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ANAHEIM - You'd think after a 25 minute panel in front of approximately 3,700 WonderCon attendees, a few scattered interviews and a 20 minute press conference Saturday we'd finally know whether Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" was actually a prequel to his 1979 classic "Alien." It turns out the true answer may just depend on your definition of prequel.
After impressing the WonderCon crowd with the film's new trailer, Scott appeared with screenwriter and executive producer Damon Lindelof and star Michael Fassbender for a quick, but informative press conference. Lindeloff admits that when he first met with Scott to discuss the project the p-word was the big "elephant in the room and needed to be addressed."
Lindelof recalls, "When I first heard Ridley was going to direct an 'Alien' prequel and six months later my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, 'Are you able to talk to Ridley Scott?' And I crashed into a telephone pole. (Laughs.) I came back and [they told me they were going to send me a script that night]. I read this thing and we went in and had a meeting and he was already clearly saying, 'I want to come back to the genre. I want to do Sci-Fi again, but I think this movie is too close to 'Alien.' I've done this stuff before, but there are big ideas in that are unique in and of itself.' And I said, 'Well, I think that's what we have to do because if there was a sequel to this movie we are working on, which eventually became 'Prometheus,' it would not be 'Alien.' Normally that's a definition of a prequel is it precedes the other movie."
After making a dig at George Lucas' "Star Wars" franchise, Lindelof continues, "Often there is an inevitability to watching a prequel. So, If the ending of this movie is just going to be the room that John Hurt walks into that has eggs there is nothing interesting in that. We know how it's going to end. So, this movie will hopefully contextualize the original 'Alien' so maybe you know a bit more, but you don't [expletive] around with that movie. If were successful enough to even do a sequel to 'Prometheus it will tangentialize even further away from the original 'Alien.'"
"Prometheus" features Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green ("Dark Blue"), Rafe Spall and Sean Harris as explorers hoping to find out more about an ancient alien connection to Earth. When they arrive at the origin planet dictated in the archeological "invitation" it's soon apparent all isn't what it seems. And for anyone who has seen the original "Alien," it just happens to be the planet where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) first encountered those pesky chestbursters that haunted her across the big screen for decades. Therein lies a connection that isn't a direct prequel, but could be argued either way in a court of law.
Fassbender, who is coming off his critically acclaimed turns in "Shame" and "X-Men: First Class," has the unenviable job of playing David, the crew's lifelike android. On one hand, the 34-year-old actor appears to have put a lot of thought into his portrayal of a being that is almost human noting, "I think you want to play with as much of those human traits as possible. What if you program something and you you try and build a computer that essentially has a physicality to it and it's programed to be able to incorporate itself into a human environment? You have to have certain personalities that will get on in space. He has to be flexible. What happens when the program makes its own connections? Forming its own sort of ego, insecurity, envy, jealousy?"
Fassbender also notes, "You have this guy who is on his own for two years while everyone else is in cryostasis. So, what does he do? He amuses himself. There was the idea there that he was a little boy and he has to rely on his imagination to keep himself occupied. He's curious and how far will that curiosity go? In the way Damon wrote it, people treat him like a robot. There's a bit of contempt for David. He has all the answers or at least a lot of them. So, he's hyper-intelligent and more advanced than a regular human being so people don't really embrace him in. He's sort of used and abused. And so how does that make him feel? If robots can feel? You're always playing with the ambiguity if this robot is starting to form a real personality."
Lindeloff recalls it was a conversation with Scott early on which helped him find the character in the context of the screenplay.
"David is mass produced so there are 20,000 other David units out there that look exactly like Michael Fassbender. What a wonderful world that would be, huh? (Laughs). But the idea is that we all have our iPhones, but we put different cases on them and different apps on them. This David, once you take him out of the wrapping, he would begin to customize himself. He could change his hairstyle. He could change the way he speaks. He could take on different applications based on what this unit is meant to do. Once we cast Michael that was the killer app there. "
So, whether David is as corrupt and evil as Ash in "Alien" (played by Ian Holm) or as helpful and goodhearted as Bishop in "Aliens" (played by Lance Henricksen) remains to be seen. Especially after the robot delivers a very dramatic line reading ("Big things have small beginnings") at the end of the film's latest trailer.
Scott was mostly quiet during the conference just chiming to talk about how hard it is to make an original movie and using the examples of the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Exorcist" as the forerunners of all modern horror movies. He also detoured around a pointed question about the differences in technology seen in "Prometheus" and in "Alien" (filmed 30 years earlier) by going off on a long tangent about how Steve Jobs' love of guerrilla glass inspired his idea to give the crew fishbowl like helmets. But, he's Ridley Scott. He's a legend and he's allowed to allow for a little creative license now and then.
The 20th Century Fox tentpole was actually something of a vacation for Lindeloff who segued relatively quickly from wrapping up the groundbreaking TV series "Lost" to collaborating with Scott on "Prometheus." While that might be daunting for some screenwriters, Lindeloff called it "a huge relief."
"I think obviously with 'Lost' it was six years of my life. Between Carlton and I we were at the wheel of the car and the idea of telling a story over 120 hours of time just felt so unwieldy," LIndelof says. "I went away for a month after 'Lost' ended and then the first project I did an committed the next year of my life exclusively to was 'Prometheus.' So, the idea of saying 'yes' it's going to fit in the confines of 120 pages, but you keep going over that same story again. And whatever story is out there about me saying, 'This is what you should do Ridley.' It's in fact the opposite. I came in and I think he had a clear conversation about the movie he wanted to make. He was enormously patient with me and then I wrote that movie. It was nice to be in the passenger seat saying, 'Maybe we should just make a left up here?' As opposed to driving the car. And if you are going to let someone drive [it's Ridley]."
"Prometheus" opens nationwide in IMAX and 3D on June 8.