This past Friday, legendary director Ridley Scott walked into one of the South by Southwest press rooms with the incredibly diverse actress Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and her Alien: Covenant co-star Danny McBride (a legend in his own mind) to talk a little bit about the upcoming film.
The excitement about the project is reaching near stratospheric levels from the fans, but it was especially heartening to see how much Ridley himself seems to be proud of the film.
While the actors respectfully gave up the floor to their director for most of our talk, it was clear how humbled they were to be a part of the ever-gestating legacy of Alien as Scott waxed philosophical about topics such as A.I., creation, and what makes something truly scary.
Note: This was a roundtable discussion with other outlets so not all questions were asked by Dread Central.
Q: You’ve said on several occasions that if the situation were to arise, you could see yourself doing more Alien films. I was wondering if that’s still your feeling now?
Ridley Scott: Oh, yeah. Well, I think this is so, dare I say, clever and violent and everything you kind of want. I think it’s a cut above what’s happened before and therefore will leave all kinds of things open for the next one. I enjoy doing them so much that I would like it to go on forever.
Q: Who would you want to take over? You can’t do it forever.
Ridley Scott: I’m trying. That’s why I have A.I.’s in everything, I’m trying to figure out what they do. Stick a fucking chip in you.
Katherine Waterston: Ridley might be an A.I.
Q: We’re coming to a point when cybernetics seem like they’re something that could become a part of human life very soon. Is that something that you personally would be interested in?
Katherine Waterston: Maybe the next movie you could have an A.I. actor!
Ridley Scott: Absolutely. But can a computer be a chess master? I’m just hoping that you can’t quite replace a human being’s capability. Can you have a computer write a book or write a screenplay? Or write a poem? It’s always going to be very derivative and only based on what’s been done and trained in different ways before. So, it’s going to be a cross-collateralization … it can only be that. Medically, it’s going to be fantastic. I don’t think it’s going to make better movies.
Q: Spinning off that, though, when I look at some of these films, I’m wondering if it looks at the irrelevance of humans. You’ve got these aliens killing us and A.I. taking over.
Ridley Scott: Big subject in this. It’s in this; that’s one of the big questions. The film begins with something very interesting which sets up a platform for acknowledging what you just said and discussion. It’s quite clever actually. I’m surprised.
Q: So now that we know the Engineers really aren’t the creators of humanity, are we still getting quite a few clues in Covenant? Or is everybody just running for their lives?
Ridley Scott: No, they’re metaphors for superior beings, and therefore, are their superior beings out there? I’d put your money right now on yes. Do they like us? I have no idea. Superior? Almost certainly.
Q: I have a question for Katherine and Danny. If you could imagine your characters dropped into Ridley’s original Alien, which scene would you be most interested in seeing how your character is reacting in that scene?
Katherine Waterston: I think it’s Ash’s head. But it’s hard to pick, man. The Chestburster.
Ridley Scott: Ash’s head was a really giant, fresh surprise during the process of the film.
Katherine Waterston: Me, I think I would just want to be hanging out with Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto.
Q: People still love what you did. How does that feel… that you created something people still love? You’re now a part of that legacy, and Katherine, you’re part of Harry Potter too. And [Danny], you’re doing Halloween; you’re a part of legacies. How does that resonate in your head?
Ridley Scott: It doesn’t really. You get used to it. I can give you another answer… but no, it’s fun. We’re lucky to be doing this production.
Danny McBride: Yeah, my parents think that I’m finally, like, making real movies now.
Ridley Scott: I was an art student; my Mom said to me after my agony of being an art student… I said I’m going to go do films. She said, ‘You mean you’re going to waste all that time being an art student, and now you’re going to do movies?’
Q: Danny, did you get to pick out your awesome hat?
Danny McBride: You know, that was one of Ridley’s ideas from the get-go. We talked about it being like an homage to Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. Yeah, it was easily embraced. Then it became the signs of when he’s wearing it and when he’s not, you know… how stressed out he is.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that Katherine’s character is connected to Ripley?
Katherine Waterston: Who started that shit?
Q: That’s a really great answer! Danny, quick question… Tennessee, where did you draw your inspiration from? Or did you just say, “You know what… let’s do something brand new?”
Danny McBride: Well, you know, on the ship it’s a lot of scientists and I liked the idea that in the original you had working class people and so I think that was sort of his dynamic with him… that he was a little more working class. And he gets paired up with all these scientists and brilliant people. So it was sort of like trying to figure out how he would kind of operate in that world, something advanced like that, but still bring a little salt of the Earth to it as well.
Q: What does it take for a film to be scary?
Ridley Scott: You know, it’s the hardest thing to do. It’s a lot easier to make people smile. I think we’ve been challenged by so much violence, super-violence, like Saw 13, so we get numb to blood and numb to brutality. And numb to inhuman behavior. Way back when I was going to do Alien, I think at that point in time there were two… three… one really serious one that scared the hell out of me. Exorcist One is a fantastic film maybe because it feels logical, feels possible. And when it’s possible and logical it’s always scarier.
Alien: Covenant is finally being unleashed on May 19th.
Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby star in Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott directed the film, which was written by John Logan and Dante Harper based on a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green.
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.