Collider recently caught up with the wonderful & enigmatic Jon Spaihts, the screenwriter who rapidly appeared on the scene following some pretty impressive sci-fi scripts floating around exec studios offices garnering a lot of chin-wagging. Prometheus' original writer Spaihts was tasked with scripting the original Alien prequel which eventually fell under the stewardship of screenwriter Damon Lindelof. Hit the jump for the details.
How did you get involved with Prometheus?
How did you get involved with Prometheus?
Spaihts: "I had written a couple of scripts that had gotten the attention of the folks over at Scott Free, Ridley’s production company, particularly a science fiction epic, called Shadow 19, and a science fiction love story, called Passengers. On the strength of those scripts, I was brought in to talk about finding something to do together. It began as a general meeting, with books and comic books across the table, and they asked me if I had any original ideas of my own. Late in the meeting, the fellow I was talking to – Michael Costigan, the head of Ridley’s company – mentioned that they had wanted, for a long time, to return to the universe of Alien and tell a new story, but that nobody had been able to crack it. And, it seemed they couldn’t really go any further forward with the story they’d come up with, so they had to go back in time, and they asked, “So, what do you think?” It was interesting because a question I had ever asked myself or been asked before, and certainly nothing I had prepared for the meeting. But, I found that, when the question was asked, I had opinions that were, in fact, pretty strong opinions, so I just started riffing."
Spaihts: "The original Alien left behind some tremendous mysteries about the universe and the world in which it was set, and the mysteries were provocative. I followed a thread of thought into how those mysteries would have to be resolved. That seemed, to me, to make the best sense, and I told the story for 30 or 45 minutes. At the end of that time, Michael asked me if I wouldn’t mind writing that down for Ridley, who was in post-production, at that time, on Robin Hood. You’re not really supposed to write stuff down, as a writer, and leave the document behind. You’re supposed to only talk about it in the room. But, it was Ridley Scott, so of course, I did. In a very short time, that document had leapt from Ridley’s hands into the studio structure and up the ladder. I think it was less than two weeks, before I was sitting in a room with the two co-chairs of 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott, talking about a deal, and Ridley had turned from being merely the producer of the project to wanting to direct it himself. After that, things moved very fast, indeed.""
Back in the early days when rumblings of an 'Untitled Alien Prequel' emerged amongst the fanbase was it easy to block out this anticipation while writing?
Spaihts: "Ultimately, you have to, but it does make some noise. Prometheus was maybe the eighth studio project or assignment that I had had, but nobody knows that because screenwriters do most of their work underground. You take an assignment and write your draft, and maybe that film gets made, or maybe it goes to another writer, or maybe it ends up on a shelf. That’s just the lot of a screenwriter. Nobody knows about your work, until years later when a movie comes out. But, in this instance, people wanted to know about this project before I started writing. There was an audience before I began, and dire threats of what would happen, if information were to get loose[...]I was aware that there was an audience to please, but moreover, there is a civilization out there that exists now, of its own accord. The Alien universe has residents. There are people who live there."[...]You have to balance the responsibility to the canon and all the fans who live, in some part, in that universe, with your responsibility to tell the best story that you can. But, for me, it’s very important to honor canon, wherever possible."
Will we be finding any Alien Canon Easter Eggs in Prometheus?
Spaihts: "You do try, but there are too many variables in play, on a film this big, for you to have a lot of control about things like that, especially when you’re working with someone like Ridley. The fact is that Ridley is a creative volcano, constantly spewing ideas and pursuing new directions, that change the direction of the project, as you go. In the end, a lot of what’s up on screen is coming straight from Ridley’s mind. He’ll come up with an image for a thematic concept that he wants to follow through with, and it becomes my job to build the story around that and give it a logic and a reason for being. So, much of what I see, when I watch the Prometheus trailer myself, is me, but I see Ridley everywhere. In the end, if there are Easter eggs and delicious mysteries in Prometheus, left to be resolved, some of them will be the process of the writing work that I did and that Damon [Lindelof] did, and some of it will just be the by-product of Ridley’s imagination."
How much did Damon Lindelof change the script?
Spaihts: "I would say that what Damon did was more of a rebalancing of the story than a reinvention. My plot, my characters, and my mythology are all still firmly in place, but he found a way to complicate it and elaborate on some character relationships and mythology, and he wrote some great new scenes and a lot of new ideas. It’s impossible to be very specific without getting into spoilers, and I want to preserve the secrecy of the story, as much as I can. So, there is definitely a lot of new energy and some new ideas, but when I read the script or watch the movie, I see a story that I feel a lot of ownership of."Prometheus stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Rafe Spall, Logan Marshall-Green & Guy Pearce. Arriving in 2D, 3D & 3D IMAX theaters this June 8th in the US & June 1st in the UK.