x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron talk Alien to us

The stars of Ridley Scott's new film Prometheus discuss their roles in one of the most anticipated films of the year, a prequel to the Alien franchise.

PROM-004 - Charlize Theron and Idris Elba on the bridge of the ship Prometheus.
PROM-004 - Charlize Theron and Idris Elba on the bridge of the ship Prometheus.

Thirty-three years after the release of his film Alien, the British director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise for the first time for the prequel Prometheus. The science-fiction film, with a budget estimated at about US$120 million (Dh440m), is set years before Alien and focuses on a team of scientists who respond to an extraterrestrial signal that they believe is connected to mankind's origins. But to go back to the future, Scott has cast two stars of the present: Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender.

Starring in three films in the past six months, Theron returned to the screen with a vengeance this year, having last been seen nearly three years ago in the 2009 film The Road. Despite this absence, she remains a star attraction thanks to an impressive body of work that includes a best actress Academy award for 2003's Monster. Her co-star Fassbender, by contrast, has been almost omnipresent in the past two years, combining studio movies such as X-Men: First Class with smaller, critically lauded pieces such as Shame, and is considered one of the most in-demand actors of the moment.

Charlize, how did you approach playing Meredith Vickers, who remains a mysterious presence for a lot of the film?

My character is the company representative. She's there to oversee everything, to make sure everyone's doing their jobs and that the expedition is a success. But there's something about her that isn't quite right, and the audience gets to find out what.

Michael, you play an android in the film. What was that like to prepare for, in terms of both the physicality and personality of the role, given that this has already been explored in Alien with Lance Henricksen's character?

I tried to make the performance reflect the script, in that it was familiar, because it's an Alien movie, but manages to be something new at the same time. I studied people and actors who I thought had interesting looks or movements, but David is an individual in the sense that he is programmed to display human traits. He questions both his life and the world around him.

The plot explores many eternal questions, such as mortality and mankind's origins. Were you surprised by the script when you first read it? Were you expecting a "typical" science fiction film?

Charlize Theron: I don't think you can take anything for granted working with Ridley. I knew it would be something interesting, just because he's involved and the fact that he has been responsible for so many wonderful films in this genre. What really surprised me about the script was that although it was part of the universe of the other films, it truly stands on its own. You don't have to have seen Alien to enjoy this film, but if you have, it's just as rewarding.

Michael Fassbender: I did think before I read it, "What more can be said that hasn't already been covered in the previous films?" Then when the script came I got my answer! I kept expecting it to go wrong at some point but as I sat there reading it, watched over by someone from the studio who brought it to me, I just couldn't believe how great it was. In retrospect, the search for answers is perfectly suited to the science fiction genre, the characters are exploring and looking for the key to their existence: what does it mean to be human? Are we in control of our own lives? I found that search they embark on fascinating.

The sets look incredible. Does that help you as actors to really dive into the role?

MF: Absolutely. I would walk on to the set and it really felt at times like you were on a real spaceship; the design of the film is fantastic. When you're on set with people who are at the top of their profession, all working together to create this world, it's very easy to concentrate on the character without being distracted by what's going on off-camera.

Ridley Scott has a fearsome reputation as a director. How was working with him on the film?

MF: He was a tyrant! [Laughs]. No, I never had any problems with Ridley, he's a filmmaker who always takes on any input you have on a scene, a character, anything.

CT: It was wonderful, everything I expected it to be. I'm lucky to have worked with some truly great directors but I would always say: "God, I'd love to work with Ridley Scott." I think he's one of the best directors of his generation. Then this opportunity came along and it was everything I expected. He's very collaborative, which is vital for any process to work.