Film Trailer: Alien: Covenant2:13
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.
MOST actors have to make do with a tennis ball on a stick, but legendary British director Ridley Scott (The Martian, Gladiator, Blade Runner) likes to keep it real.
Even the “puppet” xenomorph on the set of his latest film, Alien: Covenant, is convincing enough to make a grown woman scream.
Re-imagined by Creatures Supervisor Conor O’Sullivan and his team out of foam, latex and fibreglass, the creature comes to life when the dancer that is operating him activates the articulated neck.
Standing almost three metres tall (prosthetic carbon blades give dancer Andrew Connor extra lift), the fleshy quality of the monster’s “skin” completes the eerie illusion.
Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston Answer Important Questions4:30
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston sit down for an interview on their new epic journey with J.K. Rowling as well as Director David Yates. They talked about what they studied to prepare for the roles of this movie as well as their first experiences with the Harry Potter world.
And given the size of the shoes she has to fill — Scott describes his leading lady’s journey as “parallel” to that of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley — Waterston is happy to take all the help she can get.
But it was her performance as Joaquin Phoenix’s ex-girlfriend in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’70s crime comedy Inherent Vice that made critics sit up and take notice.
“I shot a dog on Boardwalk Empire once to put it out of its misery, but that was the only other time I have used a gun,” she says.
The actor is now more than halfway through the three-month-plus shoot for the fifth instalment in the Alien franchise, which began filming in New Zealand’s Milford Sounds.
She has spent the morning firing at aliens on what Scott describes as one of the best movie backlots in the world — an old water reservoir in Potts Hill, near Bankstown (used for the first time by Mad Max: Fury Road).
The scale of the post-apocalyptic set, into which smoke is being pumped to provide a moody atmosphere, is impressive.
A giant, unfinished staircase climbs towards the heavens (this will be augmented in post-production).
The frozen, distorted bodies lying at the bottom suggest an alien version of Pompei.
This impression is heightened by the giant ruins are scattered around the backlot, covered in ancient hieroglyphics.
Waterson is already being described as the “new Ripley”. But while clearly fit, she lacks the muscle definition of Weaver’s groundbreaking action woman.
“I wanted to be fit to be able to handle anything Ridley threw at me but I didn’t think about it aesthetically because she is not a soldier, she is a terraformist,” she says.
Had events gone according to plan, Daniels’ job wouldn’t even have begun until her spaceship, The Covenant, had landed on the planet it was intending to colonise.
As Waterson points out, Weaver, herself, only muscled up for the second two films in the franchise.
“I l like that for the journey of the reluctant hero. At the beginning she is just a person who has really good instincts and an amount of good fortune — because everybody else is obviously doing their best to stay alive, too, and it doesn’t work out for them.”
Daniels, too, is first and foremost a survivor.
“(Co-star) Danny McBride and I were talking about this the other day. His father says survival is about being able to continue to make decisions.
“It’s when people stop making decisions that they die on the mountain top. When you just keep fighting for your life, you tend to be able to last a little longer.’
Alien: Covenant is set 10 years after Prometheus, the 2012 film with which Scott resurrected the hugely popular franchise.
The director envisages that it will take two more films to link up with the original Alien (1979). He is already working on the follow-up to Alien: Covenant.
If Waterston’s role is “parallel” to that of Ripley, one would imagine that she’ll be along for the ride.
“I would love to do it. I am really curious about where they want to take it,” says the actor, rather enigmatically.
For now, Waterston swears she knows as little as the rest of us.
“She doesn’t know where the hell she is headed so why should I?”
Waterston has worked with a number of leading Hollywood directors — Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle and Paul Thomas Anderson among them.
What most surprised her about 79-year-old Scott, she says, was his energy on set.
“It would be surprising if he was 25.”
It makes sense, then, that both Scott and Waterson compare themselves to athletes during the course of the conversation.
“There is no second take on this shit,” says the director. “You’ve gotta get it right. That’s why I always feel like a sportsman — you better get up to speed or you will get destroyed.”
Waterson is keenly aware of the fervour of the Alien fan base — not to mention Ripley’s place in popular culture.
“But I feel like it’s the actor’s job to put such thoughts out of their mind for the duration of the shoot,” she says.
“When I watch tennis players, I can’t believe they can stay focused with all that tension and energy and expectation around them, but they are used to it.
“I feel like it’s the same for me. I just come to work and do my job as those athletes do.”
There is only one character in the Alien universe more venerated than Ripley herself.
The folk in Alien: Covenant’s creatures department are so passionate about H. R. Giger’s groundbreaking extraterrestrial creation, heated arguments have broken out.
“It’s quite stressful. And very weird,” says O’Sullivan.
“There haven’t been any fist fights. But almost.
“When you talk to anybody from our side — animal and creature design — they will always cite Alien or Aliens as one of the reasons they came into the film business.
“Everybody has an agenda. Damian Martin, who recently won an Oscar for Fury Road, said to me that every time he worked on it, he could feel his stomach knotting up.
“That’s not where you want to be if you have to be creative.
“It’s my job to manage that.”
There is one aspect of the visceral killing machine, however, on which everybody is in agreement: the creature must feel organic.
“If you are going to lie, you might as well keep it as close to the truth as possible,’’ says O’Sullivan, a former marine biologist.
“And you can’t beat nature for horror.”
ALIEN: COVENANT OPENS MAY 18