Byline: ROGER CROW
DIRECTOR Ridley Scott has a glint in his eye. It could be the fact that it's a rare sunny morning but it's more likely because he is finally ready to release his hugelyanticipated film Prometheus. The 74-year-old triple Oscar nominee is at least hoping his multimillion-pound gamble pays off.
Scott's prequel to Alien, starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, is a 3D science fiction epic that has been gestating for years.
His first blockbuster attracted many fans, not least because of its clever tagline: "In space, no one can hear you scream".
Alien centred on seven astronauts returning to Earth who were awoken to investigate a distress signal. Landing on a wind-lashed planet, they found a derelict alien spacecraft and the fossilised remains of a giant humanoid creature.
In the bowels of the craft, Kane (John Hurt) discovered a cache of eggs and was attacked by one of the organisms within.
After emerging from a coma, he and the crew continued their journey. However, a creature produced from that close encounter wiped out most of the crew, until Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) managed to kill it.
The movie was a visceral, stomachchurning smash that transformed Weaver into a star and marked the beginning of one of 20th Century Fox's most lucrative franchises ever.
While film-makers James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet continued the adventures of the long-suffering Ripley (films Scott diplomatically describes as "all jolly good in some form or other"), by 1997 the saga seemed to be on its last legs.
Though Scott thought the franchise was "fundamentally used up", that fossilised humanoid nicknamed 'the Space Jockey' continued to bug him.
"Something that had stayed with me ever since Alien was the mystery behind it," explains the South Shields-born film-maker.
"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."
Those ideas formed the seed of Prometheus, Scott's first sciencefiction epic since Blade Runner 30 years ago.
Though that Harrison Ford vehicle was an initial flop (it recouped its losses later), the director found more success with contemporary offerings such as Black Rain and Thelma And Louise, and period adventures like Gladiator and Robin Hood.
During his absence from science fiction, a generation of film-makers and game developers weaned on Alien and Blade Runner adopted Scott's style and the freshness of his future worlds started looking overlyfamiliar. Scott knew that when he turned to sci-fi again, something different was called for.
"Over the past few decades, we've been action filmed-out and monster filmed-out and almost science fiction filmed-out," says Scott. "So the baseline question is, how original are you going to be?" The answer was to tackle the sort of big issues inspired by Swiss author Erich Von Daniken decades ago in books such as Chariots of the Gods? and The Gods Were Astronauts. What if the human race has ties with extra-terrestrials? Scott sat down with screenwriter Jon Spaihts and Lost veteran Damon Lindelof to hammer out an original idea which used Alien as a springboard to examine one very simple, universal question: where did we come from? …