This was Jon Spaihts original draft of Prometheus?
Yes. And I thought it was really cool. It was not at all what I expected it to be. But obviously they were giving it to me for a reason. And this is one of those situations where you’re given no advance sense of what they like, what they don’t like, you just have to walk out on the plank and say, Here is my fundamental reaction to this thing. So when I finished it I went into my office and I wrote an email to Ridley and his producing partners. And this response was basically my job interview. I wrote maybe a four or five paragraph email saying here are all the things I love about it, I think there are some incredible set pieces here, I love the fundamental idea behind the movie, I feel like it’s a cool think piece. BUT I think it’s relying a bit too heavily on the Alien stuff that we’ve seen now five or six times in different movies. Chest-bursting and face-hugging and xenomorphs and I just feel that your idea is so strong and the characters can be made so strong that we don’t need any of that stuff. We can present iterations of that stuff in different ways. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a movie that should be set in that universe, but I look at it more like a story that is running parallel to the original Alien, so that if there was a sequel to this movie, it would not be Alien, it would be Prometheus 2. And then Prometheus 2 is parallel to Aliens. And here’s how we could do that. And so I sent off that email and I got into my bed. I didn’t sleep at all. And at 10 a.m. the next morning, my agent called me and said, ‘Whatever it is you did, they liked it. Can you go in and meet now?’
Who was at that meeting?
Ridley, two producing partners, and the executive from Fox on it. On my way over there I wrote in my head this sort of very formal speech on how much Ridley’s influenced me and what a thrill it is to be considered for this job… and I got about six words into that speech and he cut me off. He goes, “Let’s talk about your email.” So there we were sitting at a table talking about this science fiction movie that he wanted to direct and that they were considering me to write and I kept trying to leave my body and hover above the table and look down thinking, Oh my god, this might actually happen for you! And we had this great meeting. I think it was on a Friday afternoon. And at the end, he said, “Are you available to come in this weekend and talk some more?” And I said, of course. And at that point I realized they were probably going to hire me. That’s the long-winded origin story.
Did Ridley tell you at any point why he chose you? Was he fan of Lost?
He was definitely aware of Lost. Ridley is not the kind of guy who watches a television series. He will watch 20 minutes of a show here and an episode there. He was aware of it, he knew what it was, he knew what I did. He had seen the show, but he was not trying to present to me, like, Oh my God, I’m a huge Lostie! John Locke is my favorite character! As much as a writer can have a specific skill set or a brand, he was very interested that my brand seemed to be in mystery and ambiguity. And that’s what’s so cool about the original Alien — Hey, here’s this distress call, we just went down there, we see this weird massive alien creature sitting in a chair and there’s eggs everywhere and there’s nobody there to explain what happened. It’s just the situation they’re in. And I think the idea for this movie was, well, let’s have characters who are a little more interested in answering those questions before the s— hits the fan. They don’t just happen upon the haunted house, they’re actually looking for it. They just don’t realize it’s haunted till they get there. We talked a lot about mystery. That was my only hint of why he sought me out.
Did you have any reluctance about working on someone else’s script? Not being the guy who was there from go?
Yeah! Definitely! Especially since I felt like Jon had done a really good job of executing his drafts. I sent him an email as soon as I was formally hired saying, ‘Hey, you’re gonna read about this — that I’ve been hired to do this thing and I want you to know that whatever gets said, I’m going to try to retain as much of what you did as possible because I thought it was great. And then the story came out: Lindelof comes in and pitches this radical new take on this movie that used to be a prequel and is now transforming into its own original thing. I reached out to Jon again to say that’s not at all what happened. Ridley had a very specific idea of the story he wanted to tell. And sometimes you have to look at different versions of it to know what it is you want and what you don’t want. Whatever it is, I didn’t get the sense that there was any bad blood with Jon. They were just looking for someone to say to them, Hey, we don’t need the Alien stuff in here. It shouldn’t be about that. It can be a part of this movie, but it shouldn’t be what it’s about.
NEXT: How long did Prometheus take to write… and is it an Alien prequel?