In an attempt to clarify any confusion about how June’s sci-fi epic “Prometheus” came to be, here’s a brief timeline of the “Alien” franchise, dating back to the original 70’s classic, up to now, with the viral campaign for “Prometheus” starting to take shape.
The working titles “Dark Star” and “Star Beast” were dropped for the simplistic “Alien” in pre-production, a film which was to be an ode to writer Dan O’Bannon’s love for sci-fi and horror, taking inspiration from classic genre-flicks “Forbidden Planet,” “Planet of the Vampires,” and “The Thing from Another World.”
“Alien” seemed destined to sit on ice at 20th Century Fox until a film by the name of “Star Wars” came out in 1977. “Alien” was green-lit immediately. Half a dozen directors were approached prior to Ridley Scott. He accepted the job at once.
The film was advertised under the now-iconic tagline “In space no one can hear you scream.” “Alien” was Released May 25, 1979, featuring innovative set and creature designs by HR Giger and a haunting score from Jerry Goldsmith. “Alien” won critical and popular acclaim, notably nabbing an Oscar for Visual Effects and being inducted to the NFR of the Library of Congress in 2002, not to mention launching the career of Sigourney Weaver.
Despite the success of “Alien,” Fox did not consider a sequel worthwhile. James Cameron did, however, and approached Fox with the idea in 1983. Again, it was the success for another film, this time Cameron’s “Terminator,” which allowed “Aliens” to get the green light. Sigourney Weaver was nearly nixed from the film over salary disputes, but Cameron refused to exclude her. Sigourney was paid $1 million for the role, thirty times her salary on “Alien.” Cameron proved knowledgeable again, as Weaver got a nod for Best Actress at the Oscars, a milestone achievement in science-fiction filmmaking.
Influenced by the Vietnam War and a desire to not follow in Scott’s footsteps and instead provide a worthy adversary to the seemingly unstoppable alien, Cameron shifted gears from sci-fi/horror to futuristic action.
Released on July 18, 1986, over seven years after its predecessor, and the result of some testy shooting in London (Cameron’s experience can be likened to that of Spielberg’s on “Jaws,” a true test of a young director), the film was an immediate success, with many critics calling it an improvement on the original, as well as a financial win, reigning as the #1 film in the country four weeks straight.
Fox called for a sequel immediately this time, and even wanted to film two movies back to back, with an interesting Cold War-type plot which featured the Weyland/Yutani Corporation battling with an expatriated-Earth society which in the 4th film would begin mass-producing Alien warriors. Sigourney Weaver agreed to a cameo role in the third film because she liked the idea so much, with the movie focusing on the character Hicks. The studio, though, considered Weaver the centerpiece of the film and nixed the idea. They contacted Scott to direct, but despite interest there were schedule conflicts.
Initial drafts involved the aliens developing a viral-airborne means of reproduction which would result in human hosts graphically tearing their own skin off to reveal an alien warrior underneath. Further drafts introduced the idea of a human/alien hybrid as well as carrying the viral aspect of reproduction to the point that inorganic material could be infected and become alien.
Countless revisions were made before being handed over to green director David Fincher, whose production on “Alien 3” was plagued by studio interference. The filming remains a sensitive subject to the director and Alien 3 is the only film in the series without a Director’s Cut.
“Alien 3” was released on My 22, 1992, 13 years after the original. It was a flop in North America and grossed twice as much outside the US. “Alien 3″ remains a constant source of debate among the fandom. Many consider it a halfhearted effort, while others maintain certain elements of the original “Alien” put it on par with or even superior to “Aliens.”
Alien: Resurrection (1997), AVP (2004) and AVP:R (2007) followed, generally offensive to the Alien-fanbase, with the latter two even going so far as to discouraging an in-the-works Scott/Cameron collaboration which would have seen Scott writing and producing a script for an origin story “Alien 5,” with Cameron attached to direct. They’d approached Fox with the idea, but Fox’s decision to press on with AVP ruined the validity of the franchise for the directors and plans were scrapped.
The earliest incarnation of “Prometheus” can be seen in post-“Alien” interviews where Scott states the most obvious direction for the franchise would be to explore the enigmatic “space jockey” creature found dead on the derelict ship. Weaver echoed these sentiments in 2008, adding that Scott was well on his way to producing a film along those lines.
In May 2009 Fox was calling the film a reboot of the Alien franchise with Carl Rinsch signed on to direct. Less than three months later, to the world’s delight, Ridley Scott was announced as director and revealed his plans to shoot two films concurrently to comprise the prequel story. In October 2010, however, the film went on indefinite hold due to budgetary issues as well as Scott’s desire for an R-rating and to have Noomi Rapace headline the film over the studio’s pick, Natalie Portman. Another quality Alien project seemed doomed to slip into pre-production hell.
True to “Prometheus” form, however, the movie was in production a few months later, as well as dozens and dozens of interviews in which Scott and others stated emphatically that the original “xenomorph” would not appear, and that the film is a prequel in the loosest sense–only in the final eight minutes will a direct link between “Prometheus and “Alien” be evident.
At this point there is no definite plan for a sequel to “Prometheus,” as was originally planned, but Scott and producers have expressed their desire for one, despite the film being complete as is, not ending on some sort of cliffhanger.
While the plot can be speculated on from vague comments by cast and crew, as well as stills from the trailers, there is little to no concrete information about “Prometheus.” The film will deal with terra-forming and the origins of mankind, much heavier stuff than “Aliens” and onward, and stuff that was only hinted at in the original.
The final scenes were shot in January of 2012. “Prometheus” will be released on June 8th.