Image Credit: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagicThe Nerdverse has been whipped into a tizzy ever since Ridley Scott first announced that he would be making a prequel to his 1979 sci-fi epic Alien — the deep-space masterpiece that brought us H.R. Giger’s creepy facehuggers, Sigourney Weaver’s alpha-female Ripley, and one of the greatest scenes ever made with a monster exploding out of a man’s chest. Then, last month, Scott and co-writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) threw a wet blanket on Alien fans’ giddiness by saying that the film, called Prometheus, would actually not be an Alien prequel, but cryptically added that “keen fans will recognize strands of Alien‘s DNA” in the film. So which is it?
As fans were left scratching their heads, Scott got busy filling out his cast, signing Dragon Tattoo import Noomi Rapace in the lead, Charlize Theron, and Inglourious Basterds‘ soon-to-be-A-list Michael Fassbender, who may or may not be playing an android. Now, the latest reports have added a trio of supporting cast members: The Wire‘s Idris Elba, Red Riding Trilogy‘s Sean Harris, and Red Road‘s Katie Dickie — all of whom were said to have signed secrecy clauses for the hush-hush flick. Meanwhile, other reports have indicated that Scott will resurrect Alien‘s nasty, shape-shifting Xenomorphs in this film. We’ll say it again, this sounds an awful lot like an Alien film to us.
Fassbender agrees. Recently, we sat down with the German-born, Irish-raised star of the latest Jane Eyre adaptation and the upcoming X-Men First Class and asked him about Prometheus. Maybe it was due to Scott’s top-secret information lockdown (it’s been rumored that potential castmembers had to visit the director’s production office to read the script), but Fassbender was cagey. Currently in New York, shooting an indie with Steve McQueen, the director of his break-through film, 2008’s Hunger, Fassbender says that as soon as that film is finished he will head over to London to start shooting Prometheus. He says he’s thrilled to have been cast because he considers himself a drooling Alien fan. “Alien and Aliens, both of them,” he says. “And [Scott’s] Blade Runner, which I recently watched again. I’m really looking forward to stepping into a Ridley sci-fi world. And the script is really intelligent and has a nice pace to it. Plus, if I’m honest with you, I sort of approach my work as a fan. I’m a massive movie fan and I like to go on an adventure ride as much as I like to see something that has a bit of social commentary to it.”
Fassbender, who was mostly tight-lipped, toes the company line that Prometheus is not an Alien prequel. “It’s a different story, but it’s also got the traditional roots. Alien fans will recognize things in it. It’s not ignoring Alien, there’s still a link to that world. But it’s a different story. It’s definitely connected, though.” When asked if he’d be playing an android in the film, Fassbender laughs, “I don’t know what I can say!” But as he says this, he glances down at a damning tape recorder between us and nods affirmatively. “I don’t want to get into trouble…” Fair enough, but listening to him, you can’t help but wonder whether it’s more than a little possible that everyone’s insistence that Prometheus isn’t an Alien prequel is just a classic bit of misdirection. As an Alien fan, I for one would plotz if a year from now Scott held a news conference saying, ‘I lied, it is an Alien prequel!’ That’s a marketing campaign money can’t buy. And I’m still not convinced this isn’t what’s going on here.
In the meantime, one thing that Fassbender is certain to encounter when he heads over to London to shoot Prometheus — which, mark your calendars, hits theaters on June 8, 2012 — is the same sort of three-ring circus he encountered on the big-budget X-Men prequel. Fassbender, an actor who’s mostly worked in independent films, was shocked by the way major studio films are made. “It’s a different beast,” he says, still incredulous. “The first thing you realize is, Holy s—, what do all of these people do? There’s a lot of people on the set! A lot!”
Fassbender is upfront about why he wanted to play the young Magneto in the film: to broaden his fan base. “I’m in a certain place in my career where a movie like X-Men is sort of the next natural step. It’s not like I’m thinking, Oh, this will raise my IMDB rating or whatever it is. The fact is, I want to have more control over my career and something like X-Men opens me up to a wider audience. Plus, a big movie like that (and Prometheus) scares the piss out of me. And if you’re not getting scared then you’re not succeeding.”
For more of our interview with Fassbender, check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.