Space Jockey carcass a suit? A new Larry McMurtry western? Alien Prequels! Blade Runner! Ridley Scott speaks!
Published at: June 14, 2010, 6:45 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, fresh from a dinner that felt like a prequel to this summer’s Comic-Con. One of the interesting things about Geoff Boucher’s Hero Complex Film Fest is that it’s drawing a ton of comic book people, so tonight I ended up eating in the company of some of the greats of the industry. Ed Brubaker, Mike Mignola and Tim Bradstreet to completely name drop like a fiend.
It was a surreal topper to an already crazy day. To drop another massive name, I was able to arrange a brief sit-down with Ridley Scott prior to his Q&A. I had to sacrifice watching the last hour of Alien, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie before. Heh.
I’ll have that interview for you very soon. We talk quite a bit about his interest in going 3D with the Alien prequel, something that wasn’t discussed at his Q&A.
If it’s not a problem with you guys I’d like to jump right into the Q&A. I could write a few dozen pages on the amazing filmmaking of Alien and Blade Runner, but if I’m to be perfectly honest I have an early flight back home and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do a retrospective look back at these two brilliant films justice or even finish this article before the sleep genie bonks me on the head with his club or mallet or whatever the hell sleep genies assault fat film geeks with.
Brief look back: Alien – still brilliant. Blade Runner – I miss that Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer is kind of a genius and good God was Sean Young hot.
Now on to the Q&A!
- After enjoying his time in France on his first feature, THE DUELLISTS, Scott was developing Tristan & Isolde.
- Then producer David Putnam asked if he wanted to see this movie called Star Wars. He saw it at the Chinese theater and the vibe in the theater, the expectation of the crowd, made him think he was in for a life-changing event: “I watched Star Wars and walked out (afterwards). I was sick with envy. I hated George (Lucas, obviously) and figured that was the end of Tristan & Isolde.
- A month later Scott received the script for Alien. “They had seen the film, The Duellists, at Cannes and for some bizarre reason connected… ‘I wonder if this guy could do science fiction?’ I discovered later on that I was the fifth choice. The script was about to die on the vine and I read it and said, ‘Damn! I know what to do with this!’ Because I had been reading all the Jean Giraud/Moebius stuff.”
- Scott called Moebius up and asked him to design the movie. Moebius didn’t have the time to design the whole thing, but he did design all the costumes, the wardrobe, the space suits and the helmets.
- Scott was in Hollywood, at Fox Studios, within 27 hours after receiving the script for Alien.
- Fox asked if he wanted to change anything in the script. Scott said, “No.” He then asked if there were any filmmakers in the audience and gave some advice. “Don’t turn a go film into a development deal.” That’s what he believes would have happened if he started a whole new round of conversation with the script for Alien.
- The first read is the most important for any screenplay. When Scott reads a script, he wakes up at 6am and turns off all phones and “God help anybody who disturbs me.”
- The original budget for ALIEN was $4.2 million. Ridley went home and as the deal was being drawn up he began work on storyboarding the film himself, having been an art student. A month later he went back to Fox and showed them his boards. The budget doubled, went from $4.2 to $8.4 after Alan Ladd saw the vision on display in the boards.
- Scott said Fox never asked him back after the first Alien. He didn’t even know the second film was being made until it was in production.
- After Blade Runner, which was a tough experience for him, someone said to him, “Why do you make boring movies that people can’t understand?” So, he said “Okay. And I went off and made LEGEND.” Huge laughs at that. “That was a bloody disaster. It’s a wonder I’m still employed!” Boo on that, I love Legend. Luckily Scott followed this up immediately with:
- “A journalist said to me, ‘In the down period of your career which followed Legend…’ I haven’t had a down period in my career. I’ve enjoyed every goddamn movie I’ve made.”
- Scott approached Legend as his attempt to make a live action cartoon, like Snow White and other like Disney films. So, he decided he was going to do a live action fairy story, like a Grimm Fairy Tale. Then he went on to praise Tim Curry’s work in the flick and said he thought Tom Cruise was great in it.
- On the Alien prequel: “I sat thinking about the franchise, which now has died on the road somewhere way back and lying in the dust, and thought what I should do is go back… in the first Alien, when John Hurt climbed up and over the top of the rise… there was a massive giant lying in a chair. The chair was either a form of engine or some piece of technology and I always thought no one has ever asked who was the space jockey?”
- The Alien prequel will be broken into two films. The scripts are written and Scott is prepping it now.
- Time frame is way before Alien. Not only will we find out who the Space Jockey is, we’ll find out where his people come from.
- The first Alien was The Old Dark House with 7 people with an unwelcome visitor. Scott loved the script, but it was a very basic screenplay.
-The prequel will go further into the world of terraforming and will focus on the realities of what it takes to leave for another planet. He mentioned the theory of Near Faster-Than-Light travel, which is complete science fiction at the moment; “Mr. Spock stuff” as he called it, rearranging matter essentially, but theoretically possible. “But what we’re allowed to do by movies is to cheat like hell. But I think the closer it is to the truth, the closer it is to the technological feasibility then it becomes that much more interesting. And if it’s a film like the one I’m going to do, then it becomes that much more frightening.”
- From his discussions with NASA people he heard that if we had been able to stick with JFK’s space plan we would more than likely have had colonists on Mars by now.
- Sigourney Weaver’s test “could have been cut into the movie.” Scott didn’t cast her until three weeks before photography, so he was able to screen test her on the built sets.
- She came to the audition in high heels. “I’m not a midget, I’m 5’8”, but Jesus Christ I was always looking up at her!”
- The idea was Ripley would gradually earn her position in the forefront during the drama. “When you see her at the kitchen table at the beginning of the film you think, ‘Okay, she’s gonna be the first one to go… in a big, gory horrible mess!’”
- When she tells Yaphet Kotto to shut the fuck up he was really needling her and she really lost her temper with him. “It’s great that it’s on film.”
- When Harrison Ford came in to meet Ridley Scott in London for Blade Runner he was wearing his entire Indiana Jones outfit, having come straight from the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- When casting Blade Runner, Scott told the studios he wanted to cast “this guy called Harrison Ford.” The studio asked who that was. “He was the guy that drives that funny circular vehicle in Star Wars… The Maltese Falcon? What’s it called?” Lots of laughs and lots of corrections from the audience. “The Millenium Falcon. They said, ‘Why him?’ I said, “Well, Steven (Spielberg) and George have decided this guy is the star of Indiana Jones. I think you want him to follow-up in this film.”
- Scott said the Blade Runner script read really, really well because it was filled with great prose (description) and some “damn good” dialogue as well.
- On the friction between Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on the set of Blade Runner… : “It was a very difficult world to climb in to because I knew exactly what I wanted. Once again I was very influenced by Moebius. For me to describe what’s happening all the time and why it’s raining all the time drove me nuts, so I got very bad-tempered. I said, ‘It’s raining because I want it to fuckin’ rain, okay?!? Turn the fuckin’ taps up!’ I got fed up explaining myself.”
- Scott operates the camera… He operated the entire run of The Duellists, Alien and Legend. “If you’re an operator it’s really frustrating because it’s a bit like being a surgeon in the room on a heart operation and you can’t touch the patient.”
- Scott underwent knee surgery and he’s now having to go to a gym for physical therapy. When he started going to the gym he recognized Harrison Ford, who is putting on muscle “and is looking good.” I assume that’s for Cowboys and Aliens.
- Ridley said his brother, Tony, directed two of the best student films he’s ever seen. One is called One of the Missing, the other is called In Loving Memory.
- The Forever War (based on the book by Joe Haldeman) is something Scott has been trying to do for years. They’re on the fourth draft currently.
- The two films that turned Scott onto Science Fiction were THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and ON THE BEACH.
- Scott doesn’t believe in rehearsal. “The closest I get is maybe sitting around a table and reading, having a discussion.”
- He likes Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood, but “doesn’t go for” the green stockings on Errol Flynn. Loves Ivanhoe.
- Is a second Robin Hood film a possibility? “I’d like it. I really enjoyed myself.”
- The title Blade Runner comes from William S. Burroughs. They paid him $4,000 for it.
- FirstShowing.net's Alex Billington sent me a heads up after posting this that Scott also mentioned they're going to be exploring Zeta 2 Reticuli, the same system from Alien. Naturally they'd be going back at some point if the prequel leads up to Alien, but from what Scott was saying it seems like this system plays a large role in the prequels.
- Larry McMurtry is writing a western for Ridley Scott right now! Holy shit!
- On the Space Jockey: “I think beneath that carcass… it’s not a carcass, it’s a suit. Inside the suit is a being.” An interesting hint at to what he’s doing with the prequels, perhaps?
That concludes my coverage of the Hero Complex Film Festival. I had a great time and I hope you guys enjoyed reading about it.
I’m headed home soon, but I’ll be working on my exclusive, if too brief, sit-down with Sir Ridley Scott and aim to have that up very soon! Keep an eye out!
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