Ridley Scott spills the spoileriffic secrets of Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott directs and Katherine Waterston stars in
Ridley Scott directs and Katherine Waterston stars in “Alien: Covenant”. (Twentieth Century Fox)

‘Alien: Covenant’ hit cinemas across the galaxy this weekend and fans are already dissecting the latest instalment of the sci-fi series with space laser precision.

With many plot strands left dangling, ‘Covenant’ poses a lot of unanswered questions and hardcore ‘Alien’ fans have been doing their best to solve the film’s many ambiguities.

Luckily for us, director Ridley Scott was more than willing to reveal the inner workings of ‘Alien: Covenant’ when we spoke to him, so read on for more about the plot, David’s motives, and that James Franco cameo.


Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)
Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)

Why does James Franco have such a small role in ‘Alien: Covenant’?

One question that everyone will ask after seeing ‘Alien: Covenant’ is why Hollywood A-lister James Franco is playing ship’s captain Branson? Franco’s character is killed off in the opening scene when his hypersleep pod malfunctions, and beyond that he has only one other scene when Katherine Waterston’s Daniels watches him free-climbing in an old video. So why James Franco for such a minor part?

“He said: ‘I’ll do it.’, Ridley Scott told us.

“I said: ‘There’s not much in it.’ And he said, ‘I don’t give a s***. I’ll do it.’ And he’s lovely, he’s a great guy. He’s so funny.”

Franco’s Branson made a few appearances in the online marketing campaign ahead of the film’s release including prologue teaser ‘The Last Supper’ (see below) and a cast photo (see above), and the director revealed he actually shot another scene that was cut from the film.

The scene would have been an Earth-set prologue that opened the film.

“I did one more scene which was [Branson] in an apartment, a futuristic apartment in New York with Daniels, who is his wife, played by Katherine [Waterston].

“And we see this couple discussing a future … and that’s where the metaphor of a cabin on the lake comes from. He says ‘we’ll build this cabin on the lake in this particular place’, and they’ve identified where they’re going to go. But the journey will be long and dangerous. Dangerous because you’re asleep and who knows what happens? That was in there but I discovered we don’t need it.

“So poor old James is in that casket and then he’s hanging off a rock saying ‘hey’ and that’s it. It was only ever intended to be three scenes. It was set during their planning stage to go. They were a couple who were science-orientated and that’s what it was, so you get a glimpse of who he is and what their relationship is. When you lose him you kind of miss him, but I think Daniels gets that over pretty well.”

Scott says the scene will likely end up on the DVD/Blu-ray extras.

Why did David destroy the Engineers?

David wipes out the Engineers in Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)
David wipes out the Engineers in Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)

The film’s online prologue ‘The Crossing’ explained how Elizabeth Shaw was able to piece Michael Fassbender’s sinister synthetic David back together after the events of the last film. One thing it didn’t explain is why David decided to destroy the Engineer’s planet when he arrived on Paradise, but Scott says the explanation is quite simple.

“[David] had gone there to see what they were like. And don’t forget he was already pretty dismayed by the inadequacies of the human race, so he wanted to end that in some shape or form because he didn’t like us.

“Then the same thing happened with the Engineers, he thought they were inadequate as well which is what’s said in the movie, and therefore he wants to get rid of them as well, and in so doing that he fundamentally left himself on his own.”

How David knew this for certain before unleashing those black pods remains to be seen.

Why did David want to create the Xenomorphs?

Michael Fassbender's David is rather adept at piano (20th Century Fox)
Michael Fassbender’s David is rather adept at piano (20th Century Fox)

It’s all very well wiping out an alien race out of frustration, but why was David so obsessed with creating the Xenomorphs to destroy everyone one? Ridley Scott answers the question with another: What else are you going to do when you’re stranded on an uninhabited planet?

“Even AI’s get lonely. So he’s sat in his rooms, which evolve rather like Leonardo Da Vinci, with the drawings he was able to draw and he was able to constitute construction, and he went after the idea of creation, and through that he was able to use that awful stuff [the Black Goo seen in ‘Prometheus’] as a device which he needed to combine and mix with human DNA, which is probably how he used Shaw – yikes.”

That’s exactly what he did. It seems a shame for Noomi Rapace’s involvement in ‘Covenant’ to be reduced to a cameo smaller even than James Franco’s, but there you have it.

What was the purpose of the Neomorphs?

The deadly neomorph as seen in 'Alien: Covenant' (20th Century Fox)
The deadly neomorph as seen in ‘Alien: Covenant’ (20th Century Fox)

When the crew of the Covenant first land on Paradise a couple of the colonists get infected by a evil plant spores. The infected then quickly birth a number of white-skinned neomorphs who lay waste to the stranded crew. But why was there another step between the proto-Xenomorphs introduced at the end of ‘Prometheus’ and the classic Xenomorph we see later in ‘Covenant’?

Scott says he added another monster purely for entertainment reasons.

“With the neomorph, I didn’t want to bring the alien [the Xenomorph] out initially so soon because it’s like a bad joke – he wears out. Once you get too familiar with him [it’s over], you don’t want to get too familiar with him.”

Why were the Xenomorphs mainly CGI?

The Xenomorph returns in 'Alien: Covenant' (20th Century Fox)
The Xenomorph returns in ‘Alien: Covenant’ (20th Century Fox)

One thing that made the original beasts in ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens’ so terrifying is that they felt real, and that’s because they were. The creature effects were largely achieved in camera by a man in a suit, or puppetry, giving them a visceral, nightmare-inducing quality.

In ‘Covenant’ the beasts are mainly realised using state of the art CGI, but Scott says they also had a man in a suit on set too for reference. He prefers the “digital” version though as it allowed him to be more creative.

“Digitally, I thought I could do a lot more than just having a guy running around in a rubber suit which is all I had way back when, which worked pretty well actually. Throughout the whole shooting [of ‘Covenant’], the guy will walk around with the head on and he becomes the pattern of the performance, the digital performance, so we’ve always got an actor inside there doing his thing.

“It’s a lot of time in a workshop, with a monster maker – Conor [O’Sullivan], who is brilliant. I’ve used Connor in many things but he’s the best guy with prosthetics I’ve come across. So he’ll build the creature to design and then, in process, it’s constantly adjusted until you get there. We had a hard time coming up with the babies, the little ones. I couldn’t copy the original alien because you’d be amazed at how basic he was. He was just a pistol grip and a kind of penis that ran across the table and knocked all the food out of the way.”

‘Alien: Covenant’ is in cinemas now.

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