Playboy.com: I like the idea of a story being written in the same “world” as another, yet not quite a prequel. It’s something that I fantasize about seeing after finishing a good film. Was it more or less difficult as a writer to develop something that is its own separate story while not dramatically changing Jon Spaihts’ draft?
Lindelof: I think that the big ideas in Jon’s draft were so exciting to me when I first read them that I just wanted to clear everything else away to let them breathe more. But what I wanted to clear away is the stuff that I think was the most familiar to viewers. This can be a scary process since people like familiarity. If you hear that Ridley Scott is returning to the Alien universe, you’re going to want to see Alien. But then there’s another part of you that says, “Okay, but I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the thing stuck to somebody’s face, I’ve seen the thing out of the chest and I’ve seen the acid blood, so can you give me any new iterations of this?”
So the first part of my job became freeing the movie from the expectations of what an Alien movie should be and exploring the deeper themes in Jon’s work, as well as the story that Ridley wanted to tell.
Playboy.com: What’s that story?
Lindelof: Alien and Blade Runner, the science fiction movies that he directed over 30 years ago, are very different movies. Alien is a straight-up psychological horror sci-fi and Blade Runner is this very thematic, poetic think piece about the future, humanity and our relationship with cybernetic individuals. In a lot of ways, because Ridley and I spent so much time talking about Alien and Blade Runner while we were working on the Prometheus script, because [I] figured I could get fired any day now so I’m just going to ask Ridley Scott every question that I have ever wanted to ask him about those movies, Prometheus kind of ended up being a mashup between those two films and the idea that the film was going to start exploring those bigger questions.
It may not necessarily give the answers that people would want, but that’s the downside of going and asking god why he created you. Sometimes he just shrugs and says, “I don’t know, I wasn’t doing anything else that day,” and it can be kind of a letdown. But it’s also really interesting on a thematic level for someone who is so driven by answering a question…What happens when they get an answer that they don’t like?
Playboy.com: The Greek myth of Prometheus and the Alien universe…Was it hard marrying those two things? Or is it just the name of the ship?
Lindelof: I think the reason that we chose Prometheus as the title is because the Greek myth is one that not everyone is familiar with and is always cool to reintroduce. The idea behind the myth is essentially, Prometheus steals fire from the gods. It is sort of a classic mythological story whether it’s Greek or Roman. The gods don’t want the humans to have something because they don’t trust us with it. It’s like the gods are sort of the parents of five-year-olds thinking, “Let’s not leave a gun in the room because you guys might start shooting each other.”
And in this point in time, technologically speaking, we’re constantly faced with the question, should we or shouldn’t we? Just because stem cells can do all of these amazing things, should we start injecting them into our bodies? What is the price of immortality? Every time we build a robot in a science fiction movie it goes crazy and tries to kill us and wants to take over, so maybe we shouldn’t be building robots? So in the Prometheus movie, the idea of fire is really representative of technology.
We did this TED Talk piece in which Guy Pearce sort of talks about that idea. But in the movie itself we didn’t want to get overly precious or pretentious about it. There is one sort of throwaway line of dialogue that corresponds with the myth of Prometheus, but every other time you hear the name, it’s just when they refer to the ship. We wanted to make a movie that had the qualities of being intellectual and having a more meaningful conversation, but really wanted to make a cool summer movie that was thrilling, exciting and scary, so we tried not to overdo it.