Prometheus [The inspiration behind…]
Ridley Scott made Blade Runner and Alien, but never read science fiction. His agent sent him books of the stuff, telling him every one of them was great, but he never read any. He never even picked them up.
For the last thirty two years they’d been stacked up in the corner of his brother’s basement, next to all the Top Gun memorabilia.
What did science fiction know that he didn’t? It was all laser guns and space battles and stupid-looking aliens.
A year and a half ago…
Ridley Scott walked into the studio and waited for the first writer to arrive. According to his agent, this John Sayles guy was the same guy who’d saved Jurassic Park.
There was a knock at the door.
Sayles walked in, Scott stood up.
SCOTT: John, I loved what you did with Jurassic Park, Loved it.
SAYLES: It was nothing, really. Five hours on the typewriter, no big deal.
SCOTT: That’s great. That’s fantastic. Five hours…incredible.
Scott shouts ‘incredible’ again, claps his hands then leans forward, serious all of a sudden.
SCOTT: Listen, John. I have an idea.
SCOTT: It’s about Alien, that movie I did. Did you see it?
SCOTT: Did you like it?
SAYLES: It’s aged well, I guess.
SCOTT: Yes, it has. It’s aged beautifully. [Pause] Now, think about this. In that movie there was a dead alien, the Space Jockey, that’s what I call him.
SCOTT: So, this Space Jockey…who was he? What was he doing on that ship, dead? Well, here’s the thing. This dead Space Jockey, he’s an engineer. And the thing he engineers is life. Not just one life, but all life. The whole galaxy, his race travels around like little space birds and puts DNA in the primordial soup of each planet and then…life!
SAYLES: Got it.
SCOTT: Which brings questions, of course. Big questions, huge questions…questions so big they make you shake when you ask them. Questions that could very well make the Universe explode if ever answered. And that’s what I’m going to do, John. My new movie…sorry, my new film…Prometheus…I’m going to make the Universe explode.
SCOTT: So…what do you think? Are you in?
SAYLES: Sure, why not?
SCOTT: You’re not intimidated by the sheer scale of this thing?
SAYLES: Not really, no. I mean, as far as I can tell, it’s just like that episode of Star Trek, right?
SAYLES: You know, where all life, the humans, the Romulans, the Klingons, it was all done by the one race, the guys who were here first.
SCOTT: No, I don’t think so. That…it sounds very different.
SAYLES: It’s also got a lot of Arthur C Clarke in it…the aliens from Childhood’s End, the way they nurtured us as a race. And then there’s Pohl and that book he did…what was it called?
SCOTT: I don’t know what you’re talking about. This isn’t…Prometheus is a fresh idea, John. What I’m describing is…it hasn’t been done before. Ever. The whole concept…people just haven’t…they’ve never thought about it, no one has.
SAYLES: Gateway, that was it. The aliens leave the ships on an asteroid that drifts into our solar system and the humans, they try to understand what they are and why they’re here and where they go…that’s it, yeah, all the ships on the asteroid have been pre-programmed with a specific destination somewhere in the galaxy, and…
SCOTT: Well, that’s completely different. There are no asteroids in Promethe-…
SAYLES: Then you’ve got all the other episodes of Star Trek where older alien races visited Earth and…you know, were generally fucking around a long, long time before we came along…and then there’s Stargate, all of them, and don’t forget about…
Scott stares at the man in front of him, shutting out the noise coming from his mouth. Finally, he stands up and walks round the table, tapping his watch.
SCOTT: Okay, John. I’ve actually got a…there’s a lunch…thing I have to go to now. I’ll talk to you soon.
SAYLES: Great. You want me to write a first draft?
SCOTT: No, it’s…it’s just the embryo of an idea at the moment. But I’ll call you. I’ll let you know how we’re progressing…if we’re getting anywhere.
They shake hands, Sayles exits, Scott slumps down in his chair. A few seconds later, he beeps his secretary.
SCOTT: Secretary, can you download all episodes of Star Trek asap and send them to my laptop?
SECRETARY: Which series?
SCOTT: I don’t know. All of them.
The next few days, Scott watches every episode of Star trek until he finally reaches the one where all life was engineered by one race.
At the end of the episode, he shakes his head and closes his laptop.
SCOTT: It’s not the same.
He thinks a while then picks up his copy of the Prometheus script and smiles.
SCOTT: You’re different, baby, aren’t you?
Under the script is an old copy of Variety. The cast of Lost are on the cover with text scribbled over their faces.
‘All the answers finally revealed…’
Scott opens the mag and flicks through. His face brightens [as much as a face can when it’s past 70].
An hour later…
SCOTT: Secretary, get me the Lost guy.
SECRETARY: JJ Abrams?
SCOTT: No, the other one. The guy who takes shit from everyone.
SECRETARY: The writer?
A year later…
Prometheus opens tiny. French critics complain that it’s shit, Americans complain that it’s just like that episode of Star Trek.
The Japanese sit back, shrug and think of old manga.