carry on with.”

In all, here is a character roster, and their fatalities:

WATTS: Survives
HOLLOWAY: Infected by a primitive “octopoid” facehugger, which erupts mid-coitus.
DAVID: Survives, though decapitated.
VICKERS: Killed by Fifield’s acid-bleeding corpse.
JANEK: Killed by glass-debris when the Magellan crashes into the Juggernaut.
MILBURN: Killed by the Hammerpede.
FIFIELD: Exposed to mutagen and becomes a quasi-Alien mutant. Finally destroyed by Shepherd’s gunfire.
CHANCE: Killed by facehugger exposure, by way of dastardly David.
RAVEL: Also killed by facehugger exposure, by way of dastardly David.
KAMAROV: Pulled into a vent by the Holloway Alien.
DOWNS: Seems to be killed by stray fire from Vigoda, who panics when facing down the Holloway Alien.
STILLWELL: Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.
GLASSE: Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.
BRICK: Inexplicably disappears without further mention between page 89 (“It’s a fucking madhouse in here”) and page 94 (“The surviving complement of the Magellan are holed up on the bridge.” No mention of Brick at all from here on.)
SHEPHERD (Weyland personnel): Killed by mutant Fifield.
CARD (Weyland personnel): “Gutted in an instant” when running into the Holloway Alien.
VIGODA (Weyland personnel): Throat ripped out by Watts’ chestburster.
RAY (Weyland personnel): Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.

As you can see, the character roster is quite large, and Spaihts seems to forget about one of his characters in the middle of the story, (if anyone can find the fate of Downs, let me know!)

And here’s a creature roster, and in order of death:

Hammerpede: Janek puts “three rounds into the bug” after it emerges from Milburn’s corpse.
Watts Alien: Killed by Watts once she is ejected from the Medpod. She shoots it with Vigoda’s pistol.
Ravel Alien: Either killed by Ray in the pyramid, or by mutant Fifield. Its particular identity isn’t known.
Chance Alien: Same as above.
Holloway Alien: Killed by Watts, who shoots it in the head on the Magellan’s bridge.
Sleeper Engineer: Chestburst’d by the Ultramorph.
Ultramorph: Watts skewers its head with a diamond-tipped buzzsaw.

After five drafts, Ridley Scott reached out to Damon Lindelof, who was asked to read Spaihts’ script and give input and perhaps a new spin on the material. Lindelof suggested removing the Aliens and moving the project away somewhat from the trappings of the series. He was hired, and worked on the script for another six to seven months, resulting in Prometheus.

“One of Damon’s major jobs when he came on board was to replace the menaces of the Xenomorphs with other things,” Spaihts explained. “Largely the other menaces in the film were present in my drafts as well – there was a black mutagenic compound that could change people in unpredictable way, Fifield did morph into a monster and become a real danger in his own right, and of course the Engineers, the Space Jockeys, proved to be terribly dangerous creatures. In my draft, as well, we did resurrect one and he tore off David’s head. Much of the mayhem of the final film was present in the drafts I wrote, but the Xenomorphs were the major change, as well as the stockpiling of this black liquid as opposed to Alien eggs.”

Spaihts finished talking to Empire by outlining his ideas for follow-ups to the film. “I did have a plan for multiple films,” he said, “and the conversations I had with Ridley was about a new franchise, from the beginning. We talked about a possible trilogy, or a duology, but more often as a trilogy. And I did have pretty broad notions as to how we were going to get from this world to the original Alien – the baton pass, closing the circle, if you will. So yes, I did have plans for two other films. I came up with an even more twisted sequence than the Medpod, but I cannot tell you what happens…”

He continued: “My vision of the trilogy would have involved the arrival of the Yutani Company and a couple of other major plays around the Engineers themselves: the revelation of an additional grand Engineer design, and the possibility of seeking an Engineer homeworld. That shot of the ship flying at the end offers a lot of creative ways to play with this. But it feels like it brackets you into the search for the Engineer homeworld and home civilisation. That’s an interesting challenge.”

Jon Spaihts on the Prometheus set.

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Damon Lindelof’s Prometheus

After five drafts, Jon Spaihts’ Alien prequel was handed over to writer Damon Lindelof. “I really liked Jon’s script,” Lindelof said. “I thought there were some very cool and original ideas in it that I thought were potentially dangerous, and I like danger—I don’t respond to ‘safe’, creatively. I said to myself, ‘Oh, this is sort of unexpected, but it’s not unexpected just to be shocking. It’s cool.’ I read it and enjoyed it, but I just felt like that draft was very married to Alien: 35 pages in, we’re already dealing with eggs and facehuggers and chestbursters and xenomorphs and acid blood…” Lindelof decided that the series needed a shake-up, and to do so would require the loss of its most recognisable elements.

“When I came in,” Damon Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2012, “there was a script that had been written by Jon Spaihts, who I share screenplay credit with, that I thought was quite good, but it was a dyed-in-the-wool Alien prequel.” Lindelof also told movies.com that, “when I came in on Prometheus, my work was very intense and stretched out over the course of seven or eight months, but I was working off this really good script that Jon Spaihts had written. So I was never looking at a blank page saying, ‘oh god, what do we do here?’ The foundation and much of the building was there and I’m working with Ridley Scott, who knows exactly what he wants to shoot. So I feel like the work on Prometheus was a little more like a ‘for hire’ job. The plans were already there and I was hired as a private contractor to come in and sort of execute them.”

Spaihts had written five drafts of the prequel and Ridley Scott was looking for another take on the material. “The job that [Spaihts] was given was writing a clear-cut Alien prequel,” Lindelof continued, “and by the time I came in, it felt like everybody involved wanted to make a shift away from making it so profoundly about that stuff – the chest-bursting, the eggs, the acid for blood. So the majority of the ideas that I brought were about trying to infuse the movie with the sense of, ‘It’s a movie about creation.'” Lindelof characterised himself as “an Alien superfan,” and he added that this fandom “covers Alien and Aliens, not that the other movies were terrible, I would just say I am a superfan of those two movies.”

He went on to tell filmschoolrejects.com that, “Essentially, for me, the core of the Alien franchise was a movie about creation, the idea that here are these eggs lying out in the galaxy somewhere holding these things that could get attached to your face, and in the combination with humans it would birth an indestructible killing machine. That’s a powerful franchise idea. Now, taking a step back, we’re saying, ‘Let’s re-explore this concept through the concept of creation. Let’s put mankind’s creators, mankind, and the beings mankind created all in the same room together, and have them screw and see what comes out.’ That would be an interesting movie, both thematically and in terms of thrills, etc.”

Spaihts’ script was also with suffused with questions of creation, and is built upon a quest to find the gods, but the third act becomes less about these things and becomes more of a traditional creature-feature. Lindelof was tasked with pushing the monsters to the side somewhat, and making the finale more true to the script’s beginnings. “This movie was going to say, ‘What if creation wasn’t the result of some kind of all-knowing deity?” Lindelof told complex.com. “What if it’s the result of something we can actually go and visit? Are we the result of an experiment, and what’s the purpose of that experiment? Are we deemed a success or a failure?'”

“These were really interesting ideas,” Lindelof continued. “Ridley is certainly not the first person to have them; in fact, he often referenced the work of Erich von Daniken and others, like Stanley Kubrick adapting Arthur C. Clarke’s book to make 2001: A Space Odyssey. But these sort of grander themes tied into a sci-fi retelling of them with the idea of saying, ‘Let’s apply all of that to the Alien universe.’ It’s looking at it from the angle where, in the six films that have been made in the Alien universe, it hasn’t really been looked at through that microscope before.”

“Ridley Scott birthed this universe over two decades ago,” Lindelof said when discussing Prometheus‘ philosophical and ‘big idea’ approach, (frustratingly not acknowledging the melting pot that was Alien: Dan O’Bannon, Ron Shusett, Ron Cobb, David Giler, Walter Hill, and HR Giger were all decisive or influential creative powers). “My job was to sit and listen and to channel, in the same way that a medium does. This was about the ideas that he wanted to convey, and he did not want to come back and do science fiction again unless there was some kind of a philosophical construct to it. That’s why Blade Runner, which didn’t really enjoy commercial success when it first came out, is viewed as a classic, and is still being discussed and dissected: there are these fundamental ideas about humanity, our relationship with technology, the presence of a soul — those are all the things that drive Blade Runner. Ridley was reaching for the fruit on the tree of knowledge in the ideas that he was having about this movie.”

“At the same time,” he continued, “there is a line where a movie becomes overtly pretentious. We wanted to stay on the right side of it, because once you cross it, there’s no going back. There had to be a version of this movie that presented big ideas, but didn’t really wallow around and spend all it’s time basking in the glory of it’s own intelligence. We wanted to make an entertaining movie at the same time. Hopefully, it’s a hybrid in tone between the original Alien and Blade Runner.”

“It’s what I choose to believe”: Unfortunately (since I was personally built up to expect a philosophical tour de force) it’s a shame that the film’s characters resort to declarative and blanket statements rather than actual arguments to make their philosophical points in the movie; but it must also be said that (in my opinion) Shaw’s religious belief is paper-thin anyway, in that it is never clearly defined – is her crucifix a token of her faith or more of an heirloom? Or both? Is she merely mimicking her father or advancing an argument of her own? Her religious belief is never raised in conversation other than in her “choose to believe” line (always a debate-stopping sort of phrase meant to discourage further discussion) and seems to be more of a flimsy umbilicus between her and her father (a relief-working priest, in this iteration of the script). Spaihts, in his script, also gave the Shaw character a much harder argument in proposing the Prometheus mission to Weyland – she uses evidence of ancient DNA tampering; something that can be verifiable without ever leaving Earth’s orbit. And Weyland does verify it. This is gone in Lindelof’s script, and to plug it up we’re simply told he was a “superstitious man,” which makes him seem all the more foolish. But we walked into the cinema knowing Shaw was right, right? The finer point is that Weyland’s decision-making process, no matter the results, will always be rash, and maybe even stupid, because of the lacklustre premises the decision was made on (cave paintings). Luckily for Peter, Shaw was right about the Engineers creating mankind, so he didn’t end up with egg on his face (just an egg-sized lump and bruise.) Ultimately, I can’t admit to being convinced by Shaw’s evidence or arguments in the movie – and I walked in knowing she was right.

Another key difference between the scripts was the characterisation of the android David. In Spaihts’ version he is an outright antagonist; in the new version he is more ambiguous. “I was really interested in and catalysed by the robot, David,” explained Lindelof. “I felt like he was going to become the central figure of the movie. Because in the genealogical chain of things, there are these beings that may or may not have created us, then there’s us, and then there’s the being that we created in our own image. So we’re on a mission to ask our creators why they made us, and he’s there amongst his creators, and he’s not impressed. Oddly enough, the one nonhuman human on this ship -that’s sort of a prison- exists to question why it is we’re doing this in the first place.”

“One of the things I think is really cool about David, as a character and Fassbender’s portrayal of him, is that there’s no part of David that wants to be a real boy. He is not enamoured by humanity or jealous by our ability to experience emotions. He’s basically thinking, ‘You’re morons.'”
~ Damon Lindelof, filmschoolrejects.com, 2012

Lindelof’s script was due to be provided on the Prometheus home release, but ultimately wasn’t included. In November 2012 Jon Spaihts’ script was leaked to the internet, and Lindelof’s quickly followed. The Lindelof script is not seemingly the final shooting draft. Differences from Prometheus as we know it include:

After the Sacrifice Engineer’s death a form of life crawls out of the river. “A hand. Pale and new. Fingers outstretched. Hard to tell if they belong to a human or a salamander, but either way… it is life.”

The archaeological dig site is not in Scotland, and is hinted to be somewhere in the Middle-East (“turbaned workers”) or North Africa. The production originally planned to shoot in Morocco, but the Arab Spring deterred them.

The ship is called the Magellan, as per Spaihts’ script. According to THR, they also “considered the names Paradise and Icarus before opting for Prometheus.”

Peter Weyland is Arthur Weyland.

We get a look at one of Holloway’s cryo-dreams, where the “handsome bastard” is skiing. David, who is watching via his helmet, “seems contemptuous”,  and administers a sedative.

The crew’s spacesuits let off alarms to signal infection (in the case of Holloway) and can even amputate infected limbs, as in the case of Milburn, whose arm is severed by his suit when the Hammerpede seizes it.

Ford, it seems, was written with a man in mind.

Chance and Ravel’s betting scenes are not present.

Vickers is not Weyland’s daughter – their exchange before leaving for the pyramid does not occur.

Weyland does not wear a suit to venture to the pyramid, and is instead pushed in a wheelchair.

As we have inferred from the film’s movie trailers, Fifield originally attacked the ship whilst Weyland is making his move towards the pyramid. Fifield kills the ship’s mercenaries but is ultimately crushed under the RT01’s wheels by Shaw.

Weyland is more friendly towards Shaw in this script than he is in the movie. He’s almost misguided, rather than antagonistic and lofty.

The Orrery and Hibernation Chamber inside the Juggernaut are in two different rooms.

When Shaw is escaping from the launching Juggernaut the structure is ‘alive’ with Engineer holograms “running frantically as if the last days of Pompeii were upon them”.

Shaw makes it back to the Magellan after the Juggernaut is launched, and she escapes in a pod before Janek crashes into the Engineer ship. Vickers meanwhile escapes in her lifeboat.

Overall, however, the script is nigh-on what we can see on screen. Writing-wise, the script has a penchant for capitalising and underscoring words for no apparent reason, and also for onomatopoeia – there’s nary a paragraph without a SPWWWWWWASH or VWWWHHHRR or a FWWAAASH or even a KWAAAAAF, (there’s also a near-omnipresent flux of Christ! God! and Jesus! exclamations.)

There also does seem to be a preoccupation in the script with the physical desirability of the film’s characters. Shaw is first described as being “dirty, but sexily so,” and later as being “staggeringly perfect”. Holloway is “[as] reckless as he is handsome,” and then re-introduced a few pages later as being “the handsome bastard we saw with Shaw at the dig.” Vickers is “as cold as she is sexy” and is also noted as being “pretty TOUGH SHIT” (capitalisation in the original). Weyland, in his excised dream sequence, is at first credited as ‘Handsome Man’ and one of his female dream escorts is described as being “A STUNNING WOMAN IN AN EQUALLY STUNNING BIKINI … everything about her just oozes SEX” (again, capitalisation in the original). Shaw and Holloway’s love scene is also strangely jejune, described as being “borderline VIOLENT as they PULL EACH OTHER’S CLOTHES OFF,” which is fair enough; very Deckard and Rachael, but then the scrip immediately adds, “GODDAMN IT IS HOT.”

The scenes covering Shaw and Holloway’s love scene, Janek and Vickers flirting, and Fifield and Milburn spending the night inside the Engineer structure are equally cringe-inducing. Whilst Janek “Didn’t quite expect that he’d actually be getting LAID tonight” Fifield smokes marijuana through his suit; something which even in the film felt like a scene borrowed from a teen comedy.

There are touches of subtlety however. Before Vickers addresses the Prometheus crew at the beginning she “comes to a door. Stops. Takes a moment. Reaches to her collar. Undoes the top two buttons. Her mouth curls into a smile. And it’s almost convincing.” It’s a neat little quiet character moment that’s absent from the movie. Later, during the briefing, she “smiles with her mouth, but not her eyes.” Because Vickers is not Weyland’s daughter in this script, the strain between her, Weyland and David is not due to familial tensions but rather the result of Vickers’ insecurity regarding her position of power aboard the ship and within the Company.

“Who the hell is Fifield?”: mutters one of Weyland’s mercenaries when Janek reports that the geologist has somehow returned to the ship. Funnily enough, Lindelof earlier states that there are several crewmembers “whose names we need not know”.

Interestingly, the script also includes Shaw’s pitch to Weyland, which appeared as a piece of viral promotion called ‘Quiet Eye.’ In the script, Shaw records the message for Weyland in her tent at the exotic dig site. Not included is David’s dialogue with the awakened Engineer. Apparently, according to Lindelof twenty pages of android-alien dialogue was written, but the production opted not to include a long discussion between the two, nor to provide any subtitles. “God,” says the script, “what we wouldn’t do to see some subtitles.”

The ending is the same as the film’s, with some minor differences. The second Juggernaut’s take-off is not described, only Shaw “carrying David’s head like a goddamned pineapple as she strides off the damaged bridge of the Juggernaut towards her DESTINY.” Shaw’s monologue is also absent. The Deacon, after its birth, leaves the lifeboat and “stands there now – surveying the planet with the cold, detached air of a hunter.” It wails and the film smashes to black.

Speaking about the film’s ambiguity, or lack of answers, Lindelof said, “When you go and look at a piece of art you’re going to take something away from it that’s entirely different from the person who was just standing in front of that canvas five minutes ago, and I think that’s the kind of story I want to tell. I do have an intention, and I’m not just throwing stuff out there in an arbitrary way and don’t have the answers for those questions. I have answers for all those questions, but I don’t want to force my answers on the viewers, as if they’re the only possible answers. At times, that’s going to blow up in my face, and that’s the price I have to pay. I won’t say I’m glad to pay it, but I will say, I am willing to pay it.”

“What’s fascinating,” he continued, “is you think [the film is] in the sweet spot, some people will think the movie is overly explicit, and some will think the movie was frustratingly in-explicit, and then I’ll go, ‘Well, I guess I did my job right.'”

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Peter Weyland

Concept of the sickly, slumbering Weyland.

Weyland is a name uttered numerously throughout the Alien series. Until Prometheus, the name has been anonymous, faceless. When we are introduced to the Nostromo and its crew in 2122, Weyland is less of a man, and rather one part of an empire that is only ever referred to metonymically: it is “the Company,” an organisation stretching throughout space; terraforming worlds, financing colonies, paving trade routes, hauling ore – it is large, hungry, paranoid, impersonal, all-consuming and ever-expanding. And it all began with one man, born in Mumbai, India, at the closing of the 20th century…

Prodigious, driven, vainglorious, stentorian and elegant in manner, Weyland is the vanguard of technological progression in the 21st century – and hopes to play the same important role into the 22nd. “He’s the billionaire megalomaniac,” said Guy Pearce of his character. “He’s a man who thinks outside of the square; a lot of people do that in life, but a lot of people don’t have the facility or the finance to actually be able to act on that.”

“He’s somebody who is financing these missions,” Pearce also told Collider in 2012, “and is also somebody who has a vision of humanity and the world and technology.” For the role, Ridley “referenced Rupert Murdock,” according to Pearce, “really not as a personality, but more just as somebody who has an empire, really. Even [Richard] Branson he referenced and obviously Branson is a totally different personality. So as I say, not a personality reference, but really just these kind of guys who have built and built and it just sort of seems endless, and really I mean when you think about it Peter Weyland is far beyond what those two guys are combined at this stage, [he’s] a multi-trillionaire.”

Ridley’s sketch of Weyland. “Rutger or Max,” it reads. Rutger Hauer and Max von Sydow were originally considered for the role. In another nod to Rutger, one of Weyland’s security personel was to be named Batty, after Roy of Blade Runner fame.

Weyland was present in Jon Spaiht’s initial drafts, but only featured in the film’s beginning. Shaw (named Watts) and Holloway travelled to meet Weyland aboard an orbital colony to propose the Prometheus mission. In a later draft, they visit him at his offices on Mars, which is undergoing terraforming. In Weyland’s place aboard the Prometheus ship (the Magellan, in earlier drafts) is a hidden squad of Company soldiers. When Damon Lindelof came aboard Weyland took a more prominent role; seeking immortality by finding and appealing to the gods.

Peter vs. Charles: [Ridley] wanted to use Weyland as a conduit in the story,” explained Damon Lindelof, “and was not at all interested when I said, ‘You know, Weyland was a character in one of the Alien vs. Predator movies.’ He just sort of looked at me like I had just slapped him in the face. That was the beginning, middle, and end of all Alien vs. Predator references in our story process.”

Lindelof also made other changes to Weyland, and temporarily changed his forename to Arthur – an alteration that obviously did not stick.

Having to don prosthetics to play the aged Weyland, Pearce also commented, “I did think, ‘Why didn’t he just cast Ian McKellan?'”

“I was so happy to get him [Pearce],” said Ridley, “the guy can play anything, and why not have [him play] a seriously intelligent genius, a man who’s kind of a combination of Eddison, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs?” Ridley further explained that having the young Guy Pearce play the old Peter Weyland would give the character a youthful, hungry energy.

Pearce continued: “The difficult thing about playing someone who is a lot older than yourself is that people know how old I am, they know what I look like, so there’s always gonna be scrutiny anyway … It was important for [Ridley] to find someone who had a kind of youthful quality, I suppose.”

Originally, it was planned to see both a young and old Weyland in the film. Young Weyland would appear in one of older Weyland’s cryo-dreams – where his consciousness resides during the trip. Pearce explained the excised sequence: “David comes to see me at one point basically to say, ‘we’re nearly there, but not quite yet, sir.’ And I basically say to him, ‘well, don’t wake me up until we’re ready to go, until you’ve discovered what it is I want you to discover.’ And so we find Weyland living in this fantasy world of being on a yacht in this fabulous kind of, perhaps Caribbean or tropical setting, with lovely, luscious women around him, all tanned and looking fabulous, and basically just sort of re-living the life that he would if he could,” (in the pre-viz artwork, young Weyland is depicted as a young Kirk Douglas.)

Here is the scene as scripted by Damon Lindelof:

EXT. PASTORAL BEACH – DAY

A WHITE SKY — BLINDINGLY SO. TILTING DOWN TO FIND — WATER. AZURE BLUE. Striking. WAVE roll gently onto the beach as A PAIR OF WORK BOOTS splash through the surf. It’s DAVID. In his jumpsuit and SUNGLASSES. Wait… WHERE the hell are we right now? But now our attention goes to a SOUND — A REVVING MOTOR. David looks out at the water as — A WAVERUNNER zips across the ocean — BLASTING TOWARDS THE SHORE — CUTS to a SUDDEN STOP revealing its DRIVER —

A STUNNING WOMAN IN AN EQUALLY STUNNING BIKINI. She smiles at David, everything about her just oozes SEX —

BIKINI: Hi.

DAVID: Hello.

BIKINI: You here to see him?

“Him?” Him WHO? What the hell IS this? But David nods —

DAVID: I am.

A seductive grin as the woman nods to behind her —

BIKINI: Then hop on.

David nods, splashing knee deep into the water as we CUT TO:

EXT. AZURE SEA – DAY – MOVING

The waverunner JAMS across the water. A surreal sight — David in his jumpsuit. Arms wrapped around the glorious bare midriff of the WOMAN. DROPPING BEHIND them to FIND –They’re approaching a MAGNIFICENT YACHT. And we CUT TO:

EXT. YACHT – DAY

David CLIMBS up a ladder, steps onto the DECK of the Yacht. Walks along it until he reaches — A CABANA. FIVE BEAUTIFUL (and scantily clad) WOMEN, all but feeding grapes to — A HANDSOME MAN. Virile. Mid-Thirties. Oddly FAMILIAR. He looks over as David approaches. SIGHS theatrically —

HANDSOME MAN: And so the dream comes to an end.

And while we’re not exactly sure what this man is TALKING about, David sure does. He SMILES —

DAVID: Hello, Mr. Weyland.

Oh. THAT’S why he’s so familiar. This is OLD MAN WEYLAND…. except he’s about sixty years YOUNGER. HOW that is, we’ll figure out later, but for now —

WEYLAND: I gather you’ve come to take me back?

DAVID: (pauses; then)No, sir. Not yet.

Beat. DISAPPOINTMENT in Weyland’s eyes —

WEYLAND: Then why are you here, David?

DAVID: I’m here to tell you that things haven’t exactly turned out the way we hoped, sir.

Weyland absorbs that. Just looks at David. This is a man who gets what he wants. Always. ANGER now —

WEYLAND: You were instructed not to disturb me unless you had what I came for, you useless shit.

David hesitates. Did the insult actually AFFECT him? NAH… he’s just a robot. Right?

DAVID: What you came for isn’t here, Mr. Weyland. At least not in the way you had hoped. So I’ve been forced to… (how to put this?) Experiment.

And JESUS. We can’t help but think David just may be talking about HOLLOWAY. Weyland smiles at his man-made son like a proud FATHER —

WEYLAND: That’s what I love about you, David… Never say die.

Now Weyland steps forward, puts his hand on David’s shoulder. Not without affection. We finally see the OLD SOUL in this young body… and it seems SCARED.

WEYLAND: Once I leave this place, I won’t have much time. (beat; measured.) Don’t come back here until you’ve found what I need.

 

“We are the gods now.”

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