: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi RapaceDirector
: Ridley Scott Genre
: Action, Horror, Sci-FiRated
: MA Running Time
: 124 minutesSynopsis
: Ridley Scott, director of 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner,' returns to the genre he helped define. With Prometheus, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.Release Date
: June 7th, 2012
About the Production
Sir Ridley Scott, the renowned filmmaker who reinvented the science fiction film genre - having helmed Alien, a groundbreaking mix of science fiction and horror, followed by Blade Runner, one of the most revered and influential genre films of our time - offers his signature brand of action, thrills, scares, and much, much more, when Prometheus is unleashed in theatres worldwide this June.
With Prometheus, Ridley Scott has created a new mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey, aboard the spaceship Prometheus, to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
Although he has not helmed a science fiction picture in three decades, Ridley Scott's interest in the genre never abated. Having made two of the most revered genre films of all time, his return would only be triggered by a truly grand idea. "Over the past few decades, we've been 'action filmed-out' and 'monster filmed-out' and almost 'science fiction filmed-out," says Ridley Scott. "So the baseline question is: how original are you going to be?"
"The reason I haven't made another sci-fi film in so many years, apart from the fact I've been busy making other films and exploring different genres, is because frankly I haven't come across anything worthwhile for me to do with enough truth, originality and strength. Prometheus has all three."
The notion for Prometheus began with a figure glimpsed only briefly in Alien, and which seemed to be forgotten once the titular xenomorph burst, literally, onto the scene. But that mysterious being - a giant fossilised creature with a burst-open chest, which came to be known as the Space Jockey - was well remembered by the man who brought it to life. "Something that had stayed with me ever since Alien, was the mystery behind it," says Ridley Scott. Who was he? Where was he from? What was his mission? What kind of technology would his kind possess? I thought those questions could provide a springboard for even larger ideas."
So, yes, Prometheus began life years ago as an Alien prequel before evolving, as Ridley Scott puts it, "into another universe." The film is engaged and defined by new ideas and questions that captured the filmmaker's formidable imagination. Notes Ridley Scott: "Out of the creative process in developing the picture emerged a new, grand mythology, in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognise strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, far-reaching and provocative. Prometheus is the singular genre tale I'd been searching for."
Adds co-screenwriter Jon Spaihts: "The most difficult thing about writing this story was that nothing was given. Everything had to be invented. In creating an entire world with Ridley Scott, I had an enormous canvas to paint on." And co-screenwriter/executive producer Damon Lindelof says that he was "incredibly struck by just how original Ridley Scott's vision was for this movie. It's daring, visceral and hopefully, the last thing anyone expects."
As the script was developed, the story's big ideas emerged: During a journey to meet what some of the scientist crew believe to be their "makers" - beings who may have created life on our planet - the crew of the spaceship Prometheus and the mega-corporation funding its trillion-dollar mission, are in effect challenging the gods. And, as experienced by the Greek mythological figure from which the ship takes its name, challenging the gods can be a very, very bad idea.
"The film's central metaphor is about the Greek Titan Prometheus, who defies the gods by giving humans the gift of fire, for which he is horribly punished," Ridley Scott explains. "When you talk about the myth on which the title is based, you're dealing with humankind's relationship with the gods - the beings who created us - and what happens when we defy them."
But ultimately, notes Damon Lindelof, Prometheus is centered around
us. "It's about humanity in the future, challenging some of our most cherished scientific and philosophic ideas."
The team of scientists and explorers aboard the Prometheus are on nothing less than a journey to discover answers to some of life's most profound questions. Two brilliant young scientists, Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) possessing contrasting motivations, lead the expedition. Shaw is a believer: she wants to meet these "gods" as a way of getting closer to her more traditional religious views, while Holloway is looking to debunk these kinds of spiritual notions. In their work as archeologists, they have discovered clues in cave pictograms from ancient civilisations across the world, all of which point to the same location in distant space, and have persuaded a corporation, Weyland Industries, to fund the mission.
Neither scientist was prepared for the unimaginable terrors they would encounter. "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," says executive producer Michael Ellenberg. "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."
"The crew of the Prometheus thinks they're headed to paradise to discover answers to the ultimate questions. But what they find is a dark and twisted and frightening world - a way station for these beings," adds Jon Spaihts. "The cold and implacable environment is more like hell than heaven."
In Ridley Scott's films, including Prometheus, the protagonists' discoveries often defy expectations. "That's what makes good drama," states the filmmaker. "Our story circles the truth of what might be out there and therein lays its most frightening aspect. Feasibility always creates the finest and most dangerous drama and the opportunity for me to scare the hell out of everyone."
On the planet, the team meets a survivor of a civilisation in control of some very dangerous elements, including various forms of biology and biomechanics, which in a heartbeat can eviscerate its victim, or worse. "This brings us to the question," says Ridley Scott, "what are the consequences of meeting a superior being, whose capabilities are quantum leaps beyond one's own, and are in effect god-like?"
Or put another way: Maybe there are some things best left unexplored. The Prometheus' Crew
Strong female leads are a Ridley Scott hallmark: Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise, Demi Moore in GI Jane
the list goes on.
Prometheus features not one, but two formidable distaff protagonists who further Ridley Scott's impressive tradition. Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist filled with faith and hope, but who transforms into a warrior when faced with the danger she encounters at her destination; Charlize Theron's Vickers is a "suit" representing the interests of the mega-corporation funding the journey to a distant, foreboding world.
Noomi Rapace's powerful and unsettling performance in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in the trilogy of films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, had captured worldwide attention - including Ridley Scott's. "Noomi Rapace combines a rare intelligence and physicality," says the filmmaker. "She owned that part in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was so powerful that when Noomi Rapace and I met, I expected a tough, hardened individual; instead, Noomi Rapace was lovely, kind and smart. It was a terrific mix that would serve her well playing Shaw."
A call from Ridley Scott is a career defining moment for any actor, including Noomi Rapace. "After the meeting with Ridley Scott, I thought even if I don't end up working with him on Prometheus, I'm happy because I've had this hour with him." It turned out that Shaw would be spending much more time than that with Ridley Scott, who cast her after a screen test he shot with director of photography Dariusz Wolski, ASC. "We used a Panavision storage room which production designer Arthur Max had dressed to give it an industrial, creepy vibe, and Noomi just killed it," says Michael Ellenberg. "We were all blown away by her ferocity, power, and screen presence."
A very different kind of power is demonstrated by Meredith Vickers, a Weyland Industries executive who is onboard the Prometheus to represent the corporation's mysterious interests. When Charlize Theron accepted the role, Meredith Vickers took on intriguing new dimensions. Says Damon Lindelof: "Charlize and I worked together to create a more layered character. Vickers is someone the audience will love to hate, but there are moments when we see her vulnerability and begin to understand how and why she became so mercenary and hardened. This makes her a much more interesting counterpoint to Shaw."
Charlize Theron was drawn to the opportunity to explore the film's epic themes from a perspective at odds with the rest of the crew's. "For Meredith Vickers, this epic, two-year journey to another world has been boiled down to economics. She has a bottom-line kind of thinking," says the actress.
But as with so much else about the mission, there are deeper layers and mysteries to Meredith Vickers' ultimate goals. "She's an enigma, and the mystery surrounding her was something I really liked," says Charlize Theron. "Meredith Vickers is pragmatic, and desperately wants to control the situation. She fights everything that everyone else is there to do, and it becomes evident that she has either an alternative agenda or that she is hiding something."
Meredith Vickers' cold efficiency might be characterised as machine-like, but another crewmember, David, portrayed by Michael Fassbender, is, literally, a machine - an android creation of the corporation. While David possesses extraordinary intelligence and other capabilities, his principal tasks on the Prometheus, says Ridley Scott, are servile. "He's basically the ship's housekeeper, keeping an eye on everything while the human crew is in suspended animation [necessitated by the two-year journey]."
David is however far more "human" than one might expect of a synthetic person. Damon Lindelof explains: "David is programmed to help the human crewmembers, but he thinks the mission, in and of itself, is ridiculous because he's in the company of his creators - humans - and he's completely and totally unimpressed with them. I was driven by the idea of having him articulate his disdain in ways that his programming would allow."
The combination of David's intellect and menial directives makes for some of the film's most unexpected moments of humor. When we meet David, he's like a child in a playground - but his playground is the Prometheus. "While the rest of the crew is suspended animation, David is enjoying himself, tinkering with the ship's many technical wonders," says Michael Fassbender. And like a child, David enjoys watching the same movie over and over again. His cinema touchstone is David Lean's epic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia; David, like Peter O'Toole's T.E. Lawrence, is in many ways an idealised construct of a man. Further, says Damon Lindelof, "Lawrence was a stranger in a strange land. He fancied himself a liberator - and all these things are a part of David."
Additionally, David's views on the human crew are somewhat child-like. "He is jealous and arrogant because he realises that his knowledge is all-encompassing and therefore he is superior to the humans," says Michael Fassbender. "David wants to be acknowledged and praised for his brilliance, yet nobody gives him the time of day. They don't accept David and that upsets him. And like a child, David can be very bold in the decisions he makes."
Janek, the captain of the Prometheus, is described by Ridley Scott as an "old sea dog" - an officer in the classic tradition, and an alpha male whose primary mission is to protect the ship and its crew. His ambitions and vocation provide a sharp contrast to the heady goals of Shaw and Holloway and the venal corporate interests of Meredith Vickers.
British actor Idris Elba, who portrays Janek, reunites with Ridley Scott, with whom he collaborated on the director's award-winning American Gangster. Idris Elba's formidable presence and performance in that film left a strong impression on Ridley Scott, as did the actor's searing work as drug overlord Stringer Bell in the series The Wire and as a complicated police officer in Luther.
Idris Elba describes Janek as "a longshoreman and a sailor. It's his life and the crew is his responsibility. Ultimately, he makes a huge decision that sums him up as a man."
Logan Marshall-Green takes on the role of Holloway, who is Shaw's partner, both personally and professionally, in a quest for answers to some of humanity's most important questions. Like Shaw, Holloway has a thirst for answers, but he thinks the end of their search will yield very different results from those Shaw expects.
"Shaw is the heart of the search; Holloway is the guts," adds Logan Marshall-Green. "I think Holloway is searching for answers to these huge questions because he's always pushing the envelope. He goes to the extreme in everything he does, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse of the team. I think what drives him is the thrill of the search." About the Production
Although Ridley Scott has long embraced cinema's "new tricks and toys," including computer-generated imagery, he is also known for his belief in filming what he calls "the real thing," i.e. practical sets. Indeed, with so many of today's epic genre films relying heavily on CGI, Prometheus is a rarity: it presents a massive sci-fi world where most of the sets, props and stunts are real. This provides an impressive tactile reality, with one set being more stunning than the next. As one production crew member puts it: "Ridley Scott built the greatest alien playground in the world."
The cast and crew were in awe of the efforts of production designer Arthur Max and his team of artisans. "It is hard to overstate the impact of walking on those sets," says Michael Ellenberg. "It was inspiring on so many levels. There are so many understated, instinctual things that happen when you are filming on real sets. Everyone behaves in a more natural, organic fashion because it feels like a piece of reality. Every design detail was based on real world reference points, real world ideas, and real world notions. Some of these are fairly lofty notions, but they're from our world. And if you are looking to scare people and engage with them, viscerally and emotionally, practical sets are the only way to go."
The production filmed on five stages at Pinewood Studios in the U.K., including the famed "007 Stage" (one of the biggest stages in Europe, at about 59,000 square feet). With studio space at a minimum, the filmmakers had to make five stages work for more than 16 sets, as well as increasing the size of the 007 Stage by at least a third. Principal photography commenced in August 2010, although preliminary work had begun much earlier.
Arthur Max designed not only the spaceships and vehicles but also the landscape of the planet to which the expedition travels, and the structures and spaceship they discover there. For the ship Prometheus, Arthur Max says he wanted "to do something that was state-of-the-art, which would represent a flagship spacecraft with every technology required to probe into the deepest corners of the galaxy. We looked at a lot of NASA and European Space Agency designs, and played around with those ideas in the context of what space travel would be like a generation from now." Arthur Max then worked out the ship's interior architecture and how it would play to the exterior form.
The bridge of the Prometheus is a two tiered set marked by extraordinary attention to detail and dazzling technology, including a gigantic wraparound jewel-like and faceted windscreen fronting the structure. Perhaps the most elaborate set on the Prometheus is Meredith Vickers' quarters, which are more akin to a plush Fifth Avenue apartment than a cabin on an interstellar vehicle. The space is resplendent with designer furnishings both old and new, including a Fazoili piano, Swarovski chandeliers - and a high-tech medical facility featuring a robotic medical pod (Med-pod) that can treat any medical need
or surgical emergency. The translucent casket-like pod figures in one of the film's defining sequences, which mixes action, terror and horror in a way never before experienced on film. "What goes on there is simply the worst thing you can (or probably cannot) imagine," says Rapace.
Other interior sets on the Prometheus include a laboratory, where the crew bring their findings for inspection; the ready room, where the crew get suited up in preparation for their mission; the hyper-sleep barracks, where David monitors the crew during their two year journey to the planet; the mess room, with an amazing array of high-tech equipment; and the space crew's quarters.
Arthur Max's epic sets that bring to life the alien planet include a Pyramid, which contains the Juggernaut, a ship similar to the crashed crescent shaped ship seen in Alien. Using a series of chambers, corridors and tunnels connecting the larger spaces to each other, and after post-production enhancement, the space is as enormous as the Empire State building. It was so cavernous that some crew lost their bearings.
Outside, on Pinewood's backlot, Arthur Max and his team built the Prometheus Garage, one of three sets that sit beneath the main body of the ship. The enormous set houses the crew's vehicles, which the production built from scratch. "We had to create vehicles that could actually be driven on a hostile surface, which is undulating and rocky," says Arthur Max. "We needed transportation that would be industrial enough to deal with these environments but at the same time give us a futuristic characteristic." It took eleven weeks to create these robust vehicles, complete with state-of-the-art technology, LED lighting, and padded seats, all presented in a dazzling metallic finish.
After 15 weeks at Pinewood, cast and crew relocated to Iceland to shoot the climactic sequences as well as the prologue. In the town of Hekla, the production captured epic action and thrills - while one of Iceland's most active volcanoes threatened to erupt. Additional scenes were shot at a spectacular waterfall in Dettifoss.
Facing challenges every bit as demanding as those confronting Arthur Max was another of Ridley Scott's frequent collaborators, Academy Award®-winning costume designer Janty Yates. "Ridley Scott was adamant about avoiding the puffy, NASA-style spacesuit audiences know so well," says Yates. "He loved the linear look so we went with a novel approach to spacesuit design that uses biomedical breakthroughs in skin replacement and materials to create a suit that could believably provide lightweight flexibility and comfort in any extraterrestrial environment. Each costume consisted of the outer spacesuit and a Neoprene under suit, a yoke to which a helmet was attached, and a backpack. Ridley Scott mandated a globe-shaped helmet with no blind spots. Each helmet had nine working video screens, lighting, an oxygen supply run on two fans with battery packs within the backpack. The exterior of the helmet features a fully functioning torch and HD cameras with a transmitter and recorder.
David's onboard costume conforms to the human apparel, but with fine lines to provide a more linear look. Charlize Theron wears a beautiful silk mohair suit in ice silver. "Meredith Vickers is the ice queen. It was always our vision to make her look as sculptural as possible," explains Janty Yates. Keeping the naval simile in mind for Janek, Janty Yates gave Idris Elba a canvas-greased jacket giving the appearance that he's been at the helm of a ship for many years. Marshall-Green as Holloway exudes a casual comfortable timeless look, in his hoodies, Thai fisherman pants and flip-flops.
The film's new creatures are the work of Creative Supervisor for Creature Effects and Special Make-Up Effects Neal Scanlan and Prosthetic Supervisor Conor O'Sullivan. "We present the evolution of these nasty bits and pieces of creature evolution in a logical and biological fashion," says Ridley Scott. Adds Neal Scanlan: "Each stage of a creature's life cycle has a distinctive purpose. For our xenobiology, we brought in new elements that are not necessarily backward from those in Alien, but are of a similar DNA. Many of Ridley Scott's references are derived from nature - plants, vegetables, sea creatures and other animals. Nothing is invented."
Prometheus marks Ridley Scott's first film shot digitally and in 3D, a format whose technical challenges and aesthetic opportunities were embraced by the filmmaker. Ridley Scott and Wolski used the technology to enhance the action and thrills in small confined spaces, as well within epic vistas. In returning to the genre he helped define, Ridley Scott continues to push the boundaries of storytelling, both visually and thematically. As he notes, he's all about the "everything" - from story structure to casting, from sets and costumes to new ways of telling a story. And while the renowned filmmaker is scaring the shit out of you, he never loses sight of the big picture. "After you've seen Prometheus," Ridley Scott concludes, "you will have experienced something completely unexpected."