I wrote the first draft of that screenplay in three and a half weeks, which is a personal record. And then, I was just in the shoot with Ridley for awhile. I would write a draft, and then I would sit in the room with Ridley Scott and his two lieutenants, at that time, and we would talk about the story for weeks at a time. Ridley was tireless and constantly drawing. He has a fierce visual imagination, and was constantly throwing curve balls at the story that I would then need to adjust to the logic of my universe. We worked through five drafts like that, over many months.And, also on Collider, Damon Lindelof discusses being hired to rewrite the writing:
I thought it was really cool. It was not at all what I expected it to be. But obviously they were giving it to me for a reason. And this is one of those situations where you're given no advance sense of what they like, what they don't like, you just have to walk out on the plank and say, Here is my fundamental reaction to this thing. So when I finished it I went into my office and I wrote an email. [...] I wrote maybe a four or five paragraph email saying here are all the things I love about it, I think there are some incredible set pieces here, I love the fundamental idea behind the movie, I feel like it's a cool think piece. BUT I think it's relying a bit too heavily on the Alien stuff [...] and I just feel that your idea is so strong and the characters can be made so strong that we don't need any of that stuff. We can present iterations of that stuff in different ways.The pre-release publicity in for Alien (1979) -- trust me, I remember it so well I can practically quote it verbatim -- was all about the "look" of the film, how things had to look and feel "right." Whereas the pre-release publicity for Prometheus (2012) is almost entirely about story: the characters, the plot, how the script was developed, how it evolved. That's a sea change.
In the 80s there was a lot of talk about "the death of the author." In the 90s and early 00's there was a lot of blather about metafiction. 2012 and the author is still here, and the great medium of the writer, TV, is enjoying a golden age. Maybe movies are catching up.
(Pic: Mr. Kerry Brown)POSTSCRIPT: We were wrong. We were so wrong.
I keep this film journal largely for myself and to take my mind off, uh, writing. I write all day and think about writing all night so it's fun to post instead about pictures or music. But the experience of watching, or rather sitting in front of Prometheus while Prometheus thundered past sent me back to thinking about writing again.
Story was indeed paramount in Prometheus: I counted at least six of them, cut from different drafts and sprinkled across a canvas as broad as the universe itself. It was a movie from the director of Gladiator: big notes, operatic, visually concise and frigid. Some moments were perfect, others completely off-key. Scott has referred to the beast's final iteration as the deacon: the film was a curate's egg.
All the time I was watching I kept thinking: Alien was a script written by four pairs of good hands: Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, who came up with the (Lovecraftian) storyline, title, creature and infestation / chest burster idea; and Walter Hill and David Giler, who stripped the screenplay back to Western-style tough guy dialogue (the last 15 minutes of the film are almost silent) and added the android / corporate bad guy subplot.
Crucially, all that writing was done before the director came on board. For Prometheus, Scott developed the script with the writers working under him.
I wonder what else was left squirming on the cutting room floor. I bet there's a four-hour movie in there that would pop your socks.