Rumours are always so much more pithy and interesting than the official line, which says a Prometheus sequel Alien:Covenant is in the works. I have reported on that previously here. The script is reportedly a great read thanks in no small part to the efforts of script writer John Logan hailing from the James Bond franchise with Spectre.
Sydney shooting crew which start on the fourth of April are saying there are actually three Alien instalments are planned. Really? Yes, if rumours are true, a trilogy of movies are currently on the slate! Ridley’s last production The Martian garnered awards and accolades at the Golden Globes and Oscars (2016 Best Picture). Perhaps more importantly it did extremely well at the box-office bringing in a staggering 626.3 million.  This fact only adds currency to the studios backing him for yet another space trilogy.

Sir Ridley gained attention from the film community for his work on The Duellists, but it was Alien (1979) that redefined the horror genre for the next 25 years. At age 78 it’s almost as if he is now bookending his career with a space Opus. Scott has always had in his back pocket a personal project called Tristan & Isolde which has strong religious themes, could it be that he is now bringing in those very elements into the Alien sequels? Man’s desire to meet his maker. No matter what by the end of the trilogy we will wind our way back Ripley.

Green screen and on-set work will be filmed at FOX studios near Centennial Park, and some exterior “Garden Planet / Paradise lost” at as yet unconfirmed locations. A secret location in the Megalong Valley in Sydney’s Blue Mountains was used beautifully by George Miller and George Oglivey back in the day, on Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome. Blue Mountains rainforest was used to create a paradise valley in the desert for the lost children. Could this be reprised for Alien:Covenant ? The Moon plain at Coober Pedy would also make an excellent interplanetary location with 360 degree views and no structures or vegetation. Supervisor Lev Kobolov at MPC devised a Nuke script, called ETM (Earth To Mars) for The Martian which more or less automatically keyed out the blues skies of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Check out Moving Picture Company’s excellent VFX breakdown reel here.

Last we saw in Prometheus, David the synthetic is-in-pieces heading through space to the Engineers planet (which I think it’s fair to say is green and lush) and potentially in habituated by very short people if Casting calls are anything to be believed.

In an article in The Australian newspaper,  Ridley said “The alien’s real which is why it’s probably one of the scariest monsters in film history. So with Prometheus 2 what I’m trying to do is reintroduce a fresher form of alien in the third act.”

bolajiDid you know back at the time of Alien Ridley tested Peter Mayhew (best known for his work as Chewbacca in Star Wars) to be the man in the Alien suit. The role was ultimately taken up by a seven foot two inch Nigerian named Bolaji Badejo.  In a time where CGI was nonexistent and cable controlled prosthetics were in neophyte stages you couldn’t beat the age old man-in-a-suit approach. Ridley kept the Alien shrouded in Co2 steam, mist and shadows. Not to mention copious amounts of KY Jelly for slime. To an extent that approach even held true when James Cameron came to shoot his sequel ALIENS in 1986. Though he did use some puppets for the Alien Queen. Elsewhere Online there has been excited chatter about an Ultramorph and an Alien much like the Deacon seen at the end of Prometheus, albeit one thats is mixed with the Engineer at whopping height of around five metres.

The cast will be lead by Michael Fassbender, whose performance in Prometheus was quite mesmerising. Very much evoking the spirit of Peter O’Toole. Katherine Waterston is on the bill she starred in Inherent Vice and the as yet unreleased Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which opens in U.S. theaters on November 18, 2016. Also notable, is Demián Bichir who appeared in The Hateful Eight. Demián is the first Mexican actor to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar since Anthony Quinn. Australians in the cast include Billy Crudup, Alexander England and Benjamin Rigby. I think its fair to say that Ridley has the live action performances covered for what he describes as “a new group of travellers in the beginning of the second act”. Naomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw will not be in the first sequel. Looks like she’ll only be around long enough to put David back together.

Ridley’s preferred camera system is the 6K resolution RED Dragon. Same as what AIE are fortunate to have in their inventory. He has used RED cameras on Exodus, The Martian and Prometheus. It will be interesting if he moves to the recently released RED Weapon which shoots at a whopping 8K (8192 x 4320 pixels) The sensor is a hefty 40.96mm x 21.6mm and can shoot up to 75 frames per second at that resolution! High resolution shooting formats in excess of 4K are fast becoming the norm since the success of the Alexa 65 camera’s use on The Revenant.

All in all this can only mean good things for 3D Artists and VFX T.D’s at Animal Logic who have part of the VFX pie. Previously on Prometheus, Richard Stammers MPC london was the VFX supervisor. At that time he appointed some lead sequences to Paul Butterworth at FUEL VFX. One can only assume the success of that prior relationship bodes well for A.L in the next year (and beyond!) on that major project.

AIE Alumni from 2014 and earlier are in a good position to enter into mid level roles with the opportunity to work on state of the art productions. AIE plans to run a Matchmaking workshop in May, details to be posted here. This is an excellent opportunity for those interested, to pick up some skills in the industry leader 3DE taught by AIE alumni Corin Sadlier who has credits on Insurgent, Unbroken and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Perhaps contact Sara Matthews in the short term if you are interested in attending.

Rehearsals for the actors on Alien:Covenant begin at Fox studios, Sydney tommorrow, Friday 18th of March. The film itself will be released on the 6th of October in 2017.