Fundamental Mysteries: Damon Lindelof on Prometheus
Damon Lindelof shares screenplay credit with John Spaihts on Prometheus. Spaihts wrote a script for an Alien prequel, but when director Ridley Scott decided to make it more of an original, he hired Lindelof. On the phone from the London press junket, Lindelof called (in one of the clearest connections we’ve ever recorded) to discuss the long-awaited sci-fi film. It is still set in the Alien universe with the Weyland corporation and a character named Weyland. We’ve edited the interview to avoid specific SPOILERS but there are still some involving the ending of the film, and answers to some questions you may have after you see Prometheus on Friday.
CraveOnline: How specifically was the John Spaihts script an Alien prequel? Were there more xenomorphs in it?
Damon Lindelof: I don’t want to get into the mega specifics other than to say that yes, John’s script demonstrated the same sort of progression of alien gestation that we were familiar with in the other movies. That is to say egg opens, face hugger emerges, affixes itself to a human host and births a xenomorph. That was definitely a fairly prevalent storyline in John’s work and I think that’s what he was asked to do.
Was it always another female survivor and always set up for further adventures?
I have to be honest with you, yes. Her name was Watts in John’s draft and the end of the movie had a slightly more of a stranded Robinson Crusoe-like ending as opposed to a moving on to continue the quest way.
Are you on board to write the further adventures?
I am not at this time. I kind of feel like if I’m blessed enough and Ridley wants to direct another one of these things and he wants me to be involved in the process, it would be hard for me to say no. That being said, there is nothing wrong with James Cameron taking over the Alien franchise and making probably one of the greatest sequels in the history of any movie, let alone a sci-fi movie. So it’s really about the idea and I certainly feel like Ridley and I talked about a number of ideas that form the foundation of Prometheus that are answers to questions that Prometheus doesn’t articulate and could be articulated in future installments and maybe I’m the one to work on them and maybe someone else is. It all goes back to whether or not people want another one. Do you?
Yes, I personally do.
Okay, well that’s a huge plus for me, I‘m not kidding.
Was David’s basketball important to establishing Ripley’s hook shot in Alien: Resurrection?
[Laughs] I think that is the best question I have been asked all day, and I’ve been asked a lot of questions. I do think that there are a lot of tips of the cap in Prometheus to all of those movies and I think it’s so easy to sit back and rag on mistakes made or wrong paths turned down. But at the end of the day, every single one of those movies I feel had good things in them and an articulation of fondness. All I’ll say in response to your question is nothing is an accident in Prometheus. Every single decision that is made by Ridley Scott is made for a very specific reason and purpose.
I actually love Alien: Resurrection but we don’t have time to get into that.
Hey, man, Joss Whedon, come on.
When you start with the idea that we’re going to find the answers to our creation, how do you as a writer deal with the fact that you probably won’t personally be able to solve the mysteries of the universe that have taken philosophers 1000s of years to work out?
Very delicately, is the answer to your question. You try not to get too precious about it in terms of storytelling. You want to create something that’s sort of entertaining and fun to watch but at the same time is driven by these certain larger philosophical constructs. The reality is there’s a very high probability, Fred, that you and I are both going to die without knowing what the origins of mankind are, what happens when we die until it happens or whether or not there’s a God or what the meaning of life is. These will remain fundamental mysteries and so any time a story tries to take them on and answer them, there is going to be sort of a fungible either “Oh, seen that before” or disappointment that it’s not going to go as far as you want it to go. So you’re dancing pretty close to the flame and for some reason I keep getting attracted to a television show and movies and stories that sort of center around that flame, and I’ve been burned by it but I think it keeps me warm too and I can’t resist it.
Were you familiar with every single film in the Alien franchise down to the Alien Vs. Predator movies?
I have to be completely honest with you. I’ve seen Alien Vs. Predator but I have not seen Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem. I only saw Alien Vs. Predator once and in my researching at the time that I took the Prometheus job, I made a purposeful effort to not rewatch any of the Alien movies or go on Wikipedia and explore them. I felt like my memory of them was going to have to suffice. If the goal was to make this feel original and new and fresh, and obviously acknowledge those previous films, I did not want to be beholden to them.
You said nothing is an accidental reference, so is there a possible intentional Alien Vs. Predator reference in that the Weylands are always seeking eternal life?
You mean in terms of Charles Bishop Weyland? Look, as to what’s canon and what’s not canon, for me as a screenwriter it’s transcended by Ridley as a director. Here’s the thing. Ridley invented this. He created this Alien universe. He birthed it out of his own heart and soul. So he gets to do whatever it is he wants to do and he wanted to use Weyland as a conduit in the story, and was not interested at all when I said to him, “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.
Simon Pegg told The Telegraph that Benedict Cumberbatch is not playing Khan in Star Trek 2. So is he or isn’t he?
Is Simon Pegg Khan?
No, is Benedict Cumberbatch Khan or not?
I can definitively tell you that Simon Pegg is not Khan in Star Trek 2 and that is all I will tell you. We have time for one more question, Fred.
I’ll make it a Prometheus question but why don’t you just say, “No, he’s not Khan?”
Because we’re not saying anything about it and I celebrate Simon’s desire to go on the record with that but J.J. and I and Bob and Alex have all really agreed to not comment on it one way or the other. Especially we’re a year out from the movie coming out, so at this point there’s just nothing we want to say about it.
As someone who tells stories dependent on secrets and mysteries, how do you feel about what the trailers reveal?
It’s so hard, man, I’ve got to be honest with you. From my own internal fanboy perspective there’s nothing that I hate more than seeing a three minute trailer for a movie where I feel like it’s shown me the entire movie. But then from a producorial perspective, it’s a rated R movie, hard sci-fi coming out in the middle of the summer and if lots and people don’t go see it, there aren’t going to be any more of them. And I don’t mean any more Ridley Scott Prometheus movies, I just mean any more hard R sci-fi movies. Hopefully somewhere in between those two poles lies the exact just right way to market a movie. I would not begrudge somebody who goes to see Prometheus having the feeling of wow, I wish I hadn’t seen as much, but those people probably sought it out. I think if you just saw the theatrical trailers and the commercial spots for Prometheus, I don't think it gave away too much and I think it did a pretty good job.
I personally avoided them. Thank you for this interview and I’m glad you liked my Alien: Resurrection question. Sometime we’ll have to talk about that more.
I look forward to that, Fred. Thanks, buddy.