For the last of our interviews from last night’s world premiere of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus we speak to production deisgner Arthur Max about the world he has inherited and composer Marc Streitenfeld who has worked with Scott on Body of Lies, Robin Hood and American Gangster.
MARC STREITENFELD – COMPOSER
Ridley Scott has described the film as ‘sharing the DNA of the Alien franchise’, did this encourage you to ape Jerry Goldsmith’s score, or did you try to do something different?
I watched the first movie a few times before I started on the project, it’s such a landmark film, it’s such a classic. Same goes for the score for the original film, it’s an amazing, brilliant score. Taht’s definitely something to take into consideration, but then this is a new film, with it’s own challenges, different dynamics, and obviously you want to give something new to a new movie.
What Guidance do you get from someone like Ridley? He’s got so much of a handle on what he wants in a film, does that extend to the soundtrack?
Of course. Initially we had conversations with the director about his vision of the film itself, what he wants from the story, what the characters are doing in this movie, and that guides you in your musical process to fulfil what the director has as a vision.
ARTHUR MAX – PRODUCTION DESIGNER
Presumably with this film, you’re taking cues from the original Alien movie, as well as the others in the franchise?
We wanted to keep a relationship, but what we tried to do was deconstruct the first picture, because we’re previous to that in time. That was an interesting challenge, to anticipate yourself in a way. There are traces of the original, we tip our hats to HR Geiger, and the work he did, as well as other artists, like Ron Cobb and Chris Foss, and we actually looked at some of their sketches and earlier work that were not included in the original film, and took those as points of departure, and developed those ideas, which Ridley said he always wanted to do those, but never had the time in the storytelling to include.
In the original film, Scott separated the art department duties, having Cobb and Foss work on the human ships and Geiger work on the Alien environments. Di you do the same with this film?
Not really. We had a very interesting art department early on, in the sense that we were all locked in one room with a big table – it was a conference room – we were all together, and really the work was passed around the table, so everybody kind of had a go at everything. One day I remember, we got stuck on one particular area of design, and I said, ‘everybody go completely free, and free associate what your thoughts are, and it’s an open forum’, and I think that proved some of the more interesting work.
Was there a particular set piece from the film that you really hang your hat on?
Ridley wanted one of the key sets, which you see on most of the posters, the giant head, ampoule chamber, he wanted it to have a feel of a cathedral, something quasi religious about it. That was the one that we all had a go at, and it’s very interesting, because there’s a lot of overlay from one illustration to another, and sometimes we took an idea from one, which had nothing to do with where it ended up in the movie, but the aesthetic of it was transposed because it had a certain quality that was layered over a completely different idea; for example, early designs for the rover vehicles were actually curvilinear, and ended up on the design of the ‘medpod’ device instead of the vehicle. It was kind of a cross fertilisation process, which I like as a designer.
On a project like this, where there is so much post-production work, how close is the collaboration between the art department and the visual effects department?
It’s daily, hourly sometimes. All the files that we generate, whether it’s 2D illustrations or 3D – we do some 3D modelling ourselves, are passed on to them. They were right across the hall, literally, and a lot of interaction – watching what they’re doing, having group meetings with Ridley – very collaborative. I think, what I was saying earlier about the seamlessness of the film, there are no joins visible, I don’t think – that was what we were going for, and you get that through constant communication. That was true for the built stage sets, and the work in the landscape as well. And not only with the visual effects, I think that was true with almost every aspect, in terms of the lighting of the film, the costume design, the colour pallet, the whole nine yards. There were a lot of production designs around a big table with Ridley, and everyone was on the same page throughout. I think that’s how you get the look that the film has, it’s a consistent, highy-detailed world we have created.