In surprising news, director Ridley Scott is returning to the franchise that put him on the map.  Variety reports that Scott is set to direct an "Alien" prequel for 20th Century Fox.

The new film is based on a pitch by up and coming screenwriter Jon Spaihts who is writing "The Darkest Hour" for Timur Bekmambetov and "Children of Mars" for Scott Rudin and Disney.  It's unclear where the new "Alien" will be slotted in his busy pipeline or what the storyline of the picture will be.

In May, Ridley's producing partner and brother Tony Scott told a number of outlets the duo's protege Carl Rinsch would take the reigns of the long-rumored project. It appears Fox didn't warm to that scenario.  Especially for a franchise that counts Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie") among its directors. 

Arguably Scott's most acclaimed films are the original 1979 "Alien" and "Blade Runner" which hit screens three years later. He's also helmed the landmark "Thelma & Louise," "American Gangster" and "Gladiator" which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2001.  Scott is currently filming a new take on "Robin Hood" with longtime collaborator Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.

The first "Alien" was a box office and critical success and was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2002 for historical preservation. It won the 1979 Academy Award for Visual Effects, was also nominated for Best Art Direction and launched Sigourney Weaver's illustrious career.  Three sequels followed including the equally lauded "Aliens," but follow ups "Alien 3" and "Alien Resurrection" were not as warmly received.  Fox was accused of gutting the property by releasing the action flicks "Alien vs. Predator" in 2004 and "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" in 2007.  The studio has now publicly stated they plan to reboot both properties.

More news on this story as it develops on HitFix.